Agriculture

Voodoo Grapes in the Okanagan

Grape growing has its rituals. If you’re going to take a plant that roots itself as it tumbles down hot volcanic soils on river banks in humid Europe and move it around the world, you’re going to have to trick it into the youth that comes from rooting along its length. That rooting doesn’t happen anymore, due to disease issues, so torture is the key. The plant becomes the equivalent of a new root every year, and shoots are pruned hard to replicate over and over from the same point, again and again. In effect, the constrictions of sap in old wood become the soil, which is why so many wines are sold as “old vine” pressings.

But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that what is produced is wine in the sense that it was known 200 years ago. The plant’s loss of carbon each year is astonishing, as well as the loss of rhythmic slowing and speeding up of flow, and the mixing of new and old flows.

Complexity is passed over in favour of uniformity. People in the industry will tell you that the grapes are expressing their terroir. No, not really. They are expressing their pruning. Terroir is what has been cut off below.

Vineyard at the Rise, Vernon

It is no accident how similar every Okanagan wine tastes to every other one. It’s strange that this industrial model has taken hold, when it goes against the very nature of the vines, but it has, to our poverty.

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