Syrah is responsible for some of the most exciting wines in Canada, and that’s reflected in this year’s results, with four platinum and 14 gold medals.
The Syrah flights are a joy to taste, not just because of the incredible highs but also the consistent quality. Across Canada, the story is evolving, and it's no longer about potential. Canadian Syrah has rightfully earned its reputation, not just coast to coast but internationally as well, and the top wines are highly sought after.
Year in and year out, Syrah is arguably the top performing red grape variety in the Okanagan and Similkameen. Eighty-three percent of this year’s Syrah medal winners come from British Columbia, which is indicative of the province’s ability to produce world class Syrah. The wines often show a combination of ripe, lush, dark fruits balanced with the variety’s inherent savoury qualities. It makes for captivatingly complex wines, and they still manage to retain their freshness even after long, warm summer days.
CedarCreek and Mission Hill’s Platinum Medal Syrahs, both from Jagged Rock Vineyard and the spectacular 2020 vintage, show the opulent ripeness expected from the Black Sage Bench, bursting with fruit and lifted by floral aromatics and desert sagebrush. Across the valley on the Golden Mile Bench, on sandy soils interwoven with gravel, La Frenz’s platinum 2019 Syrah from Rockyfeller Vineyard is juicy and elegant, with peppery spice.
Other gold medal winners show that exceptional Syrah can genuinely be found throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen. For example, Painted Rock’s 2019 Syrah comes from their estate vineyard on Skaha Bench, a relatively new sub-GI in the Okanagan overlooking Skaha Lake. And Lake Breeze’s 2018 Mistral Syrah is sourced further north from the well-travelled Naramata Bench. Or there’s the neighbouring Similkameen Valley, with highlights like Corcelette’s 2019 Syrah from Keremeos’ Upper Bench.
There’s also more focus on site, and single vineyard bottlings represent a number of the top wines. Look no further than Rust Wine Co. and their collection of single vineyard Syrahs, which includes their 2019 South Rock Vineyard Syrah.
In Niagara, the ripeness may be dialled back, but the wines are no less compelling. They’re more often red fruited and intensely savoury, with outstanding freshness and purity. This is beautifully illustrated by the spicy, meaty, platinum winning 13th Street Reserve Syrah, as well as the gold medal wines from Stratus and Trius. It leaves you wanting more (just 592 tons of Syrah were processed in Ontario in 2021), but the real challenge is the variety’s cold hardiness. It thrives on the warm sites in part because it survives on the warm sites.
Whether from British Columbia or Ontario, we see Syrah in a multitude of expressions. Most importantly, what often comes through is a true sense of place. The wines are not Rhône styled. They are not Barossa styled. They’re uniquely Okanagan, Similkameen, and Niagara, each identifiably its own.
The full Syrah/Shiraz results from the National Wine Awards of Canada are now available here.
Here's a look at some of our favourite BC Syrah tasted since January 2022.