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How B.C.'s record-breaking 'heat dome' impacted local wines

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An especially hot and dry summer presented challenges for B.C.'s grape growers, but conditions made it a good year for taste, despite a smaller harvest.

According to a report from the group known as Wine Growers British Columbia, last year's vintage "will be remembered for low yields but intensely flavoured fruit."

Essentially, what it meant for the valley and for B.C.'s Interior overall was that crops were down quite a bit – as much as 40 per cent in some spots – but the wines that were produced are unique and flavourful.

In a news release Wednesday, WGBC said wines produced by grapes harvested in 2021 will have concentrated flavours and balanced acidity. This is a trend noted by winegrowers throughout the province, the group said.

Summer 2021 saw record temperatures across B.C., with some regions noting highs in the 40s in late June and early July.

The term "heat dome" became widely known as the phenomenon took hold for several days. Hundreds of people died during the heat wave many use as proof that further climate change action is needed.

Dry conditions led to one of the worst wildfire seasons seen in B.C., and an entire village was destroyed when flames burned out of control in Lytton.

WGBC says the fires were a "notable occurrence" throughout the Okanagan Valley, an area where many of B.C.'s grapes are grown, but that the smoke cover was higher and thinner than in previous years, so the impact was minimal.

Conditions in the nearby Similkameen Valley were similar, and growers in that area too saw an early and smaller harvest.

The heat led to a lower-than-usual yield of some varieties of grapes, "but also presented a silver lining of low disease pressure and exciting quality of fruit," the group said.

As for what wine drinkers should expect, WGBC says whites will have "some tension, lots of flavours and concentration."

Last year's rose wines are fruity and naturally acidic, while reds are "showing full ripe tannins and lots of vibrant fruits," according to Severine Pinte, winemaker at LaStella and Le Vieux Pin wineries.

And it wasn't just summer weather that had an impact on 2021 wines. It was a challenging year for icewine as well, with wineries seeing the lowest yield on record.

The full Wines of B.C. Vintage Report can be read online. Top Stories

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