Thursday, February 24, 2005

Serve your wine with pride

It’s no secret, B.C. wines can compete with the best in the world. So why are B.C. consumers shy about putting it on their dining room table?
If you travel the world you’ll experience great diversity. If you’re lucky to enjoy hospitality in a citizen’s home of the nation you’re visiting chances are when the wine is served it will be something special. And there’s even a greater chance the wine will be actually made in the region you’re visiting.
It’s been a source of pride for many cultures over the centuries; when guests call you bring out the best of your land.
That’s not all always the case in B.C.
For years the wine made in this province was ordinary at best. I can recall many situations that would normally have called for something representative of our vineyards but what was served came from Germany or France or California; anywhere but here.
And for good reason.
Wine making here was sloppy and lacked any sophistication.
Now almost everyone agrees that can compete with the best the world has to offer.
It’s been this way for 10 years or so. Restaurants have caught on. Just about any eatery of any note features B.C. wine prominently on its wine list.
So why hasn’t the general public responded the same way?
A recent consumer survey showed wine drinkers were only using B.C. wine for at-home entertaining about 50% of the time. Some said they didn’t know B.C. wine was that good and others mentioned not wanting to appear naïve or unknowledgeable.
Even here in the Okanagan, the core of the B.C. wine renaissance, it’s common to be invited to a friend’s for dinner and be offered French bubbly or Australian Shiraz. We go out of our way to obtain lamb from Saltspring or fresh wild salmon but drop the ball in the wine game.
Don’t get me wrong, people should drink wine from other countries. It’s great to compare. But not when you’re showing off for out-of-province guests.
When I lived in New Zealand in ’99 it was common for the average Kiwi to drink inexpensive wine from Australia or Chile as their everyday wine – their supermarket special. But when I was a guest at their homes for a special dinner it was always top shelf New Zealand wines that were offered.
As a result, I grew to appreciate the wonderful wines of that country and remain a faithful fan.
Anyone can see how this demonstration of pride can convert to good economic practice. Serving B.C. wine to your guests in your home or business creates demand. And that’s good for the economy.
If you don’t already have favourites, here are a few guidelines to help you choose:

Don’t go cheap
I hate to use price as an indicator of quality but try to stay over $15 a bottle. There’s a far better chance of getting a good bottle above this mark than below.
Let’s talk about it.
Private and government wine stores are great sources of information and you’ll find trained personnel to help you out. Staff can take into account your tastes, your meal plans and your pocketbook limitations before picking the right B.C. wine for you.
Calling all winemakers
Most BC wineries are just like other small businesses – they enjoy calls from people because it often results in a sale. The smaller the winery the greater the chance you’ll speak directly to the owner or the wine maker. It’s a great way to get a personal perspective on a wine.

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