Riesling, Other Single Red and Single White Varieties – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

Announcing the Results from the 2019 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada were a huge success with 1,815 entries from 259 different wineries from eight different provinces. The ‘Nationals’ are Canada’s largest wine awards and each year we hold them in a different Canadian wine region. This year we hosted them in Ontario’s bucolic Prince Edward County.

As in previous years, 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 on July 31st, the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year on August 1st, and finally the Winery of the Year along with nation’s Top 25 Wineries on August 2nd. 

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


Category Overview by Judge Janet Dorozynski

After having tasted many of the rieslings at this year’s NWAC along with the record number of category medals and number of golds and platinums, it’s pretty obvious that there’s a lot to like about Canadian riesling from many different parts of the country.

While Niagara’s Benches – Beamsville and Twenty Mile, and the north eastern reaches of the Okanagan have long shown themselves as prime locations for growing and making riesling in Canada, we’re seeing more spectacular examples coming British Columbia’s newly minted northern DVAs in addition to emerging regions in Ontario and pockets in both Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Canada has been growing riesling in earnest since the late 1970s with some of the oldest blocks planted with Clone 21B from St. Urbanshof in Germany’s Mosel region at Cave Spring and Vineland Estates in Niagara and Sperling Vineyards, Tantalus and St. Hubertus in East Kelowna in the Okanagan. We’ve gone from the early days of mostly off-dry styles to every style imaginable: dry, off dry, medium, sparkling, late harvest and Icewine, fermented in stainless steel, concrete and wood, filtered and unfiltered, skin contact, wild fermented and on and on…. As someone who’s been tasting riesling from coast to coast for more than two decades,  I can happily say that the state of this grape and how we are making it in Canada has never been better. It is clearly one of our flagship white varieties, if not THE flagship, that shines the brightest and expresses itself loudly (or subtly) and clearly regardless of where it is grown.

The quality and breadth of this year’s riesling medalists has never been better or more diverse so make sure to get your hands on the winners.

Other Single Red Varieties including Malbec

Category Overview by Judge Sara d’Amato

Like many winegrowing nations coming into their own, Canada is experiencing a culling of grape varieties grown. Yet in the category of other single red varieties we see a wealth of seemingly experimental one offs that have more than just curio value. Running the gamut from pinotage to barbera, the wines certainly kept the judges on their toes.

Both in the Okanagan and Niagara, we seem to have a strength in the category of petit verdot which may come as a surprise to many. Out of the top wines awarded gold medals, three of them are petit verdot. Notably in the Okanagan Valley, the quality of malbec seems to have impressed us as four out of the top scoring gold medal wines are the result of this plump but plucky French variety that has a stronghold in Argentina. The remaining gold medals are all the result of unique grape varieties. Some, such as zweigelt and marquette are unsurprising strengths from our nation. Whereas other varieties like blaufränkisch and tannat are curious but not unimaginable. Conversely, grapes whose benchmark regions are so disparate from our own such as: touriga nacional, dolcetto and tempranillo are sure to raise some eyebrows as top scoring Canadian wines. These wins should remind us that we are an extremely diverse winegrowing country with exciting and multifaceted potential for excellence. Such a range of high quality, idiosyncratic red single varieties highlights the strong winegrowing and winemaking talent growing and from coast to coast.

Other Single White Varieties including Gewürztraminer and Viognier

Category Overview by Judge Michael Godel

It may or not need clarifying but the other single white variety category does not include chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris/grigio and sauvignon blanc. In terms of medal winners, and this article, it does include albariño, arneis, bacchus, chenin blanc, coronet, gewüztraminer, grüner veltliner, marsanne, muscat, obrigado, pinot blanc, roussanne, sémillon, sauvignette, siegerrebe, sovereign opal, trebbiano, unicus, viognier and white pinot noir.

There is little surprise that these French vinifera grapes make up many of the awarded wines because their acreage, vine age and their winemaker’s acumen in crafting quality goes back a generation or two, or even three. That several are pinot blanc is truly encouraging, as are the multiple medals doled out to grapes with great potential on Canadian soils, including grüner veltliner, albariño and chenin blanc. This will encourage more plantings and pioneering work backed up by post-modern viticultural theory, while also ensuring biologically genetic and varietal diversity. Most surprising is that two of the top wines made from marsanne and roussanne represent two of only three gold medals awarded to wines from these classic and exceptional Rhône Valley grapes. If two can be great, why not others and why not grow more?

Congratulations to the Road 13 Marsanne 2017 out of the exceedingly promising Similkameen Valley. There can be no denying the effect of ripe fruit and the richness of developed sugar into proportionally knowing phenols in this beautifully integrated wine. Black Hills Roussanne 2017, Blasted Church Small Blessings Sémillon 2017, Thirty Bench Small Lot Gewürztraminer 2017 and Road 13 Viognier 2017 round out the judges top picks from the competition.

It may sound cliché and redundant to hear but balance is the key to our single white varietal hearts. If acidity matches, supports and elevates sugar than all will fall into place and if the wine is a dry example it will likely be flesh, mouthfeel and texture that work to elevate its status. Proportion, seamlessness and length are all essential tenets of quality single whites, as are energy, drive and spirit.

Plain and simple, single white varietal wines are able to succeed because of their inherent ability to express their varietal selves, provided they are planted in the right location and their handlers allow them to speak on their own behalf. Quality single white varietals display attributes of confidence and are anything but insecure. No roommates required.


If you have missed our detailed commentary on the various categories that have been announced so far, see them here.