Just in time for the holidays, the eathalifax Guide to Nova Scotia Wine has got your back. Consider your shopping list complete, the libations for your holiday parties chosen, and your regular Wednesday night made that much more cheery. If you haven’t been hearing a lot about Nova Scotia wine lately, you should. What was a humble trade but a few years ago has grown into an award winning industry with 11 vineyards and over 70 grape growers covering more than 550 acres across the province. Interesting, however, is that grapes were grown here way back in the 1600s, one of the first locations in North America to do so. Apparently, wine making is in our land, our water, our blood.
Our Nova Scotia climate be damned, certain grapes happen to like our temperate never too warm never too cold kind of climate. Some grapes like it so much that out here on the East Coast, we’re producing wines that trully represent Nova Scotia and the world is starting to notice. Though many traditionalists maintain that terroir is born out of centuries of grape growing and wine making like in Italy, France and other location in Europe, the wines here do not taste like any other region. With each vintage, they reflect our landscape, culture, and climate. They taste like Nova Scotia. And, let me tell you, Nova Scotia is delicious. So, grab that pen because you should probably take notes.
In case you hadn’t heard, our whites here are pretty incredible. Crisp and aromatic, they pair perfectly with all that Atlantic seafood. Coincidence I think not. While you’d be hard pressed not to find a white you’d love among the L’Acadies, Muscats, Seyval Blancs, Ortegas, Vidals, Chardonays and even Reislings, there are a few that stand out. The Gaspereau Muscat ($19.99) is a stunner and according to fellow blogger and friend Kelly Neil, a requirement for a good risotto. Truthfully, many of the regional Muscats such as Jost‘s Eagle Tree Muscat ($18.99) will also impress. Other fantastic whites include the Grand Pre L’Acadie Reserve ($18.50) a slightly oaky wine giving it a character unlike other regional L’Acadies, the slightly off-dry but sadly sold out Luckett Phone Box White, and the German-inspired peachy Ortega ($22) also from Luckett. Though also sold out, the Avondale Sky Bliss just took home the Taste of Nova Scotia Consumer Product of the Year. The people have spoken.
Nova Scotia’s own appellation, made with grapes grown exclusively on our shores, Tidal Bay requires it’s own category. There are 10 to choose from and many of them are incredible. I hear this year’s Petite Riviere Tidal Bay ($21.99), out of LaHave Valley, the oldest wine growing region in North America, is fantastic although Gaspereau ($21.99) recently took home top honours from the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers for their 2012 Tidal Bay. According to Chef David Smart of Front & Central, Avondale Sky’s Tidal Bay is not only his favourite Tidal Bay ($20) but his favourite Nova Scotia white period. “Well structured with a subtle smokey finish, it is an absolute slam dunk with seafood.”
Unlike the sunny region of Bordeaux France with their full-bodied reds or the smooth, spicy Shirazs of Australia, here we have Baco Noir, Marchel Foch, Castel, Leon Millot, Lucie Kohlman and more recently Pinot Noir. Many of the reds produced locally are medium-bodied easy drinkers although some earthy, dry, full-bodied varieties do exist. Popular reds include Luckett Phone Box Red ($20), the Sainte-Famille ($14.75) or Blomidon Estates Baco Noir (sold out), and Grand Pre’s Castel Vinter’s Reserve ($19.50). According to Susan Downey of Grape Escapes NS Wine Tours (who by the way is easily one of the most knowledgable people I know concerning our wine industry), Nova Socita’s best red may be the Passito ($24.99) from L’Acadie Vineyards, Nova Scotia’s only organic vineyard known more for their traditional method sparkling. Their method of drying the grapes followed by two fermentations draws out as much flavour from the grape skins as possible, leaving a much fuller red.
Though not my first choice, Nova Scotia produces many refreshing rosés to suit any pink-loving palate. Both the Avondale Sky Ladyslipper ($17) and Lavender ($16) will not disappoint and if you fancy a bubbly rosé, the L’Acadie Sparkling Rose ($26.99) has you covered.
Listen, dessert wine isn’t really my thing. However, the Maple Ice Wine ($14.99) from Gaspereau enticed even me. I had visions of rich maple ice wine buttercream but then I may or may not have shot through the bottle at 3 am on my birthday with the Food Wife. Word is many of our dessert wines are fantastic since the cold Winter climate and slow fermentation allows for a richer, full bodied ice wine. Many of the wineries produce Vidal, Ortega and Muskat ($20-$45) ice wine varieties to satisfy any sweet tooth. Also of note is the Grande Pre Pomme D’Or ($22.50) with its golden colour and rich caramel apple notes.
It may be a surprise to you but this is really where we shine. Apparently our temperate climate is perfect for traditional method sparkling. We can thank the Atlantic for that. While we can’t technically call it Champagne, it damn well rivals any traditional French sparkling I’ve had. Lucky for you, there’s even a range of options to suit any budget. Blomidon Cremant is a steal at $23.99. So are the L’Acadie Vineyards Vintage Cuvée ($24.95) and their award winning Prestige Brut ($39.95). The other fan favourite is Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 ($24.99). People go crazy over this stuff and with good reason. If I were to chose a top pick to gift, it may very well be the Nova 7. At the higher end, the Benjamin Bridge Brut ($44.50) and Brut Reserve ($74.50) are also worth every penny. Time and again, the Brut Reserve stands up to the best Champagnes in the world. But honestly, it’s not about tasting like Champagne, France. It’s about tasting like home and showing the world Nova Scotia’s terroir is one to notice.
From reds to sparkling, our wines are truly an incredible reflection of what we can produce here in Nova Scotia. Whatever your price point, gifting Nova Scotia wine this holiday season will show everyone not only how much you love them, but how much you love Nova Scotia.