A Story To Tell
This story really begins a number of years ago, when members of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia began discussions focused on establishing a clearer identity for the region and its distinctive wines. This led to the establishment of wine standards intended to underpin the authenticity and integrity of the wines carrying the “Wines of Nova Scotia” logo. Though an important first step, much more needed to be done to establish a clear and distinctive regional identity.
Not long afterwards, Peter Gamble, Founding Director of Canada’s Vintners Quality Alliance, and subsequently a highly respected international winery consultant, began working on the development of Benjamin Bridge, then a new winery project in Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley. Armed with a wealth of experience in cool-climate winemaking, Gamble had undertaken an in-depth analysis of the region’s terroir to ascertain what varieties and styles could thrive best in local conditions. He had also tasted a wide range of local wines to familiarize himself with existing styles. At some point, Gamble was drawn into the broader discussions regarding the industry as a whole and it was he who hit upon the idea of creating a high quality, distinctive appellation that would be recognizably and uniquely Nova Scotian. Gamble proposed the concept of a “fresh, crisp, dryish, still white with a bright signature Nova Scotia aromatic component.” The idea was favourably received at the Winery Association of Nova Scotia vision session held in late 2009.
In 2010, an Appellation Implementation Committee of winemakers was set up with Gamble in the chair. The Committee was charged with finalizing winemaking standards, which were developed over the next several months. A concept document was produced and reviewed by the WANS Board on September 2 of that year, together with specifics such as permitted varietals, bottle type, price range and sample review process. On November 18, 2010, the WANS Board voted to accept a document entitled “New Appellation White Wine for Nova Scotia — Proposed Standards and Recommendations.” Thus was born the new appellation, which was christened with the evocative designation, “Tidal Bay.”
Key to the credibility of the appellation was the creation of strict new grape-growing and winemaking standards “on a par with the world’s toughest” and the creation of an independent tasting panel to assess all wines wishing to use the Tidal Bay designation. This five-person panel, consisting of wine journalists, educators, sommeliers and the Wine Category Manager for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, first met in 2011 to assess the initial 2010 vintage. I have the honour to sit on that panel, which recently completed its assessment of the 2012 vintage, the third Tidal Bay vintage released since inception.
Both the wineries and consumers have really rallied behind the project. Production and sales have expanded rapidly. This year, 10 wineries were successful in obtaining the “Tidal Bay” designation. The tasting panel is confident that properly made examples are achieving the stylistic objectives set out, and that the wineries producing Tidal Bay wines truly embody Nova Scotia’s distinctive regional strengths.
Tidal Bay 2012 – Some early releases of the vintage
Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay 2012 ($21.95)
Prominent floral aromatic character with grapefruit and overtones of green apple and pear. Fresh green fruit leads on the palate with a trace of lychee. Finishes a touch off-dry, with sweetness adroitly balanced by lively acidity and solid mineral grip. Note: not a finished sample, will likely improve from here.
Domaine de Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2012 ($19.39)
Seductive scents of honeysuckle and ripe peach lead into crisp stone fruit and ripe green apple flavours backed by refreshing acidity, drying mineral grip and a subtle off-dry finish.
Jost Vineyards Tidal Bay 2012 ($19.99)
Vividly aromatic floral perfume with fresh green apple and hints of exotic tropical fruit yield to lusciously fresh apple, peach and apricot flavours, well-modulated acidity and stony mineral offset by creamy texture with a delicate off-dry finish.
Gaspereau Vineyards Tidal Bay 2012 ($22)
Emphatic floral and stone fruit aromatics with citrus and green fruit notes showing up on the palate. Stony mineral and archetypal lively Nova Scotia acidity fill out the picture. Deftly balanced and harmonious throughout.
Luckett Vineyards Tidal Bay 2012 ($20)
Elegant floral scents with an array of green fruits on the nose. In the mouth, stone fruit themes are more apparent together with rounded, generous green fruit backed by crisp acidity and focused minerality. Polished and well balanced.
New Grapes Finding a Role in Nova Scotia
Cabernet Foch: The brainchild of Swiss grape breeder, Valentin Blattner, this cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Marechal Foch was planted in Nova Scotia not long after his visit in 2004. Domaine de
Grand Pré has now released a couple of vintages from this winter hardy grape that show real promise.
Petite Milo: Another Valentin Blattner cross, this very early ripening pink grape is well suited to maritime climates such as Nova Scotia’s. It offers good potential for making stylish aromatic wines and as a useful component for blending.
Marquette: A cross between two other hybrid grapes developed at the University of Minnesota especially for cooler climates, this grape has been planted elsewhere in Canada, most notably Quebec. Some Nova Scotia winemakers see it as having a future in their Province. Early days yet, though (first plantings were in 2012).
Traminette: Developed in Upper New York State, with one of its parents being Gewürztraminer, this grape offers disease resistance, winter hardiness and good productivity. Luckett Vineyards uses it as part of the blend in their signature Phone Box White.
Osceola Muscat: A variety developed in Minnesota showing remarkable similarities to vinifera Muscat, without the pungent character associated with New York Muscat. This one is also used by Luckett Vineyards as a promising blending component.
Chasselas: (Also known as Fendant in the Valais in Switzerland) Domaine de Grand Pré has planted 200 vines on an experimental basis. It is too soon to judge the long-term prospects as yet.
Vinifera varietals gaining ground:
Though no longer new to Nova Scotia, most local growers believed that viniferas could play only a marginal role in Nova Scotia viticulture. Nonetheless, several vinifera varieties are being more widely planted and are showing increasingly impressive results. Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Gamay are showing up more frequently in local wines, both as single variety wines and, especially, in traditional method sparkling wines. Riesling, in particular, shows signs of becoming a signature variety.
Photo credit: gLangille