In 1990, there were 17 grape wineries in British Columbia; today there are more than 275, and while the industry shows no signs of slowing down, it faces numerous challenges.
Extreme weather, which brings with it wildfires and droughts, is just one challenge facing wine producers in the Thompson Okanagan. The goal of this week’s Wine and Culinary Tourism Futures Conference, co-chaired by TRU’s Dr. John Hull, is to bring academics together with industry professionals from around the world to address the pressures in this growing regional industry.
The conference, which takes place in Kelowna from Oct. 17-20, features experts from Europe, New Zealand, and across North America. It is co-chaired by Dr. Donna Sense of UBC-Okanagan, and sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the BC Wine Institute.
“What we’re seeing in California right now, and what we experienced this summer with wildfires in BC are just some of the environmental challenges that face the wine and culinary sectors,” said Hull. “By working together, we can share best practices and adapt to bring better resilience in the industry.”
The conference provides an opportunity to learn from professionals in the more established wine regions — Italy, New Zealand and California, for example — because despite the challenges, there is still tremendous growth potential, said Hull, who uses the success of the Kamloops Wine Trail as a prime example.
“It’s amazing to see how climate changes are offering opportunity for new regions to develop. We’re seeing more and more wineries open up in our area, and they’re winning awards.”
According to the BC Wine Institute, the industry contributes $2.8 billion annually to BC’s economy. Culinary culture and culinary industries have grown hand in hand with the BC wine industry, creating tourism destinations with huge potential for growth.
Hull, who had previously focused his research on mountain tourism, says he’s fascinated by rural development, rural resiliency and evolutionary economic geography.
“We see the mountain environments attracting a lot of people in our region, and we see huge changes in the economy of the BC Interior with much of our agriculture focus shifting to vineyards. I’m interested, as a geographer and a tourism researcher, in the evolution of the development of these areas, and how wine and food is a critical part of the experience,” he said.
Dr. John Hull