Pat Bowen and others at the Summerland Research and Development Centre are examining various aspects of grape growing

Pat Bowen and others at the Summerland Research and Development Centre are examining various aspects of grape growing

Scientific research assists wineries

British Columbia’s thriving wine industry is receiving a boost from the research scientists.

British Columbia’s thriving wine industry is receiving a boost from the research scientists at the Summerland Research and Development Centre.

Pat Bowen, a grapevine physiologist, works with a team of six scientists, studying various aspects of vineyard management, grape growing and wine making.

While the centre is operated by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the grape research team is funded by the wine industry.

While British Columbia’s wine industry is still young, it has experienced rapid growth. At present, there are 257 grape wineries and 929 vineyards in the province.

The research includes environmental work, pruning, study into how vines grow, water management and more.

“We’ve had smart people in the industry who appreciate the need for technical information,” she said. “We can provide scientific information for them.”

The research enables grape growers to choose the best varieties and set reasonable goals for their sites.

Then, once the vineyards are planted, researchers can provide information to help manage the plants most effectively.

Information including detailed temperature statistics can help vineyard managers to know what to expect and how to work with their vineyards most effectively.

“We have a lot of variables from one year to another,” Bowen said.

The six-month growing season in the Okanagan Valley and the cold winter temperatures provide challenges to growers.

Irrigation information is also needed, Bowen said.

“They have to understand how water is used, how water moves through the soil,” she said.

The research is conducted on site at the Summerland Research and Development Centre and at a number of active commercial vineyards in the area.

The study extends beyond the vineyards and into winemaking as top winemakers are brought to the centre.

As a result of the research, British Columbia has been able to develop a reputation for producing top quality wines, which are receiving international recognition.

“There’s a culture of excellence here,” Bowen said.