Saturday, August 21, 2010
Wines of the Okanagan: A Diplomatic Overview, Conclusion
Herein is the conclusion to our wine round-up sent to us through our special diplomatic channels. The italics were included by the editorial staff at Okanagan Daily Special--we would have underscored those points, but underscoring never looks any good. Typography aside, our Diplomat writer friend diplomatically brings up the notion that the time for blind boosterism has passed and that the Okanagan food and wine situation is ready for real, grown up, critical assessment--as that is the only way for the Okanagan food and wine situation to advance and evolve.
A big thank you to the diplomatic conduit for and diplomat writer of this piece.
Lastly, Okanagan Daily Special is always looking for contributions about the Okanagan, it's food and the people concerned with it. Drop us a line if you're interested.
So with out any further ado...
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Before I get to the epilogue, here are two further thoughts about the BC wine industry. Firstly, should wineries charge for a tasting? Those who do charge now are invariably the larger producers for whom a few bottles a day spent on advertising is, if you will pardon the mixed metaphor, small beer. The smaller estates have to charge as they are unable to carry such an extravagance. I have no problem with a small charge being made and later refunded against any purchase. I mentioned the charging to a friend who runs a wine bar and he told me that many estates in France now charge because they found they were being invaded by hordes of visitors who would stay and taste all day and buy nothing. I do not blame any winery which tries to stop that habit spreading.
My final point is a small criticism at the over-adulation which the local press pours over the entire BC wine industry. Local literature goes out of its way to praise every estate, every wine and, it seems, every grape. The only article I saw which did not follow this super-sycophantic approach was about the habit of some BC wineries of importing foreign grapes and passing the final product off as Canadian wine. This is something which the industry’s controllers will need to get to grips with. But articles, such as those in Savour magazine, always love every bottle, every winemaker as well as every dish in every great local restaurant. Even John Schreiner, in his fine guide book, never has a bad word to say and includes almost all of each estate’s output when describing his favourite brews.
This approach reminded me of the conversation between two theatre luvvies at the opening night party – “I was great, daaaaaarling. How were you?” Can it be that every BC-produced bottle is perfect? Surely not! We found an example of a real stinker at Township 7. Surely there must be other below standard produce. But you would not know this from the local literature. It seems to me that no one has yet had the bravery to come out and criticise a local wine for being poor or overpriced. I would have liked to have seen more balance and honesty in the articles written about individual BC wineries.
With that final moan out of the way, I will return to the final leg of our journey which took us beyond the final peaks of the Rockies and through the dramatic transformation where the landscape suddenly changes into the plains of Alberta. This part of Canada is so different from the mountains of eastern BC but it still contains a huge attraction because of its enormous feeling of space and, as the locals have it, ‘the big sky!’ In Calgary we met up with our ex-Jakarta friends, with whom we were to stay a couple of nights, and bade farewell to our doughty companions, Mike and Jo, who had ferried us so ably and comfortably through many miles – although only a miniscule percentage of its land mass – of wonderful, wonderful Canada.
By now you may have got the impression that Beryl and I rather enjoyed this trip. Well, you are right! Over the years we have travelled to many places and, even as we left for Vancouver, we had only just returned from a month in exotic China. But the wine, the mountains, the scenery, the food – oh, and did I mention the wine? – we enjoyed on this Canadian journey, have been truly fantastic. In fact I am running out of superlatives to describe our feelings. Our very grateful thanks go to our friends a) for suggesting the trip and b) for finding the time in their busy schedules to fit it in. And our very special thanks go to Jo, for her sacrificial role as driver thus enabling the rest of us to indulge in the tastings just as long and as hard as we could. Our taste buds say a big thank you – our livers are considering suing! We just hope Mike and Jo enjoyed the trip as much as we did. Now we need to get back to the drawing board to see how we can manage to visit the wineries we missed!