Why Nova Scotia is making great strides in wine production
By Mel Priestley | October 12, 2021
Nova Scotia is the new Okanagan.
OK, not really. The wines of the Okanagan Valley have a serious head start over Nova Scotia’s vino, even though the latter was home to Canada’s first vineyard way back in the early 17th century.
Despite its early beginnings, Nova Scotia’s wine industry only took off recently. There are just under two dozen wineries here, mainly in the Annapolis and Gaspereau Valleys. In 2012, the Nova Scotia wine industry created its first appellation, Tidal Bay, which enforces rigorous quality standards.
Nova Scotia produces some of the best bubbly in Canada. Benjamin Bridge is the region’s pioneer sparkling wine house, producing a line of bubblies ranging from traditional method Brut Reserves to canned hipster wines like Piquette and Pet Nat.
“The Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve wines are comparable to Champagne,” says Jillian Fonteyne, general manager of The Butternut Tree. “We do get some pushback from guests who are very traditional with their wines, but we’ve found a happy medium with the Brut Reserve. It’s as close to Champagne as you can get in Canada.”
The Butternut Tree regularly lists several Nova Scotia wines on its all-Canadian wine menu, including a handful from Benjamin Bridge as well as Lightfoot and Wolfville, a newer organic and biodynamic winery. She said their guests are continually impressed by Nova Scotia’s wines.
“Everyone has been blown away, especially big wine drinkers who can see the quality,” she says. “The fun thing about having an all-Canadian wine list is that we get to introduce people to wines that they would never have chosen if they had more traditional choices.”
Only hardy, cool-climate grape varieties can thrive on Nova Scotia’s chilly, windswept coast. Most vineyards are planted with Chardonnay, Riesling and Vidal, as well as hybrid grapes like L’Acadie, DeChaunac and Seyval Blanc. There’s a little bit of Pinot Noir and other reds, and some rosé, but white wines and bubbly are king here.
Nova Scotia wines are renowned for their bracing acidity — this is what makes the area so good for sparkling wine. Grapes just barely ripen in the cool coastal climate, so all the wines have a vibrant streak of fresh acidity. They pair amazingly with food.
Other than The Butternut Tree, a few other Edmonton restaurants have listed Nova Scotia wines on their menu: The Marc, RGE RD and Sugar Bowl. You can also find them in local liquor stores, but inventory is often limited. When you do find one, grab it.
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