Monday, August 11, 2008

Wine Q&A: The Price is Right?

Q: An article you wrote recently suggested that the Okanagan grape crop may not be as good this year as in past years because of the weather in the spring. Does that mean we can expect prices to go down? I find B.C. wines rather expensive.

A: I’ll refrain from wading too far into the debate about local wine prices as everyone seems to have a different idea of what is considered affordable and what is expensive. It is true that the average cost of a bottle of locally-produced wine has climbed notably in recent years, but then so has the cost of land on which the grapes are grown, labour, transportation and tax levies. Then there’s the issue of supply and demand – our unquenchable thirst for regional wines has driven up their value. Enough said.

I can’t see wine prices coming down – not for the reason you imply, anyway. First of all let me clarify something – poor weather won’t necessarily translate into a poor crop. Experienced, talented vintners have ways to compensate for climate challenges. For example, they can thin the grape crop – in some cases by as much as half – to encourage ripening.

If consumers were to see any significant fall out from a challenging growing season, it’s most likely going to be the overall supply of local wines. If they are forced to thin the crop, it will mean less yields and lower volume. Some wineries refrain from releasing top-end wines from difficult growing seasons, adding to their exclusivity and perhaps having the opposite effect you hope and actually driving up the price.

Look at what happened with this year’s cherry crop. April’s record-breaking cold (and snow) during a crucial period in that fruit’s growing cycle meant availability was down, but prices were up.

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