02/28/2015 05:31 EST | Updated 04/30/2015 05:59 EDT

B.C. wineries take advantage of differences in growing areas

The regional theme for the 37th Vancouver International Wine Festival may be Australia this year, but when it comes to reds, whites and rosés, B.C. wineries have plenty to offer.

Wines from 14 countries are featured at the festival.

Jackson-Triggs isn't one of the 27 B.C. wineries that are participating, but co-founder Don Triggs says the industry has come a long way over the past 30 years as B.C. wineries tried to differentiate themselves from other wine-producing regions.

"Now we're at the point where we're starting to evolve the understanding that the whole [Okanagan] Valley isn't the same," he told B.C. Almanac's Gloria Macarenko.

"We have areas where growing conditions are similar to Burgundy, we have other areas where growing conditions are similar to Bordeaux. We're starting to mature and we're starting to really release the potential, the minute differences of each of these growing areas."

There are currently 247 wineries in B.C., according to Triggs.

Josie Tyabji, chair of the BC Wine Institute, says the industry continues to grow, with wineries on Vancouver Island establishing a foothold and some in Kamloops and the Kootenays hopping on board.

Tyabji says what makes B.C. wines stand out is the fact that many producers excel in making premium wines, which are typically in the mid-$20 range per bottle.

"We don't choose to compete in the lower end categories, that will probably always be imported wines," she said.

Prices for premium wines at small-scale shops were about to go up because of a wholesale price mark-up suggested by the B.C. government, but it reduced the price increase following an industry outcry.  

Triggs says B.C.'s cool climate means it must play to its strengths.

"We're never going to produce 15 tonnes per acre like they can the mid-regions in Australia," he said. " We're producing lower yields, much more flavourful wines, much higher quality and our niche as producers in British Columbia is in the premium and ultra premium segments. There, we can hold our own and then some."

The Vancouver International Wine Festival runs from Feb. 20 to Mar. 1.

To hear the full interview with Don Triggs and Josie Tyabji, click on the audio labelled: The evolution of B.C.'s wine industry.