The Dirt on Terroir

September 03, 2013 at 5:47 PM

Home to breathtaking landscapes, unique ridges and impressive hills, the Okanagan Valley is a region rich in resources and rich in wineries. But as visitors and residents to the region can attest, it is truly the unusual terroir characteristics that make the Okanagan Valley an irresistible wine destination.  

Okanagan TerroirjBut, what is all this talk about “Terroir”? Terroir, or land is not simply the dirt or black stuff that winemakers need in order to plant their vines and grow delicious grapes for wine. The story behind terroir, does not end there. Every plant, every shrub, every weed, and every mineral is essential for adding flavour and creating unique palettes found only in the Okanagan. What most people do not understand, is that, in the Okanagan, a mere 50 meters can make the difference in taste and production of wine, simply because of the terroir. Although it seems strange to think about dirt in such a romanticized way, it actually makes a significant difference and is extremely logical.

Where one vineyard experiences an abundance in minerals and nutrients, the other may experience the exact opposite, which has led to wineries purchasing multiple plots of land in order to create blends and complement the varietals growing in different soils. For instance, in the Oliver region, many wineries have vineyards on either side of the highway in different benches-each with extremely unique characteristics and each pulling from different irrigation systems (yet another contributing factor to the flavour palettes and terroir). Combining crops from vineyards is quite popular for this region and has allowed winemakers freedom to embrace the Valley's eccentricities. 

As local winery owners can attest, the last few decades have been about discovering the best wine varietals in the region. The Okanagan Valley is seen as a fairly new growing region for award-winning wines, as the land and climate are able to support the growing of many different varietals, lending itself to experimentation by winemakers in the area. 

Due to the colder climate at night, areas throughout the interior such as Oliver, can produce very crisp, aromatic white wines. As well, because of the hot, desert-like climate during the summer, various benches throughout Naramata and Oliver are able to produce bold, full-bodied reds. Colder climates also allow growers to limit the use of insecticides and reduces the probability of viruses infecting precious vines. This unique range of temperatures is another contributing factor in the terroir and how it is expressed through the wine.Okanagan Vines

Something as distinctive as the sagebrush and sandy terrain, or rich mineral deposits are making the Okanagan Valley famous for its diverse wine production. Winemakers are eagerly embracing the distinct, uniqueness of the region and continue to experiment with which varietals thrive in the Valley.  As winemakers continue to experiment, all this fuss about ‘terroir’ makes a huge contribution on a global scale and continues to draw wine lovers to the region. 


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