Purchasing a Bottle of Wine

Purchasing a bottle of wine can be an overwhelming experience, but it doesn’t have to be.  As with anything, once you get informed about a subject, your fears start to dissipate.

Gone are the days of walking into a liquor store and having limited bottles of BC Wines to choose from - in the 1980‘s there were only 14 wineries in BC! 

Enter the vibrantly expanding age of amazing BC Wine.  With over 200 Wineries spread through five main regions of the Okanagan, Similkameen, and Fraser Valleys, plus the Vancouver and Gulf Islands, your choices of wine are seemingly boundless! 

Check out a bottle of wine.  All wine labels must display alcohol content per volume, volume of wine in the bottle, and the address of the producer. Wines are also labelled 3 different ways - by region, grape variety, or brand.

Most European countries label their wines by region because they believe that some plots of land produce superior quality grapes compared to others based on the combination of soil, slope of vineyard, climate, varietal and personal touch of the winemaker being expressed through the wine - what the French know as “terroir”.

Varietal labelling is most associated with new world counties like Australia, Canada, Chile and the United States.  Varietals are the grapes:  Chardonnay (shar-duh-nay), Cabernet Sauvignon (ka-ber-NAY soh-vee-NYAWN), Pinot Noir (Pee-noh NWAHR), Sauvignon Blanc (soh-vee-NYAWN blahnk), etc. 

Brand labelling is usually associated with new world wines, and include wines from “Yellowtail”, “Rigamarole”, “Fat Bastard”, etc.  These wine labels stand out on the shelf and easily catch the eye of the consumer.

With new world countries edging in on what used to be European dominated markets, we are beginning to see a slight increase in varietal and brand labelling on European labels.

Wine labels will also show the vintage year -  that is when the grapes were primarily grown and harvested in a single specified year.  A non-vintage wine (seen as NV on the bottle, like most Champagne) is usually a blend from two or more years.

During the early 20th Century, French wine laws were created for fraud prevention and a guarantee of authenticity.  That is the “AOC” on French wine bottles, DOC on Italian, AVA on U.S., and VQA on Canadian bottles.

In 1990, the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) was introduced in BC to implement standards and regulations for wine made from 100% BC grown grapes.  Not all wineries are obligated to follows these regulations, but they will if they want to have the BC VQA label.

Wineries not VQA designated must label their wines “Cellared in Canada” or “Product of Canada” which means that the wine can be made from grapes that come from any part of the world.  Some wines, like Pacific Breeze’s hugely popular Killer Cab, are labelled as such, since their grapes are sourced from California, Oregon, and Washington as well as BC.

It has taken a long time for new world wines to gain credibility, and our BC Wines should be given the chance they so rightly deserve.  Ask your friendly, local liquor store staff for ideas on what to try, and learn to trust your own judgement.

Everyone experiences thing differently and what one person may love about a wine, you might not.  That doesn’t mean that the wine is bad, or that you are wrong in your tasting experience with the wine - it just means that you might want to move on to a different style or varietal.

So relax... and experience some of the best wines that BC and Canada have to offer!


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