This week several friends of mine have travelled from various parts of North America and beyond on their annual trip to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to attend the Boxwood Flute Festival. A number of them enjoy wine and it occurred to me that choosing a wine away from home can be a daunting experience. Your favourite wine is not available and most of the familiar labels that you can find are mass marketed brands. This is a great opportunity to explore new wines, but the dilemma is where to start.
For my visiting friends, I am recommending that they “go local” and try out some Nova Scotia wines. Nova Scotia has a young wine industry that has been expanding and improving over the last few years. Most of the wineries and vineyards are clustered in the Annapolis Valley near the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy. Other wineries are found in Malagash, Petite Rivière and Bear River. Over the years, experimentation has shown which grape varietals work best in our climate. Some of the varietals that grow well here are Seyval Blanc, New York Muscat, Ortega, Baco Noir, Marechal Foch and L’Acadie Blanc. These are hybrid grapes. We are also starting to see the introduction of the more familiar vinifera grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc and Reisling. The industry has been focusing on styles that we can excel at such as crisp white wines, sparkling wines and ice wines.
Originally developed in the Ontario, this grape was known as V-53621. It was introduced to Nova Scotia in the 1970’s where it was renamed L’Acadie Blanc by Roger Dial at Grand Pré Vineyards. It is very hardy in our cooler climate and is able to ripen well in the shorter season. It has become our signature grape. It is quite adaptable and can be used to make various styles. It can be found as as single varietal, in a moderately oaked style, as part of a blend or as a base for sparkling wine. L’Acadie Blanc produces wines that are crisp with a citrus character that pairs well will shellfish and lighter seafood. when barrel-aged it pairs well with heavier seafood with creamier accompaniments. A good example of L’Acadie Blanc is produced by Domaine de Grand Pré.
In order to make good sparkling wine, it is important to have grapes that maintain good acidity when ripe. Since our cool climate produces such wines this is a style that we are starting to see. There are have been several wineries that have been producing outstanding traditional method sparkling wines. Notable sparkling wines are being made at Benjamin Bridge, L’Acadie Vineyards and Blomidon Estate Winery. A variation of sparkling wine is the frizzante style of wine. For several years, Benjamin Bridge has been producing Nova 7. This off-dry wine has a slight spritz and has relatively low alcohol concentration of 7% to 8%. Each year it is made a little differently and the release of Nova 7 is a sign that summer is coming. This wine is made with a blend of grapes but the influence of New York Muscat shines through. The floral aroma is balanced by a refreshing acidity and flavours of pink grapefruit that makes this a very easy drinking wine on a hot summer day. The presence of New York Muscat also imparts a beautiful pinkish coral hue.
Since 2012 Nova Scotia Wines have established an appellation called Tidal Bay. To be designated a Tidal Bay, the wines must be submitted to an expert panel where they are tasted blind. These wines may be produced from a variety of primary grapes and lesser amounts of secondary grapes. All the grapes must be sourced from Nova Scotia. The goal is to produce a wine that is crisp, refreshing and aromatic. The style must be relatively low in alcohol with a maximum of 11 percent. Since various grapes than can be used, each winemaker creates wines of a somewhat different style. I like to try each one over the course of a summer. It is also fun to get together with a number of friends and taste all of them at once.
Nova Scotia does not have a long enough growing season to produce full-bodied red wines. We do have some lighter style red wines such as Marechal Foch, Lucie Kuhlmann, Baco Noir, Castel and Leon Millot, Some of the wineries are beginning to make blends with these varietals. Perhaps the most well-known blend is 4 Skins which was made famous on the Jay Leno show. It is a blend of four hybrid grapes that creates a balanced wine by matching the characteristics of the four varietals that make up the blend. Another popular red blend is Phone Box Red from Luckett Vineyards.
Another special treat from Nova Scotia. These are produced by leaving the grapes on the vine until they are frozen. The temperature must be -8 º C (17 º F) before they can be harvested, They are usually harvested at night and immediately pressed. The juice that concentrates around the seed provides a very sweet base to produce these wines. It takes seventeen times more grapes to produce ice wine, therefore these wines are usually reserved for special occasions. They pair well with desserts as well as strong cheeses such as Stilton.
Good Cheer Trail
This year Nova Scotia has initiated the Good Cheer Trail as a guide for visiting the wineries, distilleries and craft breweries of Nova Scotia. The name is derived from the Order of Good Cheer which was established in 1606 at Port Royal by Samuel de Champlain. To keep spirits up during the long cold winter members of the order would take turns preparing a weekly feast. A trip to some of these wineries has the makings for a nice summer outing. A great way to enjoy the wineries is with one of several wine tours available.
To all my friends who are visiting Nova Scotia this week.