Chardonnay and Pinot Gris – Medal Winners from NWAC 2018

Announcing the Results from the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada

In 2018, over 1,850 wines from 257 wineries were entered into the National Wine Awards of Canada, making this largest and most comprehensive wine competition in Canadian history. In late June, 22 judges assembled in Penticton BC for five full days to determine the best wines in Canada. Wines were tasted blind in multiple rounds based on category or style.

Due to the amazing array of top quality Canadian wines entered this year, we have decided to break the announcement of the results into more manageable pieces. Each day for the next two weeks we will be announcing a few categories at a time, with the highly-anticipated Platinum Awards to be announced on July 27th, the Best Performing Small Winery on July 30th, and finally the Winery of the Year, along with a list of the nation’s Top 25 Wineries, on July 31st. 

National Wine Awards of Canada

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


Category Overview by Judge and Panel Leader Treve Ring

People oft ask me “What’s Canada’s top grape?”, to which I reply without hesitation, chardonnay. You might think with a country the size of ours, the distance spanning from BC’s Pacific rimming Wine Islands to Nova Scotia’s bracing Atlantic, there’s no one grape that could possibly be suitable, yet alone excel. But you’d be wrong. Chardonnay, the most famous and transplanted white grape in the world, is particularly well suited to our latitude, climates, soils, and thankfully in recent years, our maturing winemaking.

Earlier this year I was reminded just how brilliant Canadian Chardonnay can be. John Szabo and I presented a Canadian wine masterclass at ProWein titled Rooted in Cool: Discover Canada’s Sparkling and White Wines, where we poured a lineup of chardonnay for 50+ international trade. The diversity was thrilling, from the riveting Blomidon Estate Winery Extra Brut Late Pick Sparkling Chardonnay 2011 in Nova Scotia, to the textural Hidden Bench Estate Winery Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 from Beamsville Bench, Ontario, to our orchard-echoing Haywire Secrest Mountain Chardonnay 2016 here in BC. Quite literally coast to coast, we are capable of producing stellar chardonnays, of numerous styles.

It’s no surprise that the annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) in Niagara is one of the major wine events in Canada, drawing international attention and sell-out crowds. We’ve much to be proud of, emerging as one of the serious locations for the queen C in the world.

This year we awarded six platinum medals to chardonnays (Note: Platinums will be revealed on July 27th), split equally between BC and Ontario. There was an outstanding 19 gold medals to follow. The diversity in the judging room was appreciated, with the best chards showing a clear sense of place, direction and confidence. Congratulations to all awarded wines; the quality level was high, and getting higher year over year.

NWAC18 Chardonnay Medal Winners

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

Category Overview by Judge and Panel Leader John Szabo, MS

As in past years, pinot gris/grigio remains a bit of an enigma in Canada, with no definitive, universal style. It spans the spectrum from lean and light to rich and full, making it a challenge for consumers to know what to expect from an unfamiliar bottling. One simple strategy is to go by the name used: wines labeled “pinot grigio”, the Italian name for the grape, tend towards the northern Italian paradigm of light, lean, crisp and fruity. Those labeled “pinot gris” in the French fashion, on the other hand, often take their stylistic cues from the Alsatian model, which is to say a little rounder and fleshier in an almost late-harvest style, occasionally with a pinch of residual sugar to fatten it up further.

While the grigio model can be perfectly serviceable as a crisp white wine (and commercially successful), NWAC judges show a preference for the generally more complex gris style, reflected in the medals awarded. Continuing past trends, BC is unsurprisingly the clear leader in the category, where pinot gris is the most planted white variety with 22% of total white variety acreage, ahead of chardonnay at 20%. BC earned 23 out of the 26 medals awarded, with Ontario earning the other three, interestingly enough, all labeled pinot grigio.

The Okanagan’s warm, dry, sun-drenched growing conditions are closer to Alsace’s than northern Italy’s, making the gris style a more natural fit. And indeed, the two gold medals in the category, from Tinhorn Creek and See Ya Later Ranch, are both in the richer gris style (and labeled pinot gris). It is also fantastic to see four wines from Vancouver Island crack the medals this year, further expanding and deepening the category. There is much to discover.

NWAC18 Pinot Gris-Pinot Grigio Medal Winners

National Wine Awards of Canada National Wine Awards of Canada Judges