Tasting Tidal Bay from a “Hot” Vintage
Nova Scotia grape growers experienced one of their hottest vintages in memory in 2020. This means that the wines should be riper and more full bodied than typical, and in some cases significantly so. While this might, in general, be great for red wines, fuller style whites, and vinifera grapes, it gets more complicated when you are trying to make traditional method sparkling wines and fresh, crisp, seafood friendly whites.
As all Canadian wine lovers should know by now, Tidal Bay is a unique appellation that was created for Nova Scotia wineries a decade ago. The appellation has changed the way people think about Nova Scotia wine. Tidal Bay wines are well promoted, and this has helped push consumers to pay over $20 for what are mostly white hybrid blends. That’s great for the industry as people just think of it as ‘Tidal Bay’, the sum of its parts, and most don’t care what grapes the wines are made from, as long as they are Nova Scotian.
Appellation rules on grape varieties, sweetness, acidity and alcohol level were designed to result in crisp, off-dry, aromatic white wine blends with good acidity. Wines that drink well on their own but also pair up nicely with food, especially the region’s seafood. A tasting panel is used to “police” the resulting wines, making sure they taste like Tidal Bay was intended.
The recent release of the 2020 vintage kicked off with a series of Zoom virtual tastings featuring the winemakers and hosted by Nova Scotia wine folks, done in groups of 2 or 3 wines at a time, on Friday afternoons during June and July.
Here are my five favourites tasted during the sessions:
Domaine de Grand Pré 2020 Tidal Bay
This is another classic example of Tidal Bay, pointing to Jürg Stutz’s precise winemaking. It has nice minerality and fresh acidity, given the vintage. Anchored on L’Acadie Blanc and filled out with Vidal, Ortega, and Seyval Blanc, with some New York Muscat for florality.
Blomidon Estate 2020 Tidal Bay
Winemaker Simon Rafuse described it as “rounder, with lower acidity and more aromatics,” but he also noted its distinct lime aroma and flavour. It is a bit off-dry, but has balancing acidity. L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and New York Muscat were his recipe for success in 2020.
Gaspereau Vineyards 2020 Tidal Bay
Gaspereau has made consistently good Tidal Bay wines since the appellation’s inception.
Gina Haverstick’s 2020 is laden with citrus, and has nice balance, but definitely feels softer than typical. It is mostly Vidal Blanc and Seyval Blanc, with aromatics from New York Muscat and Riesling, and also has a bit of Chardonnay.
Lightfoot & Wolfville 2020 Tidal Bay
Winemaker Josh Horton’s Tidal Bay has the floral notes expected, with lots of stone fruit and citrus. It’s fresh and quite dry, considering the residual sugar. Based on L’Acadie Blanc, Geisenheim, and Chardonnay.
Luckett Vineyards 2020 Tidal Bay
Head winemaker Mike Mainguy also used mostly L’Acadie Blanc, and quite a bit of Chardonnay, alongside Ortega and Seyval Blanc. He gets lots of fruit from the vintage, but it’s less floral than most of the others, probably due to using no Muscat. It also has a dry perception given the residual sugar, which seems an indicator of the warm vintage.
The warm 2020 vintage did not prevent winemakers from making good Tidal Bay wines, although they might be, on average, riper and rounder. This is all part of an appellation’s maturity, as everyone gradually learns the range of characteristics that will define Tidal Bay for the years to come.