On the first morning of judging at the 2022 National Wine Awards Canada (NWAC), my panel tasted two Chardonnay flights and awarded gold medal scores in both cases.
It's indicative of the strength of the category, proven by an outstanding four Platinum Medals this year (split between Ontario and BC) and a treasure chest full of Gold and Silver awards.
When asked what Canada's signature grape is, Chardonnay is a quick answer from me. From coast to coast, the grape can sing, be it off the vibrato of limestone or the powerful grip of glacial deposited stones. The world's most famous and transplanted grape is particularly suited to Canada's cool climate, withstanding desert conditions in the South Okanagan and deeply frozen winters, like Prince Edward County and Nova Scotia.
Within BC itself, Chardonnay styles range widely. The cooler northern latitudes of Kelowna and Lake Country yield fresher, sleeker styles. In contrast, the opposite is the case in Oliver and Osoyoos, easily able to build heat units and richness. The centre Valley (Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Naramata, Skaha) strikes a great balance, with aspect, altitude, and soils further defining styles. The windswept Similkameen Valley lends itself to stony, gravelled, savoury Chardonnays, while the grape is finding a stellar and welcome new home in the Wine Islands, thanks to better clonal and planting decisions.
At the NWACs, the 2019 and 2020 vintages dominating were both strong for the grape, with a near 50/50 draw between the main growing provinces of British Columbia and Ontario on the podium. It's no surprise that the annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) in Niagara is now one of the must-hit wine events on the international circuit, drawing widespread attention and sell-out crowds.
Canadian Chardonnay's high quality and consistency are rewarding and, as evidenced by this year's results, highly awarded.
To see all of the National Wine Awards Canada Medals, visit https://www.winealign.com/awards.
Here's a look at our favourite BC Chardonnays tasted at Gismondi on Wine over the last year.