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DJ answers a question on Okanagan Wine

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Hi DJ,

I vacationed in the Okanagan this summer, and it was pretty hot. I stayed in both Kelowna and Osoyoos, and enjoyed a lot of good wine. Is there much difference in the wines from these two ends of the Okanagan Valley? Thanks!

Mike from Steveston


Dear Mike,

Hope your Okanagan holiday was warm and relaxing. You ask a great question, one that suggests you're an observant wine taster. Extending 250 kilometers from the US border to well north of Kelowna, the Okanagan Valley is large enough to contain significantly differing microclimatic zones. From the point of view of the grape, the amount of sunlight, heat and rainfall received has a major impact on the flavour profile of the wine. There is quite a broad difference in all three factors from one end of the valley to the other. 

The northern end is slightly cooler, wetter and experiences more cloud cover, while the southern end is hotter, drier and sunnier. Water has a lot to do with the differences: Lake Okanagan has a moderating effect on the north, encouraging wind and cloud cover, while in the south, the much smaller Osoyoos Lake has less of this cooling effect.  Latitude also plays a role: there is a full degree of latitude from Osoyoos to Vernon, B.C. Grapes have preferences for heat, sun and rain, and this is reflected in where they are planted in the Okanagan Valley. 

Aromatic white grapes like Riesling and Pinot Gris, and cool-seeking red grapes like Pinot Noir and Gamay do better in the North. Varieties that tolerate more heat like Chardonnay and Viognier, and red grapes that just need more of everything – like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah, are happier in the south Okanagan. 

How do you taste this difference?  It’s about acidity and fruit intensity. While all our Okanagan Valley wines are bright (the cold desert nights in the valley ensure acidity is always fresh and natural) and ripe, the acids show a little higher in examples from Penticton northwards, while in the south, you’ll experience plenty of ripe, lush fruit. Here’s a list of contrasting wines you can find on our site for your liquid learning:

 From the North:

50th Parallel Pinot Gris 2015

The View Riesling 2013

Tantalus Chardonnay 2013

From the South:

Culmina R&D Blend 2014

La Stella Leggiero Chardonnay 2015

Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette 2014

Our Curated Pack features one wine from each North and South ends of the valleyOkanagan North to South

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