Last winter’s cold damage has helped researchers and grape growers identify varieties that are best suited to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

Working with a handful of growers, including Vincor Canada and Mission Hill Family Estate, researchers from the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre in Summerland identified Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon among the hardier varieties, as well as Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Riesling. These varieties did well relative to Merlot, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Syrah, which tended to be more susceptible to cold.

Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Riesling also made a list of cold-resistant varieties that Frank Hellwig of Vincor Canada shared with growers at the B.C. Wine Grape Council viticulture and enology conference in Penticton at the end of July.

“The ones that we found most susceptible are, unfortunately, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Shiraz, Semillon—all the ones that the liquor boards want to sell,” he said, joking that the susceptibility of these varieties illustrated “Murphy’s law of viticulture.”

However, Hellwig said that a site without proper air drainage could decimate any variety because the geography would contribute to extremes of temperature rather than moderation of conditions.