Orange, Rosé & Pinot Gris/Grigio – Medal Winners from NWAC 2022

Announcing the Results from the 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 21st running of the National Wine Awards of Canada wrapped up on June 23 in Niagara. Category results will be rolling out throughout the rest of July, with the final Platinum, Best Performing Small Winery, and Winery of the Year announcements coming at the end of this month. We hope you will stay tuned to follow the results and become engaged in anticipating the final results.


Platinum Pack Case 2022 with Light


We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we present Orange, Rosé & Pinot Gris/Grigio:


Category Overview by Apprentice Judge Megha Jandhyala

Perhaps it is the spectrum of warm and beguiling hues it can take on, its versatility with food, or its association with the natural wine movement, whatever the reason, orange wine has seen a surge in popularity in North America. Although the rich history and tradition of orange winemaking dates back millennia, its increasing ubiquity is a relatively new development in Canada. In many parts of the world, including British Columbia, orange wine is regulated as a subset of white wine by regional appellation of origin systems. Interestingly, in Ontario, the Vintners Quality Alliance has regulated it as an independent category since 2017, becoming the first, globally, to do so. Orange wines have been judged as a separate category at the National Wine Awards of Canada since 2018.

For those who may be less familiar with this genre, here is a quick primer. Sometimes called amber, skin-contact, or skin-fermented wine, orange wine is made from white grapes using red winemaking methods. The process involves fermenting the juice of white wine grapes on their skins and seeds. This maceration can last for anywhere between a week to a year. The resulting wines are generally richer in flavour and more textured and tannic than other styles of wine made from the same grape varieties. They also absorb pigment from the grape skins, taking on a deeper hue than white wines. Choices made during winemaking, including the duration of skin-contact, extraction methods, and vessels used for fermentation and ageing, can affect the colour, texture, and flavour profile of these wines. Orange wines can run the gamut from shades of orange and amber to alluring metallic tones of bronze, gold, and even rose gold.

As a category, it is especially versatile in the context of food-pairing. While off-dry riesling is the classic pairing for South Asian food, orange wine may rival it for the harmonious, even symbiotic relationship it is able to forge with decadent, spice-infused sauces. It is also a delightful companion to rich and flavourful preparations from other parts of the world, including examples of Iranian, Moroccan, and West African cuisine. Its tannins help cut the richness of these foods and its concentrated flavour profile helps it stand up to their bold and expressive character, where many white wines may pale when placed in such a juxtaposition.

This year, there were 17 entries in the orange wine category, made with a range of traditional white varieties such as viognier, gewurztraminer, chardonnay, pinot gris, and sauvignon blanc. There were also examples made with less common varieties like geisenheim 318, a German crossing of riesling and chancellor, and the cold hardy la crescent. The wineries that have been awarded medals are largely located in Ontario and BC but, for the first time since the category was introduced at the awards, a winery from Quebec has won a silver.

Congratulations to everyone who played a role in crafting these wines!


Category Overview by Judge Craig Pinhey

There has been a major trend towards pale, dry rosé wines in the past 10 years, and it does not seem to be subsiding. Good rosé is made from a wide range of grapes, as well as styles, from bone dry to off-dry or even quite sweet or sparkling, and in all of Canada’s wine regions. There are also different techniques used, such as blending whites with a little red wine, or using a short skin contact time for red grapes.

The best rosés usually come from savoury or even spicy grapes with red fruit aromas and flavours, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir, and Syrah, but can be made from any red grape, really. Rosé wines have become really popular as a sipping wine by the glass, particularly in warmer weather, but good dry rosé can be excellent with a wide range of foods, too, from seafood to poultry, pork, burgers, and vegetarian dishes.


Pinot Gris/Grigio

Category Overview by Judge Dick Snyder

Turns out pinot gris— or grigio, as you prefer — is being crafted by Canadian winemakers into a pretty darn good wine, if this round of medals is any indication. Never mind that pinot gris/grigio is oft derided as pedestrian and un-complex, especially the under the “grigio” moniker. Naysayers be damned… the WineAlign judges enjoyed a strong showing of delicious, characterful and appealing pinots — both gris and grigio — with 62 medal-winning wines, seven of them gold. Let’s be clear here: a bronze medal indicates a wine that delivers noteworthy pleasure and goodness. Silver amps that “deliciousness” to the next level, and gold is the icing on the cake. Among the seven golds, five standouts came from B.C. and two from Ontario. While B.C. wineries held a slight edge in the number of medals, Ontario wineries stood fast. The category is rather mutable in style, but what impressed the judges was the clear definition and pure drinkability of these wines, overlayed with house style decisions, of course. But, in the end, the delivery of 62 wines deemed eminently pleasurable is no mean feat. Let’s give Canadian pinot gris/grigio some well-deserved love — the judges sure did.



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