Faithful readers may recall that the Calgary-based Wine Access Magazine closed abruptly in February, taking with it their annual Canadian Wine Awards event.
Your humble narrator was most distressed, as it was the most comprehensive judging of hundreds of Canadian wines, culminating with a glossy magazine issue showcasing the top 100 Canadian wines.
Luckily, there is a competing publication in Ontario called Vines Magazine, which publishes a special issue just for the annual InterVin International Wine Awards, held in the Niagara wine growing region of Ontario every August.
This fall marked the fifth annual InterVin awards, held at a posh resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake, right in the heart of Canadian wine country.
Over 1300 entries from 16 countries were presented for judging, and a prestigious panel of Canadian and International sommeliers sipped, swirled, and spat for weeks on end. Yes, gentle reader, the life of a wine judge is a hard one, but they make the sacrifices for you and I, the humble consumer.
Vines Magazine is owned by the Sun Media Corporation, the largest newspaper publisher in Canada. This media conglomerate likely has deeper pockets than the now-shuttered Wine Access Magazine, so we should have many more annual awards to come.
It may be that the InterVin International Wine Awards are not quite as international as they could be, or that some of the snootier wine-producing countries choose not to participate, or it might just be that Canada’s wine industry is punching above its weight, based on the number of gold medals taken home by our domestic wineries.
The InterVin International Wine Awards are not like the Olympics. While we still have gold and silver medals, there can be more than a single winner. In other words, there are a few dozen categories of wines, some based on price point, some on varietal, and some on broad categories like dessert wines.
Each wine that is entered in a particular category is judged as gold, silver, honorable mention, or no showing. If the grape harvest is off one year due to inclement weather, it is entirely possible that no entries will win gold that year.
However, for this year, of the 57 gold medals awarded, a full 27 of them were from Canadian wineries. Hooray for Canadian wines!
Although the most decorated winery was the well-known Wolf Blass from Australia, the overall 2nd-place winner was the Tawse Winery from Ontario.
Faithful readers may recall the Tawse Winery was the 3-time winner of Canadian Winery of the Year from the now-shuttered pages of the Calgary-based Wine Access Magazine, so it should come as little surprise that an equally adept panel of judges would also rate Tawse so highly.
Your humble narrator has been lucky enough to visit the Tawse Winery in person, and I had a long and enthralling chat with the winemaker, who was graciously offering tours that day.
The first grape harvest from the vineyard was back in 2001, with the first wine being released in 2005. It seems hard to believe that only eight years have passed since then, with past winners having old growth vines that had several decades to mature.
With over 70 acres under vine, and an annual production of 360,000 bottles, the Tawse Winery is a rising star in the Canadian wine market, and this new accolade is sure to raise their standing even further.
Luckily, with nearly 50 different wines for sale at price points ranging from $18 to $60, there are wines available for all palates and budgets.
As a daily drinker, my preferred wine from Tawse is their Merlot/Cabernet blend, which is an absolute steal at only $20.
The 2011 vintage was recently released from the cellar to an eager public, and your intrepid liquor reporter was quick to pick up a half-case from my local booze merchant. I usually only buy a few bottles at a time, but the 2009 and 2010 vintages sold out quickly, so it pays to stock up on the good stuff.
Your humble narrator has already been trawling through the list of winners, working hard to sample the winning wines from each of the Canadian wineries. I know, it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it. You can do the same by browsing through the winners at www.intervin.ca.