Barbara Phillip

Barbara Phillip

Wine judges give Okanagan College Sensory Centre high marks

The Sensory Centre at Okanagan College is getting high marks from wine judges who gathered in Penticton last week for the B.C. Wine Awards.

The Sensory Centre at Okanagan College is getting high marks from wine judges who gathered in Penticton last week for the B.C. Wine Awards.

“I like the natural light coming in, I like the white tables. It is very easy to see the wine,” said Sid Cross, honorary president of the International Wine and Food Society.  “That all goes into your initial impression. When you are judging, you are looking at the wine, you want to see the true colour.”

(Read more here: College toasts opening of Sensory Centre)

As it is set down in front of the judges, a flight of nine Viogniers does sparkle in the Penticton sunshine streaming through the windows of Sensory Centre, which opened its doors in 2014, created specifically for the sensory discovery and evaluation of wine and food.

In past competitions, the wines have been judged in halls like those of the Trade and Convention Centre, with no artificial light.

Barbara Phillip, Wines of Europe manager for B.C. Liquor Stores, said they are used to judging under artificial lights, but this is better.

“You don’t always have that choice, but the more natural light the better,” said Phillip.

“Especially when you are into it all day long, having some natural light lifts your spirits,” said Brent Muller, manager at Vessel Liquor.

Cross said the logistics of getting the wines out to the judges is a big job, but that was also being managed well.

“We like when the wines come out very timely and with sort of equal fills and at the right temperature,” said Cross. “We’ve only been here for half a day, but already I would give it very high marks.”

Cross said the run of warm weather in recent years is showing in the 2014 and 2015 vintages they are tasting.

“We were expecting we were going to see better fruit in some of the wines, but some of the wines were disappointing in being too ripe. You want a combination of perfect conditions,” said Cross. There are some varieties that are harder to grow in the Okanagan, like Cabernet Sauvignon, which are doing better – those grapes had trouble ripening before the weather cooled in October, but are now getting an early start, with lots of hot weather.

“The Okanagan is such a diverse area. We have the northern part that is fairly cool, and is doing a nice job with some of varieties like Pinot Noir, Riesling,” said Cross, noting that there are 80 grape varieties being grown in the Okanagan. “And then you go all the way down to the southern and you get the Syrah and all the riper grapes that need more sun.”

“I think we are still trying to discover what does best. We are still in an era of experimentation,” said Phillip.