Results from the 2023 Nationals – Icewine and Late Harvest

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 Icewine and Late Harvest winners.

Icewine and Late Harvest and Icewine

Category Overview by Judge Geoffrey Moss, MW

It has been a tumultuous few years for Canadian Icewine. There have been challenging, late vintages. And then export sales dramatically dropped in 2020. To date, they have not recovered.

From a volume perspective, Icewine has never been the bulwark of the Canadian wine industry. That is more the case now than ever. In Ontario, where the vast majority of Icewine is produced, it accounted for less than 0.5 percent of the province’s total production last year. Producers are less inclined to take the risk of growing Icewine without a clear market. 

This change may be a relief for those tired of saying, “Canadian wine is more than Icewine.” But we risk losing the prominence of one of the world’s great wines — sweet or not. Production in Ontario has dropped 89 percent over the past five years, and is now only made by 10 wineries. It is a shame because this year’s gold medal Icewines — the Gold Vidal and Sparkling Vidal from Inniskillin — demonstrate that these are truly benchmark wines.

In the past, wineries have relied heavily on export markets. Maybe producers need to look closer to home and convince locals to rethink Icewine. There is no getting around it: Icewine is sweet. Given current trends, that is an unfortunate strike against it. But I do not think relegating Icewine to cocktails is the answer, either. 

My suggestion is to try an aged Icewine. There is a school of thought that says Icewine does not age. I disagree — and have many in my own cellar. A youthful Icewine is hedonistic and immediately gratifying; the fruit is exuberant and bursts from the glass. But it gains complexity with time in bottle, complementing the fruit with a satisfying savouriness. Interestingly, it also begins to taste less sweet, too.  

Try the Gold Vidal in another five years and see what you think. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something less sweet, the gold medal late harvest wines from Peller (Vidal) and Three Sisters (Riesling) are fantastic alternatives that seriously overdeliver for the price. With declining sales, sweet wines have become very much a labour of love — and it shows in this year’s award winners.

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