Commentary by Anthony Gismondi
Coming off a successful wine festival where numerous Italian grape varieties and the many regions where they grow were in the spotlight, it’s becoming painfully obvious it is time to move to another level in British Columbia as we regulate our wines and place names.
Let’s be fair, no amount of regulations and tasting panels will ensure higher quality output but doing nothing and ignoring what is going on in the rest of the wine world can only end poorly for B.C. wine. You would be surprised how many voices speaking to the BC Wine Appellation Task Group about changes to the British Columbia Wines of Marked Quality Regulations were in favour of the status quo, especially when it came to the creation of sub-appellations.
There is a great deal of unrest about giving government anymore power to regulate the industry. Some of that fear is well-earned given the mess going on with wholesale pricing and grocery stores but, in my view, that has little to do with origin of place — something now sacred among the world’s best producers.
When I spoke with task force chairman Ezra Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery about the upcoming vote for change he said, “I think the timing was right, and I think the process was really good. The industry is evolving and it’s time to take another look at the standards and fix the parts that weren’t working for us. Everything about the business is changing, and it’s time for us to look ourselves and get ready for the world.”
Chris Coletta, owner of Okanagan Crush Pad who helped push through the first regulations a quarter of century ago said: “Twenty-five years ago people were wrapping their heads around the Okanagan as a region, the Similkameen, Vancouver Island, and getting to know the individual wineries. We kept it (the VQA laws) simple then because we didn’t really know what direction the industry was going or where we were headed. I think the work the task force has done is brilliant because it has set the stage for each region to really define itself.”
Among the key recommendations as they relate to sub-appellations being explained in a number of inclusive town hall meetings is the notion of taking ownership of the words “British Columbia.” The task force recommended changing the Wines of Distinction category name in the Regulations to British Columbia Wine. Wines falling under this category would be restricted to use only Product of British Columbia as a geographical indication (GI).
They also recommended that the British Columbia Wine Authority be given the authority to prohibit the use of any unregulated geographical indication associated with British Columbia on its members’ wine labels, and that all wines made from 100 per cent B.C. grapes must register as either British Columbia VQA (“BC VQA”) or British Columbia Wine in order to qualify for recognition as a Wine of British Columbia.
In the case of any new approved sub-appellations, it is recommended that any approved be required to display conjunctive labelling to show both the region and sub-region on the primary display panel. For example, “Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley, BC VQA.”
The task force also recommends the establishment of new geographic indications in four emerging wine grape growing regions — Thompson Valley, Shuswap, Lillooet-Lytton and Kootenays.
Finally, it was recommended that industry accept the set of sub-regions of the Okanagan Valley as identified by the task force as the basis for establishing sub-geographic indications. As a guideline for naming these new indications, the task force recommends only accepting a village, town name, or place name historically associated with a region.
The new rules are thoughtful, fair and eminently presentable to the wine world. What we need now is the courage to change who we are, to become who we want to be.
Source: Vancouver Sun