Other Single Red, Other Single White and Orange – Medal Winners from NWAC 2021

Announcing the Results from the 2021 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 20th National Wine Awards of Canada wrapped up in October in Penticton, B.C., fittingly judging a record-setting number of wines from coast to coast. It’s been an amazing two-decade journey for the most respected and important Canadian wine competition. The week-long tasting is but a snapshot of Canadian wine, yet like old family photos, much has changed over two decades. The inaugural competition in 2001 drew 528 wines from 71 wineries, judged by eight men. In 2021, 26 judges — 14 men and 12 women — tasted 2,075 entries from more than 260 wineries. 

As in previous years, we have decided to break the announcement of the results into more manageable pieces. We have been announcing a few categories a day for the last week or so and will conclude with the highly-anticipated Platinum winners on November 10th, the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year on November 11th, and finally the Winery of the Year along with the nation’s Top 25 Wineries on November 12th.

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We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we present Other Single Red Varieties, Other Single White Varieties and Orange Wines:

Platinum Pack 2021 NL

Other Single Red Varieties

Category Overview by Judge Jacky Blisson, MW

While a handful of signature grapes are emerging from coast to coast, Canada retains quite a diverse range of cultivars. In Ontario alone, 48 different grape varieties were used to produce VQA wines in 2021.

Submissions to this year’s National Wine Awards of Canada included a full flight of Petit Verdot single variety red wines from BC and Ontario. The best examples boasted the dense, firm structure so typical of the grape, with sufficient ripeness to temper their high, grippy tannins.

Malbec also loomed large, mainly from BC. Quality was mixed here. There were lovely, high-toned wines with ample blue fruit, floral aromas, and polished tannins. However, as per the Petit Verdot wines, green-edged tannins and overly showy oak flavours plagued several entries.

Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Carménère, Blaufränkisch, and Pinotage wines garnered attention this year. Though a real standout variety was Sangiovese. Two BC entries earned gold medals, with their attractive dried herbal, bright fruited profiles and fresh, chiselled palate profiles.

Few hybrid grape varieties were submitted in 2021. The best included some well crafted Maréchal Foch from BC, and a particularly noteworthy Niagara Baco Noir displaying excellent balance and savoury complexity.


Other Single White Varieties

Category Overview by Judge Jacky Blisson, MW

The number and diversity of excellent single variety dry white wines submitted this year proved once again that Canada excels in this area. Aromatic, cool climate varieties were particularly successful.

Gewürztraminer continues to be a strong variety for Canada, with gold-medal winning wines from several of Canada’s cooler regions including Québec. Impressive aromatic complexity and intensity defined the best Gewürztraminers.

Viognier also made a prominent showing this year from several areas in BC. Award winners offered balanced acidity (a tripping point for many Viognier wines) and lots of textural appeal. Much the same can be said for the handful of successful Sémillon submissions.

Muscat entries ran the gamut from fresh, delicately fruity, rounded dry wines to overt, verging on candied, off-dry styles. This wide range is in keeping with the countless permutations that the Muscat family of grapes has to offer.

Finally, on the nervier, drier side of the spectrum, some lovely Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Grüner Veltliner whites are worth a mention. The best of the bunch were very complete on the palate, with fine depth and subtly creamy mid-palates.


Orange Wines 

Category Overview by Judge Treve Ring

Is orange the new Rosé? Orange wines certainly are arcing upwards, just as rosé wines have over the past decade. You’ve no doubt heard about orange wine, and most likely tried some of these characterful wines yourself. But do you know what you’re drinking, or why the colourful name (no – they’re not from the fruit wine category)?

First off, it’s not the hue, which really is more amber, and ranges from pale yellow gold to deeper bronze. It’s the process. Orange wines are white wines made like red wines. The juice is fermented with the skins, leaving them in contact from a week up through a year. This gives the wine its characteristic hue, but also a fuller body, higher phenolic content and more tannins and grip on the palate. A better (though less catchy colourful) name would be “skin contact whites”.

An ancient winemaking technique, these wines are common from areas with lengthy winemaking traditions like Georgia, Slovenia, Croatia and eastern Italy, though are also found from naturalist winemakers around the globe, including Canada. Befitting tradition, few, if any, additives are often used, and alternative vessels like amphora and concrete are usually engaged, making orange wines highly prevalent amongst the natural wine set.

This year’s NWAC medallists were overwhelmingly Ontarian, though there are some BC wines striking Gold. Reflecting the prevalence of Pinot Gris plantings, and the grape’s suitability for skin contact wines, the majority of medallists are Gris based, though there is a spectrum of other grapes on the podium (Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer…) this year. The best wines are light, edgy, and grippy, holding onto acidity while balancing texture, and luring with savoury citrus and saline notes. Their adventuresome umami-like make up encourages pairing with similar foods: think Moroccan, Ethiopian, Persian, and Japanese flavour families.


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