Okanagan British Columbia Wines

The BC VQA Wine Label

Are you wondering about that special identifying label that some Okanagan British Columbia wines have on the bottle, while others don't?

The BC VQA wine label is a seal of approval that allows labeling of specific BC wines made with 100% BC grapes of very specific qualities.

It is a method of wine classification, by appelation of origin, of the grapes from which Canadian and BC wines are made.

BC VQA stands for "British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance".

The VQA standard is government sanctioned and is regulated in BC by the British Columbia Wine Authority (BCWA).

Standards set out by the BC Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) govern grape growing and commercial wine production in the province of BC, and in Canada.

okanagan wine making region in the south okanagan

BC Wine Making & The Development of VQA

The BC Wine Institute (BCWI) was established in 1990 to supervise and control wine production standards, to act as a marketing association for the BC wine industry.

chardonnay wine making grapes okanagan bc

Grape growing in the Okanagan Valley BC really originated in the mid 1800's when the first orchards and vineyards were established in the Central Okanagan, Kelowna, area. It is the largest and oldest grape growing region in BC.

Commercial production of British Columbia wines in the Okanagan began with the Valley's first vineyard, Calona Vineyards, in 1931.

From 1984, when there were only 13 wineries operating in the entire province, to today, where there are over 150 wineries in the Okanagan Valley alone, the South Okanagan, now claims the highest concentration of wineries in British Columbia.

It's BC Wine Country. ;-)

The grape growing area just south of Oliver BC is called the Golden Mile, named for the agricultural richness of the land. This area holds 1060% of Canadian wineries and about 60% of British Columbia's grape-growing acreage.

The BC Wine Institute adopted the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) seal of approval to wines that pass a taste test and chemical analysis, to ensure a wine that meets certain quality requirements.

The VQA identifier on Okanagan BC wine bottles ensures you that you are purchasing 100% BC wine of a designated quality production, content, varietal percentage, appellation, and vintage.

How BC VQA Wine Classification Works

The Former BC VQA Wine Label
bc vitners quality alliance label

Some Okanagan wine bottles used to have the black and gold label. Now, you'll see a 'wine glass' logo, which is a temporary identifying graphic for VQA approved bottles.

In order to qualify for the VQA designation, BC and Okanagan wineries must meet some rigorous standards.

This, however, doesn't mean that any British Columbia wines without this symbol aren't good quality. Paricipation in the Vitners Quality Alliance program is voluntary.

VQA Wine Standards are based on:

  • Estate bottled wine - Can only be labeled such on wines made exclusively from grapes grown, produced and bottled on an estate winery.
  • Geographic region - Only wines made from grapes grown exclusively in a specific region can display the name of the region on a wine label.
  • Labeling Guidelines - Determines if a wine is to be labeled as a single varietal, varietal blend or vintage dated.
  • Quality standards - Sets minimum brix levels and acceptable wine making practices.
  • Vineyard designation - Only grapes grown exclusively from a designated vineyard can be named on a wine label.
  • Wine category Determines how the wine is made and labeled, for example, Table Wine, Icewine, Sparkling, Fortified or Liqueur.
  • Labeling regulations also control the use of Geographic Indicators.
Resource: BC Wine Institute

Some popular white wines produced in British Columbia and the Okanagan include Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling.

And some popular types of red wines include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and red Pinot Noir.

The BC Wine Association tasting facilities, also known as the BC Wine Information Centre, is located at 888 Westminster Avenue West, in the beautiful city of Penticton. The centre was opened in 1996 and has a wine shop with more than 600 different VQA wines from more than 80 VQA wineries in BC. Since fruit wines don't qualify for VQA, you'll find everything but that at the shop.

More to read about Okanagan British Columbia wines...

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