Today’s announcement about the final approval of the Golden Mile Bench Geographical Indication (GI) adds up to a red letter day for the BC wine industry. In essence, you could call it a watershed moment, as it sends a firm signal that BC is serious about origin and transparency.
No question, it is a big deal – possibly the most important development in the relatively short history of BC wine since the post-Free Trade Agreement pull-out kickstarted the drive for quality over quantity.
Getting to this stage has not been easy. There are some players within the industry who would have happily maintained the status quo. However, the Golden Mile Bench approval, along with the creation of a special industry task force, clears the way for other definable sub-regions to come forward with their GI applications.
Some of these could include all or parts of:
Naramata Bench, Skaha Bluffs, Westbank Bench, Kelowna Mission District, East Kelowna Bench, Black Sage Bench, Okanagan Falls … and so on, to mention just a few.
The Golden Mile Bench is just the beginning. At least it should be.
However, several insiders suggest that it’s not that simple, as the distinctive soils and other requirements may not be so easy to delineate as they have been in the case of the Golden Mile Bench.
Nevertheless, I would still expect there to be at least a couple of applications forthcoming shortly, if not more.
After this post went up, Tinhorn Creek C.O.O. Sandra Oldfield sent me this:
Also not far down the road will be the need to bestow specific DVA (Designated Viticultural Area) status on newer regions, such as The Shuswap, Kamloops, and Lillooet. Their wine activities may small but they promise to grow. And they are not included within any specific DVA status.
It’s worth remembering that BC’s DVAs were defined when there really was little happening outside of the Okanagan Valley—and even the latter was home to about a tenth of the land under vine compared to today.
Here’s the full text of today’s release.
Golden Mile Bench Geographical Indication (GI) a First In British Columbia
Okanagan, British Columbia, March 30, 2015 – After submitting a proposal in May 2014 to the BC Wine Authority, a group of wine producers has finally received approval from the Ministry of Agriculture on BC’s first sub-GI: Golden Mile Bench.
“After careful study and scientific analysis, the Golden Mile Bench has been identified for the unique character of the wines made from grapes grown here,” says Don Triggs, owner of Culmina Family Estate Winery. The scientific parameters for the Golden Mile Bench sub-GI include slope, soil, and elevation or aspect, as mapped in partnership with scientists from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre – Summerland (AAFC-PARC Summerland).
“We began working on this in 2009,” states Sandra Oldfield, CEO of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. “This sub-region has the most scientifically defensible boundaries that we (and PARC) could find.” The BC Wine Authority approved the initial application and presented it to the Minister of Agriculture in October 2014.
The criteria outlining the unique Golden Mile Bench GI are:
- Slope. Fluvial fans with an easterly-facing slope of between 5 to 15%, creating a mesoclimate and assisting with air drainage.
- Soil. Coarse-textured and without water table influence within the rooting zone, derived entirely from geological formations of Mount Kobau.
- Elevation or aspect. Minimum elevation is defined by the base of Hester and Tinhorn Creek escarpments, with maximum at the apex of the Reid Creek fan.
“Wine is as much about place as it is anything else”, states Bill Eggert, owner of Fairview Cellars. “Having a legal definition of where our wine comes from is a huge step forward for us and the entire industry.” Golden Mile Bench is the first official sub-region of six recognized GIs in the province, and can be used on wine labels.
The Golden Mile Bench sub-GI consists of 11 voting members: Rustico Farm & Cellars, CC Jentsch Cellars, CheckMate Artisanal Winery, Culmina Family Estate Winery, Fairview Cellars, Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery, Hester Creek Estate Winery, Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards, Road 13 Vineyards, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, and Willow Hill Vineyards.