Results from the 2023 Nationals – Cabernet Franc

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 week. 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 Cabernet Franc winners.

Cabernet Franc

Category Overview by Judge John Szabo, MS

Ahh, what a pleasure to judge the cabernet franc category this year! A perennial favorite, this was for me hands down the most exciting red wine category at the 2023 National Wine Awards, with consistently high quality and pleasure across the board. Of the 102 entries, fully 72 wines (71 percent) earned a medal (up from 63 medals in both 2021 and 2022), behind only syrah in terms of percentage of medals earned in a major red wine category. This includes one platinum and 18 golds, a remarkable one-in-five success rate.

I feel I say this every year, but such results, and the even medal distribution between the major producing provinces of Ontario and British Columbia again this edition as in past ones (unlike syrah), make a strong claim for cabernet franc to be considered Canada’s flagship red variety. And unlike the very highs, but also low lows of pinot noir, cabernet franc rarely disappointed, even those examples that fell outside of the medals were largely enjoyable. It’s clearly a resilient, adaptable variety suitable to a wide range of growing conditions, from the intense heat and sandy soils of the southern Okanagan producing bolder, riper styles, to the cool stretches of the Niagara Escarpment or even Vinemount Ridge or Prince Edward County and their deeper stony clays leading to leaner, lighter more fragrant and delicate wines though not without structure. Judges were beguiled by the variety’s full range of expression.

A big part of the success story this year can be attributed no doubt to the predominance of 2020 vintage wines among the entries, a highly successful year in both Ontario and B.C., with textbook growing conditions resulting in clean, ripe, concentrated fruit. There was a near-even split of the spoils between the two powerhouses, with 11 of the top 19 wines, including the platinum, tilting in favour of Niagara, as well as 43 out of 72 medals overall, though both provinces are clearly capable of greatness. 

Cabernet franc is a grape to embrace, Canada’s most consistent red.

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