Graydon Ratzlaff of Recline Ridge Vineyards & Winery working in the Vineyard.
In the Shuswap, Graydon Ratzlaff of Recline Ridge Vineyards & Winery would like area wineries to consider establishing a separate appellation for the Shuswap watershed, “which stretches from Enderby to Chase.”
Painted Rock’s John Skinner contends that a sub-appellation for a portion of Skaha Bench is a “no brainer.” Identifying areas with distinct characteristics and putting additional information on the label honours consumers, he says.
Wineries in other areas, as well as the groups that represent them, are also looking at the pluses and minuses of establishing new geographical indicators (GIs) and sub-GIs.
As the body responsible for administering the government’s Wines of Marked Quality Regulation, the B.C. Wine Authority is “tasked with establishing the process for recognizing new GIs and making recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture.” In response to their members’ heightened interest, the Authority has held a number of sessions to educate members on how to proceed.
As well, the Authority participated in the 3rd Annual Wine and Liquor Law in B.C. seminar held earlier this year in Vancouver. In the seminar on Establishing New Appellation: How Do You Do It? What Would Make Sense? Authority chair Jeffrey Thomas outlined the role of his organization and explained the rules concerning existing GIs and developing new prescribed GIs.
“B.C. rules strike a balance between French A.O.C. law which controls permitted grapes within an appellation and the less stringent American system,” he says. While stressing that no applications have been received to date, he indicated that “groups are currently at various stages of preparing applications.”
Currently, the Wine Authority controls the use of six GIs, including British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley and BC Gulf Islands, each of which is “protected federally by the Trademarks Act.”
Steve Berney, general manager of the B.C. Wine Authority, says that in order to proceed, a written application must be made to the Authority, and it must follow Section 29 of the Regulation.
“The proposal must demonstrate the requirement for a unique name and distinct geographic area with clearly delineated boundaries,” he says.
In addition, grape production in the area must be commercially viable, agreement must be reached by two-thirds of the owners who control two-thirds of the acreage, and there must not be “any credible objections” to the proposal.
The requirements appear to be more onerous for sub-GI proposals, which “must demonstrate distinctive characteristics related to “shared soil, climate, the lay of the land, and specific production practices.”
Stepping up to assist interested wineries and groups, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (PARC) in Summerland is uniquely positioned to provide information on which to base their proposals.
“As proposals must be based on sound science, not cultural factors or political boundaries, we’ve been involved in helping wineries and groups by providing information, by providing the science behind the application developed by the winery,” says Dr. Pat Bowen, research scientist in viticulture and plant physiology at PARC.
“For example, we can provide maps that delineate borders according to soil, elevation, climate and watershed, and identify land forms and other features which influence an area’s distinctiveness. We’ve even developed data on differences on the taste profile of certain varieties based on regions.”
In the end, member wineries will have to decide whether benefits of making an application outweigh the costs. According to Berney, once one or two are approved, it will pave the way and others will follow.