7 January wines

These seven wines will help you stick to your January budget. From left, Mount Boucherie 2017 Mandaray Red ($20), Mount Boucherie 2019 Mandaray White ($18), Kismet 2019 Safed ($19.50), Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2019 ($18), Maverick Pinot Gris 2019 ($20), Hester Creek 2019 Character Red ($19) and Hester Creek 2019 Character White ($16).

Of course, you can drink fabulous wine and stick to a budget.

It’s January and many of us are tightening our belts after Christmas overspending.

However, these seven Okanagan wines are all priced at $20 or less, allowing you to claim frugality and still keep your glass full.

In fact, all the wines also bat above their weight when it comes to price-quality ratio.

Mount Boucherie Winery in West Kelowna struck a deal with the Save-On Foods to make a Mandaray series of wines for sale at the winery and in the wine sections of the grocery store chain.

The 2017 Mandaray Red ($20) is a blend, including Syrah, that bursts with plum, blackberry and cocoa aromas and flavours.

Also a blend, the 2019 Mandaray White ($18), is composed of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat.

Speaking of aromatic, the Kismet 2019 ($19.50) from Oliver is a fresh, tropical and nicely balanced off-dry blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Orange Muscat.

It's classic Okanagan Pinot Noir all the way with the 2019 vintage ($18) of the varietal from Inniskillin in Oliver, which is light in body, but big in cherry, strawberry and vanilla aromas and flavours.

Maverick 2019 Pinot Gris ($20) from Oliver drinks like a $30 bottle with its sophisticated and textured profile.

Hester Creek Winery in Oliver created its Character line of wines to be approachable, affordable and delicious. The 2019 red blend ($19) has tastes of plum, blackberry and black pepper. The 2019 white blend ($16) is aromatic Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer with a peach, lychee and mineral profile.

Wine Institute hands out awards

Every year, the BC Wine Institute hands out its Industry Recognition Awards, one to a non-winery hero and one to a winery star.

The Industry Recognition Award for a non-winery hero went to Vancouver-based wine and food writer Tim Pawsey of HiredBelly.com for his long-standing support and promotion of BC wines.

The Award of Distinction for a winery star recognized Robert Smith, director of sales for Hester Creek Winery in Oliver, for a lengthy career promoting and selling Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) BC wines.

With COVID preventing large gatherings, the awards had to be held virtually, but included a ceremony with video montages of messages from peers congratulating the winners.

Wine up, beer down during pandemic

Our pandemic drinking habits are at times understandable, other times confounding.

It doesn't shock anyone that overall we're drinking more during COVID, in part because we’re spending more time cooped up with time on our hands, cooking nice meals to be paired with wine and generally doing what we want within the parameters of a pandemic.

Data compiled by U.S.-based cash-back app Ibotta shows

that since the pandemic started, spirits and hard liquor sales spiked 33%, which seems like a lot, wine sales bounced up 12%, which makes sense, and beer sales slipped 2%, which is surprising.

In the wine category, strange subsets saw the biggest surges with flavoured, fortified and rice wines respectively seeing 73%, 51% and 37% increases.

We bought 24% more Rose wine, 12% additional red, 9% more white and 5% more sparkling.

These statistics may be part of the reason why I haven’t heard the usual onslaught of Dry January chatter, which encourages people to give up booze for the month as a sobering way to start the new year.

I've never subscribed to Dry January, advocating that year-round moderate wine drinking is not just enjoyable, but good for you.

Plus, if you drink Okanagan wines you're also helping Buy Local.

Steve MacNaull is an Okanagan wine lover. Email: steve.macnaull@ok.bc.ca.