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…
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.
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.
New York Muscat
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.
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.
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.
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 (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)
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…