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The tide is high

Led by the Tidal Bay appellation, Nova Scotian wines are on the rise

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Danny co-owns Innovative Beverages, is an importer of fine wines and is a CAPSAC-certified sommelier. Photo: Tammy Fancy

Danny co-owns Innovative Beverages, is an importer of fine wines and is a CAPSAC-certified sommelier. Photo: Tammy Fancy

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Halifax launch for the 2014 Tidal Bay wines. What a pleasure it was to see another jump in quality, along with the stylistic growth of these wines since their launch in 2011.

I tasted 11 of the 12 wines, and representatives from each winery poured the glasses. The common thread in all these wines is the mouth-watering acidity that allows them to shine when paired with Nova Scotia seafood.

There’s a wide range of flavour and sweetness profiles across the 12 wines. You may have to try a few to find one that suits you, which is half the fun.

They were pouring other interesting wines, too, such as an amazing Riesling from Gaspereau Vineyards, and a delicious Cabernet Franc Rosé from Benjamin Bridge.

The featured speaker at the event was Tony Aspler. Based in Toronto, he’s one of the top wine experts in Canada. He discussed the history of wine in Nova Scotia, from the early days of pioneer Roger Dial growing hybrid grapes at Grand Pré Winery in the early 1980s to today’s production of world-class sparkling wine, all happening an hour from Halifax.

It’s time to celebrate and embrace the quality of wines made in Nova Scotia. But we are so young in the scheme of most wine-producing countries. Questions still linger: Can the famous vinifera grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive here long-term? Can we ever make world-class red wine in our colder climate?

So as we continue to grow and embrace quality wine made in Nova Scotia, let’s take a look at what’s happening in the other two important wine regions in Canada.

British Columbia. Unlike the Nova Scotian wine regions, my most distinct impression after visiting Okanagan wine country two years ago was the underlying current of money. Lakefront and mountain top wineries, with beautiful tasting rooms and five-star restaurants, dot the B.C. interior.

This is truly a wine destination, and a study in the way to grow wine tourism here. The growth has increased with lots of Vancouver and Calgary wealth finding its way to this scenic region. There are also mild winters, a dry climate and long warm summers, with much more sun than we are used to in rainy N.S.

B.C. residents have embraced their wine culture with the market share of local wines at over 20 per cent. With 192 wineries, the industry has exploded, and so has the quality of both white and red wines. They grow over 75 grape varieties. Unfortunately, by the time a very few of these wines reach N.S., the majority of them are well north of our desired under $25 price point.

Ontario. The Ontario wine industry spreads across the southern part of the province in three regions. With over 180 wineries in production today, the Ontario wine industry dates back several centuries. The real modern growth, though, started with Inniskillin Winery in 1975.

Much like B.C., there are many beautiful and expensive wineries with fabulous and pricey restaurants and accommodations. The Ontario wine industry has also embraced wine tourism, with the advantage of a large Toronto population to draw from. Like N.S., they started with hybrid vines to help survive the cold winters, but have since embraced vinifera. Today, the largest production grape is Chardonnay.

With a 40 per cent market share of wine sales in Ontario, the industry is huge compared to N.S. Both Ontario and B.C. have a quality-assurance program called VQA, which instills a sense of quality to consumers. Quite a few Ontario wines make it to N.S. shelves and many are worth trying. I will review a few in the coming months. 

The under-$25 wine review

Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay 2014
Nova Scotia, $21.99, select NSLC and private store locations

Benjamin Bridge is known for its world-class sparkling wines, so it’s no surprise to see a touch of effervescence. Lovely peach blossom aromas with the trademark Benjamin Bridge acidity racing through it. The flavours burst with peach, melon and apricot. If you like the best- selling Nova 7, then this wine is for you. With its low alcohol, it’s perfect as an aperitif accompanied by some Nova Scotian artisanal cheese. 87/100

Mercator Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014
Nova Scotia, $24.99, select NSLC stores and the winery

This is the most expensive Tidal Bay available and the quality shines through. Fragrant notes of honeysuckle and melon are hallmarks of Tidal Bay and they work well here. More weight on the palate than expected, and a lot of complexity. The tropical fruit notes accompany a smoky and herbal character with a long finish. I agree with the label, which recommends Malagash oysters or seared Digby scallops. 89/100

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