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Waters: One more accolade to help attract wine lovers
Okanagan wines have come a long way in the last 20 years.
But even back in 1994, when Mission Hill Family Estate Winery shocked the wine world by having its Chardonnay named the best on the planet at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition in London, England, there were people who already knew something special was brewing in the Okanagan. (Sorry to mix my alcohol-making metaphors.)
But, 19 years ago, the wine-sniffing noses of the experts in London were put so far out of joint in disbelief that an upstart wine from the colonies could beat out vintages from established wine-making regions around the world, they retasted all the wines to make sure they had not made a mistake. They hadn’t.
The win was quite the coup, not only for Mission Hill—which always appears to consider itself a cut above the rest—but also for B.C. wines in general. The win put this valley on the wine connoisseurs’ map and nearly two decades later, the quality of wine produced here, and the industry itself, has grown substantially.
In that case, a rising tide did, indeed, lift all boats.
And, as the 33rd Fall Okanagan Wine Festival kicks off, lightening has struck twice.
In London last week, at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards, Mission Hill’s 2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir was named the best wine of its type in the world, once again beating out the big boys from places like France, California, Australia and New Zealand.
While the latest win carried the caveat of a price tag—the wine was judged the best Pinot Noir in the world under $25 (£15) a bottle—it was nonetheless an impressive achievement.
But the reality is , it was just the latest in an long, ongoing string of awards for Okanagan wines at competitions around the world. Award-winning B.C. wines are no longer a surprise. In fact, hearing about local wines wining awards has, quite frankly, become old hat.
And that speaks volumes about the quality of the wines being created in the Okanagan Valley. They literally can stand alongside wines from anywhere in the world. It’s not just the locals saying so, it’s the people who put those other wines up there in the first place—international wine judges.
As wine regions go, the Okanagan is small and it’s new. But it now has a reputation and it’s that reputation that has helped put the entire area on the map for more than just wine lovers.
The days of the Okanagan being known simply for “beaches and peaches” are long gone. The local tourism industry is cashing on a much more upscale chic these days.
Over the next two weeks, many of the province’s 236 wineries will show off their products to thousands of well-heeled wine-lovers.
Think of it as their grape escape.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.