Wine professionals from around the world were invited to to gain knowledge of the industry in this region and to help raise the international profile of Okanagan wines at the inaugural Wine B.C. BootCamp.
The B.C. Wine Institute had 30 sommeliers, media and wine professionals soak in more than 200 B.C. wines from 70 wineries during the four day event that wrapped up on Wednesday.
Master of Wine Rhys Pender said around 95 per cent of Okanagan wine is purchased by consumers within the province. However, he added, to be considered among the top wine producers in the world, the Okanagan wine industry needs to make sure people outside the provincial borders know about what is being created here.
“People don’t get that much access to our wine, but when we do take our wine into these international markets, or they come here and try our wine, they are generally blown away by the quality because we have this amazing climate. There is nowhere else like it in the world. The summers we have the heat, the warmth, ripeness in the fruit but then we get these really cool nights preserving the freshness and acidity so the wines have this elegance and freshness and just really not like anywhere else in the world,” said Pender. “People love that because that is what the world is evolving to, these wines that have freshness and elegance.”
Pender said Okanagan wineries are not competing against neighbouring wineries, they are on a shelf up against wines from around the world. Having professionals from around the world visiting and understanding the terroir and what the industry is creating gives it validation.
“The benefit is really reputation,” he said. “It is about the wines being known and respected around the world and that builds value back home. That builds the reputation, means there is more demand, the winery business may be more profitable at the end of the day, land values — all that stuff can benefit from it.”
The event also hoped to open new markets around the world. Pender, who is also the owner of a winery in Cawston, said receiving the exposure and feedback from key influencers from around the globe is beneficial to winemakers so they can hear how their wines stand up to other regions.
“We need to do that because we think the wines are at that serious of a level that they deserve to be side-by-side on wine lists around the world.”
It also gives the visiting wine professionals a behind the scenes, in-depth look at the Okanagan wine industry. Over the course of four days they networked with B.C. masters of wine, master sommeliers, winemakers, viticulturists, wine educators and esteemed B.C. chefs. The bootcamp also featured educational masterclasses, regional tastings and dinners, discussions, interactive wine and food pairings and keynote presentations focusing on the history, progress and future of B.C.’s wine industry.
Visiting wine professional, Caroline Brange, originally from France, spent five years working as a Sommelier in London before working in trade sales — selling wine to restaurants and shops.
“It is a perfect opportunity to get to know more of the area and understand a bit more of the wines so I can be able to translate that back to Europe. Wines from Canada, the Okanagan, are really unknown. There are very, very few wines (sold) outside of your area. So it is nice to come here, taste and meet the people.”
She said there are Okanagan wineries that want to break on to wine lists overseas, however it will take motivated businesses to do that. Brange said she will return to the UK with a better knowledge of what the region offers that she can share with her clients.
“No one has a clue there are some brilliant Syrah’s, Cab Franc and some Rieslings and all the variety and diversity that is available in the area. The quality of the wine is quite impressive,” said Brange.