Gamay and Chardonnay – Medal Winners from the 2017 Nationals

Announcing the Results from the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada

Due to the dazzling array of top quality Canadian wines entered this year, 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 to be announced on July 26th, the Best Performing Small Winery on July 27th, and finally the Winery of the Year, along with a list of the nation’s Top 25 Wineries, on July 28th. 

Results from the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada

We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we present Gamay and Chardonnay with a few words from Treve Ring:


Intro by Treve Ring

#GoGamayGo. This humble hashtag, coined years ago by our own Dr. Janet Dorozynski, has united gamay fans globally, and become a rallying collective for a misunderstood red grape. From Beaujolais to BC, Niagara to New Zealand, Stellenbosch to Saumur (and beyond), gamay has finally grown beyond the marketing gimmickry of Beaujolais Nouveau.

The characterful, humble grape is the darling light red of many sommeliers and vintners thanks to its fresh acidity, fragrant fruitiness, fine tannins and lissom structure. Its full name, Gamay Noir à jus Blanc, reflects that its skin is black, its juice is white, but the wine produced is a light bodied red.

Good old gamay is used to being misunderstood however. The grape first appeared in Burgundy in the mid 14th century, bringing welcome relief to local growers after the bleakness of the Black Death. The friendly grape ripened earlier, yielded higher and was easier to cultivate than finicky pinot noir. Unfortunately, it wasn’t seen as refined as pinot, so in an act to raise the prestige of his region, Duke Philip the Bold banned the grape (Bold move, Duke). No drama gamay took hold further south in Beaujolais, as well as to the north, in the Loire Valley, where it continues to thrive in its characterful way today.

As it does in Canada. We’ve long been championing gamay here, especially when site is allowed to shine. From effortlessly smashable, chillable reds to structural, ageworthy, Cru-carved wines, gamay suits a range of tastes and terroirs. Blessed with warmth, Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys turn out wines ranging from bright and light, to fully wooded and ripe (more of the former, please), while Niagara and Prince Edward County gamay often house an herbal, often alluring (though not always) green pulse. This year’s top wines were ones that rightfully allowed the grape its chance to #GoGamayGo.

NWAC17 Gamay Medal Winners


Intro by Treve Ring

How to describe Canadian Chardonnay? Easy. It’s ABC.

Nope – not the outdated and boring “Anything But Chardonnay” dialogue (zzz). This rooted in cool country is All ‘Bout Chardonnay. Chardonnay excels here, from BC’s pure and pristine Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, to Ontario’s limestone-laced benches, to Nova Scotia’s marine-swept soils, Chardonnay is Canada’s hallmark white. It’s just taken us a while to figure it out, and how to use this power to make world-class wines.

The adaptable and hearty grape flourishes easily in almost all climates and conditions, making it one of the most widely-planted grape varieties on the globe. That also sets it up to be the most maligned. The grape itself is fairly neutral, owing a great deal of its flavour to vineyard and winemaking decisions. It’s a blank canvas for winemakers to colour and control – too oft, with overuse of wood and ripeness. When those aren’t allowed to dominate, the clean, crisp, structural nature of the age-worthy grape emerges. Chardonnay is a true terroir transmitter, especially on limestone and chalky soils, those found in abundance in the grape’s traditional and glorious homeland of Chablis, Champagne and Burgundy.

This year the soils of Niagara Peninsula shone bright, with the top NWAC wines coming from Twenty Mile Bench, Lincoln Lakeshore, Vinemount Ridge, Beamsville Bench and neighbours. Cooler-climate, single-vineyard sites rose to the top of BC’s entries, illustrating that preservation of place wins out over power any day. It’s as easy as ABC.

Read Bill Zacharkiw’s article “Time to Embrace Chardonnay” for more reasons why we shouldn’t ‘give up on the grape.’

NWAC17 Chardonnay Medal Winners

Summary of the results of the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada.

Zwilling Predicat Crystal Stemware