A Message from the Chair (April 28, 2016)

Dear Wine Producers of British Columbia,

The BC Wine Appellation Task Group has completed a comprehensive province-wide industry consultation. Hundreds of individuals participated through face-to-face meetings, town halls, and an online survey. Our primary goal was to find if a consensus existed to improve our appellation system and properly regulate geographic indications (GIs) on our wine labels.

We found that there is a wide agreement that GIs should be properly regulated, but that we need to update the Wines of Marked Quality Regulations so that everyone is comfortable being regulated by it.

The Task Group issued an initial set of recommendations last fall that sought to accomplish what we believed the industry wanted. However, after receiving additional feedback from wineries of all sizes across the province we understood that the recommendations we had formulated did not fulfill industry’s vision for the future, and would not have passed a plebiscite.

We reviewed the feedback and concluded that the recommendations required revisions in order to gain broad industry support.

As a premium wine region, we create wines of place. These are not commodity wines. It is important to all of us to tell the story of where our wines come from on our labels.

There is consensus that GIs should be regulated; however, not all of us want to be subject to a taste panel in order to use the GIs. Our original recommendation was that we abolish the taste panel altogether, but this is not a consensus view of the industry.

Our modified recommendations would allow GIs to be used even if wines are not submitted to the Taste Panel. It would build on the two tier system that already exists within the Regulations. Wines that skip the taste panel would simply not have the “BC VQA” mark of appellation next to the GI.

We also recommend that further study is done on the taste panel to improve its efficacy.

We heard from a number of small wineries who are concerned about being unnecessarily burdened with costs, and those who want a phase-in period so that new, meaningful sub-GIs can be approved before the regulations are subject to enforcement. We also heard from grape growers who want to have a say in the creation of new sub-GIs.

The Appellation Task Group recently reconvened and unanimously approved an updated, final set of recommendations, which includes the following revisions:

  • To maintain the use of taste panels to assess faults and send current taste panel practices for a review by the Wine Industry Advisory Committee (WIAC)
  • To allow geographic indication to be shown on the labels on Wines of Distinction (British Columbia Wine) category wines
  • To allow a 2-year phase-in period (to January 2019) to establish new sub-geographic indications
  • To direct the BC Wine Authority to establish a small producer flat fee which covers the cost of grape tonnage, membership, audit and wine certification fees
  • To ensure that independent grape growers that own land in affected regions are able to vote on the establishment of future sub-geographic indications

To view the entire list of final recommendations visit www.bcwinetaskgroup.ca, and read the accompanying Q&A page for responses to commonly asked questions and further explanation of the Task Group’s decision-making.

It is hoped that British Columbia’s nearly 300 licensed wine producers will take time to review the final list of recommendations, consider how the changes will affect the industry as a whole, and then vote during the forthcoming plebiscite conducted by the BC Wine Authority.

I personally believe the recommendations are stronger and better than the original formulation, and will help lay the groundwork for a bright future for our industry.

On behalf of the Appellation Task Group, I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this process, and encourage everyone to “spread the word” over the coming weeks about the plebiscite vote.

Yours sincerely,

Ezra Cipes
Chair, BC Wine Appellation Task Group
CEO, Summerhill Pyramid Winery

250 764 8000 ext 222
ezra [at] summerhill.bc.ca