Contributed by Craig Pinhey, judge at the 2014 ACWC’s
Over the past decade and a half I’ve judged Canada’s national wine competitions and seen a continuous growth in quality – and price – across the full range of wine styles, but nowhere is this more evident than in the Sparkling Wine categories, where we now taste fantastic bubblies from coast to coast.
The All Canadians is unique in that they use a mix of Sommeliers, writers, and members from the Wine Judges of Canada as judges, making for an interesting mix, and lots of discussion at the table over what is a defect versus an addition to complexity, whether a wine should be judged for how it tastes now versus how it will develop, and whether your 85/100 is the same as mine.
One area we all agree on, though, is that our sparkling wines are, on average, of very good quality.
This year we judged five Tank Conditioned (Charmat) sparklers and 25 Bottle Conditioned (Traditional Method) wines, with entries from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and BC. The Best of Category wine was Cipes Brut, from sparkling specialist Summerhill in BC, and other Golds were the elegant Odyssey from BC’s Gray Monk (my highest scoring wine), Entourage from Ontario’s Jackson Triggs, and Angel’s Gate’s Archangel Chardonnay from Ontario.
Although no Atlantic bubblies won medals, I’d argue this has as much to do with judge preferences as wine quality. Wines are judged blind, so this isn’t hometown bias. Two of my highest scores, for example, were for bubblies from L’Acadie Vineyards, wines with firm acidity and lots of autolytic (leesy taste from bottle conditioning) character. Neither got a medal, although the rosé was very close.
Based on the final results, I scored the sweeter bubblies, such as those using icewine dosage, much lower than most other judges, but that is the reality of wine judging: personal preference can’t help but play a part.
The bottom line is that the quality is so good across the board that there were many potential winners, and in different styles, from bone dry to fairly sweet.
There were also good performing sparklers from all regions, including the new Dunham’s Run, the first traditional method bubbly from New Brunswick, who finished just out of the medals with their Seriously Blanc, and weren’t far off with their Rosé.
This should encourage them to keep making traditional method bubbly, and to keep entering competitions. Sparkling wine is something that cool climate regions can really do well.
Next year could be their year to pop a cork in celebration!
– Craig Pinhey is a wine writer and certified Sommelier from Nova Scotia, and a long time judge at the ACWC’s. Visit him at www.facebook.com/Craig.Pinhey.FrogsPad