Catastrophic may not even begin to describe the situation when it comes to Okanagan wineries and vineyards this year.
In fact, there's a good chance there won't be any grapes grown in the valley this year.
A report conducted by the wine industry and a leading BC management consulting firm determined that the mid-January cold snap will mean BC grape and wine production will be 97-99% lower than normal in 2024. The report states that financial damages to wineries and vineyards could reach $346 million and up to $445 million when you include industry suppliers, logistics providers and distributors.
“Due to the extent of damage to primary and secondary buds observed across a wide range of regions and grape varieties, the January 2024 cold event is predicted to result in catastrophic crop losses in the BC wine industry,” wrote Cascadia Partners in his report to British Columbia Wines.
“Preliminary industry-wide estimates are that the crop will only produce 1-3% of typical yields, with the majority coming from unaffected regions such as the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.”
The cold wave, which occurred between January 11 and 15, caused serious damage to 32 grape varieties in nine regions of the Interior. The vast majority of samples collected after the cold snap showed no signs of life in their primary or secondary buds.
Temperatures fell well below the -20 C threshold in the Okanagan and stayed below that devastating mark for 50 hours accumulated in the North Okanagan.
This is the second year in a row that freezing temperatures have devastated Okanagan wineries and vineyards. A preliminary harvest report from the BC Wine Grape Council found that the shorter cold snap in December 2022 has resulted in a 58% reduction in grape and wine production across the industry in 2023. The same research that predicts a loss of 97% to 99% this year estimated a 56% reduction last year.
“This initial discovery represents an enormous challenge for BC’s wine industry in 2024 and beyond,” Cascadia Partners wrote in the report. “Facing a near-total drawdown of the 2024 harvest, BC wineries will struggle to keep 100% BC wine stocked on retail shelves, to supply hospitality channels and to fulfill wine club subscriptions.
“Long-term impacts on vine health, including the need for replanting, are also anticipated but cannot be accurately estimated until the end of the year. These impacts not only amplify the above revenue losses, but also require significant capital investment from vineyards and wineries to rebuild their agricultural base.”
Photo: Cascadia Partners