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Bubbling Over From Coast to Coast


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


Review on Iced Cider Category, by Bill Thornton

One of the many exciting wine classes at this year’s all Canadian Wine Championships was a relatively new class for this competition. Iced ciders competed in the “Tree Fruit Dessert” class at the ACWC until 2009. Their consistent high quality along with the increasing number of iced ciders entered earned them a separate competition class starting in 2010.

Commercial iced cider is a fairly new wine style developed in the Eastern Townships of Quebec where it is known as “cidre de glace”. Its first introduction commercially is generally attributed to Christian Barthomeuf in 1989. The growing popularity of this excellent, rich, luscious elixir has resulted in the rapid expansion of the number of producers, primarily in Quebec but also in Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick. Since 2010, wineries from each of these provinces have won medals for their iced ciders at the ACWC, with the greatest majority being from Quebec.

At the 2014 ACWC sixteen iced ciders were entered. All were very fine dessert wines that fit the iced profile well. Seven medals of merit were awarded. A feature common to all the top placing entries was a balance with enough acid and tartness to avoid being cloying, yet still presenting a full luscious sweetness that highlighted a clean apple flavour profile with a lingering smooth finish.

Double Gold for best in class as well the trophy for Best Fruit Wine was awarded to King’s Court Estate Winery from Ontario. It has a clear golden amber colouration with a well expressed, mature apple bouquet. The 233g/L sugar is balanced perfectly by crisp acidity and tartness resulting in clean apple flavours highlighted by hints of apricot and spice that persist into an extended delightful finish. At $15.95 for a 375 mL bottle it is a great value for such an outstanding wine.

Other medals for iced cider went to: Cidrerie du Minot (Gold and Bronze), Cidrerie Saint-Antoine (Gold), Cidrerie Michel Jodoin (Silver and Bronze) and Double Cross Cidery (Silver).

With price points generally lower than icewines from grapes, along with their unmistakable full luscious apple and apricot flavours, it is not surprising that some consider iced cider/cidre du glace as a prime candidate to become recognized as a signature Canadian wine style both at home and abroad.


Bill Thornton resides in Port Stanley, Ontario and is a member of the Wine Judges of Canada

We’re on the move………..

No sooner had the dust settled from the 2013 judging than we packed up and moved to start a new chapter here in Prince Edward County, 6 hours east on the 401. We had been exploring “the County” over the past half dozen years or so and loved the vibe here. True, it offers all the things that keep the tourists streaming in–wine, art, dining, weekend events and fine lodging to curl up in at the end of the day, but it still somehow manages to maintain a casual  country attitude. We practically lived off the produce at the roadside stalls this summer and fall. The people are as friendly as we expected to find in a wine region and we’re trying to perfect our “County wave”.

It made perfect sense to move to another wine region to carry on with the All Canadian Wine Championships. We’re in our 34th year for 2014! This is Canada’s oldest wine competition, and at 1297 entries last year, it is also the largest judging solely for Canadian wine. The judging panel is stoked to be coming to Prince Edward County!

Also beginning with the 2015 ACWC we’ll have a partner in place to help us celebrate 35 years of celebrating Canadian wine progress in the form of a tasting event for the public.  For 7 years while in Windsor we had put together a unique tasting event with Windsor Regional Hospital to raise money for various projects–a total of approximately $70k was raised over the years and we hope to repeat that success here in PEC, while promoting the wines from coast to coast.

All in all, a very exciting time for John and I and we look forward to introducing our friends to “the County”.


Bev Carnahan

ACWC 2010 Synopsis

With the 2010 edition of the All Canadian Wine Championships judging having just wrapped up and the results now in, it gives me great pleasure to share our insiders’ impressions of the event. We have to begin by remarking that with 1,143 wines in the event yet another record was set, with wines entered literally from coast to coast. Not just the size of this field, but the remarkable consistency of the wines competing made a truly exciting experience for our panels of judges. Quality has never been so high from all regions and as a result the scores were extremely close for all categories making even those wines that did not receive awards deserving of much credit.

This consistency across regions is evident in the medal results as you may see on the ACWC website and especially in the diverse trophy representation.

–          B.C ‘s. reds once again impressed, with Desert Hill’s 2006 Select Syrah winning top spot.

–          Ontario’s Hernder Estate $8.95 2007 Riesling wowed the judges as “Best Value of the Year”.

–          Quebec’s Vignoble du Marathonien 2008 Vendage Tardive Vidal  was the choice for “Dessert Wine of the Year”

–          Ontario’s Applewood Farm Winery’s delicious Madrigal Mead won in the fruit category.

–          2006 Cuvee Peter F. Huff from Prince Edward County took the trophy in the ever-growing sparkling wine category

–          “White Wine of the Year” went to the 2009 Pinot Blanc from B.C’s. Lake Breeze Winery

Since 1981 the All Canadian Wine Championships has been considered the country’s leading wine competition and we are proud to annually provide you with this guide to the best wines Canada has to offer. We hope you use the information you find here to help you discover these remarkable wines and meet the talented craftspeople who create them for you.   We encourage you to enjoy the wines of your home regions but also to travel and discover all the wine regions of Canada. Once again we congratulate not only the All Canadian Wine Championships award winners but all the competing wineries for their continued excellence and dedication!

A brief overview

Wine has been made here for 200 years, though it has not been until the last 20 years that Canada has evolved into a notable wine producing country. However, there is much more to Canada than Ice wine! While this luscious elixir did put us on the map, we are producing award winning table wines from racy Rieslings to saturated Cabernets.  Even so, we are still off the radar to many oenophiles. As you read on, you’ll discover it’s all about location, location, location! Our country has a full range of growing conditions, and the wines reflect this diversity.

Let`s go back to 1988 with the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).This legislation removed the tariffs from imported wines and opened the market, thus putting pressure on wine growers to focus on quality. Rather than throw in the towel, vintners rose to the challenge, replacing many of their hybrid vineyards with noble European varietals. A grant of $28 million was allocated for a replanting program. Growers were paid to remove undesirable Vitis Labrusca varieties and replant with Vitus Vinifera and French hybrids.

The Vintners Quality Alliance quickly formed, first in Ontario, then British Columbia, setting standards in our winemaking practices. This governing body ensures what’s in the bottle is 100% Canadian, identifies geographical regions and even pockets within those regions.  The wines are tested by a panel to assure typicity and quality before given the stamp of approval.

In addition to the requirements regarding sources of grapes, the VQA wines are made from vinifera and approved hybrid grapes.  In British Columbia, VQA wines are made primarily with vinifera varietals, while Ontario uses a range of vinifera and permits the use of selected hybrids, most notably Vidal and Baco Noir.  VQA wines may be made with grapes from relatively small agricultural yields per vine (which increases quality), they must meet specific sugar or brix levels at harvest, and the use of additives is regulated. There are also standards regulating the use of certain types of packaging and closures. For complete regulations, visit www.vqaontario.com and www.winebc.com

Quebec winemakers are faced with cold climate and as such, much of what is produced in Quebec is based on hybrid grape varieties such as Vidal and Seyval plus a myriad of red varietals. However, what they are most noted for is their exquisite Iced Cider from Cortland apples, and other apple varieties.

The Maritimes in general is able to  vinify some Vinifera varietals, depending on the province, and also hybrids. You’ll find several wineries producing luscious soft fruit wines as well. Watch for this side of the country though, because it’s doing some excellent work with ice wines and sparklers.

Note: The Canadian wine industry also vinifies imported grapes and juice. These products are labeled Cellared in Canada and are not required to conform to the strict Vintners Quality Alliance content regulations. But that`s another subject entirely……….we’ll be adding more on this contentious topic later.

Participation in the VQA program is voluntary, but you can see the marketing clout this symbol would carry. Still, there are many wineries that do not join the program, but make stellar wines from 100% Canadian grapes, whatever the varietal.

Suffice it to say, if you want to be assured you’re tasting the real deal, look for the VQA logo., or better yet, do some research–in person!

Order Your Stickers

Every bottle deserves its meal

Items of Interest

John Paul Robinson
The Artist’s Words: the ACWC trophy

Past Winners

A look back at ACWC winners