Fruit, Non-Fruit, Orange Wines & Meads - Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

Announcing the Results from the 2019 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada were a huge success with 1,815 entries from 259 different wineries from eight different provinces. The ‘Nationals’ are Canada’s largest wine awards and each year we hold them in a different Canadian wine region. This year we were in Ontario’s bucolic Prince Edward County.

As in previous years, 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 on July 31st, the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year on August 1st, and finally the Winery of the Year along with nation’s Top 25 Wineries on August 2nd. 

We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we present orange wines, fruit wines, meads, and other non-fruit wines:

Orange Wine

Category Overview by Judge Janet Dorozynski

This is the second year for separate flights of orange wine at NWAC with interest growing both in terms of entries and the category as a whole. While newish to the Nationals, orange wine as a style is not new and dates back thousands of years to the skin contact and amphora aged (qvevri) whites of the country of Georgia. There are plenty of orange wines made in northeastern Italy and bordering Slovenia and parts of the Balkans with the style becoming more popular and increasingly made in Canada over the past few years.

Orange wines are not made from oranges but from white grapes made using red wine production techniques so that the skins and seeds are left in contact with the juice and result in an orange or amber hue to the finished wines. Skin contact whites are usually fuller bodied and more tannic than other white wines, with bold flavours and textures that make them well suited to foods with spice and fermented ingredients such as Korean kimchi and a range of curries. I also like them with salads since orange wines stand up nicely against acidic and vinegar laden dressings.

Both VQA Ontario and BC VQA have categories and/or regulate the production and use of the term skin contact or orange wines and there are orange wines being made successfully across the country. They are often from aromatic white varieties such as this year’s winners from muscat, gewürztraminer, pinot gris and even riesling, with many of the wines going beyond the required ten days of skin contact to 15 or 20 days of maceration on the skins.

Orange Wine Medal Winners

Fruit Wine

Category Overview by Judge Michael Godel

Fruit wine is essentially defined as an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of an organic material other than grapes.  Fruits that are most commonly employed are blueberries, cranberries, peaches, plums, raspberries and Saskatoon berries. Other organic materials are not as common but fruit wine could me made using flowering plants or tubers. And if you’re making fruit wine you can (if you so choose and unlike grapes) use damaged or frozen fruit with negligible-negative effect on quality. Adding commercial yeasts, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, water and also acids are common practices and often necessary, particularly in order to achieve balance.

The average level of alcohol in wine made from fruit (and other substances) is usually in the 9-12 per cent range as opposed to 11-14 percent in those made with grapes. The reality of these wines is that the cost of land, agriculture and production is less expensive plus the possibility of more than one harvest exists within the same calendar year, even with the same product but especially from a farm growing multiple fruit commodities. Fruit wines also require much shorter periods of élevage before being bottled and released. In terms of taste and flavour the equation seems quite simple. If you love the sweet, tart and tangy taste of raspberries then chances are you’ll love raspberry wine. Which brings us to the answer many of you are likely thinking if not begging to ask. How do a group of twenty-something judges so adept at assessing wines made from grapes make professional decisions on wines made from other fruit? The answer is not a shocker. If a fruit wine smells, tastes and acts like the fruit from whence it came then it means something has gone very right. Add to that the classic concept of balance between fruit and acid achieved and fruit’s your friend.

At this year’s Nationals there were 11 medals awarded to this eclectic group of wines made from fruits other than grapes; two Gold, three silver and seven Bronze. Even more interesting is the fact that two were fortified and three were sparkling wines. British Columbian fruit wines took home six medals, Ontario bagged five and one came from New Brunswick. Strawberry, Cassis, apple, apricot, cranberry and blueberry were represented, including the famed Reka example from out of the Fraser Valley. Congratulations to all the winners, including our two Gold Medal winners. One of the judges said that the Maan Farms Estate Winery 2018 Strawberry Dessert (Fortified) “by all appearances could be an Oloroso or Amontillado Sherry” and another referred to the Krause Berry Farms Cassis as “this absolute ripper of a fruit wine.” It was a great showing by all in this important Canadian wine category.

Fruit Wine Medal Winners

Meads and other non-fruit wine

See the winners here.
Meads and Other Medal Winners