Despite optimism as harvest began, BC grape growers are reporting the shortest crop in years.
“Despite wine grape growers’ best efforts, our forecasts suggest that the industry is set for yet another material short crop in 2021, perhaps the worst in at least nine years,” reports Miles Prodan, CEO of Wine Growers BC in his latest weekly report to the industry.
The province’s wine grape crop has exceeded 28,000 tons for much of the past decade, with the low point being 26,455 tons harvested in 2013. The 2020 harvest was 29,113 tons, down from a record 35,537 tons in 2019.
While growing conditions were generally favourable to fruit development last year, warm, dry weather resulted in lighter cluster weights.
“Overall, B.C. wine grape yields in 2021 were lighter than expected due mainly to extreme heat and in some cases wildfire,” the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries told Country Life in BC.
However, final production volumes have yet to be reported. Receipt of this information will allow the province to proceed with processing claims from the 47 insured growers who filed notices of loss last year.
A total of 307 wine grape producers in BC obtained crop insurance last year.
The shortfall has wineries asking the province for relief.
“To help mitigate the current short crop, industry is requesting that the [BC] Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries exercise its authority over the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation to allow temporary changes to the BC VQA 100% BC blending rules for 2021 vintage wines,” says Prodan.
The changes could include allowing wineries to release 2021 wines that are up to 25% a prior or later vintage made from grapes grown anywhere in BC.
Similar blending strategies have been employed in Ontario and elsewhere to tide local wineries through short crops, especially following severe weather events.
To help the industry anticipate and prepare for similar shortfalls in the future, Wine Growers BC is undertaking research to better identify the factors that contributed to a short crop in 2021.