Results of the 2022 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals)

Orange wines / Skin contact whites

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.

(Jump straight to the medal winners.)

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!

And the winners are…

EauVivre 2020 On the Edge Viognier, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia

Adamo 2021 Legacy Viognier Orange Wine, Ontario
Monte Creek 2020 Living Land La Crescent, Thompson, British Columbia
Vignoble Camy 2021 Pinot Gris de Macération, Quebec

Big Head Wines 2021 Amber, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Byland 2021 Chardonnay Skin Fermented White, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Culmina N° 013 2020 Orange Wine Gewürztraminer, Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Rachis & Derma 2020 Skin Fermented Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Stratus 2021 Viognier Skin Fermented White, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Three Sisters 2021 Gewurztraminer, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Waupoos 2021 Geisenheim 318 Skin Fermented White, Prince Edward County, Ontario