Thompson Okanagan heats up in time to save 2022 grape growing season

Warm weather saves vintage

Extreme weather conditions continued in B.C. last year, but the way in which they unfolded had a significant—and positive—impact on the wine industry.

Wine Growers BC released its 2022 Vintage Report recently, and it found that last year was the sixth warmest year on record. However, the cool spring followed by the hot, long summer and fall resulted in wines with “intense vibrant fruit balanced by higher levels of natural acidity, elegance, and moderate alcohol levels,” according to the report.

“The prognosis for the year went from one of doom to one of the best vintages in recent decades,” the report said. “2022 was a vintage saved by an amazing long, warm, summer and fall.”

The Okanagan, in particular, dealt with abnormal cold snaps in the winter, which resulted in some bud damage, and then one of the coolest springs on record. That resulted in late bud breaks and concern among winemakers that grapes might struggle to ripen.

That all changed once summer arrived, as the hot temperatures and very little moisture allowed the grapes to catch up from their slow start. Helping growth was the fact there were no extreme heat waves like the 2021 heat dome delivered, and there was very little smoke in the air as well.

The report found one in five growers reported a crop shortage last year.

“More of a crop formed in the north than was anticipated, but it was still only half of what would be considered a target crop for us,” Tantalus Vineyards general manager and winemaker David Paterson said in the report. “Some bunches were on primary shoots, while many were on secondary and tertiary shoots, leading to uneven ripening throughout the vineyards.

“These lower cropping vineyards enjoyed high intensity but lower volume, and the resulting wines from the 2022 harvest have wonderful acidity, complexity and depth. I think we will see some exceptional quality and ageability from the 2022 vintage.”

The Similkameen Valley was less cold than the Okanagan in the winter, and that resulted in the fourth warmest year on record. The region’s wines are intense and concentrated, with high levels of refreshing acidity providing ideal balance.

“Harvest started two weeks late, and several of the white and red varieties ripened simultaneously, creating tank and fermentation space logistical challenges,” Seven Stones Winery GM and winegrower Dwight Sick said. “But the results look very good. The aromatic whites and rosé wines are bright and mineral driven, with above average levels of fruit intensity.

“So far, the reds show great structure, bright acidity with a low pH and moderate alcohol levels. Overall, the 2022 wines look very good with great ageing potential. And it looks like a great year for pinot noir and chardonnay in the Similkameen.”

The Thompson Valley got hit with the coldest winter temperatures, but the report found growers are burying the vines or using geotextiles to protect the vines and ensure a crop. Despite the cold, its growing degree days number was 1491, which was similar to 2021.

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