Wine 101: Wine Awards: More Than Medals

Well, the results of Decanter magazine’s 2015 World Wine Awards have recently been released, and hearty congrats are in order to the many Canadian wineries who received medals, including some of My Wine Canada’s own partner wineries like Flat Rock Cellars, JoieFarm, Kacaba, Moon Curser, Spierhead, and Painted Rock.

Of course, there are many advantages to winning highly-acclaimed global awards like these, but the opportunities may not be exactly what some might think. First off, international demand for new winners usually doesn’t suddenly spike to fever pitch. Don’t get me wrong, when international wine fans see Canada garnering an increasing amount of medals annually, curiosity is indeed piqued, and that’s certainly a good thing for the dawning awareness of our wines in the global market.

A big thing, of course, is marketing and sales. To trumpet your wine as a medal winner from a prestigious competition will certainly draw more people, whether via a press release, shelf talkers, or stickers on the bottle, bright and shiny with honour. It’s no coincidence that many wineries, especially those from Australia (for some reason), affix every award sticker possible to their wine - to the point where the label and brand is being outshone by them and a bottle can resemble a well-decorated military general. Yup, awards like this can be a boon for sales if you know how to harness their potential.

But there are other effects of these awards. The element of encouragement can’t be discounted. While a winery’s sales can fly high, and they may enjoy customers and clients as consistent supporters of their product, the value of having some of the most respected palates in the world bestowing an award upon you – after tasting your wine blind, no less – is, simply, huge. We all get caught up in our own little world, but when voices from outside of our world sing your praises, that music can be awfully sweet; something that’s not only a pat on the back, but a further nudge in the right direction.

I cannot overstate that previous point. Since here in British Columbia our industry is very young, there are only a small amount of occasions that could be considered tipping points. One was certainly in the early nineteen-eighties, when Dr. Helmut Becker proved, after a few years of experimentation and trials now known as The Becker Project, that 33 vitis vinifera grape varieties could properly ripen in our region. Another was in the late-eighties, when the Canadian government paid wineries and growers to pull out the previously-popular labrusca and hybrid varieties in favour of vitis vinifera, putting us in step with the rest of the modern wine world.

And then, the next would have to be in 1994, when Mission Hill Family Estate won the Avery Trophy for 'Best Chardonnay in the World' at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. Not only did this result in gasps the world over, but it was a crucial moment in rallying the domestic market into hopping on the quite-new B.C. wine bandwagon.

From Mission Hill’s website:

“This victory was instrumental in first placing British Columbia's Okanagan Valley on the world wine map. It also provided the confidence for Proprietor Anthony von Mandl to make the investments required to produce world class wines that could stand alongside the best in the world. Significant investments in vineyards, precision viticulture and the grandest statement of all, a six-year transformation of the winery itself to create a landmark that will stand the test of time and delight visitors from around the world. All of these great achievements were direct outcomes of the Avery Trophy win.”

So while many can assume, rightly, that awards are great for marketing and sales, let’s not forget that they can also raise the bar higher, leading to much bigger and better things.

Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.

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