For wine lovers in Canada, and Ontario specifically, Uncork Canada is undoubtedly a rare opportunity to discover some of the best Canadian wines Canada has to offer. Uncork Canada is delightful derivative of the All Canadian Wine Championships and is one of the best wine events in the Prince Edward County wine country destination.
To understand the uniqueness of Uncork Canada you need to understand the All Canadian Wine Championships.
All Canadian Wine Championsips
This competition is the oldest of its kind in Canada, having started in 1981 in Lake Erie's North Shore. Bev Carnahan took it over in 2003. Bev and her husband John are both sommeliers and obviously passionate about wine and the wine industry. Bev has worked in the restaurant business for more than 30 years and still consults for the industry. Four years ago Bev moved the event to Picton in Prince Edward County. The Crystal Palace, a fairground building full of romantic character was the venue this year.
The competition is open to all Canadian winemakers, including virtual wineries. Wines must be 100% Canadian content and Canadian made. The winery must have sufficient stock to reasonably last the season. It welcomes submission of a wide variety of traditional wines, sparkling and frizzante wines, fruit wines, ice wines, ciders and meads, for example.
The judging panel is made up of 17-20 industry experts from across the country including British Columbia, Ontario, Prairies, Quebec and the Maritimes. Judges include certified members of Wine Judges of Canada, wine critics and professional sommeliers.
2018 saw more than 200 participating wineries and 1,393 wines submitted to the competition. Trophies were awarded to 492 wines. Categories include the usual varietal categories, subdivided by price range; sparkling; fruit wines; ice wines; hybrids; and blends for example. You can see the full list of categories and most importantly winners at ACWC 2018 results.
The competition uses the 100 point rating system that is now considered for the most part to be the gold standard of rating approaches. You can learn more about how the points are awarded from Making Sense of the 100 Point System. Wines are assessed and ultimately slotted into Gold, Silver, Bronze or No Medal categories. A wine is awarded a Double Gold if it attains the highest score within its category (i.e. Sauv Blanc). All the Double Golds then move into the Trophy round, where all the judges taste every wine. The 'Best of' trophy is determined by high score in the various categories ex. Best Red, Best White, Best Fruit Wine.
Back to Uncork Canada
Knowing that the wines submitted to the All Canadian Wine Championships are the cream of Canadian wine offerings, think about:
- how accessible, or actually unaccessible, are wines from different provinces? We are pretty much at the mercy of our provincial liquor boards and what wines they choose to bring in.
- many wines are only typically available from the winery itself because they can't produce the volumes required to satisfy provincial liquor board needs.
- ordering from wineries is a possibility to some extent but would you know what to order from wineries you are not familiar with?
Doesn't the possibility of sampling some of the best Canadian wines available from hundreds of different wines sound exciting? Not to mention the delicious little appetizers served to guests by Waring House. Or the silent auction of bundles of wines, including the 2 Best in Show wines (interestingly enough both from Wild Goose Winery in BC). Or the raffle for 72, yes 72 bottles of wine.
I have to admit, I was in Picton a couple of years ago on a winery tour and someone mentioned the town was very busy because of the 'wine tasting in town'. I could kick myself now, because I didn't understand what it was and what I was missing!
Besides all the selfish reasons I can think of to get excited about this annual event - it is a fundraiser sponsored by Waring House, Scotiabank and the Picton Elks Lodge with all proceeds going to Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Rotary Club of Picton. The wines are all donated by the ACWC and the event was staffed almost exclusively by volunteers. And very friendly ones at that ! Here is a shout out to Bill, possibly the friendliest volunteer on board. (But he had stiff competition as everyone was friendly and enthusiastic!)
If, like me, you want to keep tabs on this event in the future check out and like their Facebook page here. I am marking my calendar. Since Prince Edward County and Picton are already a bustling wine destination you could easily spend the day or the weekend sampling the best Canada has to offer as well as other fun activities the area has to offer.
What did I learn from this year's Uncork Canada 2018?
A few highlights:
- Ontario dominated the Traditional Method Sparkling category with Fielding Estate Sparkling Rose, Traditional Method taking the 'Best of'. Megalomaniac and Angel's Gate both took Gold medals. All Silver and Bronze medals were awarded to Niagara wineries. Check them out.
- BC dominated the Chardonnay category but Fielding Estates, Legends Estates and Closson Chase showed well for Ontario.
- Cab Franc is gaining popularity in Canada. Harper's Trail Cab Franc from BC took a Double Gold in the Under $30 category... and it was well deserved! Delicious!
- Hoity Toity Cellars in Mildmay, Ontario makes a fun wine from the Frontenac Blanc grape called Stella and Louise. They call it their 'porch sipper'!
- I need to get serious about discovering and exploring BC's wineries
- Wild Goose Winery and Blasted Church are 2 BC wineries to watch
- My love for Closson Chase, Fielding and Kacaba wineries are well founded since they were some of the Ontario wineries that did well in the competition.
I could go on but I have to go... gotta get to work on my British Columbia travel plans!
Note: detailed wine reviews are filed on Natalie Maclean Wine Reviews and Ratings.