It was a good day to be part of the BC wine industry — and an even better day to be a producer based in the Okanagan.
Premier John Horgan took advantage of a late-afternoon stop at Tinhorn Creek Winery, south of Oliver, to designate April as BC Wine Month and contribute $250,000 to wine production and marketing efforts in the province.
“B.C. wineries enrich our communities, attracting tourism to our province and opening up employment opportunities,” said Premier Horgan, travelling with Lana Popham, his agricultural minister, and Miles Prodan, president and CsEO of the BC Wine Institute.
“B.C. Wine Month is our chance to raise a glass in celebration of our delicious local wines, and the hardworking people who make them.”
The province is contributing $100,000 to the BC Wine Institute to help in the promotion of B.C. wine to British Columbians.
An additional $150,000 is earmarked for Destination British Columbia to market wine tour opportunities.
Much of that effort is expected to be focused on Asian markets.
China and Taiwan account for 77 percent of the province’s wine exports, which in 2016 increased four percent over the previous year to $9.7 million and were shipped to 17 international markets.
“We’re trying to get more BC wines on to tables in Asia and we’re also trying to get more people from Asia to British Columbia,” explained Premier Horgan.
“(We want to) promote agri-tourism and particularly visits to vineyards like Tinhorn to make sure that we’re bringing more and more people to not just taste the great product, but see the spectacular vista and fully embrace the wine experience in British Columbia.”
The announcement follows closely on what Premier Horgan, tongue-in-cheek, called the “Great Alberta-BC Trade War.” He was quick to note the wine-month designation had nothing to do with embargo measures undertaken by BC’s neighbour earlier this year.
“Rachel Notley and I have known each for a long, long time,” he said. “If you had asked either one of us 20 years ago whether or not we would find ourselves being the premier of Alberta and British Columbia at the same time, fighting with each other, we would have laughed at you.
“Our commitment to the Wine Institute, our commitment to the growers and the producers here in the valley, was there prior to the great war of February-March of 2018. This was in the works for some time.”
The province expects the B.C. Wine Month campaign to showcase “world-class wines produced in the province.” The campaign will involve BC VQA wines being featured in BC Liquor Stores and sommeliers and chefs teaming up for wine and food-pairing events in BC VQA wine stores.
The BC Wine Institute will also be holding a sweepstake competition. The grand prize is an all-inclusive trip for two to the Chef Meets BC Grape Taste of the Okanagan signature event in the heart of B.C.’s wine country.
More information on the sweepstakes competition and events going-on during April — including locations and dates of dinners — can be found at winebc.com/bc-wine-month.
The province is home to 929 vineyards, including more than 350 licensed wineries, and about 3,900 hectares of agricultural land set aside for grape production.
But Ms. Popham said BC has not lost sight of its responsibility to provide for food production.
“You see around the province different areas taking up different crops that their areas are good for,” she said.
“This is an amazing area to grow grapes. But we can’t lose sight that we need to increase our food production and we’ll be doing that along with supporting the wine industry.”