August 11, 2015 – Miles Prodan, BC Wine Institute – BC Wines

Currently PMiles Prodanresident & CEO of the BC Wine Institute, Miles Prodan has over 30 years of marketing experience specializing in destination marketing and new media strategies. His extensive background and knowledge of the British Columbia agri-tourism industry, combined with his in-depth marketing and management experience with member-based trade organizations makes him the ideal candidate to lead the BCWI.

In addition to his role at the BCWI, Miles is also Board Member of the Canadian Vintners Association; Member of the Federal government’s Wine Sector Advisory Board; and member of BC Ministry of Agriculture’s Production Insurance Grape Advisory Committee.

Since 1990, the BCWI has played a pivotal role in taking BC’s wine industry from a vision to an internationally recognized niche region producing premium wines and providing quality wine tourism experiences.

Representing more than 144 member wineries throughout the province, the BCWI supports and markets the Wines of British Columbia (BC VQA), which gives consumers assurance they are buying a wine that is 100% from BC grapes.


Notes on Mr Prodan’s presentation by John Gunn

Ian Carmichael introduced our speaker, Miles Prodan of the BC Wine Institute.
It is appropriate that Mr. Prodan receives a wide audience from groups such as Probus, where he can spread an encouraging message and also correct a number of erroneous beliefs which are still widely held by many of us in this province concerning BC Wines. Mr. Prodan heads the BC Wine Institute which represents 95% of the BC wine industry.
The industry in BC, with only 10,000 acres cultivated, is still relatively small compared to Washington, Oregon, California (500,000), Australia and even New Zealand (with 90,000 acres).  It is small even when compared to Ontario (17,000), the only other province with a significant wine industry. The BC wine industry started mainly around 1950 in the Okanagan area with 17 wineries but it did not really flourish until the early 70’s when some new vines were introduced from France – crops known as Vinifera which could produce a good product and at the same time could survive our severe winter. We now have about 270 wineries located mainly in the Okanagan but also including those of Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley and the Similkameen area. Still, we are small. Elsewhere Mr. Prodan has seen wineries with “tank farms” in which ONE TANK could hold our entire BC output! He points out that the Okanagan area is hemmed in by the mountains on the east and the lakes on the west and really cannot expand its area by very much. Global warming is in our favour in that acceptable grapes are now being produced around Kamloops and even some near Prince George. Weather and latitude play a major part in the product. Yes, we have colder winters, but in the summer we have longer days than, say, the Napa Valley and so can increase our output per day.
First to clarify two acronyms – VQA “Vintners Quality Alliance” and CIC “Cellared in Canada”. VQA says that the grapes are grown and the wine bottled within BC and that the quality test is consistent throughout. VQA refers to the particular wine, not to the winery. CIC implies that the wine has been bottled in Canada but blended with an import. An important milestone in our wine industry occurred in 1988 with NAFTA – allowing California wines into this market and inducing yet further improvement in the quality of our own product to compete with this new import. Some wineries fell, others rose to the challenge and are still around today, including, for example, Cedar Creek and Quails’ Gate.
Note that the Province recognizes five distinct wine areas and if a wine is so labelled it means that the majority of the grapes came from that area – namely, Okanagan, Similkameen, Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley and Gulf Islands. Wine consumers sometimes ask why we don’t have a distinctive wine named for the locale – like Bordeaux or Burgundy, etc. Well, the fact is that this young industry is still experimenting with a wide variety of vines and it will be some time before a single named wine becomes the dominant product of that area.

Incidental information.

  1. The BC product is almost 50 – 50 between Red and White
  2. Wine can be sold in selected grocery stores. This is now allowed in BC but not in Vancouver and certain other municipalities. They are working hard to crack this bottleneck. Only VQA wines can be sold, no imports, no beer and no spirits.
  3. You can take your own bottle to a restaurant, but just how much they will charge you for the “corkage” service is up to them not the regulator. A few are free.
  4. If you order a bottle of wine at a restaurant and you don’t finish it, you can take it with you.
  5. Chardonnay is the most popular white, while merlot is the major red one.
  6. Location is important. Most Okanagan vineyards are on the east side of the lake. “Black Sage” however is on the other side and the product is quite distinct from the others.
  7. More and more growers are trying to bring on distinctive varieties and there are now some sub-areas within the above five main areas.
  8. Right now growing areas in the Fraser Valley and Gulf Islands are diminishing and some people feel that these are simply not good locations for growing good grapes.
  9. The average grower is getting smaller – average is now only 5 acres! There are now 900 growers in BC.
  10. Of the wine sold within BC, about 21% is BC wine. Ontario wines provide only 7% of their local market!
  11. We can export to Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia but not to Ontario or Alberta.
  12. In spite of the above, we in BC do import wine from Ontario!
  13. BC wines can now be sold at Farmers Markets.
  14. Restaurants get their wine direct and there is no markup by the Liquor Board. The markup you get in a restaurant is totally that of the proprietor.

Questions and Answers

Do we sell our wines in USA? No, our prices would not be competitive.

Could we sell to Hong Kong or mainland China? It is very complicated to do and really our prices would probably not work there.

Is there any move towards “Wine for Two” – i.e. a smaller bottle, say 500 mls as opposed to 750 mls, as they apparently do in France? Not yet but there is some talk about it. The airlines would like it.

Who sets the Corkage Fee? This is totally up to the restaurant. You can see a list of places and their corkage on line and it varies from zero to $40. Most are around $20. (Yes there is at least one place which claims zero!)

UBC winery research is working on a new yeast. Can you report on this? Not yet.

Is Ice Wine produced in BC? Not very much and it looks as if it will get less and less as the weather heats up. Our grapes ripen too soon and if you leave them on the tree until frost, the grapes are degraded. Ontario does better in this than we do.

Why can’t grocery stores sell other wines? If the grocery store wants to, they can set up a “store within a store” in which they can sell all alcohol products. But, right on the grocery shelves, it can only be VQA wines, no other liquor of any sort.

A good US wine sells for $8 over the border, and for $20 here. How come? The province marks it up a lot, and the US retail wine business is very competitive. It’s that simple!

Neil Smythe graciously thanked the speaker and wished him well in his pursuit of more and better wines for BC.



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