Many of the world’s major wine regions have developed signature wine varietals and marketed them to international recognition. The rapid growth of BC’s wine industry over the past few decades has led to an explosion of diverse and outstanding wines. While there are strong reasons to support diversification in BC’s wine production, some in the industry feel that the province’s wine producers would benefit from a standout, signature varietal. But if we moved in that direction, which varietal should it be?

The Grape Debate-2

This was the big question looming in last Friday’s Grape Debate, where a panel of six wine experts, moderated by The Province’s wine columnist, James Nevison, led a lively 90-minute discussion followed by a BC wine tasting.

The Grape Debate-11

The sold-out event packed 300 wine enthusiasts, educators, and winemakers into Vancouver Public Library’s lower level meeting room.

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Three debaters were for the varietal (Anthony Gismondi, Michaela Morris, Sid Cross) while three were against it (Kurtis Kolt, Howard Soon, David Scholefield).

The Grape Debate-12

Each panelist was given four minutes to present their case as well as briefly answer an opponent’s view. While David Scholefield argued that it’s not about name, but about character as well as a wine’s identification, Michaela Morris believed that establishing a reputation would help BC’s identity.

The Grape Debate

What IS known is that BC has a very fragile climate that creates a special environment for grape growing. This can be distinguished from other wines in terms of origin. It is the BC wine industry’s job to prove the value of their wines because of this unique origin.

BC has a story to tell. Sid Cross remarked that it’s urgent to focus on our wines and only the best ones. With 32 years in the winemaking industry, Howard Soon has seen the progression in BC wine go from ‘crap’ to respectful. Back to the other side of the room, Anthony Gismondi added that if BC wants to sell these expensive wines, it needs a better focus.

Michaela added that we need to share the research and work together so that everyone can rise collectively. This proved a popular opinion amongst the audience.

All panelists agreed that the variety of food we have here to go with so many local wines is a strength of the BC wine industry.

The Grape Debate: Q&A

During the follow-up Q&A with the audience, David Scholefield remarked that we cannot compete on price. We can only survive if we add value. This was the resounding remark of the debate that swayed myself and many others in the audience to vote “no”.

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Ahead of the event, participants were asked whether BC should have a signature wine varietal. 53 voted yes, 16 voted no, and 118 were undecided. By the end of the evening, of those who did vote a second time, the numbers had taken a definite turn in the other direction: 33 voted no, 18 voted yes, and 2 were undecided in the “no…but” category.

Saturna Island Family Estate Winery represents The wines await post-debate! #grapedebate #fb

This was a very informative and fun event where everything from ice wine to terroir was discussed, with many audience members adding their input and tips to further propel the BC wine industry towards the greatness that they are capable of.

Misconduct Wine Co., Penticton R: Nk'Mip's new Talon. So delicious! Jackson-Triggs Riesling Icewine ready to go

Following the debate, 21 BC wineries were on hand, pouring several varietals each, while Upper Bench Creamery’s beautiful cheeses were cubed and served with crusty baguette to round off a fine evening of wine and conversation.

Gorgeous Upper Bench Creamery King Cole cheese Wine tasting room Pouring Upper Bench Estate wines

The Grape Debate event was part of Tourism Vancouver’s 2013 Dine Out Festival.

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