Wine Festival! As just about everyone in Vancouver knows, it’s that time of year when the whole city puts on its #winelover hat and heads down to the convention centre. This year, at the 30th #VIWF, however, things are a bit different. The theme region at Vancouver International Wine Festival—for the first time ever—is Canada. And the official reason is to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation.
But the unofficial reason is: it’s way past time to celebrate what many people, at various times, said wasn’t worth celebrating: Canadian wine. (Or, maybe I should say, Canadian-grown wines.)
I remember when I first brought up the idea—some time in the 1990s) that I should write about BC wines for WHERE magazine. (For whom I’m happy to say I still write.) Maybe, I suggested, visitors to Vancouver would be interested in knowing about Okanagan wines, where to try them; and even buy them to take home. The response was just a tad lukewarm, as in, “Do you really think so?”
Soon after, however, WHERE became an enthusiastic ambassador for the blossoming BC wine industry. Along the way we’ve introduced a whole lot of people to something they had no idea existed.
On the flip side I also recall the utter disdain which the wine ‘establishment’ showed towards BC wines in the 1980s. To be fair, the Okanagan had had its share of challenges. But the snobbery was palpable. And if you couldn’t tell your Burgundy from Bordeaux—let alone your Left Bank from your Right—then you had no right to be buying wine. Let alone drinking it.
A small group of intrepid, early Okanagan pioneers changed that attitude, along with a healthy assist from Australia, California and, later, Chile.
Most people today don’t truly grasp the impact that BC wine has had on our regional cuisine. It really didn’t exist until the Okanagan (and Vancouver island) came along and sowed the seed.
Even in Expo era Vancouver, most people didn’t have a clue what ‘regional cuisine’ meant. Sure, there was some good dining. But it was very euro-centric. At least until the likes of Cherrystone Cove, Raintree, Raincity Grill, C etc. arrived in the late 80s or 90s.
They and others really pushed BC wine by the glass and helped establish a strong food and wine pairing culture on the coast. BCWI’s first executive director, Christine Coletta was a big part of that,. She came up with the first pairing promo: ‘A Marriage made in BC’ matching wild salmon and Pinot Blanc (because Chardonnay hadn’t arrived yet …). You’ll find her at wine festival, too, pouring her Haywire wines.