Nova Scotia bubbles are stealing the spotlight
It is really exciting to watch an emerging wine region come into its own. Nova Scotia is such a place, with only twenty-five years of commercial production history, though vines were cultivated as early as the 1600’s. The hallmark style of wine for me is sparkling, and while there is good to great still white wine being made, the traditional method sparkling wines really steal the show. The growing season for much of Nova Scotia and the Gasperau Valley tends to be shortened by a delayed spring, though the summer moves into a long fall season marked by cool nights which allows the grapes the necessary phenolic ripeness but preserves acidity. This creates the recipe for a fresh and elegant base wine intended for sparkling, with many producers focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as French-North American Hybrid L’Acadie.
For perspective, Chardonnay makes up only 7% of the province’s total plantings, Pinot Noir less than 5% and L’Acadie the most planted grape at around 24%. Nova Scotia traditional method veterans Benjamin Bridge are consistent over-performers which comes as no surprise given the talents of their winemaking team led by rockstar Jean-Benôit Deslauries, rising star assistant winemaker Alex Morozov, and consultation by Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling. Their proprietary vineyards are planted on the Gasperau Valley Slope which provides good air drainage (essential for frost threat days and preventing cold winter vine kill events) and gives their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir a boost in ripening.
Two other producers caught my attention with their exceptional sparklers; Lightfoot and Wolfville and Blomindon Estate. The former, considered a newcomer, may be more associated with graceful and world-class vinifera based still wines (their Cuvée Ancienne Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are spectacular), but their Blanc de Blancs is complex and elegant. Vineyard management and winery production is a family affair with a history of eight generations of farmers; Rachel Lightfoot is continuing the family business and helps manage the grapes as well as the livestock on their bucolic biodynamic farm located in view of the Minas basin.
Neighbouring Blomindon Estate got its start in the late 1980’s but sold its grapes to Jost Vineyards for the better part of two decades. After being bought and sold twice, the current owners (the Ramey family) brought on winemaker and Nova Scotia native Simon Rafuse in 2009. The recent accolades from Atlantic Canada Wine Awards, Decanter, WineAlign and the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for his traditional method bubbly are signposts of his talents.
Benjamin Bridge Estate Blanc de Blancs 2013 (price not available- sold out)
Beautiful relationship between fruit and reductive aromas- like a walk in a stone covered apple orchard, along with lemon curd and toasted bread notes. Briny and lemony palate, creamy mousse and superb length. A complete wine in every sense; drinking window now and well beyond.
Benjamin Bridge Blanc de Noirs 2011 (price not available- sold out)
Joyful fruit, red grapefruit and pomegranate, rhubarb. Vibrant acidity, like the pop of biting into a red currant balanced by toasted flavors; big palate presence but very in line, finishes bright and fresh.
Benjamin Bridge Blanc de Blancs 2004 $279.50 BB Wine Club Exclusive
Complex nose showing its eight years on the lees with fresh bakery aromas while smoky reduction gives the perception of minerals and sea spray. Elegant little bubbles, rich presence on the palate with expansive toasty flavor on the finish. A wine in its glory days.
Lightfoot and Wolfville Blanc de Blancs Brut 2014 $40
Shy nose shows candied citrus peel, a smokiness, and baker’s yeast. I predict the bouquet will expand and layer well as it ages. Well balanced wine on the palate, everything in its place. 12 g/l dosage, 12 g/l TA.
Lightfoot and Wolfville Small Lot Blanc de Blancs ‘Origine’ 2012 $50
Bone dry but balanced with lots of texture and an openness of the fruit; Dainty on the palate at 11% abv and no dosage. Focused finish, with a broad swath of lingering flavors- croissant, lemon preserve, smokiness. From the first Chardonnay vines to go in the ground on the L&W Home Vineyard and also the inaugural vintage for the winery.
Blomindon Estate Blanc de Blancs Brut 2010 $75
Disgorged in 2017 with a dosage of 8g/l. Very expressive aromas, brined stone fruits, fresh dough. The magic happens on the palate which nails the balance of creamy and fresh, broad and lithe. Inaugural vintage for traditional method sparkling.
Blomidon Estate Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserve 2011 $75
A nice follow up to the 2010, showing more brightness and lightness of being; slightly drier and lower abv at 7g/l and 11% abv. Pithy lemon and grapefruit, wood-fired bakery. Beautiful balance, complex and long finish. From the second disgorgement release.