Most Wine Awards Are Useless
But the ones that aren't are amazing.
I hear it all the time when people bring wine to a party: “This wine won a Gold Medal!”—certain that from the intense rigours of competition this bottle emerged gloriously alone, the Usain Bolt of merlot. The sad reality is that for many (by which I mean most) competitions you get a medal just for entering. They’re money-making enterprises and their success is contingent on wineries spending the money on entry fees—something they’re usually averse to doing unless they get something out of it. So the easiest path to success is to mint the medals faster than the US prints money and everybody’s happy—everybody, that is, except for the consumer who shells out $40 for blah cabernet with a silver medal sticker on it’s label.
The plus side is that there are a number of competitions that do it the hard, painstaking way—endless blind tastings with panels of well-regarded judges with varied palates. These are the results that I care about. Two such stalwarts recently published their results and they’re well worth referring to on your next buying spree. First is the big kahuna: the Decanter World Wine Awards, a huge competiton with an all-star cast of tasters. One of the reasons I like it for Canadian wines is that most of them have scant experience with our take on certain varietals and so it’s a fresh, but still learned, viewpoint. They awarded 4 BC wines Gold medals (the low number again reinforces their selectivity): Church & State Coyote Bowl Syrah 2011, Moon Curser Syrah 2011, Quail’s Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 and the En Famille Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 from Joie. Amazingingly apt choices.
The other competition worth a look is WineAlign’s National Wine Awards of Canada. Here you have the opposite of Decanter: it’s limited to one region (Canada) and I think it’s fair to say that the judges here are the very best in the country. Because it’s Canada only you have some interesting choices for Platinum wines: Orofino’s Gamay Celentano Vineyard 2013 might get lost in a competition like Decanter, but the WineAlign judge’s quite rightly give a shout out to this beautiful gem.
For Syrah they chose the Laughing Stock, an exceptional wine that often gets overlooked in favour of Laughing Stock’s flagship, Portfolio.
Another fun winner, St Hubertus’ 2012 riesling, an offering from a winery that I admit to paying scant attention to of late.
And I emboldened by their love of Summerhill’s 2013 riesling, one of my fave wines of last year.
In the end your own taste should always be your judge—but if you’re looking for some helpful direction to those taste these two competitions are good places to start.