Nova Scotia’s Secret Star Wine Power with Benjamin Bridge’s Jean Benoit Deslauriers

Nov11th

Introduction

Where can you find one of the Canadian wine industry’s best-kept secrets? How does the dynamic Bay of Fundy impact the flavours you taste in wines from the Gaspereau Valley? Which Benjamin Bridge wine will you find on Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant wine list? Why do regional pairings of food and wine work?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Jean Benoit Deslauriers, Head Winemaker at Benjamin Bridge.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

Highlights

  • Where can you find one of the Canadian wine industry’s best-kept secrets?
  • How does the climatic dynamic of the Bay of Fundy impact the flavours you’ll taste in wines from the Gaspereau Valley?
  • Which Benjamin Bridge wine would you find on Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant wine list?
  • What creates the bubbly effect you experience with sparkling wines?
  • Is there a specific role that you’ll see sommeliers play in the wine world?
  • Which process is responsible for the consistent, signature style you expect from Champagne?
  • Can you tap into some of Benjamin Bridge’s oldest wines in an affordable way?
  • What flavour profile can you expect from Benjamin Bridge Non Vintage Brut?
  • Why should you aim for regional connections when pairing food and wine?
  • Why is Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 a great choice for you to match with foods that are difficult to pair with wine?
  • What makes the Benjamin Bridge Riesling a great example of their signature foundation of freshness?
  • How do Nova Scotia wines achieve both the richness and freshness you taste in their wines?
  • Why should you think of Nova Scotia as “the little wine region that could”?
  • What makes Tidal Bay an appellation wine?
  • What sort of profile should you expect from Benjamin Bridge Brut?
  • Why should you join the BB Club?
  • Which wine motivated Jean-Benoit to break his piggy bank as a fifth grader?
  • When did Jean-Benoit realize he wanted to have a career in wine?

 

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About Jean Benoit Deslauriers

In 2008, Jean-Benoit joined the Benjamin Bridge winemaking team in time to release his first Canadian wine, Nova 7 by Benjamin Bridge. Since then he has crafted all of the winery’s classic method sparkling wines and its still wines, in consultation with Peter Gamble (the winery’s lead consultant) and the late Raphaël Brisbois (its sparkling wine specialist and former chef de cave of Piper-Heidseick).

Originally from Québec, Jean-Benoit began his winemaking apprenticeship at VOE (Vinedos Organicos Emiliana), a biodynamic vineyard/winery in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, which was created by one of Chile’s largest producers, Vina Santa Emilina, to produce exceptional wines.

Having mostly worked in California, he made wine at Casa Barranca (2004-2008), the first certified organic winery in Santa Barbara County. In California, his winemaking efforts garnered accolades and standout reviews from Robert Parker and Steven Tanzer (90+). Since 2008, Jean-Benoit’s winemaking has elevated Benjamin Bridge’s wine programs to new heights with consistent 90-95+ scores and unanimous high praise from the nation’s leading wine critics along with growing international recognition.

About Benjamin Bridge

In little more than a decade, Benjamin Bridge has distinguished itself by its dedication to time-proven techniques, expert guidance, and most importantly its acclaimed, distinctive wines.

The Benjamin Bridge vineyards are located in the heart of the Gaspereau Valley on the Bay of Fundy, where the cool climate bears an uncanny affinity with the Champagne region of France. Our experienced winemakers work in collaboration with international experts to produce world-class Méthode Classique sparkling wines and limited edition luxury wines.

Their innovative sparkling wines display the hallmarks of classic prestige cuvées from Champagne, but with a Nova Scotia signature. “They are, without question, the best sparkling wines I have tasted in Canada,” says Tony Aspler, Canada’s most renowned wine authority. Their collection of handcrafted fine wines, including perennial sell-out Nova 7, together with our sparkling wine program, have helped raise the profile of Nova Scotia terroir and its winemaking in Canada and internationally.

 

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  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
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Transcript & Takeaways

Welcome to episode 102!

Where is Canada’s best-kept wine secret? How do the highest tides in the world affect the vineyards around them? How did a small Nova Scotia wine get listed on the wine list of the prestigious UK restaurant, Gordon Ramsey? What is one of the best wines to pair with Thai and Indian food, and why?

That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m chatting with Jean Benoit Deslauriers, Head Winemaker at Benjamin Bridge.

You can find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class — that’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/102.

Now on a personal note before we dive into the show…

My ex-husband used to say that salad is what food eats…

That’s not the main reason we’re divorced ;)

But I must say, the delicious range of flavours in modern vegetarian recipes is amazing.

That’s why my first online tasting with the LCBO was sooooo popular!

I teamed up with the food and content editors of Food & Drink magazine to pair wines with some savoury, mouth-watering dishes.

My favourite?

Baked Mushroom Parmesan…. yum!

You can watch the video replay of the tasting, plus get the list of wines and recipes. I’ll include a link to all of that in the show notes.

Okay, on with the show!

 

You can also watch the video interview with Jean-Benoit that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.

 

Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my chat with Jean Benoit Deslauriers. Here are my take-aways:

  1. I loved Jean Benoit’s story about being fascinated with wine and wine labels as a child. The force was with him very early.
  2. I’m fascinated with the Bay of Fundy, with the highest tides in the world that rise and fall 17 metres or 55 feet, funneling 160 billion tons of seawater in and out of the bay twice a day. This has a profound effect on the surrounding vineyards, and warming and cooling air streams that flow up through the vines, much like the lake does in Niagara.
  3. I agree with Jean Benoit that Nova 7 is an incredible match with both Thais and Indian food, it has the flavour intensity and the touch of sweetness to handle the flavour and heat of those dishes.

You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Melanie Young and David Ransom on their podcast, The Connected Table. The couple interviews those around the world whose work has helped shape the food and beverage industry, such as chefs, artisan producers, vintners, master distillers, authors, farmers, food/beverage industry thought leaders, and in this case, yours truly.

In the meantime, if you missed my chat with Vikram Vij & Sean Nelson, episode 72, go back and take a listen. We take an even deeper dive into pairing wine and spicy dishes from Vij’s Restaurant. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wine tips that Jean Benoit shared.

You can find links to the wines we tasted in the show notes, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, that recent tasting of wines paired with vegetarian dishes, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class — that’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/102.

Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a Nova Scotia wine!

 

Transcript

Natalie MacLean 1:00
Welcome to Episode 102: Where is Canada’s Best Kept wine secret. How did the highest tides in the world affect the vineyards around them? How did a small Nova Scotia wine get listed on the wine list of a prestigious UK restaurant? Gordon Ramsay’s to be precise. And what is one of the best wines to pair with Thai and Indian food and why ?

We’re going to talk to the winemaker from a small Nova Scotia winery whose wine just got listed on celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant lists in the UK; that three star Michelin restaurant and that is Gordon Ramsay, he of master chef and Hell’s Kitchen. Jean-Benoit Deslauriers is going to tell us how that happened and share some other stories and some deeper insights into what’s happening with Nova Scotia wines. I better bring in my guest. It’s Jean-Benoit Deslauriers. And he’s joining me from the winery in Nova Scotia.

Hi Jean-Benoit

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 4:19 Hi Natalie.

Natalie MacLean 4:20
So good to have you here. Now you have made wine in top notch wineries around the world, including Chile, in California and since 2008,in Benjamin Bridge. You’re making wines that consistently get scores of 90 to 95. I mean, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and now the Gordon Ramsay announcement. Tell me what I’ve left out of your bio, maybe share a little bit about your personal life.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 4:43
Well, I was born and raised in Quebec. For some reasons I can’t quite explain I was always passionate about wine ever since I was a little boy. I remember there was an anecdote that I was reminded of by an old babysitter, who unfortunately passed away about a year and a half ago and she reminded us that, when I was, I think in fifth grade, I broke my piggy bank. And my favourite thing to do at the time was to go at the SAQ wine store and look at the wine labels. And so, one day I broke my piggy bank and dragged her by the hand and insisted that we go to the SAQ so that I could buy my parents a bottle of Côte-Rôtie  from Marcel Guigal. And I don’t know how old I would have been in fifth grade but

Natalie MacLean 5:26
How did you know about Côte-Rôtie in fifth grade?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 5:27
It was that  kind of fascinating label that had the drawing, I guess, of the Rhone Valley on it. The antique fields that I thought was really compelling. And yeah, so for some reason, wine was always an object of fascination for me. I can’t quite explain why that is. I don’t have an explanation for why. But yeah, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been fascinated by wine. So

Natalie MacLean 5:53
You were destined to make wine JB!

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 5:54

I don’t know about that.

Natalie MacLean 5:55

We’ll get into that. So Jean-Benoit, can you remember the exact moment when you knew that you wanted to make wine? If it wasn’t in grade five, breaking out the piggy bank when was it?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 6:09
That probably would have been in my early 20s. So I was working as a wine advisor for the SAQ, like a product specialist. And that’s probably when I knew that there was a career that I wanted to pursue. So what I did is, I actually went back to school and studied chemistry, so that I would have an opportunity to, you know, like, perhaps pursue a degree in oenology. And so what I did after that is I moved to California, and started working at CCWS (Central Coast Wine Services)  in Santa Maria for a small winery down there, and that’s how kind of it all began. So that would have been in 2004. Then I moved to California from Quebec, you know, with the sole intention of you know, like starting a career in the wine business as  I was convinced that that’s what I wanted to do.

Natalie MacLean 7:00
Wow. Okay. So you’re in the Gaspereau Valley now, and we know that has great soils in a nice cool climate and you’re right on the Bay of Fundy. Tell us something we don’t know about that particular region that would surprise us

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 7:16
Well, I think it’s definitely known, right,  that the Bay of Fundy has very high and strong tides; actually the highest and strongest tides on the face of the earth,

Natalie MacLean 7:25
How high are they do you know?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 7:27
so the water would fluctuate about 17 metres a day, in metres and there’s more fresh water going through the Bay of Fundy on a daily basis than all the fresh water rivers of the world combined.

Natalie MacLean 7:28

Thats high!

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 7:29

Actually its  salt water; the Bay of Fundy.  And so it is definitely a force to be reckoned with and absolutely unique entity in the natural world. And I think that not everyone has realised, maybe like up until maybe some of the Nova Scotia wines have  started shedding a light on this, is that there is a growing environment surrounding the Bay of Fundy that is equally as unique as the bay is in the natural world. So there’s a very linear logic there. And that probably is one of Canada’s best kept secret and I believe like one of the wine industry’s best kept secret as well,

Natalie MacLean 8:23
How do those connect? You’ve got high tides, you’ve got more water flowing. But how is that directly impacting on the vines and the grapes?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 8:31
Yeah, well, it’s funny that you use the word connect because we are in a little valley called the Gaspereau Valley, which is a sub Valley within the Annapolis Valley. And those two valleys, they actually connect to the Bay of Fundy; they go straight into the bay at the very end, in the Minas Basin and the Annapolis Valley goes straight into the Bay of Fundy at the very beginning and they can depict the area as well. And so what that does is that it creates a dynamic that goes like this: as the water goes up and down 17 metres a day, it acts as an air pump. And it pushes the air through those valleys that go straight into the bay.Right? And  it transforms those valleys into corridors that are channels of moderation. And ultimately we happen to this unbelievable moderating effect, you know, coming from that constant influx of air, and it translates into a ripening context that is absolutely unique, because our grapes can ripen in a way that will protect the acidity and unspoiled fashion and also ensure that, you know, the sugar content doesn’t creep up too fast; so that it gives us an opportunity to stretch the growing season in the later stages and then pick at low sugar content, but with a level of phenolic maturity

Natalie MacLean 9:57
of the  grape skins ; of the flavour compounds.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 9:58

Yeah, yeah, and I can give you an example. So for example in Sonoma County, for traditional method sparkling, and they make beautiful wines, they’re

Natalie MacLean 10:03
In California just north of Napa, yeah

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 10:05
Yes, you know, the last like three vintages have been, you know, quite warm. And so oftentimes they will be forced to pick for traditional method sparkling, which requires low sugar contents, because there’s a secondary fermentation down the road that will add about a degree and a half of alcohol. So the grapes have to be modest in sugar content. So because of the warm climate, like they are forced, you know, to pick often in the third week of July, because the sugar content and fruits will increase in a way that is proportional to the heat units. And they will respond to the you know, the heat units, the temperature, and the overall kind of solar context in a way that is yet very, very linear. So because of that incredible moderating effect, and that unbelievable climatic dynamic that we have as a result of the proximity of the Bay, we can pick at the same parameters as the third week of July in California, in the first week of November.

Natalie MacLean 11:04
Oh, wow. So is this at all the same as Niagara’s is lake effect? Or is it a bit different?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 11:09
It is, it’s the same

Natalie MacLean 11:10
they call it the hot water bottle or something but you’re talking about like an air pump setting through corridors of …

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 11:11
And so a dynamic of moderation usually will shave off the extremes on both sides, that hot bottle would apply in the winter months, right, where that large body of water is going to moderate the temperature so it doesn’t get too cold for some sensitive like European varieties, for example,  but then in the summer month, the moderation effect will actually cool the temperatures, right. So everything will be brought to like a median reality, everything will be brought back to the middle and it is similar in Nova Scotia in the sense that it is also a dynamic of moderation that shaves off the extreme. But it is not more dramatic, because, for example, our winters would actually be proportionally warmer, and our summers would be proportionally cooler. So it is just a little bit more extreme in terms of you know, like the moderating impact.

Natalie MacLean 12:11
Wow. Okay, so, Jean-Benoit , tell us first of all, which wine got listed on Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant list? And then how did that happen?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 12:21
So the wine that was listed at Gordon Ramsay , the Brut reserve 2008. That is  our flagship line within our sparkling programme. So I have a bottle here

Natalie MacLean 12:33
You have that one, you have the 2008 do you ?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 12:35
That’s a 2010.

Natalie MacLean 12:36
Oh, I’ve got the 2011.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 12:39
Yes.

Natalie MacLean 12:39
What were you saying? I might be one of the first human beings to try this.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 12:44
That was disgorged only recently.

Natalie MacLean 12:46
And so let’s tell what disgorged means just for the folks who might not know what disgorged means when it comes to sparkling wines

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 12:50
Yeah, so a sparkling wine and we will go back to Gordon Ramsay, like right after. A traditional method sparkling wine, so the effervescence of bubbles, the CO2 comes from a secondary fermentation that happens inside the bottle. That’s where the fizz comes from. So a fermentation is the transformation of sugars into alcohol and CO2 as a byproduct. So for example, during harvest when we ferment here at the winery, like in open vats, the sugars are transformed into alcohol, but the CO2 escapes through the top of the tanks and goes into the environments

Natalie MacLean 12:59
For  still wine

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 13:00
Yes, for still wines. But if that fermentation was to happen in a sealed bottle, so a closed environment, ultimately, there would be no way for that CO2 to escape

Natalie MacLean 13:02
the bubbles  stay in.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 13:03
They stay in and ultimately what happens is they are integrated in solution and they become part of the product. And that’s the effervescence that we see. But also what a fermentation does is, it creates a lot of solids, a lot of sediments, and a lot of cloudiness and turbidity in the wines and so what we have to do in order to present a sparkling wine that is clear, is we have to separate those solids from the clear wine. So when we decide that the wine is aged on its lees, so all those solids that are created by the fermentation for enough time, so in our case, that can mean a lot of time because we have some wines here at Benjamin Bridge from the 2002 vintage that are still aging on the lees after 15 years. That is one of the traits of our sparkling programme is that we have a tendency to age our wines for quite some times. And it’s also I think, a testament of like, our willingness to, you know, come up with something, actually, that’s quite unique. And also that illustrates those wines potential for longevity.

Natalie MacLean 14:39
You must be all into delayed gratification there, being able to wait

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 14:43
They age quite well and we can talk about this later. But one of the fundamental traits, a signature of you know,  our wines and our wine region, is , I hate to say it,  eternal youth,

Natalie MacLean 14:57
that’s a good tagline: eternal youth! Wow!

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 14:59
We are about to release the line of beauty products that are going to be quite revolutionary,

Natalie MacLean 15:04
You are such a kidder, you know, you could though with a great pumice and everything,  anyway back to Gordon Ramsay

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 15:11
Real quick. So what we do when we decide that the wines have aged for long enough is we put them upside down in racks. And although sediments are ultimately going to go down the very end of the bottle, they’re going to be collected in the neck just by gravity. And so we open the bottle upside down. Yeah, real quick. So that injects all the solid and leaving behind only the clear wine.Yeah, it’s at that point that we apply the champagne cork and the foil. And that is called disgorging.

Natalie MacLean 15:42
All right. Thank you. Back to the celebrity news. How did that happen?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 15:49
Well, we’ve been in the London market for about a year and a half. And we’re working with an agency there by the name of Friarwood, with a  Canadian called Ben. Ben  and his  French partner, Edouard have been doing amazing work for us. And we’ve done a couple of events at Canada  House alongside other Canadian wineries. We’ve been featured in Decanter magazine,

Natalie MacLean 16:13
You’ve got some great scores in Decanter. That’s Britain’s sort of Wine Spectator magazine.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 16:17
Yeah. So ultimately, all those seeds that were planted, there was an event as well a bind tasting at 67 Pall Mall where our wines were tasted alongside some legendary champagne. And that was the topic of a story like in the drink business

Natalie MacLean 16:35
An industry magazine and lots of sommeliers were there, right at this sort of blind taste off with you and benchmark champagnes

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 16:41
correct. And so ultimately, what happens is all those things, they all plant the seed and they create a situation where you know, like the name like Benjamin Bridge, and traditional method sparklings from Nova Scotia. So it’s people start, like hearing more and more about those sparkling wines made alongside the Bay of Fundy ;  those Canadian sparklings from the east coast. And so little by little, we have a presence right in the unconscious of wine, the wine community. And I think that that was the context that led to the connection between the sommelier at Gordon Ramsay, James Lloyd and our agency. And, wow, yes. Because, yeah, like it was, you know, maybe as a result of all those little things that maybe were done to set the state.

Natalie MacLean 17:25
Yeah, at this restaurant, folks, if you had not had the pleasure I have, fortunately, a meal can easily cost over $1,000. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. Three Michelin, of course, is the top rating you can get from the Michelin Guide for restaurants. And here is Benjamin bridge, sparkling wine on the list. How did you find out like, do you remember where and how you found out the news?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 17:47
Well, we’ve known for quite some time. But I don’t think that we appreciated the reach and the magnitude of the story, because we’ve known for two months. And it was really a casual post on social media when I believe we were provided with a photo of the wine list.

Natalie MacLean 18:04
Someone just took a picture while they were there?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 18:06
And so that was like, Oh, yeah, that’s true. They were there. Like, that’s neat. We’ll post that on social media like and then we were quite , Yeah, quite casually, unsuspecting of like, any potential reaction really like beyond what we get for, you know, like normal post on social media. And it really snowballed into a national news story. And throughout that process, we realised that it extended beyond just realm of wine and that’s what made it so powerful because I think that you know, Gordon Ramsay has definitely a name and the reputation and pop culture and it goes, it goes beyond just the, what we call the internally like kind of the wine geeks right, then right,  which we all are most definitely. But I think that that was a story that had like a reach that was a little bit more extreme culture

Natalie MacLean 18:58
Yeah. People know about Hell’s Kitchen and how hard he is. He’s kicked people out of his restaurant for not wearing the right thing and all sorts of things. But he just has this sort of indelible mark on food culture. Have you been to his restaurant? Are you going to go now?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 19:17
Well, I’ve been quickly for a visit, like I haven’t sat down for a full meal, I think Benjamin bridge will have to grow into a wine consortium.

Natalie MacLean 19:27
To afford that?for you to have an expense tab with that on it?.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 19:33
And I haven’t met him personally. And coincidentally, last Monday and Tuesday, I was in Vancouver for the Canadian sommelier championship where they  elected the Canadian representative, the Canadian sommelier competing at the international level and representing his country. And it was that competition which was a celebration of the trade as well and really shed a light on the importance of the sommelier in the restaurant culture. And so they have a very defined role which is to curate, maintain, and upgrade the wine list and so, as much as of course you know we would love to meet Gordon Ramsay in person but most wine additions will happen through the professional that is in place especially in highly organised establishment such as a Michelin three star star, there are very defined roles and that would be the role of the sommelier  to select the wines. If maybe we were lobster fishermen, maybe we would present our lobsters to Gordon.

Natalie MacLean 20:33
You never know they may be next, maybe you can do some sort of combo deal. But to me, it’s like as a violinist being asked to play at Carnegie Hall. I mean, it’s just like, bring your wine to Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. Pretty amazing.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 20:47
There’s no question that it’s great for the Nova Scotia wine industry. And it’s a good news story, especially from a visibility standpoint, to tell our story and kind of showcase the things that we do best not just us at Benjamin Bridge, but everyone here pushing the boundaries for traditional method sparkling

Natalie MacLean 21:05
and as they say the rising tide lifts all the boats, which is quite apt for fishermen, lobster and Nova Scotia

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 21:12
Thats right , rising tide and the Bay of Fundy.  That’s right. Yeah, 17 metres a day  .The day we were listed on board I think it went up 19 metres.

Natalie MacLean 21:24
Gosh, Okay, now let’s taste, you’ve sent me a number of wines. Is there one you’d like to start with that you have with you?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 21:31
I think we should start with the non-vintage.

Natalie MacLean 21:34
You were saying that this is really appealing to you now. All your wine children, you’re really loving this one. Tell us why

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 21:43
there’s so many reasons. But first, if you look at you know, like traditional method sparkling as a category, it’s fair to say that, you know, like the standard, especially from an historical standpoint, and also qualitative is Champagne. And in Champagne, about 85% of the global offering is non vintage wines.

Natalie MacLean 22:03
That’s right, they tend to be the signature of the house, right? The non vintage.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 22:07
Absolutely, so for us  like we  founded Benjamin bridge as a sparkling wine house. Non-vintage wines were always on the radar, right? They were always on our mind. But how they’re able, for example, like in Champagne, they are able to maintain stylistic consensus, consistency and create that house style is they offset the variation, how they do it is they offset the variations between the vintages by blending.

Natalie MacLean 22:30
Many years

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 22:07
yes, having enough blending flexibility on the account of a strong inventory of reserve wines that they add to always come up with a blend that is stylistically within the territory of the balance, right

Natalie MacLean 22:50
The signature And so how many vintages are in this non vintage wine?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 22:53
That’s a great question. That’s where I was going. So before we were in a position to have a true non vintage programme, we needed to accumulate that library, that inventory of reserve wines to be able to make a proper non vintage wine that would have that signature. So we only released the non vintage going on two years now. But it was a little bit like a soft launch, where we were kind of testing it out. And now as of this year, it is officially like a very important fundamental product within our sparkling offspring. And it’s an incredible wine, because it has reserved wines in a perpetual reserve system going all the way back to 2002. And so there’s basically 15 years of winemaking history like in those bottles. And I don’t know if you pick up on that smokiness? That autolytic?

Natalie MacLean 23:45
Autolytic does that mean yeasty; like fresh baked bread?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 23:48
which again, is a byproduct of you know, the time that was invested in ageing,

Natalie MacLean 23:53
Because it sits on its lees or the spent yeast cells, so you get that creamy, rich, this toastiness. It’s so beautiful.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 24:00
And so it’s those reserve wines coming in and providing that additional complexity. And for that reason, it’s a wine that’s unlike any other, you know, vintage wines from Benjamin Bridge. And the price of the NV will vary probably between $28 and $30, which is also significantly less than our other traditional method sparkling and so there lies also another fascinating proposition because for less, you can actually tap into some of our oldest wines and get all that smoky toasty profile and all that complexity that can only come from those reserve wines that age for a while. So it’s altogether probably kind of our ,Yeah, one of our most like fascinating products.

Natalie MacLean 24:30
And you just answered these questions she was asking about the price of it. So that’s excellent.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 24:50
We think that that non vintage wine is primed in position to ultimately become somewhat the face of traditional method sparkling. There was an investment that was made by by Benjamin Bridge by the family called McConnell/Gordon  in holding on to an inventory of reserve wines and older vintages. And because that investment was made over the years, for the last 15 years now we’re in a position where we have the potential to make a significant amount of non-vintage. And so that really is a product to that is positioned to support you know, like a demand that would be substantial. So I think that ultimately, it’s positioned to be the face of Nova Scotia sparkling.  that’s great.

Natalie Maclean 25:35
That’s great.What would you pair with this JB?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 25:37
So I think that most perfectly organic pairings, if there’s a regional connection, it makes it all the more powerful, because those wines are highly impacted by you know, the Bay of Fundy. And it just so happens that there are lobsters actually in the Bay of Fundy; lobsters and scallops, I would say, particularly lobsters. To me, like that makes it the most organic natural pairing that you could think of, and you’ll see that right, like, you know, in the Loire Valley with, you know, some of the local cheeses right then. Yeah. And there needs to be that regional connection. And that’s a very powerful regional connection, I think. So our owner here,  one of the owners: Gerry McConnell. So Gerry  started Benjamin bridge in 1999, with his late wife, Sarah, and he has a proprietary recipe for cooking lobster. Yeah. And so he harvests seaweed, right and sea vegetables that he’ll put like, in the actual salt water, and then boil the lobster in, in the seawater in the seaweed. Voila. Yeah, with the scenery with the dulse and you know, the other sea vegetables that he harvests, that he forages

Natalie MacLean 26:55
Does it give a more briny taste to the lobster flesh?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 26:57
Oh, yeah, it’s unlike anything else. It’s so good. And they came for a lobster boil. And Jerry was working the burner. And yeah, he worked his magic. If you have a chance to come to Benjamin bridge, you can ask for a lobster made by Jerry himself.

Natalie MacLean 27:14
And see if I can get the recipe.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 27:16
We’ll see if we can accommodate those requests.

Natalie MacLean 27:20
Okay,you’re gonna have a lineup.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 27:22
I’m in trouble right now.

Natalie MacLean 27:23
I’m sure everybody’s going to be clamouring after that, and the recipe. So conversely, what’s the actual weirdest pairing you’ve ever had, it could be with one of your wines, or just another wine with something that was just really weird.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 27:39
Well, if we go to this guy here, which, again, is Nova seven,  that’s a pivotal product. For us . It was a bit of a renaissance wine within the Nova Scotia wine scene and wine industry. And there’s something absolutely unique about Nova seven, that is a combination of our aromatic intensity, a little bit of residual sugar and a tremendous amount of freshness. And it’s an illustration of like the power of, you know, that stamp that we have here, like alongside the Bay of Fundy because it is so powerful. And so presence that it completely changes the style. Whatever is electric, you know, bright, energetic about Nova seven completely changes the dynamic because usually Moscato style wines are going to that much sugar centric. And then in the case of Nova seven, everything is centred around the freshness and the drinkability of the wine because it’s super bright and crisp. But the aromatic intensity makes it a great pairing with things that are actually really difficult to pair like Indian food; like Thai food. They have, like on a scale of aromatics, like the spices and whatnot, I can get pretty high right on that scale. You know, like same with, like the richness and so, I would say something a bit eccentric is like oftentimes people are like, Oh, you know, like, I really like spicy food; so spicy that when I cook it, the neighbour upstairs, you know, like his eyes are crying. What can we use? Like do you have something  that I can pair with that. And oftentimes, we have  just what they need in the form of the Nova Seven because it has the aromatics to match. And so if you’re ever clicking something that would be overpowering, or maybe overwhelming to maybe some more neutral lines, like the number seven certainly has the ability to expand.

Natalie MacLean 29:30
That’s great.Nova seven is generally available across Canada, isn’t it like in just about every province?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 29:38
Yes, every province and territory. Ah, okay. That’s not to say that if you go to the store, you know, like, corner that Nova Seven will be there. Sure. In every province, you know, with a little bit of research, you can find out where it can be found and then go from there.

Natalie MacLean 29:58
And you guys have a direct Mail club for across Canada, right?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 30:02
I would say asking us like sending us an email at wines@Benjamin bridge.com

Natalie MacLean 30:14
Okay. So because there are a number of people in your wine club already, but I’m sure people love to just get it directly without having to hunt.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 30:21
Yeah. So wines with an S at Benjamin bridge calm is the best way to inquire on where the wines would be available. And maybe we might be able to send directly to you as well, with lobsters with lobsters and a side package of sea vegetables. Yeah,

Natalie MacLean 30:39
yeah. All those meal prep companies that are fashionable. Okay, so what should we taste next?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 30:46
I think that we should probably. So you have a rosé though, right?

Natalie MacLean 30:51
I don’t have the rosé . But I have two more sparkling, I have your Riesling and Tidal Bay

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 30:57
So okay. Let’s try the Riesling.

Natalie MacLean 31:01
Okay. All right. Tell me about the Riesling

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 31:03
So I think if like I was maybe like summarise what’s most fascinating about like wine in general, it would probably be that ideal that a wine has a fundamental ability to tell the story of a very specific growing environment. And knowing kind of how unique ours is, there has to be a common denominator stamp, you know, that will be a common thread between all of our products. And that is a foundation of freshness. And I think the Riesling is also a great example of that. So in 2015, what you have is a Riesling that has all those vital traits right on the nose. So the petroleum, the white flowers, you know, a little bit of topicality. And then on the palate, kind of our specialty, which is that foundation of freshness though, you know, something kind of bright, very energetic, but combined with a tremendous amount of richness as well, and some substance and some structure. And that’s really the key. And that’s also, you know, the combination that is at the base, or the core of all of our traditional method sparkling. And I can explain a little bit how we can do that. As we were talking a little bit earlier about genetic maturity. What it does is it allows like when you can pick later in the season, after sugar content that is still moderate and an acidity level that is still you know, quite high almost unspoiled, what happens is there’s a fundamental difference between like those later harvest dates, you know, those parameters and the early harvest dates that those parameters because, let’s say in August, even if the sugar content is already high, the fruit is still a little bit green, because there are no substitute for time when it comes to the ripening of all the components of the berries, so the skins, the stems, the seeds, and we can pick with unspoiled acidity later in the season, but the stems are brown and dry and crunchy, and so are the seeds. And so it is the gateway to combining freshness and richness. Because in a warmer climate, the two are going to tend to go away from each other because as the ripening progresses, the sugar content goes up, but then the acidity personally go down so they go away from each other while in our growing environment because it is moderated by the unique dynamics of the Bay of Fundy, like the two have an ability to go hand in hand. And so we can actually, instead of like proposing the stereotypical crossroad between freshness and richness: that fork in the road, we can actually merge the two and have both. That Riesling reason is a great example of that as well as our  traditional method sparklings.

Natalie MacLean 33:51
Now, are you saying stems that dry out and seeds? Is that happening to yours or not?  shall be drying out in is that adding the richness that you’re talking about?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 34:01
Oh, yes, very much

Natalie MacLean 34:06
Its e drying out . Is that adding the richness that you’re talking about?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 34:09
Yes, because the acidity does not come like at the expense of maturity, we can have like an acidity that is still unspoiled but with a level of maturity and richness that is also very developed and very mature. So the two go hand in hand and can be merged as opposed to a warmer climates where as the ripeness progresses, the acidity plummets

Natalie MacLean 34:27
Right, and so to get one or the other it is a direct trade off,

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 34:28
yeah, freshness and richness, they go away from each other. And so ultimately, that will force like a choice often between one or the other. And that choice does exist you know, for consumers. And I believe that even the the liquor jurisdictions like have like, little kind of sensory guides right to help people decide what wine they’ll pick, and they’ll provide some information this is fresh and crisp or  this is rich and full. That is the stereotype like usually there is somewhat of a choice between one or the other. The beauty of the growing environment in Nova Scotia is that we actually have the power to combine those two sensory categories together. And that’s exactly what our sparklings do. Because on one hand, they will always be built on that foundation of freshness. So they will be always electric and vibrant and crisp, but then they’re also full, and they have lots of substance and structure. And so it’s what great. There are some examples of that. In Europe, like I think maybe Chablis can be a great example of combining freshness and richness at a high level . Champagnes – they also do that quite often.

Natalie MacLean 35:40
Yeah. All right.I still want to ask you more questions, but I want to also taste the wines that I have in front of me. Oh, and these said, how would you characterise this dry, medium, dry?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 35:51
Dry very much. And it’s not because there is no residual sugar. There is a little bit of residual sugar. But at the same time, from a sensory standpoint, that sugar does not show because the acidity is such that it does not show as perceptible sweetness.

Natalie MacLean 36:14
Yeah. Now it’s very fresh, very dry.

Natalie MacLean 36:14
Rochelle, Nova Scotia girl as well living here in Ottawa. Hi, Jean-Benoit. With all your great talent and knowledge, where do you see the future for wineries in Nova Scotia? It’s certainly an exciting time. So yeah. Talk to us about where Nova Scotia is heading. We know there’s more wineries, qualityis  going up,  all the usual press release stuff. But what is something we don’t know about? What’s happening with Nova Scotia wines, wineries?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 36:40
That is a great question. And oftentimes we get asked that question and as to like maybe do a little bit of a forecast on where the industry is going. Yeah, there are like two blueprints. And two examples of Canadian wine regions that not that long ago, were pretty small, you know, both in size and stature. And that was kind of the BC industry in the Okanagan area, and then the Ontario industry and the Niagara area. And so, is it possible to speculate, you know, that, you know, we will experience like a growth curve, you know, that will take us into that territory, right, that critical mass of wineries? Probably not, I doubt that we will see, you know, like 300 wineries, for example, like in Nova Scotia. Right now we’re at about 15, which is very small in comparison. But you said something, I believe in your intro like the little winery that could ; Well how about the little industry that could because oftentimes now like we are going to be featured, right, like in national events, like almost on par with those two regions, because there is something about Nova Scotia wine that is absolutely unique, there’s a sense of unity. And then there is a focus that is very, very different, perhaps from the very diverse offering right now like the very diverse, like stylistic explorations happening in both Niagara and BC in the Okanagan, we have that sense of alignment, where our terroir , our growing environment is not a jack of all trade growing environment, we could not do everything at a high level like in France, Champagne or Alsace. And a lot of wine regions have aligned their efforts, you know, like behind styles that are fundamentally compatible with a specialty or highly specialised growing  environment that they have. And there is a similar dynamic at play in Nova Scotia, which creates a situation where in terms of size, we are likely to remain rather modest in coming years, we’re going to remain rather modest compared to Niagara or the Okanagan in terms of critical mass. But in terms of recognition for a specific product, I would say the sky is the limit. And our ceiling is you know, as high as any other emerging, you know, excellent emerging or very promising emerging regions in the New World at large. Because there is that sense of alignment and a great example, you know, to maybe like segue into a tasting here is Tidal Bay.

Natalie MacLean 39:22
Yes, I thought that’s where you’re going. All right

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 39:24
You have a Tidal Bay  which is an appellation wine.

Natalie MacLean 39:25
What do you mean by that ? Appellation wine in this sense for Tidal Bay? Because this is unique

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 39:26
It is unique and out of the 15 wineries in Nova Scotia,  15 commercial wineries. 12 of them are making a Tidal Bay that is called  Tidal Bay. And so a little bit like a European appellation, like Sancerre. There’s a geographic element right to the equation. So the grapes has to come from Nova Scotia. And then there are also some technical guidelines that must be respected. So the blends for Tidal Bay must be made from specific varieties like so on and so forth. There’s an independent tasting panel that will try all the aspiring Tidal Bays to make sure that there is stylistic consistency. And so ultimately, the Tidal Bay is always a white wine. Always fresh, it’s always bright. There’s always like an aromatic quality that is very distinctive. And so all Tidal Bays are going to have that common denominator. So if you buy a Tidal Bay, although there will be variations from wineries, to wineries, just like you know, like if you were a Chevy and it goes from producer to producer, there can be some significant variations but it always tends to be within a range that is possible within the appellation. And so our appellation and Nova Scotia  is closer to the European model than it would be from VQA for example, that would be an appellation yes, but more like an all inclusive umbrella that can include different styles. Tidal Bay is a stylistic appellation, first and foremost. And ours is a very bright crisp lively nice aromatics. Good acidity for shellfish and lobster

Natalie MacLean 41:07
Absolutely all of it. Okay, I am cognizant of our time, which has just run away on us. But we’ve talked about the other two sparkling wines. Yeah, I also wanted to just mention this one, which looks like it’s been recently bottled, because we don’t have the fancy label here. But it’s the 2012 Brut. Tell me a little bit about this one.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 41:26
So what we wanted to do is we wanted you to be the very first to review some wines, right. And these are upcoming sparkling releases. So that you have the 11 reserve, you’ve got the 12 Brut. So the 12 Brut is a blend of 60% Chardonnay, 40%, Pinot Noir. And again, that’s fascinating combination of freshness and richness, which is hard to describe, but there’s an energy, there’s an electricity, there’s a brightness a liveliness to the wines, and at the same time, a tremendous amount of structure substance, you know, like power, length, and it’s those two poles merged in a very classic offering.

Natalie MacLean 42:07
So it’s like the ocean coming in. So you’ve got the froth in the Ocean Spray, the liveliness. And then you’ve got the dead calm of the ocean on a calm day. The depth, the richness.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 42:18
That’s right. I like the coastal analogy;  very fitting.

Natalie MacLean 42:22
Well. I’m a Nova Scotia girl, so I can’t help myself. ,

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 42:26
Are you? Oh,I didn’t know that.

Natalie MacLean 42:27
I am. My parents are from Cape Breton. What else do we have to? He asked us; he turned around the interview. I’ll just tell you briefly but my mom’s from the decades. Yeah, she’s from Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell made his home. And my dad’s from Mabou. He’s passed away. But all my cousins are down there and I grew up just outside of Halifax and lower Sackville. So I went to Mount St. Vincent University. I have relatives have gone to Acadia. Beautiful, beautiful University and area of course,

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 42:56
yeah, that’s great. There’s a fantastic restaurant in Baddeck, just outside Baddeck,  called the Bite House.

Natalie MacLean 43:03
I think my mom was telling me that,

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 43:05
yeah, about it. So I gotta get down there again. And so the family pilgrimage, yes.

Natalie MacLean 43:10
And we’ll stop in for lobster. I’m gonna bring all my cousins ; all 36 of them. Okay, so this is a gorgeous bubbly, but you know, tasting them side by side, as I’ve had the rare privilege to do tonight, going from the non vintage which has got that yeastie character now to this, lots of depth. And of course, to the 2011 Brut reserve, which has great long term aging potential. It’s really interesting to see what you’re doing with your sparkling wines, really impressive as well. Beverley  asked which of your white wines has less acidity: I would think all of your white wines pretty much have fairly good acidity.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 43:51
That is, in a way, much like, for example, if you if you take France, right, like, as a very diverse country, you know, that can yield some radically different styles. Depending on where you’re located. We are specialising in the styles that are fundamentally compatible with the growing environment that we have. So all of our wines are can have that, that stamp of like electricity, you know that they’re all going to have like an element of acidity to them. And that’s what makes them kind of unique and connected to the growing environment that we’re trying to showcase. So they have a tendency to say yeah, like most of our wines kind of have that energy, that brightness. But if I had to choose the one wine, perhaps that maybe would be a little bit softer, like Nova Seven;  because it does have all that that acidity, but also, you know, aromatics

Natalie MacLean 44:43
that soften the perception of the acidity. Yeah. Well, Jean-Benoit, well, I could talk another hour if my voice didn’t give out. And so we’ve covered a lot of ground. But what haven’t we covered? Is there anything we’ve left out that you’d like to mention as we sort of wrap things up here?

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 44:59
Yeah, well. There was a BB club member that joined. And so that’s a very good reminder that for those that are curious about what we do, and what we do on the edge, right, more kind of at the research level, we have a club, where we basically use the membership, not necessarily as guinea pigs, but like maceration wines, orange wines, like natural wines, petillant natural, all kinds of maybe like, more exploring, or exploratory efforts, right. They all go to a wine club for the VIP club. And so that’s the kind of a fascinating programme to stay current on, you know, what we’re working on. And you know, what we’re thinking and how we’re trying to, you know, kind of affect change. So that’s the fascinating programme to inquire on.

Natalie MacLean 45:45
And we’ll post some links so people know where to go to sign up for that club for the regular wine club and anything else and how we can reach Jerry and his seafood lobster recipe. We will hunt you down, Jerry.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 46:00
And yeah, the the non-vintage, the NV, the Benjamin bridge NV, I guess would be making its way across Canada this year. So also, it is fabulous. It is a year a reintroduction of the NV, and most Canadian provinces nicely are also starting, like we started this year, like opening our doors a little bit more as well. So we had a reputation of being open by appointment only. And so it’s still possible to make an appointment. But as of this year, we started welcoming visitors like on a drop in basis. That’s right. And so don’t assume that it is impossible to come visit Benjamin Bridge as of this year, it is actually a distinct possibility.

Natalie MacLean 46:43
Awesome. Well, Jean-Benoit, well, thank you so much for sharing with us all these terrific wines, your insights about Nova Scotia wines. We’ve learned a lot tonight about your vision but also Nova Scotia wines in general. So thank you, john, while I’m going to wrap it up with you now and I wish you good luck. I know you’ve just started harvesting grapes. So good luck with the harvest this year.

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 47:05
Thank you,Natalie, for having me. Alright.

Natalie MacLean 47:07
Terrific. Thank you so much.

Natalie MacLean 47:08
Take care. Bye. Bye.

Natalie MacLean 47:16
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Jean-Benoit Deslauriers. Here are my takeaways. I love Jean-Benoit’s story about being fascinated with wine and wine labels as a child. A force was with him very early, and I am fascinated with the Bay of Fundy especially having grown up in Nova Scotia myself. It has the highest tides in the world that rise and fall 17 metres or 55 feet, funnelling a 160 billion tonnes of seawater in and out of the bay twice a day. This has a profound effect on the surrounding vineyards, warming and cooling air streams that flow up through the vines, much like the lake does in Niagara. And I agree with Jean-Benoit, that Nova Seven is an incredible match for both Thai and Indian food. It has the flavour intensity and touch of sweetness that can handle the bold flavours and heat of those dishes. You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Melanie Young and David Ransom on their podcast, the Connected Table. The couple interviews those around the world whose work has helped to shape the food and beverage industry, such as chefs, artists and producers, vintners, distillers, authors, farmers, food and beverage industry thought leaders, and in this case, yours truly. In the meantime, if you miss my chat with Vikram Vich and Sean Nelson on episode 68, go back and take a listen and we take an even deeper dive into pairing wine with spicy dishes from Vigeous restaurant. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Unknown Speaker 49:02
Bone dry Rieslings can work really well in basic stuff like sparkling wine where you need to cut through that fattiness, the richness of fried foods or cream or anything heavy. And you have a wine that’s got a little bit of sweetness like this one does. You can play it off and things that have some chilli, have some extra spice have a little bit of each that needs taming. The best thing about this wine is that it’s not just about the sugar. It’s also about the acidity. It’s about how it balances itself. It walks this tightrope of sweetness and acidity that keeps it very, very fresh and very balanced. And a lot of people talk about Gewurztraminer as a pairing for spicy food. And while Gewurztraminer has one side of that tightrope, it has the sweetness, it has the aromatics, it doesn’t always have enough acidity to play off of that sweetness. So I generally find Riesling to be a better pair for more spicy dishes, more complexity and freshness than Gewurztraminer or other aromatic whites. This week.

Natalie MacLean 50:05
If you like this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who be interested in the wine tips that Jean-Benoit has shared. You can find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm. That recent tasting of wines paired with vegetarian dishes, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/102. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a Nova Scotia wine.

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. We’ll be here next week. Cheers

 

 

 

 

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