As our Okanagan wine industry grows, so too does our repertoire of wines. It is so exciting to experience old world varieties reborn in our new wine world. We have become a beautiful melting pot of international knowledge in the industry as winemakers and growers join us and share their knowledge and experience with our wine country pioneers. There is also a renegade element here, with winemakers and growers able to experiment with the unbelievable range of terroir and microclimates that have been discovered here in the Okanagan. This is truly the new frontier of the wine world and such an amazing place to be!
Here is a list of some varieties that are old world or super popular in other countries that you may have never heard of, or were afraid to try. Get out there and expand your wine experience by tasting these wonderful ‘new to you’ varieties.
Gruner Veltliner (GROO-nur velt-LEEN-ur)
O’Rourke Peak Cellars is fast becoming known for their version of Austria’s headliner variety. The newest vintage is a stylistic change from previous vintages. Flinty, with a lovely minerality, there are notes of honey, peach, pineapple, and a rich round body on the palate that finishes with refreshing acidity.
White Pinot Noir (White – Pee- noh)
Yes, just like it sounds, this is a white wine made from red pinot noir grapes and it's very rare in these parts. SpearHead Winery in southeast Kelowna is making a beaute –fruit forward with notes of white peach, cherry, citrus, and beeswax. It offers a dry rich palate that is ‘framed and focused with flavours of spiced pear, honeydew, wet stone, and mineral notes.’ Go get it before it is gone.
Sandhill Wines has Canada’s ONLY Barbera. This juicy, medium-full bodied Italian red wine offers a wonderful bouquet of cherry, red plum, and red licorice, with oak and warm spice notes.
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery makes a beautiful version of this beloved French variety. Prepare for love at first sniff - incredibly aromatic, it delivers an Okanagan fruit basket of peaches, apricots, and pears to the nose with floral notes mingling throughout.
Baco Noir (Back–OH-Nwar)
This big, rich red can be found at Ancient Hill Winery. The winemaker describes this wine as: “Black cherry, plum, spicy, chocolate, vanilla, and butterscotch on the nose. Soft but rich mouthfeel with powerful flavours.”
Pinotage (Pee- noh-tahj)
The signature grape of South Africa, we have one major producer of this gorgeous grape in our winelands: The View Winery. Here they make three different incarnations: a signature Reserve (red) Pinotage Reserve, a white Pinotage, and a Pinotage Rosé that happens to be the only one in North America.
Marechal Foch (Mar-ah–shell Fohsh)
Known as BC’s first cult wine by many, Oak Bay Estate Winery has a big and bold winner. Described as “Rich and jammy with an intense plum nose, the palate has hints of brambles, spice, tobacco leaf, and vanilla”.
Another Austrian import, this variety is the signature red of Kalala Organic Estate Winery. Kalala’s expression of Zweigelt is offered in two ways: a classic red wine and as an icewine. The red offers “Aromas of cassis and black cherry. On the palate, the wine is juicy and bright with a nice black cherry and cassis flavour, mixed with a dusty earthiness.” The small batch icewines are precious, this port-like version features: ‘Hazelnut, dried cherry and butterscotch come through and linger on the palate.’
Fun to say, Blaufränkisch is also a grape of Austrian origins. Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery makes a lovely version, described by wine expert Anthony Gismondi as “The aromatic nose offers up fresh pepper and perfectly ripe plummy red fruits with zero funk. The tannins are dusty light making this very food friendly.”
Big in Germany, this vibrant aromatic wine literally translates to “victory wine.” There are versions on Vancouver Island and in the Shuswap area but Nagging Doubt Wines is the only place you can find it in Kelowna. On the nose and palate, this wine is intensely aromatic; a complex profile of flowers, lychee, tangerine, spice, and citrus can be detected.
Now all you have to do is purchase these unique wines and show off to your friends, surprising them all with your worldly wine-ness.
*Always plan a safe ride! If you’re not exploring the wineries in our region with a licensed tour operator, have a designated driver to get you where you need to go safely.*
Article originally published in May 2019 and has been edited for accuracy.