The annual InterVin International Wine Awards competition takes place next week in Niagara. As its head judge, I work with a team of organizers and volunteers to ensure that the proper wine lands in the correct glass that is delivered to the designated panel at the assigned time during the three-day event.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Since I know the origins and producers of the 1,300-plus samples being evaluated, I don’t taste alongside the sommeliers, winemakers and educators who work in panels to evaluate samples.
Every effort is taken to ensure that the judges are kept in the dark about where the wines came from and who made them to ensure that they focus their attention on the attributes of the wine in the glass.
Any winemaker who’s on the panel and has wines in the competition won’t see them in the early rounds to avoid any chance of them recognizing their own products. (Although I’ve traditionally found winemakers to be their own worst critics in blind tastings.)
Pouring over the spreadsheet of entries, it’s clear that the selection available to Canadian consumers is greater than ever. I’m not merely talking about the range of countries producing wine or the explosion of new domestic wineries in British Columbia’s wine regions. The mix of grape varieties and wine styles is incredibly expansive, too.
Some of the indigenous grapes varieties represented include Rkatsiteli, a white grape from one of the oldest wine regions in the world, Kakheti, Georgia, and Marsanne, a French grape from the Rhône Valley that’s typically blended with other regional grapes to make an exotically fragrant and earthy white wine.
The mix of red wine varieties, particularly used in dramatic red blends from all corners of the world of wine, is equally extensive.
The InterVin competition isn’t just an annual snapshot of what is happening with winemaking in Canada and abroad, but a timely reminder that there’s a diversity of wine and wine styles that go beyond the handful of grapes that are fashionable or most popular with consumers.
Excellence in winemaking comes from all corners and sources. It’s always fun to see when seasoned wine experts unearth a startling wine from a little-known grape variety or region that steps into the spotlight afforded to the top-scoring wines of the competition.
Wines of the Week:
*** E & J Gallo Winery 2011 Red Rock Reserve Malbec, California
BC $16.99 (885764) | ON $16.95 (284315)
This Californian model of Malbec offers abundant sweet blueberry aromas and a soft, round texture that makes it easy to appreciate. That juicy character makes it a winner with burgers, grilled meat or meat lovers pizza.
**** Yalumba 2012 Y Series Viognier, South Australia
BC $17.99 (624502) | AB $18 | ON $16.95 (624502)
Yalumba has fine-tuned its style of Viognier, making the most of the expressive fragrance of the grape variety. Look for ginger, apricot and tropical fruit on the nose and palate of this lovely white wine that is packed with flavour yet maintains a sense of balance and refreshment.