Results from the 2023 Nationals – Pinot Noir

Announcing the Results from the 2023 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 22nd running of the National Wine Awards of Canada wrapped up on June 28 in Penticton. Category results will be rolling out throughout the rest of July, with the final Platinum, Best Performing Small Winery, and Winery of the Year announcements coming at the end of this month. We hope you will stay tuned to follow the results and become engaged in anticipating the final results.

We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we are pleased to present the Pinot Noir winners.

Pinot Noir

Category Overview by Judge John Szabo, MS

Pinot noir remains a strong category overall for the Canadian wine industry, even if judges seemed in general to feel that the entries collectively didn’t stir quite as much excitement as in some previous editions of the NWACs. Nonetheless, there were an impressive 93 medals awarded out of 154 entries, or 60 percent — compared with 97 medals in 2022 — including four platinum and 20 gold.

Perhaps the biggest take-away was the disparity between wines within the category this year – this was one of the easiest groupings from which to separate the successful from the less successful. Scores, and the discussions that followed between panelists, were swift and determinate for a variety that usually sees champions for a much broader and heterogenous range of styles.

This can be explained in part by radical vintage variation in the two principal production provinces of B.C. and Ontario (only two medal winners came from elsewhere, Québec), as well as an ever-clearer picture of the best sites and the most competent winegrowing teams. Pinot noir’s sensitivity was on full display, with some wines reflecting the challenges of growing it under stressful vintage conditions, or in a less-than-ideal site, or under the direction of a less experienced team. On the other hand, wines and wineries with past success bubbled up to the top again this year, making it clear that pinot a grape that demands perfection from site and winemaking crew, which some have clearly nailed, with a little luck from nature thrown in.

While both Ontario and B.C. are well represented in the top echelon, the edge this round goes to the west coast, taking three out of four platinums and 13 of 20 golds. Of the vintages included in this year’s awards (’19, ’20, ’21), 2020 was easily the strongest, representing 14 of the top 24 wines. It was a growing season in which both Ontario and B.C. experienced generally excellent conditions, on average a warm year in both provinces that yielded ripe, highly concentrated fruit. It’s little surprise that all four platinum winners were from the 2020 vintage.

The 2021 vintage, on the other hand, was much more variable in both provinces, making it a year in which place and technique (and luck) really shined. Ontario experienced just about everything imaginable from record-setting temperatures to intermittent drought, high rainfall and humidity — not an easy year by any means. It was a story of extremes in B.C., too, with the province recording Canada’s highest ever temperature in the interior at 49.6°C, while the production regions of Kelowna, Kamloops, Osoyoos and Lillooet all broke temperature records. Wildfires were another hazard in the Okanagan Valley in the summer of 2021, with identifiable smoke taint ruining many pinot noirs (and other, especially red varieties). Select NWAC medal winners from 2021 to be assured of quality.

Lastly, a hearty congratulations especially to Niagara’s Hidden Bench and Okanagan’s SpearHead for repeating their platinum success of last year’s awards — such a feat cannot be coincidental.

NWAC 2023 Sponsors: