Every spring for the last several years, wine writers, educators, sommeliers and others from across Canada have gathered in Prince Edward County (a couple of hours east of Toronto) to judge the All Canadian Wine Championships. This year will prove no exception, albeit with a Covid-19 delayed schedule near the end of July. Now with around 1,400 entries, that include grape wine, fruit wine, cider, mead and ice cider, over the years the competition has grown to become Canada’s most stylistically varied and inclusive. Entries come from virtually every province, from coast to coast.
Originating in Windsor in 1981, the competition has deep roots, according to organizer Beverley Carnahan, whose team handles every detail of the three day event. That includes everything from wrangling 16 judges’ travel, meals and accommodations, and receiving and sorting upwards of 4,000 bottles of wine to organizing entries into appropriate flights and tabulating scores, to notifying the winners.
In those early days, many of the judges used to cross the bridge from Michigan.
“The man who started it all was Brian Bannon, the medical and health writer for the Windsor Star, who also wrote about wine,” she explains. Over time, the judging panel evolved to include fewer Americans and more LCBO product consultants, including Bev’s husband John. A restaurateur at the time, with an unbridled passion for food and wine, Carnahan was helping out ‘in the back’ when, in 2002, Bannon asked if she would be interested in taking the whole thing over.
“I took all of ten seconds to think about it and we went from there,” she laughs. “The first thing I did was introduce the 100 point scoring system and invite the fruit wineries back,” she says. “They’d been having a hard time finding promotional platforms. They were happy as clams.”
That approach, to welcome all-comers, has proved nothing but positive for ACWC. The number of entries has tripled over the years, with many coming from British Columbia—which in recent years has captured the lion’s share of the medals. This year sees the addition of a special Founder’s Award in honour of Bannon’s vision, 40 years on.
Carnahan feels much of the success flows from the competition’s reputation for being fair and open—not beholden to anyone. “People respect our approach, she says. “They tell us they appreciate that we’re not in anyone’s pocket—which makes us feel very validated.”
Entries for this year’s All Canada Wine Championships will be accepted until May 22nd, absolute final deadline June 5th. For more info check http://allcanadianwinechampionships.com
@ Vitis Magazine