UBC Wine Research Centre wants to define B.C. wine and ensure its future

Exploring the future of wine

Winemakers and researchers in British Columbia are working to make sure the province's wine identity continues to grow and evolve.

UBC's Wine Research Centre, a joint operation including the UBC Okanagan campus, is striving to increase awareness and engage the B.C. wine industry as well as wine drinkers.

"Since 2017 our focus has been on the fact that we are a developing region, we are an interesting region, and we should be known internationally," says UBC Okanagan lecturer Katarina Vucic.

For the first time ever, the wine research centre held a seminar in Vancouver featuring academics and industry leaders looking at challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

The panel consisted of four internationally renowned scientists and professionals, the research centre's director Dr. Jacques Olivier Pesme.

"The purpose of a centre like ours is always to be connected with the wine industry and to the reality of the field. The wine industry you know, brings a little over $4 billion to the provincial economy yearly. So it is a vibrant growing industry, with a lot of human resources being employed," says Olivier Pesme.

One of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry, and particularly the Okanagan, is adapting to a changing climate. But according to some experts, the outlook for the Okanagan may not be that bad.

"One of the aspects of climate change being good for the industry would be getting more land not less."

Vucic says wine growing could move further north in B.C., which theoretically could mean more grape production.

"We will be able to grow different types of grapes. Also, the concentration, the flavour in the grape will get better as well," Vucic says.

Olivier Pesme says the research centre is also studying water management, the impacts of wildfires and what the future of wine tourism could look like in the Okanagan.

"The spectrum is very large, in order to sustain your business or the winery you need to grow right especially here, you need to be able to sell your wine and to promote it. It's a competitive market," says Olivier Pesme.

The question of what is B.C.'s wine identity may not have been completely answered at the conference, but the organizers believe they made large inroads. Vucic says the next step on the journey will include a wine-tasting lab.

"I believe next year, it's going to get built," he said. We're also developing new wine-related courses."

Vucic says the course will be online, except for an in-person tasting component and open to both the public and professionals alike.

"We do a technical vineyard and winery visit and then after that the students actually go out and work in the industry as well," says Vucic.

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