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Between the Vines Vote under way on new winery regs

Future of tasting panels, use of geographic ‘indicators’ among recommendations being considered. By Judie Steeves


ll B.C. wineries have until June 30 to vote in a plebiscite on changes to the Wines of Marked Quality regulations as recommended by an industry task force.

Chair of that task force, Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, says he’s hopeful winery owners will consider all the recommendations as one and vote in favour of all of them. “The whole thing is a package, to me. It should be one vote. However, there are nine separate recommendations for wineries to vote on,” he commented. Cipes feels they all must be approved together. “They’re all inter-connected.” The vote is being held by the B.C. Wine Authority, which carries out the regulations, as an independent body, separate from both government and industry.

Results of the vote will be used to form recommendations to the agriculture minister, who in turn will request that cabinet approve and change the regulations accordingly. The task group, coordinated by the board of the B.C. Wine Institute, in partnership with the authority and the ministry, has been working on changes to geographic information on wine labels and wine certification since 2015. Its initial recommendations were released last year, but after a series of public information sessions and other input from industry, it came out with a new set, reflecting the views of industry as heard during those sessions. The changes only apply to those making wine 100 per cent from B.C.- grown grapes.

One of the most contentious issues has been whether tasting panels should continue to be part of certification requirements.

In the first recommendations, the task force simply decided the tasting panels should be deleted. However,


Task force chair Ezra Cipes believes all nine recommendations should be approved.

after hearing back from industry, that has been changed to continue with the panels, but there’s a suggestion there be a review of how they are conducted, with consideration of using just tank samples in the tastings.

“Many parts of the world currently use tasting panels (as part of their certification process), including France. It’s a core part of the appellation system.

“As a premium wine region, we create wines of place. These are not commodity wines. It is important to all of us to tell the story of where our wines come from, on our labels,” comments Cipes.

“Our production has an identity tied to a place, so production/technical standards are needed.”

The current panels taste only for faults in wines. It is not a subjective tasting, he notes.

Under the changes recommended there would be a two-tier system, both of which would use the geographic indicator ‘Okanagan Valley’ and a sub- geographic indicator as voted on by wineries within the area.

All wines made entirely from B.C.- grown grapes would be required to register either as B.C. VQA or B.C. Wine in order to qualify for recognition as a Wine of B.C., but only VQA wines would be required to submit wines to the tasting panel.

There would be a two-year phase-in period for new sub-geographic

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016 27 indicators.

Independent grape growers who own land in affected regions would be able to vote on the establishment of future sub- geographic indicators. Cipes says he doesn’t think growers

will be happy if the regulations become mandatory but they are not permitted to use geographic indicators if they are not VQA-certified, so he is very hopeful all wineries will vote in favour of the entire package and not just bits of it. Current appellations are Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands. It’s been recommended four new appellations be added: Thompson Valley, Lillooet-Lytton, Shuswap and Kootenays. As well, sub-appellations are recommended within those appellations, to be created by grower/winery agreement in the coming two years.

Voting may be by courier, mail, personal delivery to the wine authority office, e-mail or fax.

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