Blooming Gorgeous

Look sharp because you might miss it:  the unassuming and lacey floret about to blossom on the grapevine. The cherry and the apple are showy in their blossom; flowers bright like birds, perfumed like women. But the grapes require a keener observation. You’ve got to bow your back and bend your knees to see the delicate and neat design or inhale the subtle and prim aroma.

A LAcadie vine on the cusp of blooming into the unassuming white flower

A L’Acadie vine on the verge of blooming into the unassuming white flower

Why so little fuss from the grapevine? Perhaps because they are a solo, self-pollinating act – a hermaphrodite. The vines dress for no one but themselves.

The pre-blossom forms are ball-bearing sized, tight, green fists and often mistaken for miniature grapes; but soon the petal hats, called ‘calyptra’, will fall off to reveal the white flowers. Remember to shout ‘hallelujah’ to the dry weather we have had for the past week as heavy rain drops can imprison the calyptra and prevent the release of the flower. These don’t-give-a-tinker’s-curse-how-I-look flowers have both ‘bits’, the stamen and a carpel.  These organs will produce a seed, and around the seed will grow a protective, sweet and tangy, jelly capsule: our grape. What we press, swirl and guzzle is nothing more than the armour around the sacred seed.

Compared to European regions, we are relatively ‘late bloomers’; furthermore, we are about a week behind blossoming compared to last year. However, our vineyard manager, Marcel, says it is nothing to worry about as our variates are muscular heroes. This is also a time for predictions, as not every flower will pollinate we can determine what the yield will bring for the forthcoming harvest. Things are looking positive in Nova Scotia.

Cross your heart

Grapes have been known to become friendly with their neighbours

The famous bastard grape, Cabernet Sauvignon

The famous ‘bastard’ grape, Cabernet Sauvignon

too. A few hundred years ago a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Franc plant were living merrily side by side, when cross-pollination occurred: enter a Bordeaux hero, Cabernet Sauvignon. The same relationship flourished between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, creating the South African protagonist, Pinotage.

Marcel says there is always cross pollination in vineyards, but (and this is a good bit), the fruit will remain the same. The seed’s genetic imprint will change, but the grape will remain honourable to its roots.  If you were to plant the seeds of these grapes, who knows what kind of magic-crossed-potion would appear at harvest time.

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Can you dig it? Pruning grapevines in Nova Scotia

As the birds begin whistling and singing for spring, our friends the grapes are waking up from their long winter’s nap. Isn’t that just lovely? How delightful.

No. Not according to our vineyard manager, Marcel. It’s not lovely nor delightful because most of Nova Scotia’s vineyards haven’t started pruning yet.

Why not, you lazy slugs? Ah yes, because it LOOKS LIKE THIS…

Oh there you are grapevines. I htought you were just a load of magic wands dancing in quinoa

Oh there you are grapevines. I thought you were just a load of magic wands dancing in quinoa

Snow is no foe to our friend the grape. In fact, in Canada snow is the shawl around the shoulders of the vine, protecting them from bitter winds and ice.

But snow does hinder the intrepid pruner, blocking access to the vines and smothering the shoots like an overprotective snowmum.

Stay pruned folks!

It’s important to prune so that you get the maximum potential out of your plant. By removing last year’s wood you keep the vine young and rejuvenated, encouraging a consistent  healthy yield year after year.  Left to its own devices, fungus and bacteria can set in on the old wood; the vines get competitive with their neighbors and decrease the fruit produced.

Dormant yoga

When dormant, you can twirl and bend their ballerina elastic vine limbs into whatever position you like. The VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) method is usually used in Nova Scotia, where last year’s shoots and canes are stripped from the vine apart from two young shoots; these two will be flexed along the lowest trellising and become the new canes for next year’s growth.

Problems arise after nap time. Upon waking, the vines send sap through their joints that hardens like toffee, creating brittle shoots which can snap off in your hand like old starfish arms. Losing a shoot means losing half of that plants’ crop.

This has been an unusually snow-laden winter, with 15 foot snow drifts peeping in through people’s bedroom windows. All has been delayed until the snow subsides, but now the sap is telling us that pruning waits for no man. It’s time to take action.

First, Marcel clears the way.

Snow blowing the snow from between the vines.

Snow blowing from between the vines.

With the plough attached, the tractor clears between the vines. We humbly thank thee tractor.

We humbly thank thee tractor.

 

Eye of the storm.

Eye of the storm.

 

 

Grab the shovels. Dig it.

IMG_0723

Shelley, Richard and I grab the shovels.

Unveil the vine!

Unveil the vine!

Start pruning!

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After the vine has been dug out, Marcel begins the pruning. Look – he’s smiling!

It’s a lengthy, grafty process that is a race against the next snowfall. Each climate, world-wide, presents its challenges to the grower and this is one of Nova Scotia’s biggest difficulties. It’s the price we pay to play host to vineyards here, but also what gives a completely unique acidity and crispness to our wines. I know Marcel would never say this out loud, nor probably allow himself to whisper it in his head, or even indulge his subconscious in a brief, flirty moment – but he really wouldn’t want it any other way.

Top 10 Tips for Icewine Lovers

Not many people know this, but the benefits from drinking Icewine include glossy hair, increased endorphins, a good sense of humour, endurance, being 24% bullet proof, rhythm, the power of persuasion and an uncanny knack for foreign languages.

Or, at least, these feel like concrete facts whenever I’m drinking it.

Note the one word and capital letter of Icewine.  This signifies it is a Canadian product and made to the very strict standards of the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance). Labelled in other countries, such as Austria or the USA, as Ice Wine; or in the original German home, as Eiswein; the Canadian wine delicacy is made from frozen grapes harvested in temperatures between -8 and -14 to create an intense, mouth-quenching dessert wine.

What’s the method to this madness?

Water freezes before sugar and acid, so when frozen grapes are pressed the concentrated sugar and acid drips out before the water.  It’s like wringing out the gold from a trophy and fermenting it. The Vidal grape is the most common variatal used in Icewine, chosen for its thick skin and ability to sustain its shape over long periods of time.  It takes 3 consecutive nights at -8 or more for the grapes to be thoroughly frozen. Harvesting happens in the dead of night, so cold that people lose their fingers (not really, but Icewine deserves this kind of reputation).  The grapes are often pressed outside to let Mother Nature guard the arctic temp so the water doesn’t start sneaking into your honey nectar. The juice you receive is roughly 15% of what you would take from a press of regular grapes, which, asides from the painful labour, can explain the golden price tag.

Harvesting by night to keep the grapes frozen

Harvesting by night to keep the grapes frozen

Savour the flavour

Expect a firework of flavours: mango, butterscotch, lemon zest, honey, figs and green apple.  Many people assume the sweetness will take your mouth hostage in some sugar heist. But that cold climate electric acidity produces the perfect balance of sweet and sour. It’s tangtastic. Drool inducing, lip smacking, curling your tongue into origami.

Ask not what your Icewine can do for you, but what you can do for your Icewine

  1. Serve after dinner, well chilled. You only need fairy sips from a third of a normal glass of wine to experience true tongue-dancing happiness.
  2. There’s no cooler way to show up to a party then as the one who brought Icewine and blue cheese. A tangy cheese will complement the Icewine sweetness like yin to yang.

    Blue cheese is a great friend to Icewine

    Blue cheese is a great friend to Icewine

  3. Keep it in the door of
    your fridge and take a congratulatory swig every time you reach in to get your milk. The high sugar acts as a preservative which means Icewine will last as long as a jar mayonnaise.
  4. Add it to a bone-dry sparkling wine to create a honeyed richness.
  5. Roast halved apples or pears in Icewine at a high temperature for 45 minutes. Serve when fruit is caramelised, top with crème fraiche and drizzle with the pan juices.
  6. Simmer some mushrooms in Icewine for half an hour then add a shot of espresso for a seriously delicious pasta sauce. (Thank you Katie & Mateo!) See more recipes
  7. Cocktails!
The Cold Old Fashioned

1oz Canadian whisky

1oz Red Icewine

Splash of soda

Add cherries and orange slice

Lychee Chill

2oz Icewine

1oz lychee juice or nectar

Garnish with raspberries

 

Icewine Martini

1oz Icewine

1 ½ oz vodka

Splash of soda

1 frozen grape

 

  1. Drink it WITH your dessert.

Ever tried to serve a whopping, chunky red wine with your dessert? Next to the sweet flavours in your pudding, a beautiful Barolo turns into vinegar. Then some caffeine-fiddler guest asks for a coffee, then everyone wants a coffee, then it’s getting late, thanks for everything… party over. The tangy sugar content of Icewine will stand up to your dessert and complement the flavours like lime to a gin and tonic. Then your party is just beginning.

  1. Drink it on birthday mornings with strawberries. Flip, make it your family Crimbo tradition.
  2. Prices of Icewine have rocketed in the last ten years, due to the fame and success of the Okanagan and Niagara. Nova Scotia, being the new-kid-on-the-block, is producing award-winning Icewine at a portion of the price. Snap it up! Show it off! Drink it up!

Nova Scotia Icewine Festival 2015

Jan 31st/Feb 1st and Feb 7th/Feb 8th

@ Grande Pre Winery. Get your tickets here 

Whallops of events to get involved in, including Icewine dinners at Luckett Vineyards .

 

Get down on your knees and pick.

A commonly asked question out on the vineyard is ‘why do your grapes grow so low?’. The type of vine training and the positioning of your grapes on the trellis depends on your location.

Have I mentioned Nova Scotia is cool? Cool climate, yes. This means that we grow the grapes on the lowest trellising, close to the ground, like stockings hung on a low mantlepiece. It’s warmer down there at night, encouraging the grapes to ripen even when the sun goes down. This also allows a large feathery canopy of leaves for photosynthesis, like a great ostrich bottom turned up to the sun with its cracked, spindly trunk-like neck stuck into the ground.

We grow the grapes close to the ground, keeping a grand feathery leaf canapy.

We grow the grapes close to the ground, keeping a grand feathery leaf canopy…

 

...much like an ostrich.

…looking much like an ostrich.

 

So for the fingerpicking grape pickers it means you pluck upon your knees. Or, as some of the whistling old boys do, you sit on a bucket to save your joints from creaking like graveyard gates.

Who's that? Why, it's the lovely Amelia!

Praise the grapes! Who’s that kneeling at the alter? Why, it’s the lovely Amelia!

Trellising is usually constructed of metal or wooden posts with wire supporting the vines upright. Although there are a cajillion different ways of setting up your trellising,  the main objective, like a cruise-ship sun lounger, is always to assist in sunbathing.

'Basket' trellising in Greece to protect the grapes from harsh winds

‘Basket’ vine training in Greece to protect the grapes from harsh winds

How does your garden grow?

Beaujolais will often use the ‘Gobelet’ method, attaching the vine to a stake and letting them grow freely; in Germany they will use the ‘Mosel Arch’, bending the canes into the shape of a heart and giving the appearance of a tree; in Greece they will protect the grapes from harsh winds by growing the fruit inside basket-like vines, cleverly called ‘Basket’ vine training.

We use the most common method, VSP (Verticle Shoot Position), meaning the vines grow skywards, and the fruit grow below the canopy. An ideal balanced structure would be 1/4 fruit and 3/4 leaf, leaving enough space for light and air around each bunch. As well as keeping the grapes warm, this method saves time on leaf and shoot thinning, as the grapes aren’t hidden in the shadows of the leaves. That’s why they’re low. Not, as some ray-of-sunshine remarked, because the Lucketts of Luckett Vineyards are notoriously short. No.

Being so exposed in a sizzlier climate could risk the grapes getting sunburnt, but there’s not much risk of that here. Have I mentioned it’s a cool climate here? It is, yes.

Now we’ve picked the grapes… what happens next?

Stay tuned you winos, you.

Ta da! Stripped.

Ta da! Stripped.

 

Sugar, sugar.

Out with our restaurant patio furniture! In with the grape crusher!  The grapes are wrapped up like presents in bird-defending netting, pruners razor sharp, staff giddy. We hold our breath…

Birdies back off. Leon Millot vines wrapped up in protective netting.

Birdies back off. Leon Millot vines wrapped up in protective netting.

Luckett Vineyard's 'Crush Pad Bistro' reveals its true identity. Gone with the dining furniture!

Luckett Vineyard’s ‘Crush Pad Bistro’ reverts to its name sake. Patio furniture removed. Crusher moved in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are we waiting for?  Sugar. This measurement of sugar content in grapes is referred to as ‘brix.’. The winemaker waits for the goldilocks moment when the brix are ‘just right’. Picking too early can result in green and vegetal notes in the grapes; if the grapes are left for too long you run the risk of rot, split fruit from rain, burnt flavours from too much sun, and a battle of the birds. It’s cut throat timing.

Brix levels vary depending on the varietal of grape and regional climate. For example, a chunky Californian Cab Sauv could have brix as high as 27, whereas the same varietal grown in Bordeaux may be picked at 23. Cool (in both senses) Nova Scotia brix levels have a legal minimum level of 15 and usually rise to a maximum of 22.

There are three ways to test ripeness in your grapes.

1. Taste them.

This can be tricky, but here’s how we do it at Luckett’s:

Taste the grapes to check the sugar. Here'show you do it.

Taste the grapes to check the sugar. Do it like this.

2. Look at them.

Impress your friends with your Sherlock power of deduction skills by following these quick and easy clues.

Do the grape skins look ripe in colour?

No → leave them a bit longer then.

Yes → brill.

Look at the seeds:

Green seeds → need more time.

Brown seeds → brill.

 3. Bring out the refractometer.

In real language this is called The Sugar-Reading Thing. See below for a step-by-step guide.

IMG_0619

1. Pick a random selection of grapes from a single varietal lot.

2.Mash up the grapes and cover the refractometer slide with the juice.

2. Mash up the grapes and cover the refractometer slide with the juice.

Look inside the lense!

3. Look inside the lense!

IMG_0621

4. Step inside the eye of a refractometer: the sugar level is shown on the left side.

Theoretically, to get an alcohol measurement you multiply the brix number by 0.55. The reading above was taken a few weeks ago from our L’acadie grapes, as of today these grapes are at 19 –  we’ll ideally pick at 20. Are you sitting comfortably boys and girls? The harvest story is about to begin…

Tuesday Night Tastings – sound the trumpets!

Here’s a lovely thing to be part of: a budding, blooming wine region.

It means you can sip and sup and sing over a bottle in a restaurant and compliment the wine maker yourself.  It means people are passionate about vintage variation because they were there in that year and they remember the weather and how it affected growth. It means you can overhear two youngsters having a heated argument over vine tucking techniques. It means you are saluted by waving vine limbs on your journey to work.  It means …Tuesday Night Tastings.

TNT

Tuesday Night Tastings (TNT) are a monthly get-together of all the folks in the trade. A different winery plays host to the each event, with all the attending vineyards contributing a bottle to a particular theme: L’acadie, blended reds, Tidal Bay etc. The wines are tried, tasted, talked about, twittered and tap danced over. It’s an eve of ‘meet your maker’, of ‘who’s who’, an amalgamation of those in the trade and an insight as to what’s going on around you. I tip my hat to Susan-the-doer from Avondale Sky Winery for whipping the vineyards into shape and making it happen.

A tour before tasting. John shows us the cellar of his newly opened Planter's Ridge.

A tour before tasting. John shows us the cellar of his and Lisa’s newly opened Planter’s Ridge.

Last week’s theme: vinifera! (I added the exclamation mark).

Venue: new-kid-on-the-block Planter’s Ridge, owned by Ontarians John McLarty and Lisa Law.

The drastic seasonal climate variations means that the common European grape variatals (vitis vinifera) are difficult to grow here. The unsung hybrid grape variatals are more commonly planted for their brutish ability to endure the winters and for their frost-dodging early ripening skills (see previous blog ‘Who are these guys, anyway?’). But it’s play time here in Nova Scotia and vineyards are experimenting with a plethora of variatals like gleeful mad scientists in laboratories.

There is no better person to take to a social wine event than my Auntie Barb, the woman who invented the term ‘a splashette of wine’. We were over the moon to welcome a new winery to the region and to taste through varietals which may be a premonition into the Nova Scotia wine future.

 

A 7 course menu

A 7 course menu. An insight into the future Nova Scotia grape varietals?

 

The menu, ladies and gents

Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013

An insy production of just 2500 bottles from some 13 year old vines.  They slogged for a very low yield and froze a portion of the grapes to intensify the flavours. Unlike any other Sauvignon I’ve ever tried, a gorgeous rich marmalade nose that tasted like a sherbet lemon.

 

Blomidon Chardonnay 2013

Hurrah for Chardonnay! Only produced in good years , this  unoaked fresh number spent five months on its lees to add a little creaminess.  Rumour has it their 2010 Reserve oaked Chardonnay gave Burgundy a run for their money.

 

Grand Pre Riesling 2013

A tongue slapping Granny Smith apple from their 14 year old vines. It’s no surprise that this just won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nova Scotia wines.

 

Avondale Sky Gewürztraminer/Riesling 2012

Lychee and honey and all things pretty. This blend has some popularity across Canada.

Avondale Sky Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir 2013

Harvesting only a smidg of Pinot Noir grapes, they quickly removed the skins from the pressed juice to make this white wine from the red grape.  Very exciting.

Planter’s Ridge Riesling 2013

Straight out of the tank! A peep show of their unreleased cold fermented Riesling.  Just 300 cases made from the small crop they took from their three year old vines. A white pepper nose and dandelions (Auntie Barb said that).

 

Luckett Vineyards Riesling Icewine 2013

It’s like drinking a trophy made from golden lemons. Harvested in Decemeber last year by local grower John Warner and put into action by our Mike. It’s an after dinner heart breaker.

Who are these guys, anyway?

Nova Scotian wine uncorked

Nova Scotia grape varietals. Discuss.

Nova Scotia plays host to a wealth of French and German expat grapes, which are as unfamiliar to the non-wine-Einstein as are the  50 names of snow to the non-Inuit. With brutish winters and a short (but glorious) growing season, the grapes have to be hardy and swift workers.

Most at home in these lush valleys and Bay of Fundy breezes are white varietals. The cooler temperatures create mouth watering acidity with plump aromatic bodies. As a result of the delicate tannin, the red varietals are light to medium bodied, fruit driven with silky smooth texture.

Without further ado…

The whites

L’Acadie Blanc (LA-ka-dee)

L’Acadie is the lead character in our Nova Scotia novel. It’s the type of grape that starts doing yoga moves at a party or cartwheels in the garden after you’ve introduced it to your parents. It’s versatile and eager to please, a piece of putty at the whim of its wine maker. Green apple crisp in its birthday suit, but can lend itself to a traditional method sparkling, malolactic fermentation, sur lie, early or late harvesting, a high or low alcohol, oak barrels or steel tanks, listens to country and experimental jazz.

L'Acadie at a party

L’Acadie at a party

It arrived in Nova Scotia as a Canadian hybrid from Ontario, nee V.53261. After abandoning its original home and more comfortably settling here, it seemed appropriate to rename it after the original settlers: the 17th century French Acadians.

As well as being a ‘wine-maker’s grape’, it also pleases the vineyard manager by its winter hardiness, resistance to bunch rot, upright growth and as good as hands you a pair of pruners, shouting ‘me! me! me!’ come harvest time.

L'acadie 2010 from Blomidon  Estate Winery

L’Acadie 2010 from Blomidon Estate Winery

New York Muscat

image

Lou Reed

image

Bouquet of flowers

 

A true New York cool (climate) cat. Lou Reed with a bouquet of flowers. Muscat is usually associated with sweet desert wines, but Nova Scotia creates dry, aromatic whites with a nosefull of rose petals and jasmine.

It can be a little fussy in the vineyard, with some pernickety and irregular yields – but the rosy-cheek hue on the grape wins you over. Although developed in New York, it is a cross of Hamburg and Ontario Muscat.

As opposed to gymnast L’Acadie, this grape is usually left to waft into the room on its own fragrant merit. Minimal fuss vinification with stainless steel tanks to complement the ‘peaches and cream’ Nova Scotia treat.

Vidal Blanc (vee-DAL)

Nature’s nectar, a wine-god gift. Most commonly used for Icewine* all across Canada, due to its rhino skin which has no fear of the winter frost. Cast an eye over the family tree and you’ll see Vidal is the love child of Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc) and Rayon d’Or.

*Icewine? What the?! A blog to follow, but for a quick fix click here.

Vidal grapes left on the vine to make Icewine

Vidal grapes left on the vine to make Icewine

Seyval Blanc 2006 from Domaine de Grand Pre
Seyval Blanc 2006 from Domaine de Grand Pre

Seyval Blanc (say-VAL)

Grapefruit, lemon and lime with mineral zing and zang. Most commonly unoaked here in NovaScotia, but has plenty of potential for a buttery, burgundian slap on the bottom. Cousin to our dear Vidal, with Rayon d’Or and Seibel as parents. Also commonly seen in the garden of England.

 

 

 

 

The Reds

 

Maréchal Foch (MAH-re-shall fosh or foshe)

Just ‘Foch’ to his friends. Originally a Loire valley grape, but now more commonly grown in Canada and New York. Named after WW1 French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, who must have had an admirer in the breeder of this grape, Eugene Kulmann.

This is the kind of photo that demands a grape being named after you: Marshal Ferdinand Foch.

This is the kind of photo that demands a grape being named after you: Marshal Ferdinand Foch.

It loses no sleep over minus temperatures and brutish winters, and luckily for Nova Scotia usually ripens at the end of September.

A true chunky nose, game pie with blueberries and cherries. Its dextrous ability to complement carbonic maceration has made it comparable to Beaujolais grape, Gamay, or in its more inky-black form, Pinot Noir.

 

Lucie Kuhlmann 2010 by Gaspereau Vineyards

Lucie Kuhlmann 2010 by Gaspereau Vineyards

Lucie Kuhlmann (LOO-see KULL-men)

Taking its name from the daughter of hybridizer* Eugene Kulmann, Lucie is here to add a little fruitiness to Nova Scotia. She’s a bellyful of berry: cranberry, blackberry, blueberry and strawberry. Combined with oak, it can be spicy and smoky little number and unlike Foch or Leon Millot, it doesn’t have any green pepper or gamey notes.

*That’s a real word.

Mike, Luckett Vineyards’ wine maker,  likes to do a little Italian job appassiemento on her. This is partially drying the grapes before fermenting to create a concentration of flavours, which turns Lucie into stewed plums and prunes.

Marcel, our vineyard manager loves her for her reliability from year in year. ‘Consistency is key,’ he says.

Leon Millot (LEE-on MEE-low)

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Leon Millot 2012 from Luckett Vineyards

Usually soft and velvety in texture, Leon Millot is often likened to Pinot Noir. A sister seedling to Marachel Foch, this grape is all purple fruit and chocolate with a little savoury bell pepper at the back of the tongue.

Its old hangout was Northern France Alsace, but is now at home in parts of the USA and Canada. We salute it for its early September ripening and resistance to fungal disease.

Now get trying them…

Get trying those Nova Scotia grapes!

Get trying those Nova Scotia grapes!

 

 

The Tale of Tidal Bay

clapping audience

Ladies and gentlemen,

please welcome

Tidal Bay

to the stage

 

For all you zingy, zippy white lovers, you will be pleased to hear of a new member. In 2010 Nova Scotia formed its own wine appellation under the name of Tidal Bay; currently there are 10 different wineries producing under this regional name.

The unusual suspects - a line up of up and coming wine region, Tidal Bay

The unusual suspects – a line up of up and coming wine region, Tidal Bay

 

Appellation explanation?

A brief summary for those unfamiliar with this term

Short for the French mouthful ‘appellation d’origine contrôlée’. Like most French winey things, it all comes down to terroir*.  terroir = land personality, a personality formed by a number of influences, including micro and macro climates, soil, topography, degree/seasonal days. These characteristics will have a gigantic flavour impact on any product grown there, so the French salute the land more so than the grapes. Essentially, grapes are the vessel to transport the flavour of the land into your glass.

*“It’s like defining something like religion or art with a few generalized sentences.” Mike the wine maker on terroir.

Certain grapes, viticulture and wine-making methods will complement the terroir more than others, these specifics then become the ‘rules’ of this appellation. For example, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc complements the Sancerre territory, so that is the grape and style used.

The Sancerre appellation - famous for unoaked Sauvignon Blanc

The Sancerre appellation – famous for unoaked Sauvignon Blanc

Whether people are aware of the term ‘appellation’, the recognisable name on a bottle means people feel comfortable with what to expect: a Rioja is usually a smoky, fruity, red; Chablis is a crisp, flinty white; Port is a fortified wine etc.

Take Champagne, the much ballyhooed and most famous of appellations. Champagne’s cool climate and chalky soils are ideal for Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Chardonnay. Producers can use one or a combination of the three grapes and make it in the traditional method. Whether you are familiar with the details of its production, most people will be aware that it is a sparkling wine, usually white. You won’t see the grapes or method written on the label, as these are the only grapes and method that are used.

Back to our story

The vineyards gulp in the breezes from The Bay of Fundy, which claims the highest tides in the world: two high and two low tides every day. A postcard of this valley scene can vary from snaky bulging rivers to mud-slide-slim abandoned river banks twice daily. And thus the appellation takes its name.

The Bay of Fundy claims the highest tides in the world, creating river banks to empty and refill twice a day

The Bay of Fundy claims the highest tides in the world, causing river banks to empty and refill twice a day

A man walks into a bar and asks for a

Tidal Bay…

What can he expect?

Benjamin Bridge's Tidal Bay

Benjamin Bridge’s Tidal Bay

A crisp, fragrant white: peach, pear, green plum. Rose, lychee and grapefruit, with a hint of honey on the sides of your tongue. ‘Fresh as the Fundy,’ as they say (well, not yet. But let’s spread it).

Seafood, seafood, seafood! The perfect pairing.

All the grapes must be Nova Scotia grown in the slate, sandstone and clay soils, and the majority of the blend should come from one or a combo of these four pioneers:

L’acadie

Vidal

Seyval Blanc

Geisenheim

(a chapter on Nova Scotian grape varietals to follow soon) The blend can be added to by a whole other party of grapes, including: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Siegerebe, Chasselas and more. See list of grapes and wine geek details here.

Steely fresh!

Tidal Bays are normally fermented in stainless steel tanks to promote the natural flavours of land and grape. However, if the wine maker wishes to oak this may be in no more than 20% new oak barriques and cannot steal the thunder from the main act. The same applies to malolactic fermentation . This is a Monday to Thursday friendly wine, as the alcohol cannot range higher than 11%, with a minimum of 9.5%. All of these limits are set so the wine reflects the terroir, not just the tastes of its maker.

In order to be sold under the appellation name of Tidal Bay, the wine is

The wine is blind tasted first by a panel of wine judges

The wine is blind tasted first by a panel of wine judges

blind tasted by a panel of judges chosen from the best Atlantic Canadian wine professionals. Our Mike says, “It is a fun project for the winemakers and growers to produce a regional style of wine, that shows terroir and varietal driven typicity, while at the same time reflecting the subtle differences individual blending can have on a finished wine … Ultimately the whole appellation project is to promote the utmost high quality in winemaking and growing, the unique regional terroir, and the grapes and wines that consistently thrive in our little corner of the world.”  

As of yet, there is too small a production of Tidal Bay for exportation. Nevertheless, this is an appellation to keep your eye on, as each year development is picking up pace and moving from trot to gallop. Have no patience? Eager beaver? Come and get it! It’s flippin’ BEAUTIFUL here!

grandpre

Grand Pre. Proof – it’s flippin’ BEAUTIFUL here!

 

Nova Scotian wine, anyone?

What are they up to on those vineyards?

Here goes one full circle on the vineyard ferris wheel. After 18 months of working in wine retail (where?  here), hosting masterclass tastings, managing margins and staff, merchandising and marketing,  it’s time to swap the city-wine-grind- life for a Nova Scotian-vineyard-heist. With very little export creeping out of Nova Scotia, here’s a wine region ripe for a little exposure. From June 2014 – 2015 I’ll document the weekly nitty gritty details of vineyard and winery, shine some light on the unfamiliar Canadian wine industry and spill all I learn and swill over this page.

Here...

There…

 

... to here.

… to here.

From this…

 

...to this.

…to this.

Where the..?

canada unfiltered

For the geographically challenged Nova Scotia is on the very east coast of Canada – so nearly an island apart from a small strip which attaches a shoulder to the mainland. Taking advantage of the coastal breezes, clay and limestone soil, steadfast summer sun, wine making has sneakily been unfolding for the past 25 years. Specialising in snappy, aromatic whites and sparklings, fruity and spicy medium-bodied reds and, nature’s nectar, Icewine. The majority of vineyards are situated within calling distance of The Bay of Fundy in the lush Annapolis Valley.

NS unfiltered

My home for the next year is Luckett Vineyards , a 100 acre (40 hectars) farm ontop of Grande Pre hill. It overlooks the emerald green Gaspereau valley with The Bay of Fundy as the scenic backdrop. The first vines were whimsically planted 12 years ago, by my father Pete. The whim was a winner; a winery was built in 2010 to turn those grapes into wine. The rest is history in the making…

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Introduction of this tale’s heroes

Enter protagonists.

Marcel - The Vineyard Manager

Marcel – The Vineyard Manager

Marcel: Vine-keeper, key-bearer of the 100 acre farm, harvest hunter. After learning his trade in homeland Switzerland, he emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1997 and has been the farm manager at Luckett Vineyards since 2006.

 

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Mike - The Winemaker

Mike – The Winemaker

Mike: grape whisperer, fermentation guru, barrel tickler. Taken captive from the Niagara wine trade and used to our benefit, he’s been the wine maker since 2011. You’ll recognise him by the ever-present pencil tucked behind his ear.

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The grapes: Nova Scotian varietals are winter-warriors and quick sun bathers. Grapes need to be able to cope with the raw bitter winters and lap up as much sun as possible in the short growing season; the majority of these are hybrids* with unfamiliar names: L’acadie, Leon Millot, Castel. Vinifera* is becoming more popular and vintners are boasting success with Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.

*what the flip are hybrid and vinifera grapes? click here

Bloomin’ gorgeous

A L'acadie vine - just heading into bloom

A L’acadie vine – just heading into bloom

Setting: Present day. Spring has arrived on the backs of wild honey bees and the sun shines over the first limey-leaves on the grapevine. Our grapes are just heading into their bloom after a 5-month cruel winter and wet-spring start. Crossed fingers they catch up on their sunbathing.

Up-heave ho!

It’s tough out on the vineyard. For real. Our reliable steed, the red tractor, spends a lot of time heading up and down the vine rows with different contraptions on its back. The weight of the machine turns the earth into a hardened rock cake, making it hard for roots and worms alike to move around. Every June, Marcel begins the process of ‘ripping’. Two spade-like metal arrows attached to the back of the tractor slice in between each row, lifting the earth a little and letting the air in. This also creates little gutters for water drainage.

Ripping - Aerating between each row.

Ripping – aerating between each row.

The angel’s share

The 'angel's share'

The ‘angel’s share’

Meanwhile, at the winery, Mike can be found in the barrel-cellar room. After fermentation, many of our wines are aged in oak barrels up to 12 months to add some vanilla and spice to the aroma, and a little more complexity to the taste (more oaking trivia to come in a future blog). Although the barrels are filled to the brim, throughout the year a small portion of the wine evaporates into the air and some soaks into the wood. This is referred to as the ‘angel’s share’. A couple of times a year, Mike siphons from the top barrel into the bottom of the stack. It looks a little like a blood transfusion. One stainless steel tank of each wine is set aside to replace what the angel’s took from the top barrels.

Stay tuned folks!

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