Red Blends and White Blends – 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 early 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. On October 29th we began announcing a few categories a day for over a two week period, concluding 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 Red Blends and White Blends:

Platinum Pack 2021 NL

Red Blends

Category Overview by Judge Dr. Jamie Goode, Wine Anorak

Red Blends are a somewhat underappreciated category in Canada’s wine scene. While all the attention seems to go to single varietal wines, given the success of red blends in the NWACs, maybe we should be taking them more seriously. This seems to be a BC category: of the top 10, there’s just one entry from Ontario. This makes sense: in the Okanagan, the leading red varieties all excel as blend components in the other global locations they are joined in. We have both Bordeaux-style blends represented here, but also blends where the versatile Syrah plays a role – a variety that pairs well with both Cabernet Sauvignon (in classic Australian blends) and its southern Rhône partners in crime, Grenache and Mourvèdre. This is a category where the skill of both viticulturist (bringing good grapes to the winery) and the winemaker (partnering these varieties to best effect in the blend) are equally important, and by these results, plenty are doing it very well.


White Blends

Category Overview by Judge Michael Godel

White Blends, White Heat

There were 57 medals awarded in the White Blends category, a staggering number (and up from 52 in 2019) when you consider how many consumers (and critics too) often see wines like these as vineyard fruit cast offs, afterthoughts and a way to use up grapes without a home. Nothing could be further from the truth these days with wines of great intendment, trenchant purpose and earned respect. Winemakers love making these wines, appellative or otherwise. They (the makers) are creatures of assemblage and (their wines), masters of habit.

There are traditional gatherings like sauvignon blanc plus sémillon as per Bordeaux. Our Platinum winner is a two to one aspect ratio of that ilk, the La Frenz 2019 Reserve Ensemble from the Okanagan Valley. Described by judge Nadia Fournier as “agréable, onctuosité, doublée de tension. Élégant, expressif et relevé de parfums.” Translation not necessary. Gold winner Clos du Soleil 2019 Capella from the Similkameen Valley acts out the same sauv blanc-sém passion play, as does Nk’Mip Cellars 2020 Mer’r’iym White Meritage. The likes of marsanne, roussanne and viognier do the Rhône Valley and Gold by Kismet 2020 does exactly that out of the Okanagan Valley.  The top Ontario winners are Creekside 2018 Iconoclast Sémillon-Sauvignon, Flat Rock Cellars 2018 Twisted, Queenston Mile 2018 Mile White, all from the Niagara Peninsula, along with Kew 2018 Marsanne Viognier from the Beamsville Bench.

White blends come in all shapes, sizes and mix of grape varieties. In addition to those already listed there can be Canadian combinations that involve chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris, pinot blanc, gewürztraminer, muscat and other vinifera. There are also many B.C., Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick whites that involve hybrids like l’acadie blanc, vidal, ortega, frontenac blanc, seyval blanc, traminette, la crescent, geisenheim and more. But nowhere in Canada has the idea been fostered and achieved the level of success at that for Nova Scotia’s Tidal Bay.

Tidal Bay is a maritime appellative blend of genius creation, a terroir specific concept so specific to Annapolis Valley/Bay of Fundy/Minas Basin vineyards in Nova Scotia. A veritable East Coast marketing and economic juggernaut from true Canadian wines of quality and efficiency. In 2010 Nova Scotia launched this wine appellation with a purpose “to showcase a vibrant and refreshing white wine compatible with the coastal terroir along the Bay of Fundy, a vast expanse of seawater that is home to the highest tides in the world.” In the past the wines have been sweeter, much like some Alsatian white blends but many are now going dry. There will always be stone fruit, white or yellow citrus, a mineral push and salty Fundy air. The question is whether the wines taste more like the soil or the sea. Four Tidal Bays earned Silver at NWAC 2021, all from the 2020 vintage; Planters Ridge, Gaspereau Vineyards, Jost and Domaine de Grand Pré.


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