Pinots: Noir, Gris and Grigio – Medal Winners from the 2017 Nationals

Announcing the Results from the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada

Due to the large number of top quality Canadian wines entered this year, we have decided to break the announcement of the results into more manageable pieces. Between July 17th and 28th we will be announcing a few categories at a time, wrapping up on July 28th with the Canadian Winery of the Year. 

Results from the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada

We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we present Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris with a few words from Treve Ring:

Pinot Noir

by Treve Ring

They don’t call it the heartbreak grape for nothing. As a wine judge, we know this all too well. Pinot Noir flights can be stunning with finesse and elegance, or they can be stupefying with oak and over-ripeness. This year was hit and miss for the pinot noir flights, perhaps reflective of a challenging 2015 vintage in many regions across Canada. When it was good, it was very good, and when it wasn’t, you could hear panel hearts (and palates) break. There were no Platinum Medal winners in the category this year, reflective of our struggles in the judging room.

But it’s not just wine judges who struggle with this mysterious grape. Numerous clones, various mutations and countless synonyms over the past, oh, 1000 years or so have made it a difficult family tree to follow. What is certain however, is this low-yielding, early budding, early ripening grape appreciates calcareous-clay and limestone soils and cool-moderate temperate climates such as Vancouver Island, the upper half of the Okanagan Valley, and Ontario’s Prince Edward County and Niagara Benches. The heartbreak nickname also references this delicate grape’s susceptibility to mildews, botrytis and viruses. But in this fine-tuned grape’s delicacy also lies its strength. Fewer grapes can transmit terroir like this one, expressing the slightest change in soil and vintage – as we can attest to at NWAC17. Undeniably one of Canada’s top red varieties across all regions, we look forward to the next vintage with hopes of having our hearts filled once again.

NWAC17 Pinot Noir Medal Winners

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

by Treve Ring

Pinot Gris suffers an identity crisis. This white grape is actually a mutation clone of the black pinot noir grape. The grape’s skin colour varies wildly, sometimes even within the same bunch. Gris, French for grey, references the typical greyish-blue fruit, though the grape can also range from a tanned pink to plummy black and even very pale rose. The wines produced from pinot gris also vary in hue, from palest yellow to deep golden to blushing salmon, and it is one of the more popular grapes for orange wine (just to introduce more colours into the rainbow). Of course, pinot grigio paints everything else in an entirely different hue. In sweepingly broad strokes, wines made in the fresh, crisp and unoaked style of Veneto adopt grigio, while those in a richer, riper version go by gris, though of course these are generalizations and lines are blurred.

Within Canada, you’ve no clue what to expect from region; the style has all to do with the vintner. The most planted white grape in BC for many years, styles vary from crisp, lean orchard fruit to ripe (plus), luscious and honeyed. Nineteen of the top twenty medals went to BC this year, no small surprise.  What was a special treat however, was to see Closson Chase crack the top 20 with their 2016 from Four Mile Creek.

NWAC17 Pinot Gris/Grigio Medal Winners

Summary of the results of the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada.

Zwilling Predicat Crystal Stemware