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!