Results from the 2023 Nationals – Red Blends

Announcing the Results from the 2023 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 22nd running of the National Wine Awards of Canada wrapped up on June 28 in Penticton. 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.

We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we are pleased to present the Red Blends winners.

Red Blends

Category Overview by Judge Sara d’Amato

Red blends, Icon Reds, ubiquitous terms full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. We take them at face value, enticed by their often-fanciful names that don’t give us any indication of what is in the glass. The oft-used term “Meritage” refers to a “big red” assemblage of Bordeaux varieties but does not allude to the dominant grape within the blend. Without the institutions, the officialdom, the establishment of European “Châteaux” and culturally entrenched, restrictive appellation requirements, we consumers in the Americas are left to the whims of marketing professionals, with their enticing propositions through names and packaging, to guide our purchasing decisions. Being a fervent optimist, though, I’d like to think that we consumers are much savvier than our overseas counterparts (or even ourselves) give us credit for. It continues to be clear from the submissions to this competition that no region in Canada produces consistently distinctive red blends in terms of their style and grape variety composition. Yet, consistency of quality is notably being established by wineries across the country for both their premium and basic red blends. Among others, Mission Hill’s Quatrain, Quail’s Gate Queue, Painted Rock’s Red Icon, Liquidity’s Dividend, and Burrowing Owl’s Athene have all been repeatedly awarded medals in this competition over subsequent vintages.

This year, the red blends were categorized into flights based on their dominant grape, where possible. Syrah, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon led the charge for dominate grape varieties in red blends this year, with merlot a close runner up. Pinot noir and petit verdot were other grape varieties that led the charge in blends; perhaps one day they will see their own categories. This smartly laid plan by our revered organizers — to categorize blends by their leading grape — allowed the judges a stronger basis of comparison from which to launch our panel’s hopefuls into the final round.

What did we like best? A blend led by a grape variety that shows a notable transparency of place when grown in B.C. or Ontario — syrah. We love syrah in Canada—and from a judging perspective, it is a category we arm wrestle to write about. Our sole platinum award in the category of red blends this year goes to the Road 13’s Select Harvest 2020 GSM (grenache-syrah-mourvèdre) with a whopping 78 percent syrah content. Worthy of note, the 2019 vintage of this wine was also awarded platinum last year. In the gold category, there was more than equalized love awarded to merlot, and cabernet-led blends. B.C. appears to have outshone Ontario in the category of red blends, with 21 wines from B.C. versus 8 from Ontario awarded gold medals. In summation, whether it be PTG, GSM, Meritage or a unique collab of varieties, we Canadians love our red blends.

NWAC 2023 Sponsors: