Compared to many other growing regions around the world, British Columbia is a viticultural paradise.
With five individual VQA regions, each with unique climates and soils, viticultural practices vary widely in different areas. The following is general information on British Columbia’s viticultural practice.
There are over 60 varieties planted in BC.
Most vineyards are planted on specially-selected, pest-resistant rootstocks to mitigate potential problems of phylloxera and nematodes, as well as to manage vine vigour. Phylloxera is a louse that attacks the roots of vinifera grapes causing the death of the vine over a period of several years.
Clones are mutations of a species. Growers often choose multiple clones of a given variety to amplify certain desirable characteristics. A number of clones exist in BC for certain varieties.
The majority of vineyards are less than 12 years old, with an estimated average being just eight years old.
TRELLISING AND TRAINING SYSTEMS
The most common training system is bilateral cordon training with spur pruning, then head training with bilateral cane pruning, both with vertical shoot positioning. Other systems such as Scott Henry and Smart Dyson also exist.
Many vineyards are planted on a four-foot by eight-foot spacing. Certain growers are experimenting with tighter spacing, resulting in higher vine densities
Yields vary considerably depending on the grower, the variety and the quality aspirations. Generally, the high-quality vineyards crop between two and four tons per acre.
Vineyards in BC are irrigated. Most utilize an overhead irrigation system because this method also offers the benefit of frost protection. Many new vineyards have overhead, drip and microjet systems.
In order to reduce berry size and improve quality, many growers in BC practice Regulated Deficit Irrigation. This is a method of applying controlled amounts of stress to the vine by limiting water availability. There is no current shortage of water in BC.
Vineyards are frequently fenced in order to protect against deer, bears and other animals. Many vineyards are netted against birds when late-harvest or Icewines are being produced.
The leafhopper and cutworm are present in BC. There are a few isolated areas of phylloxera, but it does not appear to be spreading and fails to thrive on the sandy soils of the southern Okanagan Valley. There has been no reported incidence of Pierce’s Disease.
Due to the dry climate of the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, fungal diseases are limited. However, powdery mildew is common, and botrytis bunch rot can appear in wet years and is an issue in vineyards with dense canopies.
Due to the relatively low necessity for sprays, many growers practice sustainable viticulture by reducing their reliance on synthetic chemicals.
The dry climate and low humidity of the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are well suited to organic viticulture. Many growers practice organic viticulture but do not seek certification. Only three per cent of BC wine grapes are officially organically grown.