Icewine, Cider, Late Harvest & Fortified – 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 Icewine, Cider, Late Harvest & Fortified.


Category Overview by Judge Treve Ring

Though the folklore of icewine suggests that its first production in 18th century Germany was accidental, it is an indisputable fact that Icewine is now a Canadian wine icon, and our country is recognized as the world leader in its production.

Ever since Hainle Vineyards and Estate Winery in Peachland produced the country’s first Icewine in 1974, the process of making wine from frozen marbles has been one that many True North vintners have embraced. As expected, Niagara led the medals in all colours, though the Okanagan Valley struck some high scoring wines as well. Also no surprise is that Riesling ruled the podium, but it was nice to see Pinot Gris, Vidal, and Cabernet Franc also reach Gold this year.

It’s certainly not sugar that the judges are looking for (that’s a given with icewine), but balance. The best examples achieved enough acidity to meet and mellow the unctuous sweetness, creating wines that will be as long lasting in the bottle as they remain on the palate.

Congratulations to Megalomaniac 2017 Coldhearted Riesling Icewine for winning the inaugural Best Icewine of the Year award. Judges have called this top-scoring Icewine “irrisistibly fragrant” and “purely delightful, if not the most concentrated of them all.”

Icewine Medal Winners


Category Overview by Judge John Szabo

As I reported after the 2018 NWACs last year, the cider category is strong in Canada and continues to grow. A few more players have been added since I last checked, with some 153 cider producers now registered across the country. Québec leads the way with 54, followed by Ontario with 48, and BC with 35 (source:

The number of entries in the 2019 awards were slightly down from last year, however, to 55 from 64 in 2018, but on the flipside, quality was up. I suppose the message got out that there’s not much point in submitting the sweet commercial stuff made from concentrate.

Fully half of all entries were awarded medals – 27 in all – one of the highest success rates of all categories. And what’s more, five provinces shared in the spoils, with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joining the big three on the podium and making it a genuinely pan-Canadian success story. As before, drier styles earned the most praise from judges, as did ciders made from freshly pressed fruit, undiluted with water, and unsweetened with processed sugar.

Two gold medals were awarded, with the final scores too close to split. Thus, two cideries from BC shared, for the first time, the title of Best Cider of the Year.

BC Tree Fruits Broken Ladder Apples & Hops, Okanagan Valley (6% alcohol), scored highly for its purity of apple flavours mingled with the unexpected flavour of hops, more often found in beer than cider. “So familiar,” I wrote, tasting it blind in the final round. “Lots of dry hops here I’d guess, showing the classic grapefruit overtones cherished by west coast IPA lovers”. Nova Scotian Judge Heather Rankin noted: “Riding the line between cider and beer, this cider combines herbal savouriness with high-toned fruitiness”, while Michael Godel advocates, in uncharacteristically short fashion, to simply “drink the crap outta this”. It’s not a classic cider by any stretch, but bridges the gap nicely between the cider and beer categories.

The other top cider was in a more familiar style, and from a more familiar name. Twisted Hills Tangled Rosé is another successful, apple-dominated ferment with a dash of ‘other’ fruit, in this case, 10% plum, all organically grown in the organic agricultural capital of Canada, the Similkameen Valley. Despite the semi-sweet designation on the label, it finishes sharp and crisp thanks to deliciously tart acids. Last year Twisted Hills took home Best Cider of the Year for a version infused with cherries, so the repeat result this year cements the company’s position in Canada’s very top tier (plus they also took home a silver and a bronze).

Cider Medal Winners

Late Harvest & Fortified

See the winners here.

If you have missed our detailed commentary on the various categories that have been announced so far, see them here.