Disappointing Forecast for Okanagan and BC, Canada: No Grape Harvest Expected in 2024

By | 11 February 2024

The Okanagan Valley in Canada, which stands as the country’s second largest wine region, has unfortunately received some bad news. Despite being used to cold winters, it’s rare for the region to experience winters so cold that it could damage grape vines. However, for the second winter consecutively, temperatures have plunged below -20 °C, a normally destructive level for Vitis vinifera varieties due to their lack of cold hardiness.

During January 11-15, the region experienced a cold snap with significantly low temperatures that measured below 20 °C for extended periods. A recent report provided details on how scientific researchers collected thousands of bud samples from 32 different varieties across nine BC wine regions, with the purpose of examining them for signs of primary and secondary bud survival. Unfortunately, they didn’t find any signs of life. In usual circumstances, primary buds might be damaged by cold temperatures, leaving secondary buds to take over and yield some crop. However, it’s worrying that even the secondary buds didn’t survive in this case.

The wine region has, sadly, experienced vine-damaging cold snaps two years in a row now. The 2023 vintage in BC’s wine regions took a hit of a 58% decrease, while a similar study to the recent one had nearly similar findings, predicting a 56% reduction in crop based on bud dissections and extrapolation across the region by grape variety.

The predictions for 2024 are even more daunting, with a forecast of a 97-99% decrease in harvest across BC. Even though BC consists of several regions, the most significant ones are the Okanagan and the Similkameen, followed by Vancouver Island. Based on current predictions, it appears that Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley will be the only regions with grapes in the coming year.

The previous year’s freeze resulted in requiring a replanting of 29% of vineyards. In the present year, the extent of permanent damage to the vines remains unclear.

Different varieties display varying levels of suspectibility. In 2023, in Okanagan, Syrah bore the worst brunt, with a decrease of 72%, followed by Merlot with a decrease of 66%, which happens to be the most widely planted variety in Okanagan. On the other hand, Riesling proved to be most resilient, showing a decrease of 41%, with Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay both enduring a 47% decrease.

At this moment, we extend our thoughts to all the winegrowers who are bracing themselves for a year of agriculture with no crop and no profit.

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