B.C. wine grapes facing up to 99% production drop due to January cold snap

B.C. wine grapes facing up to 99% production drop due to January cold snap
A picker collects grapes at the Okanagan Valley's River Stone Estate Winery in Oliver, B.C., Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

A new report says British Columbia’s wine industry is anticipating “catastrophic crop losses” of up to 99 per cent of typical grape production due to January’s intense cold snap.

A February report from Wine Growers British Columbia and consulting firm Cascadia Partners says preliminary industry estimates are calling for crops to produce only one-to-three per cent of typical yields for wine grapes, mostly coming from relatively mild Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.

The resulting loss in grape and wine production — described by the report as “an almost complete writeoff of the 2024 vintage” — is expected to trigger revenue losses of up to $346 million for vineyards and wineries.

The industry is also anticipating an additional revenue loss for suppliers, logistic providers and distributors of up to $99 million as a result.

The report says the arctic intrusion that struck the province in January plunged temperatures “well below” -20 C across the Okanagan Valley, where 86 per cent of B.C.’s vineyard acreage is located.

READ ALSO: B.C. cherry growers ‘reeling’ after January cold snap that damaged buds

Wine grape growers say the January cold snap was especially damaging due to the relatively mild winter leading up to the deep freeze, a sentiment echoed by other agricultural producers such as the BC Cherry Association.

The Wine Growers’ report says experts began assessing the damage of the cold snap quickly after the weather event, and the results “confirmed the industry’s worst fears” with “the vast majority” of bud samples showing no signs of life.”

“Due to the extent of damage, appropriate pruning practices will be ineffective at mitigating against severe crop losses,” the report says.

“Longer term impacts on grapevine health — including the need to replant — are also anticipated but cannot be precisely estimated until later in the year.”

B.C.’s wineries and vineyards say this is the second straight year where yields have been damaged by severe cold weather.

According to the crop assessment from the BC Wine Grape Council, the cold snap in the previous winter in late 2022 and early 2023 resulted in a 58 per cent reduction of grape and wine production provincewide last year.

The new report warns that this January’s cold snap is “even more severe” due to its duration, where parts of the North Okanagan experienced more than 50 cumulative hours below -20 C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2024.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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