Results from the 2023 Nationals – Syrah

Announcing the Results from the 2023 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 22nd running of the National Wine Awards of Canada wrapped up on June 28 in Penticton. Category results will be rolling out throughout the rest of July, with the final Platinum, Best Performing Small Winery, and Winery of the Year announcements coming at the end of this month. We hope you will stay tuned to follow the results and become engaged in anticipating the final results.

We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we are pleased to present the Syrah winners.


Category Overview by Judge Geoffrey Moss, MW

Announcing the syrah winners is usually one of the highlights of my year. This year, it feels bittersweet.

Syrah is responsible for many of the top wines produced across Canada, and there is always a sense of excitement among the judges when a flight of syrah hits the table. This year, syrah is tied alongside chardonnay with three platinum medal winners (or 16 percent of the platinum medals awarded). There’s not a lot of it — syrah accounted for four percent of entries this year, less than half the entries of chardonnay — but what’s made is very good, with 78 percent of entries earning a medal. That is an exceptionally high hit rate.

But after last winter in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, it is reasonable to worry about syrah’s long-term viability and sustainability. The damage was severe and widespread after a week-long cold snap in late December. At best, producers will see their production significantly decrease this vintage — assuming they can produce anything at all. Others were not so lucky. Vine death is not uncommon, and many will be looking to replant this year. The question is whether the new plantings will be syrah. 

The grape is inherently cold-sensitive. Niagara has been through this before, and there is a reason plantings are sparse. Syrah accounted for only one percent of the region’s production in 2022. The wines can be frustratingly good, though. Look no further than the gold-medal wines from Kacaba, Redstone Winery and 13th Street. They leave you wanting more Niagara syrah — if only it could reliably survive the winter.

In the Okanagan and Simikameen, there is no question syrah is one of the top-performing red varieties. The medal winners take you from West Kelowna (Quails’ Gate, gold) to the Naramata Bench (Lake Breeze, platinum) to Skaha Bluff (Painted Rock, gold) to the Golden Mile Bench (Rust Wine Co., gold) to the Black Sage Bench (Nostalgia Wines, platinum) to the Similkameen (Corcelettes, platinum medal). North to south, east to west, syrah produces world-class wines here that are distinctly their own.

My advice: stock up while these syrahs are available. And let’s cross our fingers that growers continue the difficult, costly path forward with syrah. It is not easy, but the results are worth it. 

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