Food & Drink » Anthony Gismondi on Wine

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New wine authority should boost fine quality B.C. wines



This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. The Highway 29 landmark that sits just north of Yountville, California is surely the genesis for most every New World wine success. One could also argue that Mondavi has been just as influential in revitalising much of the Old World wine business.

Prior to 1966, the global wine business was largely confined to France and even then only the regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. Most of that has changed in four short decades as wine has gone global, and we have no better example than our own home-grown labels.

If our wine roots date back over a century to the grapes Father Pandosy set down in the Okanagan, the real story of B.C wine is little more than 25 years old. Actually when you consider wines of quality, local producers are barley entering their second decade of production. That said we have compressed as much knowledge and experience into as short a period as possible to get where we are today.

No doubt inspired by Mondavi, not to mention developments in Oregon and Washington, British Columbia wine growers got down to business in the 1980s, setting out some basic rules and regulations that would eventually morph into the British Columbia Wine Institute and the highly successful Vintners Quality Alliance in late 1989.

But change is the only constant in the modern-day wine business, and after 16 successful years of both governing and promoting B.C. wine, the British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI) will soon detach itself from the business of enforcing wine standards to focus on marketing a nd research.

By early summer, licensed B.C. wineries will fall under a single arms-length government entity known as the British Columbia Wine Authority (BCWA). The new BCWA will enforce both basic and advanced levels of quality wine production and will assume responsibility for the British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA) wine standards.

The transfer of responsibilities will allow the BCWI to focus on marketing, government advocacy and communications in support of BC VQA wines and its burgeoning wine regions. In short, the new BCWI will operate as an industry trade association representing (at the moment) some 50—plus wineries that account for nearly 90 percent of VQA wine sold in the province.

Director Peggy Athans describes the plan as one "to continue building momentum to establish BC VQA as the preferred premium wine brand in BC, while creating a positive business climate for our member wineries."

It would be great if the BCWI had the support of the entire industry as it moves forward to promote B.C. wine, but in a wine world full of unique individuals and entrepreneurs it’s unlikely to happen.

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