Syrah and Riesling – Medal Winners from the 2017 Nationals

Announcing the Results from the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada

Due to the large number of top quality Canadian wines entered this year, we have decided to break the announcement of the results into more manageable pieces. Between July 17th and 28th we will be announcing a few categories at a time, wrapping up on July 28th with the Canadian Winery of the Year. 

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 Syrah and Riesling with a few words from Treve Ring:


by Treve Ring

Que Syrah, Syrah.

Or is that Que Syrah, Shiraz?

Whatever will be, will be, when it comes to naming this ancient grape. Though producers were using Syrah to differentiate more ‘old world’, savoury styles, and Shiraz to denote ‘new world’, fruity, styles, the lines have blurred, and you can’t predict the wine based on name alone. No matter how it’s called, however, you can expect the grape’s characteristic black fruit and black pepper notes, with common dark florals, higher tannin and anise hints. Syrah is late budding, very deep in colour and high in anthocyanins, indicative of texture, longer aging potential and making friends with oak.

Syrah is one of the star grapes of the southern Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys (as seen through the top medal winning wines at this year’s NWACs) though there are pockets in Ontario where the grape is protected enough from winter and warm enough through the growing season to thrive (hence Creekside’s Platinum medal for their 2013 Estate Syrah). Personally, I think of it as the red grape with the most potential for brilliance in BC, making the most of slopes, rocky soils, sunny days and brisk, but not vine-deadly cold winters.

Syrah/Shiraz Button


by Treve Ring

Riesling, the ringer. For many of us, our first enjoyable wine in youth was most likely a sweeter white, juicy and bright, friendly, and with low to medium alcohol (my first wine foray was Blue Nun when I was 8 years old). As our palates progress, we often shy away from these simpler, fruity styles for more structured, savoury and minerally wines, which again, brings us full circle (close the ring) back to serious and age-worthy riesling.

Riesling is also a ringer for its piercing acidity. Many blind tastings have been saved by finding this grape in the flight. This natural and piercingly high acid provides the wine with tremendous aging potential and allowing it to nimbly balance out ridiculous levels of residual sugar. The high wire balancing act between razor acidity and ripe sugars is an addictive effort – both for the vintner and the consumer.

This highly aromatic grape is traced back to the 15th century, and Germany’s Rhine Valley. Part of riesling’s allure is its capacity for making a wide range of styles from achingly crisp and bone dry, to unctuously sweet and everlasting, plus bright and lively fizz. Quite a hardy grape (it is German, after all) riesling does best in poor soils that are well draining, ideally slate and sandy clay, and responds best to a long, slow ripening period. In this regard, it has found a ready home in Canada, with excellent examples from both the Okanagan Valley and Niagara Peninsula, and potential in new plantings in Nova Scotia (Gold for Domaine de Grand Pré 2016 Riesling this year). At last year’s Riesling Rendezvous, an international group of wine professionals tasted dozens of rieslings blind over two days, and each time a Canadian wine was revealed, the tasters were unified in amazement. At this year’s NWACs, judges were impressed again with the consistent strong showing across all styles, from fizz to Icewine.

Riesling Medal Winners

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

Zwilling Predicat Crystal Stemware