Wine Culture Magazine

As he works on his memoirs, John Schreiner looks back on more than four decades of covering B.C.’s wine industry

After 40-plus years of writing about wine, B.C.’s most prolific chronicler John Schreiner is working on a personal memoir. Photo courtesy of John Schreiner

It’s unlikely anyone knows more about the history of B.C. wine than John Schreiner.

He’s penned the most recognizable books on the wines and regions of our province, including: The Wineries of British Columbia (1994); The British Columbia Wine Companion (1996); British Columbia Wine Country (2003); and most notably, John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (2006).

Born in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, in 1936, Schreiner graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a major in English in 1958. While studying, he was the recipient of a summer internship at the Regina Leader-
; he relished the job, which solidified his decision to become a newspaper journalist.

Despite youth and inexperience, Schreiner was keen and was quickly handed the legislative beat, becoming the senior political reporter.

In 1961, he began a 40-year career covering business for the Financial Post, working first in the Toronto and Montreal bureaus until an opening came up in Vancouver in the early 1970s. “I never regretted the move,” he says. “I felt at home here. The scale of the city, it was smaller and friendlier than Toronto. I would run into people in the street I knew—I didn’t feel anonymous.”

In 1974, Schreiner began writing about wine as well as business. “I became interested in wine early on. I don’t know how or why, but when we moved to Toronto there was a wine store down the block. I’d go in, chat with the staff and read the labels. I did a lot of nattering with managers,” he says. Once in Vancouver, he joined every wine group he could find and began to make his own wine, first from concentrate and then successfully from grapes.

Schreiner has produced 20 wine books over his career, including the award-winning Icon and ever-popular Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.

Schreiner’s first wine book, The World of Canadian Wines, published in 1984, established his credibility in the wine industry—locally and internationally. “The more wineries that popped up, the more I had to write,” he says. He wrote The British Columbia Wine Companion in 1996, followed by Chardonnay and Friends in 1998. “I did a book on 40 varietals and did profiles on them, but it came out just in time for the ABC [anything but Chardonnay] backlash, so it didn’t do well, despite there being 39 other varieties in the book,” he says with a laugh.

Soon after, Schreiner wrote a book on icewine. “I tasted thousands of icewines and spent a ridiculous amount of money travelling in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Eastern Canada,” he says. “But Icewine: The Complete Story (2001) is still the sole book on icewines.”

As the B.C. wine industry entered the new millennium, it was expanding at breakneck speed. That was the impetus behind his most popular book, John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. The first edition was published in 2006; the most recent edition, titled simply Okanagan Wine Tour Guide and published in April 2020, is Schreiner’s sixth. The largest version yet, it profiles 240 wineries and is co-authored by Okanagan wine educator Luke Whittall.

Schreiner has garnered awards from the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society and the Vancouver International Wine Festival and has been honored by national and local wine industry groups. His 2017 book on iconic B.C. wines, Icon, was named best Canadian wine book of the year by the World Gourmand Awards.

While Schreiner continues to blog, he’s retired from book writing. “After 20 wine books, that’s enough. I don’t want to work that hard any more. It has become more labour than love,” he admits. But he still has one more book to come: A memoir of his life will be published in the coming year, dedicated to his three children.

We owe John Schreiner a debt of gratitude. His tireless pursuit of the story, and the time and dedication he has given our wine industry have been integral to its growth and our understanding of it.

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