As award-winning wine writer Linda Johnson-Bell once said, “Like human beings, a wine’s taste is going to depend a great deal on its origins and its upbringing”.
This is an ideology that the British Colombian (BC) wine industry has used to keep their standards and quality high. Even with over 929 vineyards, every bottle of BC wine has a story behind it, reflecting the land where the grapes mature and the people who invest their time crafting them. As a young wine region, only achieving acclaim in the 1990s, BC wines aren’t tainted by tradition and neither are their grape-growers and winemakers. Their respect and understanding of British Colombia’s distinctive geology and microclimates being key to BC’s thriving wine industry emulates Johnson-Bell’s words: that place truly matters.
It will come to no surprise that the brand-conscious Chinese consumers are expected to lead future growth and the BC wine industry is not exempt from becoming a part of this. BC Winemakers focus on quality over quantity, and with its limited capacity for growth, the Chinese are becoming aware of this successful new sector. The BC wine division has become an economic force, with wineries contributing $2-billion to the provincial economy every year and a significant positive tourist impact, therefore as you might expect there have been many Asians looking at the investment of owning these productions over the past four years. “[The Chinese are] looking for wines of distinction… it’s a direct reflection of the way wine is growing with such tremendous interest in China” says Mr McWatters, owner of ‘Sumac Ridge Estate’ and ‘See Ya Later Ranch Estate Winery’. With the prices of a winery in British Colombia ranging from $1.85-million to $55-million, and there being “more millionaires in China than the entire Canadian population” according to industry pioneer Guenther Lang, it makes sense that the rapidly emerging affluent middle class in China are taking their investments outside of China and into investment-friendly Canada.
The timing could not have been more perfect for Okanagan (a region in southern British Colombia boasting nearly 82 per cent of the total vineyard acreage in the province) which flourished as a reputable wine region as the Chinese middle class gained more disposable income, resulting in larger investments being made into the BC wine industry thus enabling it to thrive further. Miles Prodan, executive director of the Kelowna-based British Colombia Wine Institute says “We are recognised officially as having some of the top wines in the world”, and with the fine soils and fantastic dry climate, British Colombia is producing excellent wines year after year. With the continuing influx of Chinese capital, we can be sure that BC’s wineries will continue to scoop up thousands of international awards and, most importantly, BC wines will remain distinctive, high-quality and unrivalled.