Going With The Tide
In June 2008 I was invited to give the keynote address at the Atlantic Canada Wine Symposium in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. In my concluding remarks I suggested that the winemakers of the Annapolis and Gaspereau Valleys should have T-shirts made, emblazoned with the legend, “Embrace Acidity.”
No other wine region of Canada has a more perfect wine style to match the local produce: think lobster, crab, oysters, scallops and salmon. What better marriage than Nova Scotia’s crisply dry white wines? The current logo for the province’s wines, incidentally, is a lobster claw holding a glass of wine; this is about to be changed since consumers “from away” are not quite sure if it’s a monster holding the glass or what.
My introduction to the wines of Nova Scotia was in 1982 when I was researching the first edition of my book, Vintage Canada. There was only one boutique winery in Wolfville then, Grand Pré Wines. Roger Dial, who cut his winemaking teeth at Davis Bynum in Sonoma, started it in 1979.
For his red wines Roger got two Russian Vitis amurensis varieties — Michurinetz and Severnyi — from the Summerland Agricultural Research Station in BC. From the Horticultural Research Institute in Ontario he obtained an experimental white French-American hybrid that was simply known as V-53261. In homage to the province’s history, Roger dignified it with the name of l’Acadie Blanc — the grape that is the first to ripen in Nova Scotia’s vineyards and the one that would become the signature white variety for the province.
At the Canadian Wine Awards in Halifax this past August I tasted a 1985 l’Acadie Blanc Roger Dial made 26 years ago. When I pulled the cork there was a solid disc of tartrates in the neck that had to be pierced before the wine would flow. This fortuitous plug of tartrates had kept the wine remarkably fresh and lively. It reminded me of an old Chenin Blanc. (In 2008, I tasted Roger Dial’s Cuvée d’Amur 1983, vinified from Michurinetz, which tasted like a noble old claret. He really knew how to make wines that last. Pity we lost him to real estate.)
Today, l’Acadie is generally the major constituent of a newly designated blend called Tidal Bay. Initiated for the 2010 vintage, a Tidal Bay wine is currently being produced by seven Nova Scotia wineries and, no doubt, more will jump on the bandwagon for this year’s harvest. There is no single recipe for wines under the Tidal Bay label but there are certain guidelines that must be followed. The wine cannot be more than 11 per cent alcohol; it must have a maximum of 20 grams per litre residual sugar and a minimum of eight grams per litre acidity. There are three categories of grape varieties permitted with only up to 15 per cent of aromatic varieties such as New York Muscat and Ortega allowed.
To give you an idea of the range of blends, Petite Rivière Tidal Bay is a mix of Seyval Blanc, l’Acadie Blanc “and some Chardonnay.” Domaine de Grand Pré is Seyval, Vidal, l’Acadie Blanc, Muscat and Ortega. Avondale Sky is l’Acadie Blanc and Giesenheim 318. Blomidon Estate is l’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and New York Muscat, while Gaspereau Vineyards uses Seyval, Vidal, New York Muscat and Geisenheim 318.
Naturally, there are a variety of flavours under this label (it’s not like choosing unoaked Chardonnay where the flavour profile is quite narrow). The best I tasted were Benjamin Bridge Vero Tidal Bay and Gaspereau Vineyards Tidal Bay. This concept is the nearest that Nova Scotia has come to instituting an appellation system. It’s a really good start.