All She Wrote: Eat, Drink, Tweet – by Allison Markin


For months now, my colleague Erin Korpisto and I have been repeating the mantra:  “Yes we’re going to Georgia. No not that Georgia.” Nothing against the southern US state, but in April we returned from Tbilisi, Georgia and the International Wine Tourism Conference full of knowledge and three suitcases topped out with wine and spirits.

To give you some perspective, we traveled 10,000km. Both ways.

We selected a number of BC wines to pour at our presentation, which gave an overview of where we are, what we produce, and our wine tourism challenges. Of course, when we asked our audience what they first thought of when we mentioned Canada, the answer was” hockey”.

When we mentioned Canadian wine? The answer… icewine. After pouring and sharing ten wines – whites, reds, sparkling, and one icewine – we’re pretty sure that the tasters were impressed with what we had to offer. In fact, our Georgian hosts graciously took our wines to their own tasting tables and encouraged conference attendees to come give them a try.

The Georgians, if nothing else, are the most hospitable people I have ever met. And when it comes to wine tourism? They get it.
Georgia has been making wine for 8000 years, and has 525 native varietals. Wine touches almost every aspect of their culture: food, dance, music… even accommodation. The majority of the hotels we stayed at on an extensive media tour had art or sculpture dedicated to grapes, one with a bona fide wine spa. Winemaking is everywhere.

Granted, Georgia has a vast history to draw from for its storytelling, but the BC wine industry can certainly steal and adapt some ideas.
Yes, we have more than wine when it comes to tourism in our region, but if we are to promote the Okanagan as a wine and food destination of choice, then we need to embrace our own history, as short as it may be, and integrate our wines into other aspects of tourism: festivals, events, menus, resorts. Do we need a signature grape? Maybe. A signature dish? Probably impossible.

But we have a story to tell, and the challenge for the industry is to figure out what that story is, be consistent with it, and then tell the world who we are, what we do, and why the Okanagan should be on at foodie’s bucket list of destinations.