By Susan Desjardins

A recent tasting event in Ottawa provided the opportunity to once again taste a range of wines from Nova Scotia’s burgeoning wine industry. Vines were planted as early as 1611, when a French settler, Louis Herbert, planted a vineyard in the Bear River area – he soon learned that climatic conditions in the region make wine production a challenging enterprise.

It wasn’t until 1980 that an intrepid entrepreneur, Roger Dial, produced Nova Scotia’s first commercial vintage at the Grand Pré winery. The Jõst family soon followed suit, establishing their winery in the Malagash Peninsula.

The Grape Growers’ association was established in 1982, and in 2005, the Nova Scotia Wine Standards were adopted by the Winery Association of Nova Scotia. These new requirements established content restrictions and labelling standards, and require that no less than 85% of the wine’s content be from grapes grown in the province while the remaining 15% must be grown in Canada.

Nova Scotia’s cool climate has meant that a strong focus has been placed on cold-hardy hybrid varietals, such as Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc, New York Muscat and l’Acadie Blanc. But you’ll also see wines produced with vitis vinifera such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

While there are 15 wineries—and counting—in Nova Scotia, most within a couple of hours drive of Halifax, the tasting featured white wines from l’Acadie Vineyards, Domaine de Grand Pré, Jõst Vineyards, Blomidon Estate Winery, Benjamin Bridge, and Gaspereau Vineyards.

Most of the wines are only available in Nova Scotia, from the winery or select Nova Scotia Liquor Commission stores (Nova Scotia prices quoted). For those of us living in Ontario and craving Nova Scotia wines, the Benjamin Bridge 2004 Brut Reserve LD has had a limited release in the LCBO Vintages Classics collection, and Nova 7 has previously been released through LCBO Vintages, so keep an eye out for its return.

L’Acadie Vineyards 2007 Prestige Brut Méthode Traditionelle, 11.5% alcohol, $39.99

From Nova Scotia’s first certified organic winery, this vintage sparkling wine won a silver medal at 2011 Effervescents du Monde (judging the best sparkling wines of the world) as well as gold at the 2010 Canadian Wine Awards. It is produced from hand-picked grapes and offers wonderful aromas of baking bread, green apple and fresh citrus. Beautifully crafted and crisp, the fine, delicate mousse lifts the tangy fruit flavours, while the extended aging on the lees offers a soupcon of toasted nut on the lengthy finish. Sip on its own or with the fresh local bounty of the sea.

Domaine de Grand Pré Ortega ‘Vintner’s Reserve’ 2010, 12% alcohol, $20.00

Ortega is a hybrid varietal created by crossing Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe, whose parentage includes Riesling and Gewürztraminer. This is a very aromatic off-dry well-balanced wine—think of fruit cocktail, sweet citrus, pineapple—and offers lovely floral and fruit aromas. Full fruit flavours of pear, nectarine and sweet citrus are framed by a vibrant acidity. There’s a tantalizing and pithy note of candied citrus rind on the lasting finish. Very tasty with double-crème Brie, or try it with a chicken mushroom salad with a lemon-mustard dressing.

Jõst Vineyards ‘Eagle Tree’ Muscat 2010, 12% alcohol, $14.99

A gold medal winner at the Atlantic Canadian Wine competition, this wine is produced by the Jõst family, who immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1970, bringing with them a long history of producing high-quality wine in Germany. Crafted from New York Muscat which is grown extensively in Nova Scotia, this crisp dry wine combines aromas and flavours of luscious tropical fruit with the tang of grapefruit. There’s a fine balance of bright acidity and juicy fruit, a clean texture and a tasty and lasting finish. This wine was a delight with lobster appetizers!

Blomidon Estate Winery Tidal Bay 2011,  10.6% alcohol, $19.99

Tidal Bay is a special brand created by a group of Nova Scotia wineries working together  to create a unique white blend that reflects Nova Scotia viticulture. It’s generally just off-dry yet crisp, aromatic and relatively low in alcohol. Blomidon’s offering is a blend of l’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc and New York Muscat. Brilliant and almost transparent, this wine delivers an attractive fruity nose, a fresh crisp texture and lovely juicy flavours of citrus and orchard fruit. A great wine to sip with friends on a warm summer day!

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2011, 7% alcohol, $24.99

Specializing in sparkling wines, Benjamin Bridge winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers has created an absolutely delightful, low-alcohol just-frizzante off-dry sparkler that draws you in with intense aromas of tropical and honeyed stone fruit accented by tangy citrus.

Gentle spritz caresses the palate, while flavours of tangerine, lime, apricot and mango mingle to create a fresh complex taste experience. Sweet yet tangy, this wine displays exquisite balance and flavour intensity. A lovely garden party sipper, or enjoy it with a light fruit-based dessert.

 

Gaspereau Vineyards ‘Warner’s Vineyard’ Riesling 2011, 11% alcohol, $17.99

This is the inaugural vintage of this delectably gulpable wine, a single-vineyard Riesling produced with fruit harvested for the first time from the Warner family vineyards. Fermented in stainless, then aged on the lees for four months, this just off-dry wine is crisp, refreshing and just plain delightful. Juicy, with some underlying mineral notes and a clean seam of acidity, it displays notes of pink grapefruit, passionfruit, mouth-watering green apple and zesty lemon. Beautifully crafted and balanced, it’s a great choice for seafood or fish dishes, or a match for soft cheeses.

Susan Desjardins has been involved with the marketing and promotion of wines for the last seven years, as an accredited sommelier working with Savvy Company and as a wine reviewer with winecurrent.com.  In addition to organizing and hosting both public and private wine and food events, she regularly selects wineries and wines for Savvy Selections and has participated in the LCBO’s Vintages release tastings for the last two years.

An Algonquin College-trained sommelier and avid amateur ‘foodie’, Susan spends her spare time traveling in Western Europe and the wine regions of Canada meeting winemakers, vineyard owners and other wine industry personalities.  Her background in business, horticulture and wine has created a broad interest in and familiarity with the diverse aspects of the industry.  She seeks value and quality in wine tasting, and looks forward to introducing people to varietals and wines with which they may not yet be familiar.