British Columbia

Cowichan Valley becomes B.C.'s newest official wine region

Grape growers in the Cowichan Valley have been making wine for generations but now the area is finally being recognized officially as a unique wine producing region in B.C.

The Cowichan Valley has received official recognition as an unique wine producing region in B.C.

Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Cowichan Valley is one of a dozen wine producers in the region. (Blue Grouse Estate Winery)

Grape growers in the Cowichan Valley have been making wine for generations but now the area is finally being recognized officially as a unique wine producing region in B.C.

The technical term is "sub-geographical indication" which is an unexciting way to describe something that's pretty exciting to people like Bailey Williamson, the winemaker at Blue Grouse Estate Winery who helped spearhead the move.

"It's another step toward legitimacy," he said.

The designation means wines made with at least 95 per cent Cowichan Valley grapes can now put "Cowichan Valley" on the label, just like those from other sub-GI locations in the province like Naramata Bench and Golden Mile Bench.

Williamson says in a world where people are alway looking for "the new place," the recognition should be good for business.

"To the people who are a little more in the know, this will give them the opportunity to taste the wines from the region and hopefully [realize] we are where the Okanagan was 20 years ago."

Williamson says there are about a dozen wineries operating in the Cowichan Valley.

Grapes hang from the vine at Blue Grouse Estate Winery in the Cowichan Valley. (derekford.com)

The scope of the area being recognized is roughly between the Cowichan watershed, the eastern coastline from Mill Bay to Maple Bay and the western area of Cowichan Lake.

The cool climate in the valley lends itself to producing wines that are "food friendly" says Williamson — varieties like Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and other Germanic whites. 

"The diurnal shift in temperature between day and night maintains natural acidity in the grapes," he said.

"That acidity is what maintains the tension in the wine. You have the lush fruit flavours and a bit of sugar perhaps, but then you've got the acid to balance it on the other side."

Some Blue Grouse wines meet the new Cowichan Valley standard, however Williamson says consumers might have to wait a year to read it on the label.  

"This legislation came in at the end of March," he said. " I printed labels back in February and I wasn't confident on the timelines from the government."

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