BC Wine Authority

The British Columbia Wine Authority (BCWA) is the non-profit society to whom the provincial government delegated the responsibility to implement the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation. BCWA is the regulator that implements the system of wine standards and authorizes wineries to use certain prescribed terms on wine labels, such as “BC VQA” and “Okanagan Valley” that assure the consumer that the wine is made from 100% British Columbia grown grapes and that the wine is free of specific faults.

The Members of the society are 140 of BC’s licensed wineries. Membership is voluntary but if a winery is not a member, it cannot use the prescribed terms on its labels and cannot vote on system governance issues. The BCWA is governed by its Board of Directors, all of whom are required to be completely independent of the wine and grape growing industries. The Board hires management and operates the BCWA. The wine industry is involved through the Wine Industry Advisory Committee (WIAC) which is made up of five representatives elected by different segments of the industry. WIAC serves as the Nominations Committee for the Board and has the role to initiate any regulatory changes the industry may wish to propose to the provincial government.

One of the most significant roles of the BCWA is to operate the system of taste test panels that assess samples of wines to determine whether they are free of the specific faults set out in the Regulation to qualify to be labelled “BC VQA”. The panels consist of six trained judges, independent of the wine and grape growing industries, who assess the wines through taste and smell. Each panel takes three to four hours. In 2009 36 panels assessed 1,220 wines, rejecting 62.

The taste test panels used the sensory laboratory at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) in Summerland for many years. Last fall BCWA leased space and set up its own sensory evaluation laboratory for wine to operate the taste test assessments at 888 Westminster Avenue West in Penticton. This new facility features a small walk-in refrigerator (to store tank samples at 1 degree C), a cold storage room (to store bottle samples at 15 degrees C), an industrial dishwasher capable of sanitizing the ISO standard glasses used in the tests, storage spaces for the equipment and records, seven tasting booths for the judges and office space. The site houses the General Manager, the BC VQA Coordinator, a part time bookkeeper and a part time lab assistant on test days. For each panel, six judges and an apprentice judge visit the facility for approximately half a day. The BCWA also uses the facility occasionally to train judges.

There are no hazardous materials used in the facility. Any chemical tests that the BCWA may require are done elsewhere in an established laboratory.

For information: Steve Berney, General Manager, BCWA, (250) 49-BCVQA or Toll Free: 1-877-499-2872