In search of wine identity

As the Okanagan wine industry expands, it's facing tougher competition from abroad – but it's also learning from the experience.

Jacques-Olivier Pesme, director of the Wine and Spirits Management Academy at KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux, France, says the B.C. industry will face many more challenges in the years to come.

Pesme is a specialist in international business and sustainable competitiveness and a world-leading academic authority on the business of wine. He also works with UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management.

With nearly 300 wineries in B.C., tough international competition, and new changes to provincial liquor licencing laws, Pesme says the sustainability of the industry is being challenged. 

“The wine industry is truly a global market, and the local situation can’t continue as it is because the competition, whether it’s local or international, is fierce,” says Pesme.

This summer, as part of an innovative partnership between UBC and B.C.’s wine industry, the university received $630,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada to help strengthen co-operation in the industry, enhance export readiness, and develop global identity. 

“The industry has to ask ‘what does the idea of the British Columbia wine region mean?’ Can all these people work together to create a commercial message that describes our wine region and the signature of our wines?” says Pesme. “To be competitive on the international market, this region’s wineries need to have a firm identity. And the region needs to have the ability to launch itself successfully internationally.”

Wine regions have specific identities, and he says the Okanagan wineries need to come up with an identity that they all share, and then promote the entire area and its products.

“The industry does exist, and we have the players — the big, the medium, and the small. We also have professional institutions. Apart from few exceptions, I don’t think the local wineries are ready to position themselves on the international market and become international players,” says Pesme. “The potential is here, clearly. Some additional work is required to intensify the collaboration amongst B.C. players. The world of wine imposes, at first, a collective approach, and it offers many opportunities as the wine industry is truly a global market that needs to be explored.”

Pesme will be back at UBC in November to help facilitate the Wine Industry Collaborative at UBCO Nov. 2 and 3. Before the event, UBC and KEDGE are conducting a survey of the industry on wine labelling, and the preliminary results will be discussed at the collaborative.


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