Whenever I speak at a wine event and bring up the term “terroir,” participants’ eyes glaze over. I quickly have to ask to pour them another glass of wine to keep the interest level up. As boring as wine-geek speak can be to the everyday wine drinker, terroir is very important when talking about Nova Scotia wines.
The factors that shape the land greatly influence wines made from locally grown grapes, by local winemakers. Soil, weather, elevation, proximity to water plus other factors that make up the terroir of a region give wine its unique character, and ability to draw people into the story behind the wine. Wine is not just a beverage to those of us who love it; it is a story in a glass. This is true in Nova Scotia, and evinced by the success of Nova Scotian wines.
According to statistics released by the NSLC, Nova Scotia wine sales are up a whopping 25 per cent so far this year. Compare that to two years ago when sales were up 22 per cent. This is well ahead of the rest of the wine category, which sees sales running about six per cent ahead of the previous year. These numbers can be explained by two things: a progressive move made by the NSLC in 2007 to cut the markup that it charges on local wines, versus others by 70 per cent; and improvements in quality and selection. Nova Scotia wines are doing well and we like them.
In 2012 the Winery Association of Nova Scotia launched a new (and its first) appellation wine called Tidal Bay. The rules around qualifying for a Tidal Bay wine are quite loose, but include the use of several approved grape varieties, a maximum alcohol level of 11.5 per cent, and a limit on the amount of grapes that can be harvested per acre. The NSLC and private stores have supported this initiative with displays and tastings that showcase these wines.
Eleven wineries released a Tidal Bay wine in May of this year. According to the outdated Tidalbay.ca website the wines show aromatic characteristics and crisp, off-dry flavours of expressive and vibrant fruit. Sounds delicious and a great match to our Nova Scotia seafood.
Most of these wines are still finding their stride, and calling Tidal Bay an appellation, like Burgundy or Bordeaux, is a stretch. I would say that Tidal Bay is more of a style. With all the winemakers having their own take and imprint on what makes a good Tidal Bay wine, there is a lot of variance in flavours, sweetness and acidity. It’s not that these aren’t delicious wines, but you will need to experiment to find the ones that you like the best, and which will pair well with your Nova Scotia seafood offering.
The best part of the Tidal Bay appellation may be the branding and recognition it has brought to Nova Scotia wines. The Globe and Mail did a feature on Nova Scotia wines in June, and you can now purchase Nova Scotia wines in limited quantities in Ontario.
But the way to find out is test them out. Put the wines in paper bags and taste them without knowing the brands and discover which are your favourites. Throw in some mussels and oysters and you have a fun evening of wine and food.
Or you can go straight to the source at the wineries around the province. It’s a great way to spend a fall day.
The under-$25 wine review
Gaspereau Vineyards Tidal Bay 2012
$21.99 NSLC and Private stores
This wine has a lovely floral and honeyed nose with a touch of baking spice. Refreshing apple and pear flavours and a touch of sweetness closing with a nice baked apple finish. Very drinkable and would be fantastic with some Nova Scotia raw oysters that are so good this time of the year. 88/100
Blomidon Estate Winery Tidal Bay 2012
$19.99 NSLC and Private stores
Slightly herbal on the nose with some floral character and wet stone. The sweetness hits your palate fairly quickly and the whole package is reminiscent of an off-dry German Riesling. Lots of fresh fruit characters here and a tasty finish. The sweetness demands a pairing with some spicy fried calamari. 86/100
Wente Sandstone Merlot, Livermore Valley
California, Bishop’s Cellar, $23.95
Medium-bodied and silky with a ripeness of flavour that leaves you looking for more grip. 90/100
Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
California, NSLC, $14.99
Good pedigree with the Robert Mondavi name behind it. Has nice brambly berries and stewed plums. 89/100
80–84: A great sipper, good value. 85–89: Won’t last long, great value.
90–94: Brag to your friends and buy a case—fantastic. 95–100: A classic, run to the store, extremely rare.