We’ve pulled together this Okanagan Fast Facts feature so that you can get to grips with the wine region and wines of this beautiful valley in British Columbia, Canada. Our photographic guide to Okanagan includes: the essentials of terroir (the soil types, climate, average temperatures, rainfall, longitude and latitude, and altitude); the main grape varieties used for different wine varieties; the viticultural methods, age of vineyards and vine training systems; the winemaking techniques, wine styles and tasting notes; and the production area in size and number of producers.
Scroll down below for your 80 Harvests Okanagan fast facts and photo gallery!
The Essentials of Terroir
Climate & Landscape
The Okanagan Valley stretches 250km north to south and has an extreme continental climate with hot summers (daytime temperatures in the summer can peak at over 40°C) and cold winters (when temperatures can dip below freezing). The wine region exists because of the moderating effect of the glacial Okanagan Lake which, at 232 metres, is deep enough to protect vineyards close to the lake shore from extreme changes in temperature.
The vineyards are generally planted on the gentle slopes of the lakeside. However, the southernmost regions in Oliver and Osoyoos are further from the lake and have more extreme peaks of temperature. There is a four-degree average daily difference in temperature between Kelowna and Osoyoos (Kelowna is cooler).
Okanagan Valley is relatively dry as it lies in the rain shadow produced by two mountain ranges – the Coastal and Monashee mountains. (See rainfall.)
The northern part of the Okanagan Valley (near Kelowna) is generally cooler than the south (around Osoyoos and the Okanagan Desert), which is why white production is concentrated in the north and red wines are mainly made in the south. The diurnal range is wide, with general average summer day temperatures of approx. 32°C and nighttime temperatures of approx. 12°C. In winter, the daytime average is approx. 0°C and nighttime is approx. -6°C. On rare occasions, temperatures can drop to below -25°C, which poses a risk of vine death. During summer, Okanagan Valley experiences 17 sunlight hours due to its northerly latitude.
- Kelowna: 1,200 Celsius degree days
- Osoyoos: 1,450 Celsius degree days
Okanagan is a semi-arid region with little rainfall and lots of sunshine. Average rainfall depends on the region; it is wetter further north:
- 320mm per year in Kelowna
- 200mm per year in Osoyoos
Other Climate Notes
Frost is a significant risk in Okanagan Valley, which is why the majority of vineyards are planted in close proximity to the lakeshore to benefit from its moderating effect. Frequent breezes keep the grapes dry and healthy.
Ranges between 320m – 600m above sea level.
Viticulture Facts & Vineyard Management
Irrigation is necessary and drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation are common. Vines are usually trained in VSP systems.
The main problem is frost risk and occasionally vine death in very cold winters when there are prolonged periods of winter freeze.
There are over 80 wine grape varieties grown in Okanagan with production divided 50:50 between white and black grapes. White and early-ripening varieties are generally planted in the north of Okanagan Valley and later-ripening varieties and red varieties planted in the south. The most common grapes are Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewürztraminer.
Wine Varieties & Winemaking Styles
Okanagan Valley winemakers generally use modern winemaking techniques utilising stainless steel and concrete tanks and oak barrels in winemaking. Due to the climate the wines tend to have a high acidity and freshness.
Traditional Wine Pairing
3,400 hectares planted (Canada’s total is 12,140 hectares)
Number of Producers
172 wineries; 200+ growers
Ordered north to south:
- Lake Country, Kelowna
- Peachland, Summerland
- Okanagan Falls
- Golden Mile Bench
- Black Sage/Osoyoos
Similkameen Valley is not part of Okanagan Valley, although its close proximity means that many people visit it at the same time.
Okanagan has an important wine tourism trade in the summer months when it is a popular weekend destination from Vancouver.
- The Ogopogo (or Naitaka) is a lake monster reported to live in Okanagan Lake. Knowledge of its existence has been passed down through native folklore and the last reported mass sighting was in 1926.
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