Judge’s Picks from the National Wine Awards of Canada

Each week between now and the announcement of the results of the NWACs after Labour Day, WineAlign will feature each of the 18 judges, their thoughts on Canadian wine, and their personal favourite wine of the competition. Selection of a wine does not necessarily mean it was a top medal winner, and the scores (if given) reflect the opinion of the judge, not its final mark in the competition. 

About John Szabo

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John is Canada’s first Master Sommelier, earning the credentials in 2004. Today he is a principal critic for WineAlign and NationalPost.ca, and wine editor of Toronto’s CityBites Magazine. He’s the author of Pairing Food and Wine For Dummies, and has written for Maclean’s, Wine & Spirits Magazine, En Route, the Globe and Mail, Vines, Wine Access, Grapevine Magazine, The Toronto Standard, winefox.ca and Nation’s Restaurant News. You’ll hear him regularly on Classical 96.3FM, and if you dine at one of the several new restaurants at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, the Joey Restaurant Group, or at Cafe-Bar-Pasta, the newest wine hot spot in Toronto’s west end, you’ll be choosing wine from his program. And to round out his experience, he is one of the “J”s in the J&J Eger Wine Co. in Hungary. As a holder of a 3rd degree black belt in Goju-Karate-do, his grapes are well protected, too.

John Szabo’s Pick from The Nationals

Among the many, many fine wines on display at this year’s National Wine Awards of Canada, there’s one I’d like to highlight: Arrowleaf’s 2011 Zweigelt, Okanagan Valley. It’s a disarmingly fun, friendly, zesty and infinitely drinkable red from a grape that gets little street cred. Zweigelt is a crossing of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch developed in 1922 at the Teaching and Research Centre for Viticulture and Horticulture in Klosterneuburg, Austria, by Dr. Fritz Zweigelt. It’s now Austria’s most planted red grape variety and performs well in that country’s cool climate, as it also clearly does in parts of Canada and especially the Okanagan Valley.

What I like most about this wine is how Arrowleaf allowed zweigelt to be zweigelt, that is, didn’t attempt to make an overly ripe or extracted or “important” wine. The world is full of examples of wines that have been denatured and deformed into something they were never meant to be by an overly ambitious producer, attempting to make serious, expensive wine. But the world needs more wines like Arrowleaf’s, handled instead with gentle, delicate hands, yielding a wonderfully fresh, medium bodied red with neither excess nor shortage of flavour intensity or structure. It brims with dark cherry flavour with no real detectable wood despite time in both French and American oak barrels. It’s Zweigelt the way Dr. Zweigelt intended it to be, I’m sure.

Arrowleaf Zweigelt 2011
Okanagan Valley, BC $17.95

Arrowleaf Zweigelt 2011

Photo credits from NWAC: Jason Dziver Photography

National Wine Awards of Canada