Cold snap lays B.C.’s wine crop to waste

If you stumble across a bottle of 2024 vintage B.C. wine when perusing the liquor store this year, we recommend you pick it up. It could be a collector’s item one day. 

Driving the news: There will be “an almost complete write-off” of B.C. wine this year after a cold snap that hit the province last month wiped out as much as 99% of its wine grape harvest, according to early industry estimates.

  • The B.C. wine industry estimates it will suffer up to $445 million in revenue losses this year, a year after it already lost ~$133 million in direct revenue due to poor harvests. 

Why it’s happening: Wine grapes are more fickle than cafe Wi-Fi and need consistent conditions to grow. As climate change has made the weather anything but consistent, grapes have suffered. Global wine production likely hit its lowest level in over 60 years last year.  

  • B.C. is a small fry in the world of vino, but heavy hitters Catalonia, Tuscany, and California’s Central Valley have also suffered due to droughtfloods, and wildfires.  

Why it matters: This is about more than just wine. As extreme weather events multiply across the country, locations that were once perfect for growing certain crops are changing beyond recognition, putting all kinds of foodstuffs — from wheat to maple syrup — at risk. 

  • B.C.’s cold spell was also a death sentence for other fruits grown there — particularly soft fruits like cherries — that will result in shortages for the province come summer.

Zoom out: And not only is the weather more extreme, it’s also more unpredictable. Canada’s national risk report for the winter agricultural season predicted there were “no sudden drops in temperature expected” in B.C., which we now know was not the case. 

What’s next: Federal and provincial governments are boosting funding to help farmers deal with extreme weather and keep the food supply chain afloat, while all sorts of growers are turning to new techniques and ideas like vertical farming or climate-resistant crops.—QH