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Top 5 Unique Red Wine Grapes to Explore in the Okanagan Valley

Did you know there are over 80 different wine varietals planted in British Columbia?

The diverse climate found in this province allow for a wide range of grapes to thrive. BC’s youthful industry and adventurous spirit have been experimenting with grapes that are new to Canada.

Wineries such as Moon Curser, Terravista Vineyards, and Stag’s Hollow are some of the leaders who are exploring what will thrive in the Okanagan Valley.

These wineries are among the first to plant international varietals such as Arneis, Dolcetto, Verdejo, Carménère, Grenache, and Mencía.

I applaud the wineries that are taking a chance and planting lesser-known varietals.

Since there are thousands of wine grape varieties known in the world, why not expand your horizons by trying something new?

In this blog post, I will recommend five red varietals worth trying that grow in the Okanagan, and who produces those wines.

Petit Verdot

A thick-skinned grape that produces full bodied wines, noted for their depth of color and spicy, peppery characteristics.

This varietal is commonly used in the traditional blends of Bordeaux due to its dark colour, high tannins, and floral aromas of violet. Petit Verdot translates to "little green” in French due to the trouble with its ripening.

While Petit Verdot appears to have originated in or near Bordeaux, its parents are not known. Dominant flavours are black cherry, plum, lilac, violet, and sage.


One of Spain’s principal red grapes, and the basis of most Rioja wines.

Tempranillo makes a huge range of wine styles depending on where its grown. This varietal is usually well structured and well balanced.

Its significant amount of tannin allows it to age for long periods, although the wine is generally not as firm on the palate as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Young Tempranillo can have juicy red fruit flavours, herbs, and a spicy kick. As they age, they transform into wines that have dried red and black fruits, fig, cinnamon, and cedar flavours with notes of leather and dusty dry leaves.

Touriga Nacional

Native to Portugal’s Dão region, and widely known as the leading powerhouse grape in many of the blends that make Port.

The grape has many attributes, including, richness, depth, a commanding tannic structure, deep colouring, and pleasant aromas.

Touriga Nacional wines are recognized by lush black fruit flavours such as plum, blueberry, and black currant, with bold tannins, and a subtle floral aroma of violet.

Wineries – Moon Curser


Originates from Northwest Italy, the locals there drink this wine young and fresh.

A fruity, low-acid grape (the name means “little sweet one”), made into a delicious, fruity, licoricey, everyday drinking wine of northern Italy’s Piedmont region.

The wines are generally tart with ample amounts of black fruit flavours and occasionally grippy tannins.

Typically, Dolcetto wine is intensely and brightly colored and offers dark, gentle spicy aromas with earthy undertones of almonds. As the wines are not generally designed for long term cellaring, they should be consumed within three or four years of vintage.


Carménère is a very old varietal from Bordeaux, France, that has many taste similarities to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This grape was found in Chile, where growers planted it under the impression that it was Merlot, due to the big, rich, plummy fruit, some spice and low acidity.

While virtually extinct in Bordeaux today, the grape is now widespread in Chile, where it is considered the leading red wine and can make complex, intensely red-hued wines. The name may derive from the word carmin (crimson in Latin) and is a reference to the vivid red color of the varietal’s leaves come harvest time.

I hope this has inspired you to venture out and try some of the unique varietals found here in the Okanagan.

Did I miss any producers making these wines? Send me an email and I’ll add them to the list!


Javen - Poured By Jay

Hi, I'm Poured by Jay.

If you’re here, you must be interested in Okanagan wine. I have lots of resources to guide you as you explore all that Okanagan wine has to offer.

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