Nova Scotia is a land of beer drinkers. According to NSLC statistics, about 47 per cent of the alcoholic beverages sold in the province are beer. Alexander Keith’s is still synonymous with Halifax, even if a giant Belgian company owns it. In a better display of taste, the province’s craft-beer scene is thriving, with some 20 (the number seems to tick up weekly) independent breweries.
So let’s say your friends are beer lovers and you want to open their eyes to the amazing world of wine. My favourite tactic is to pair wine and beer styles.
It may be oversimplifying, but most of us prefer either white or red wine. So to start perhaps we can assume that white wine drinkers would likely prefer a crisper and cleaner beer. And red wine drinkers might like something richer and darker. Once you determine what style of beer you prefer, you can look for wines that have similar profiles.
Light beer, Lagers, and Pilsners
These styles of beer tend to be crisp and quaffable—cold beers for hot days. This list could include everything from Bud Light to Czech pilsner. My first choice for wine would be a cold glass of dry Italian sparkling Prosecco. Both Prosecco and beer have bubbles, and both are refreshing. In fact, sparkling wine in general is a good substitute for beer. Also I would try crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or dry Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy. These wines are refreshing, fruit forward, and easy to drink.
Wheat beers tend to be smooth, refreshing, and rich. A lighter style Chardonnay will offer refreshing fruit notes and some richness imparted from the oak barrels. Other rich and refreshing whites include Viognier and Marsanne, both from France.
Mellow and balanced, pale ale is a good starter style. Equally, many people drink Merlot as their first red wine. Both offer easy to drink mellow flavours and a soft finish.
Amongst local craft-beer aficionados, hoppy India Pale Ale is king. These beers can be very bitter, hoppy, and lifted in style with lots of fruit characters. Carmenere from Chile has similar savoury notes and herbal characters. Try New World Pinot Noir, from either the U.S. or New Zealand, which will have rich complexity and lots of character.
If you like stouts’ rich mocha and espresso notes, try a Spanish Tempranillo. This wine offers earthy characters and a chocolate note on the finish. If money is less of an object go to the California section and pick a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, which can offer rich dark flavour and a smoky chocolate finish.
Porters have a dark and earthy style, with medium body, and lots of character, including some bitterness. The world famous wine blends of Bordeaux have tons of body and earthy, rich characters, making them similar to porters. The reds of Tuscany, such as Chianti Classic and Brunello, also have lots of similarly earthy characters.
These Belgian-style ales can have some complexity along with higher alcohol. They’re usually slightly sweet, which leads us to some nice fruit forward, smooth reds. Syrah or Grenache, either standing alone or blended in a Rhone style, have a savoury and fruit-forward style. Some Australian Shirazes have similar style: big characters of alcohol, body, and some natural sweetness.
The under-$25 wine review
Ara Single Estate Pinot Gris New Zealand, NSLC, $22.99
New Zealand is so famous for Sauvignon Blanc that it is easy to forget that it also produces fantastic Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The grape known as Pinot Grigio in Italy tends to be richer in style here. I absolutely loved the full peach and apricot aromas. Pronounced and expressive flavours. There is a vein of ripe stone fruit, but it’s not cloying. Pair with grilled scallops and mango salsa. 91/100
Anciano Tempranillo Gran Reserva 2004Spain, NSLC, $17.99
Oft under-appreciated Spanish wines are finally getting their due, and this great-value wine deserves a lot of the credit. I can’t believe you can buy a 2004 vintage red wine for under $20! Lots of aromas of ripe cherries and plums, along with a hint of chocolate and smoke. The freshness of this wine really makes it hard to believe its age. Tons of bright fruit along with a silkiness, a touch of cedar, and a rich, spicy finish. Great balance of flavor, weight and tannin. Pair with paella. 93/100