Naramata gets closer to being B.C.’s third wine sub-appellation

Plebiscite results showed support in excess of required two-thirds majority

Hillside Winery and Bistro winemaker Kathy Malone was one of the people spearheading the drive to make the Naramata Bench a sub-appellation within the Okanagan Valley |Hillside Winery

Stakeholders in the Naramata Bench wine industry have overwhelmingly voted in a plebiscite in favour of making their region B.C.’s third sub-appellation, or as some in the industry call it, a sub-geographic indicator.

It is now up to the provincial government, and Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, to officially sanction Naramata as a sub-appellation – a designation that would enable wine made from grapes grown in the region to be put in bottles that have labels that contain the words Naramata Bench. This is important because it can make wines more prestigious while also helping consumers have a better idea of what flavours they will get when they buy the wine.

In 2015, the B.C. government approved the Golden Mile Bench as the first such sub-appellation. It then approved the Okanagan Falls region as the province’s second sub-appellation in July.

Results of the plebiscite were posted on the British Columbia Wine Authority website on November 26, and were broken down to show the different classes of voter – whether they were qualified members (winery owners) or grape growers. A two-thirds majority was required, and any abstentions were counted as votes against making the Naramata Bench a sub-appellation.

naramata plebiscite results

Winery owners in other Okanagan Valley regions also want to be able to use geographic designations on labels. Winery principals whose ventures are on the nearby Skaha Bench, for example, are also jockeying to get Victoria’s approval of their sub-region as another sub-appellation.

Winery and vineyard owners whose properties are on the Naramata Bench voted during a six-week voting process, which ended September 12 and had been extended once.

“We're super excited, not surprised but excited,” Hillside Winery and Bistro winemaker Kathy Malone told Business in Vancouver after the vote was announced.

"We're really hoping that the ministry and the legislature enact it into law as soon as possible because we're all ordering labels for our 2018 wines and we'd like to be able to put Naramata Bench on the front label."