Winemakers from across the province met to plan for the future of B.C. wine.
Penticton hosted the 5th annual BC Wine Industry Insight Conference on Tuesday, back as an in-person event.
“With over 250 people in attendance, we’re oversold and it’s really nice to get back together and be in person. Those numbers really indicate it’s time for people to come back together and learn an update on the wine industry,” said Wines of BC president and CEO Miles Prodan.
“We’ve got a great mix between those four groups of us getting together. We’ve got winemakers, we’ve got winery proprietors, we’ve got grape growers, and we’ve got government people here to learn and to speak a bit, too, updating what’s happening in the industry.”
The conference brought the industry together for an opportunity to learn new tools and techniques and to hear how the industry is doing.
Keynote speaker sessions highlighted industry-wide trends, opportunities and challenges.
“We’ve got a number of breakout sessions that relate to what you’re interested in. If it’s in the vineyard, people talking about farming and pruning and if it’s winemaking, we’ve got that, and if it’s marketing, we’ve got that. It’s really a collaboration of bringing everyone together. There’s a little bit of something for everyone,” said Prodan.
“Our industry is interesting because we’re the highest value AG product there is so very few if any products grown in this value in the province. We do all the way from the vineyard all the way to what’s in the bottle, so it’s important that we understand all those different attributes and what we need to manage that process.”
Over the past couple years, B.C.’s wine industry has faced several hurdles, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Prodan, wine tourism numbers are not quite back to pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re not seeing the tourism numbers come back as we were hoping and we’re worried that maybe there’s a bit of a hangover from the from the COVID,” he said.
B.C.’s Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Brittny Anderson, said they are looking for ways to better support BC’s wine tourism sector.
“I know how important wine industry is for tourism in our province. This is a new role for me, so really, the opportunity here is to get to meet people and to be able to bring their messages back to our government,” said Anderson.
“Obviously with the global pandemic, it’s been a challenge. Now we’re finally seeing the tourism industry bounce back across British Columbia and we really want to be driving people into rural areas. That’s part of my mandate specifically, is looking at rural tourism so that we’re getting those tourism dollars spread across British Columbia and then we’re able to support the rural tourism sector and specifically looking at agricultural tourism.”
“So wine is a huge component of that and they’re really leaders in the agricultural industry.”
Meanwhile, there is the climate change impact as extremely cold temperatures could mean less wine this season.
“As it comes along this season, we’re a little concerned about the winter, cold winter, and maybe the effects on that and we’re kind of watching that very closely,” said Prodan.
Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell added that issues surrounding labour shortages and permitting are also top of mind.
“We are working with five different ministers down in Victoria and their respective ministries. With Minister Alexis on agricultural front, trying to help focus in on some of the pieces that are in her portfolio, challenges around the winter die back, for example,” said Russell.
“Working with Minister Farnworth and Public Safety Solicitor General around some of the distribution challenges — site licensing, if we’re at a place where you need half a dozen different permits to be able to deliver what you want to deliver, maybe we can help streamline and modernize some of that.”
Russell went on to say that they are also working with Minister Brenda Bailey on the economic front.
“Recognizing enormous potential in the industry, and how do we help lower some of those barriers and make sure we’re delivering the best, most straightforward opportunity for those producers,” said Russell.
But despite these challenges, Wines of BC says the quality and price of wine in the region won’t be impacted.
“Wines are superb and we are happy that BC consumers continue to support and enjoy our wine,” said Prodan.
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