Grower Champagne: Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV

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Back in the day, when I was just getting into wine, the first ‘grower’ Champagne I encountered was Egly-Ouriet. This was in the mid-1990s, when grower Champagne wasn’t much of a thing, and the wines were stocked by Liz and Mike Berry of the fabulous La Vigneronne in South Kensington (which is now the equally fabulous Handford Wines). I had this particular wine in the outdoor bath tub at the accommodation I was staying at in Golden Bay, at the top of South Island, New Zealand.

Based in Ambonnay, Egly-Ouriet are masters of Pinot. They farm organically, and many of the base wines are fermented in barrel. They like long ageing on lees. Dosage is low or zero. These are proper wines: sometimes a bit stern, but always worthwhile.

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV France
12.5% alcohol. From Ambonnay, Bouxy and Verzenay. 48 months on lees, disgorged July 2016. Very fine and detailed with lovely citrus and apple core, as well as some pear and nut richness. It’s quite dry and complex with fine herbs and juicy acidity. Grown up and sophisticated, this is fruit-driven but four years on the lees and another 11 months in bottle has given the first signs of toasty maturity. 93/100

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GROWER CHAMPAGNE:

Domaine Ganevat Les Grands Teppes Vieilles Vignes 2013

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More Jura joy. There’s so much good stuff coming from this region, and it’s usually from producers taking a more natural approach. This was drunk last night looking out over the sea at Golden Bay, at the top of South Island, New Zealand. It was mesmerising.

Domaine Ganevat Les Grands Teppes Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay 2013 Côtes du Jura, France
12% alcohol. Vines planted in 1919. Slightly cloudy pale yellow colour. Lovely acid structure here with bright lemony fruit and a lovely crystalline quality. There’s a delicious fine spiciness that mingles perfectly with the fresh acidity. There are secondary notes of mandarin, apricot, ripe apple and green tea, with some richness (a bit of sugar?) evident in tension with the vital, fresh core of lemony fruit. Very fine and expressive, and amazingly drinkable as well as being quite serious. Not a perfect wine, but a beautiful one. 95/100

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Loire adventure: visiting the remarkable François Saint-Lô

François Saint-Lô

François Saint-Lô

The rain was easing as we arrived for an appointment with François Saint-Lô, but it was still a cold, damp day. Not ideal for tasting wine. There’s nothing fancy about his place, but it has a good feel about it. It’s a gem of a project: it seems like a wine-making commune, with a varied group of people living together and making wine under his leadership, with huge catherdral-like troglodyte cellars and no fancy modern equipment at all. Unconventional and very natural.

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François has been making wine here for five years now (debut vintage was 2012). Originally from Normandy, he began working in restaurants in Paris, then made some wine in Montpellier, and then spent seven years travelling, working with a range of natural winemakers. Notably he worked with Olivier Cousin, and through him met Eric Dubois, with whom he worked for a couple of years. Dubois was instrumental in helping Francois set up on his own. The property he currently rents has lots of caves, which are ideal for vinifying wine because of the natural temperature control and humidity. He uses fibre glass tanks (they are cheaper) and old barrels. ‘I started with no money,’ he says, ‘but lots of people are helping me, and slowly I grow.’

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Like his mentors, François likes to work the vineyards with horses, and as his vineyards are currently 15 km away from the home base, he’d like to buy some vines a bit closer to save transporting the horse so far. The project is growing. In 2016 he made 10 000 bottles, and hopes to do double this in 2017.

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We began by tasting some unfinished wines:

François Saint-Lô Hey Gro!! 2016 (in tank)
This is a Grolleau at 9% alcohol. So fresh and bright with red cherries and plums. Fresh, juicy, sappy and delicious. 90/100

François Saint-Lô Les Pallières Cabernet Franc 2015 (in barrel)
Spicy, intense , lively and edgy with juicy raspberry and red cherry fruit. Lively and detailed with real edges. Vivid, grippy and tannic with high acidity. 90/100

François Saint-Lô Le Bois Guyon Cabernet Franc 2015 (in barrel)
Powerful, lively and spicy with cherries and herbs. A bit meaty and with nice cherry and raspberry fruit. 90-92/100 

François Saint-Lô Les Fontenelles Chenin Blanc 2015 (in barrel)
Francois has had this vineyard for 2 years. It was dying: in the first year they got 8 hl/ha, and with some hard work they got 20 hl/ha the second year. Oxidative but with lovely pear and apple fruit and a fine spiciness. Very mineral with high acidity. 93/100

François Saint-Lô Gamin! 2016 Vin de France
Gamy. Sappy, bright, juicy and intense. Very fresh with a green edge. Grippy with good acidity. 89-91

François Saint-Lô Gamin! 2015 Vin de France
Supple and juicy with lovely red cherries and raspberries. Very fresh and delicate with nice pure light red fruits and lovely acidity. Very delicious and drinkable. 92/100

François Saint-Lô Simplement Nature (what is now Le Bois Guyon) 2013 Saumur
Very detailed, fresh and grippy with blackcurrants, cherries and raspberries. Fresh with some spiciness and lovely grippy structure. Pure with nice weight: a supple, gravelly wine. 93/100

François Saint-Lô Pette 2014
Pink bubbles. Gamay, Grolleau and Chenin. Fresh with supple cherries and nice pear and apple fruit. Fruity and juicy with a sappy edge. 88/100

François Saint-Lô Pet 2014
Chenin Blanc. Wonderfully spicy citrus and pear nose. Intense, tangy and herby on the palate with a nice savouryedge. So distinctive and dry with hints of cheese and spice, and lovely acidity. 90/100

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Rui Falcao on Madeira, at MUST 2017

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Rui Falcao’s presentation at MUST was on Madeira. He began by showing a picture of a bottle of Madeira from 1795, and revealed that most of his great old wine experiences have been with wines from this remarkable island. ‘The oldest wine I’ve had was from 1715,’ he says, which he thinks is the oldest vintage bottled wine in the world. ‘It was still too young!’

‘Once Madeira is bottled you can keep it forever,’ claims Rui, adding that he thinks this makes it unique in the wine business. ‘And after you open a bottle you can keep it for four or five years minimum,’ he says. ‘It’s a sommelier’s best friend.’

The motivation for fortifying Madeira was so that it could travel overseas, and initially alcohol derived from sugar cane was used to fortify it. Now it’s fortified with grape alcohol, which comes from elsewhere. But Rui suggests that Madeira could think about using cane alcohol again, to keep it local. ‘If you think of terroir, if 20% of the wine is spirit, shouldn’t this be from the wine region?’ He adds, ‘There’s no way we can use grapes to distill from the island [there aren’t enough], but sugar cane exists on the island.’

Madeira is an Island facing the shores of Africa in the Atlantic, and enjoys a subtropical climate. ‘It’s a good candidate for paradise on earth,’ he says. The summer average high temperatures are 20-22 C, while in winter they are 17-19 C. But while it may resemble paradise for humans, it’s less suitable for growing grape vines, partly because of the lack of a proper dormant period. And, because it’s a big land mass rising steeply in the middle of the ocean, it rains a lot here. ‘It’s a great place to live but one of the worst places on earth to make standard regular still wines.’

‘Acidity is what drives Madeira,’ he continues. ‘We make a difficult wine out of harsh conditions. Our technique is adding spirit, and also the ageing process.’ The potential alcohol of the grapes is 8-9 degrees. It’s fortified with 96% alcohol spirit, leaving 18-20% in the finished wine.

There are just eight wineries on the island, with 2043 growers and a total of 444.5 hectares of vines. This compares with Port, from the Douro Valley which has 43 000 hectares of vines. There has just been one new winery in Madeira in the last 60 years. ‘It is very difficult to start a new winery in Madeira,’ says Rui. ‘You have to be extremely rich or stupid.’

Just two wineries own vineyards, and the biggest one has only 10 hectares. The average size of a plot is 0.2 hectares.

There are five main varieties, four white (Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey) and one red. The red grape, Tinta Negra, is the main grape and accounts for 85% of the acreage, but it hasn’t been taken seriously in the past, being regarded as a workhorse. Now people realize it is potentially very high quality. ‘This variety can be as good as any other variety,’ says Rui.

There are other varieties:

  • Terrantez
  • Bastardo (red)
  • Malvasia Candida
  • Listrao (3.7 ha on Porto Santo)
  • Moscatel
  • Complexa (red, and with 25 hectares this is the sixth biggest, but it’s impossible to make good wine from)

Rui then described some of the new trends for Madeira. These include:

  • Skin contact
  • The use of sugar cane spirit for fermentation
  • Destemming
  • Single vineyard madeira
  • Blending two varieties or more
  • Organic farming (risky because of the climate)

This talk was a reminder that Madeira may be a tiny niche, but it’s a wonderful one, and occupies a unique place in the wine world.

See also: my report on a visit to Madeira, including a film.

Other reports from MUST:

 

Eating and drinking well in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Stilwell Beer Garden, Halifax

Stillwell Beer Garden, Halifax

Just on my way out of Halifax, so I thought I’d report back on some of the eating and drinking options, most of which I visited more than once. It was a lot of fun.

Stillwell Bar

Stillwell Bar

For beer: Stilwell. This is a fantastic craft beer bar, with good food, too. There are actually two venues: the bar, on Barrington Street, and then a compact urban beer garden that’s open during the summer. The former has two very delicious dishes that must be tried: the Tokyo fries and the popcorn. Sensational. The beer garden has a mouth-watering and slightly dirty (in a good way) selection of beer-friendly dishes that are cooked on the grill.

There are two excellent wine bars in the city which I thoroughly recommend. I spent a couple of evenings (or bits of evenings) in Little Oak, which is a super-smart wine bar run by Nicole Raufeisen. This has some serious wines (no easy feat in a monopoly-controlled market), including quite a few gems from the Kermit Lynch portfolio. This is the best place to drink in town if you are serious about wine.

Obladee

Obladee

Also highly recommended is Obladee, a wine bar on Barrington near to Stillwell. There’s a really good small plate selection here, as well as an excellent, diverse wine list and some really good beer. I visited three times on this trip, plus we visited for the final night’s dinner after the National Wine Awards of Canada judging. Heather Rankin, who is the proprietor here, is one of the NWAC judges.

Fiddleheads, Obladee

Fiddleheads, Obladee

If you want to buy wine, then the place to go is Bishop’s Cellar, which is opposite Little Oak near the water. Superb selection, including much of the Kermit Lynch portfolio. Great beers here, too.

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Finally, a nice discovery: Rinaldo’s. It’s a newish place specialising in Italian/American food. Not fancy, but thoroughly delicious and well priced. Our last day in the city consisted of lunch here followed by a session at Stillwell beer garden. It was lovely.

Rinaldo's

Rinaldo’s

 

Fine cool climate Aussie wines from Frankland Estate

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Head 250 km east of the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia, and you’ll hit the remote Frankland River region. With the coast quite a distance south, this is a cool climate wine region. Frankland Estate was established here in 1988 on the Smith family sheep station, and has established quite a reputation for its wines. Summers are warm and dry but the vines are dry grown, with their own Isolation Ridge vineyard organically farmed: there are very few pests and diseases here. I recently tasted through the range and was impressed. These are my notes.

Frankland Estate Riesling 2016 Frankland River, Western Australia
12.5% alcohol. Estate grown. Lovely bright lemony fruit is the dominant theme here, with some mandarin richness. It’s pretty, delicate and vibrant with a juicy quality, and nice texture, too. Floral and generous with good balance, it’s a delight to drink. 92/100

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2016 Frankland River, Western Australia
12.5% alcohol. Organic. Beautifully aromatic, floral nose with delicate citrus fruits. The palate is light, balanced and deliciously fruity with a juicy, mineral character. Lovely purity and elegance to this wine. 93/100

frank land estate chardonnay

Frankland Estate Chardonnay 2014 Frankland River, Western Australia
13% alcohol. Certified organic, estate grown. Fresh and expressive with fine lemony fruit, some pear and white peach richness, and a touch of grapefruit pith. It’s a very linear style of Chardonnay with unobtrusive oak and a focus on the cool-climate fruit characters, with just a bit of nutty toasty warmth on the finish. Sophisticated and cellar-worthy. 93/100

Frankland Estate Shiraz 2014 Frankland River, Western Australia
14% alcohol. From estate-grown fruit, ironstone soils. I love the vivid, meaty black cherry and blackberry fruit here. Sweet but very fresh with good acidity, and a peppery, detailed edge. There’s a slight leafy edge and nice grip. Deliciously focused, this is a very stylish cool-climate expression of Shiraz. 92/100

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz 2014 Frankland River, Western Australia
14.1% alcohol. Organic. Lovely sweetly aromatic nose of black cherries with some pepper and mint. The palate has lovely silky texture with some iodine, blood and meat, combining ripe berry fruits with mint, ginger and pepper. It’s a very supple, fresh, elegant expression of Shiraz that has some sweet fruit, but also good precision and focus, and a savoury dimension. Quite serious, but also very drinkable. 93/100

Frankland Estate Olmo’s Reward 2013 Frankland River, Western Australia
13.5% alcohol. This is named after Dr Harold Olmo who first identified the viticultural potential of Frankland River in Western Australia, well before it was planted. It’s based on Cabernet Franc, with other Bordeaux varieties making up the mix. This is so fresh and direct with a lovely bright black cherry and blackcurrant core, with supple juicy leafy berry notes. There’s good concentration and acidity here, with some richness but also spicy, minty freshness. Still primary, with a bright future ahead of it. A really lovely, fresh, balanced wine. 94/100

These wines are available in the UK through their agent Berry Bros & Rudd

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A night at Benjamin Bridge, Nova Scotia

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The judging team from the National Wine Awards of Canada were hosted at Nova Scotian winery Benjamin Bridge last night. It was the best of maritime hospitality. Owner Gerry McConnell has sourced enormous quantities of the best lobster I’d ever tasted, which we devoured greedily, washed down with the fabulous Benjamin Bridge sparkling wines.

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Gerry McConnell introducing the evening

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Ashley McConnell Gordon, vice president, Benjamin Bridge

There was also some music, and even some dancing. A tight band played some local tunes, and at one point a bunch of the judges got up and sang Barrett’s Privateer. Add in failed sabrage (with a glass), and you get a feel for this memorable evening.

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And here’s a film of the proceedings:


 

Loire adventure: Melaric, Saumur

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It may have been May, but it felt like November as we arrived at Melaric in Saumur. It was cold, blustery and the rain beat down incessantly on the roof as we talked and tasted. This is the project of Mélanie and Aymeric Hilaire (above, in his cellar), two young vignerons whose fused names create the name of the domaine. We were hosted by Aymeric. His parents are from the region, and he returned here in 2005, doing vintage with Matthieu and Bernard Baudry.

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They started making wines in 2006, but in 2008 they bought vines: 4 hectares planted on nice terroir in the south of Saumur in Puy Notre Dame. Now they are half red and half white. ‘Here we are at the end of the massif Americain,’ says Aymeric. This is the bit of the Loire where the white chalk of the Paris basin yields to the schist of the western Loire.

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They have vineyards on a chalky slope, and he emphasised how useful the slope is here, because above 50 m you are less likely to get frosted. This year, a big frost year, they lost 10%. ‘We were very lucky.’

There are lots of interesting terroirs in Puy Notre Dame, but there aren’t many interesting wines because most of the grapes are being sold to large producers who specialize in producing sparkling wines. In Saumur Champigny a lot of the Chenin was removed 30 years ago because of the popularity of reds, but in Puy Notre Dame the whites were kept because of the sparkling wine production. So this is the only area in the region with white chalk soils and red and white grapes in equal proportion.

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Aymeric particularly likes Grolleau as a variety. Cabernet Franc, he says, is a very good grape for the region, but chalk soils are really needed. It’s a variety that doesn’t like hydric stress, and this can cause its tannins to get hard. Grass between the rows can compete for water, exacerbating the problem.

America wants their wines to be precise with as little sulfur dioxide as possible, and usually they’ll add a bit before bottling – perhaps 20 ppm. ‘When wine is strong it is better without,’ he says. They have a machine for preparing SO2 from volcanic elemental sulfur that was made by a biodynamic guy, and which is used by a few wine growers. It can be difficult to use, though, and Aymeric ended up making a practically sans soufre cuvée when he was learning how to use it.

THE WINES

Melaric Globules Rosés 2016 Saumur, Loire, France
This is ancestral method fizz, bottled with 20-25 g/l sugar, and then later disgorged. It’s lively and fresh with nice cherry and citrus notes. Fruity with some apple character. Lovely stuff that’s fresh and a bit sweet. 89/100

Melaric Billes de Roche Chenin Blanc 2015 Saumur, Loire, France
From the top of the slope between the yellow and white chalk. Stony and dry with nice weight and some nuttiness. Has pear, citrus and apple, and attractibe texture, showing some complexity. Spends a year in barrel and then 6 months in tank. 91/100

Melaric Clos de la Cerisae Chenin Blanc 2015 Saumur, Loire, France
This is a barrel sample, and hasn’t yet had any sulphites. They have two small parcels of Chenin in this vineyard. Mid-slope, white chalk soils. Complex, tight and mineral with a lovely acid structure. Stony and mineral with a hint of reduction and some subtle oak notes. Linear. 92-94/100

Melaric Les Fontanelles Chenin Blanc 2014 Saumur, Loire, France
They started making this cuvée with this vintage from rented vines. Beautifully reductive. Fresh, spicy and intense with a touch of matchstick. Citrus, pear and limes with nice weight and some mineral character. 94/100

Melaric Billes de Roche Chenin Blanc 2009 Saumur, Loire, France
Second vintage. Intense and spicy. Honeyed with lovely citrus, apple and pear fruit. Lively marmalade and pith characters. Still very fresh with a bit of sweetness and nice pear and spice notes. 93/100

Melaric Le Tandem 2015 Vin de France
60% Grolleau and 40% Cabernet Franc, 8 months in tank. Fresh, vivid and grippy with tight raspberry and cherry, and some pepper notes. Very lively. Grippy and vivid. 92/100

Melaric Le Clos Rousseau Grolleau 2016 Saumur, Loire, France
This is a cask sample. Vines 6 years old, this was whole bunch. Very ripe and concentrated with rich but balanced fruit. Peppery and intense with floral cherries and spice, and some meat. 92-94/100

Melaric Billes de Roche Rouge 2014 Saumur, Loire, France
This is Cabernet Franc with one year in barrel. Fruity and expressive with sweet raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. Textured, showing nice fruitiness and fresh acidity. 92/100

Melaric Billes de Roche Rouge 2013 Saumur, Loire, France
Tricky year for reds. Savoury and gravelly with a grippy personality and some earthy notes. Leathery with dry tannins, but good with food? 88/100

Melaric Clos de la Cerisae Rouge 2013 Saumur, Loire, France
This spends two years in barrel and 6 months in tank. No sulphites. Old vines from very chalky soils. Concentrated, dense and vivid with raspberry, black cherry and blackcurrant, as well as some savoury, earthy hints. Juicy and bright with nice fruit and chalky tannins. Grippy but elegant. 93/100

Melaric Clos de la Cerisae Rouge 2012 Saumur, Loire, France
Complete with lovely balance. This is grippy yet fleshy with cherries and blackcurrants. Fresh showing nice raspberry fruit and good structure and weight. 94/100

Melaric Clos de la Cerisae Rouge 2010 Saumur, Loire, France
Aromatic red fruit nose with a savoury twist. Lovely texture, showing some earthiness and gravel and chalk notes. Tannic and intense with some gravelly grip on the finish. 91/100

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Melaric Funambule 2013 Coteaux de Saumur, Loire, France
10% alcohol and 150 g/l sugar. Yellow/gold colour. Powerful wit intense baked apple, melon and pear fruit as well as marmalade and spice notes. Great balance with a spicy finish and a savoury edge to the sweet fruit. 93/100

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Liquoreux de la Cerisae 2011 Vin de France
This has 300 g/l residual sugar. Powerful, intense and deep with a spicy, savoury edge to the concentrated raisin and marmalade flavours. Incredible concentration and notes of straw, herb and syrup. It’s powerful and has low SO2 so doesn’t last after it has been opened, but it’s so complex. 95/100

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Some more observations on Nova Scotia wine

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So, some more thoughts about Nova Scotia wine. Sparkling is the direction for the future here. There will always be a local market for the Tidal Bay whites, and similar hybrid-based clean, fruity, appealing lighter-style wines. There will even be a strictly local future for the well made, chunky hybrid reds. But this is a market that’s limited in size. At the moment it isn’t saturated, and it’s possible that it could grow – the wines are very well made and attractive – but once it is saturated, there isn’t really the option to export these wines. Foreign markets are price sensitive and suspicious of hybrids, so it would be very hard to see Tidal Bay selling in the UK or USA, for example, except to Nova Scotia expats.

But to succeed at sparkling, in terms of making exciting wines that are internationally relevant, will require courage, a long-term vision, and some cash. This is not an easy place to grow vinifera and get it ripe enough. It is a marginal climate. But playing on the margins is where greatness can be achieved. Some people will try and fail, but the rewards for success are potentially high, if producers can keep their nerve. Making high quality traditional method fizz is a long game.

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The English situation is worth bringing in here, because England has a similarly marginal climate, and producers of sparkling wine here have their work cut out. Some are succeeding, and there are now perhaps a dozen really serious producers in the UK who have some track record and whose brand is well established.

At the Atlantic Wine forum, Stephen Skelton was bold enough to say that English sparkling wine is better than Champagne. I disagreed with him publicly about this: English sparkling wine can be excellent, and is getting better, but it’s a dangerous delusion to say that it’s better than Champagne. There are just so many great Champagne producers, and the top wines are stunning. For all the progress that English wine has made, this ‘better than Champagne’ talk is potentially damaging if producers think they’ve already arrived, when there’s still some distance to go.

I think that for many producers in Nova Scotia, modest success is the enemy of true success. It’s perfectly fine to make wines for the local market, but when there’s the potential to do something internationally relevant, then why not try? If your business is turning a small profit, then it’s very hard to suggest changing direction and refocusing on a risky strategy like making vinifera-based sparkling wine. But, equally, just because things are going fine now, doesn’t mean that they will stay that way. Businesses can’t stand still: they must evolve and adapt. Maintenance thinking leads to disaster in the long-term. And how a business is performing now is a result of decisions made some time ago; how the business will perform in a few years is a result of decisions made today. So it’s important always to have the courage to plot a course and strategy rather than simply react to current market conditions.

Nova Scotia is a really interesting place, and now is the time for it to consider how it tells its story to the world, and just what that story is.

In Nova Scotia, Canada

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For the last four days I have been in Nova Scotia, Canada. My primary reason for visiting was to take part in the Atlantic Wine Symposium, but I also had a couple of days to tour around wine country here. This supplemented a visit last September. Vines were first planted here in the early 1980s, and it’s still a very new region, finding its feet and identifying its talents.

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These are the sort of wine regions that really interest me: ones that are still developing, where everything seems new, and there’s lots of unrealized potential. Nova Scotia is a properly cool climate region where the challenge is to get the grapes ripe before the first frosts come in November. There’s plenty of acidity in Nova Scotian wines, but there are also some nicely developed flavours and modest alcohol levels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are now 20 wineries in the region, most of which are found in the Annapolis and Gaspereau Valleys, in a sheltered position in the bay of Fundy. This has the highest tides in the world, and acts as a lung, bringing in air as the tide rises and falls each day. Some 700 acres (280 hectares) are under vine here, and this is growing.

The distinctive red-hued shoots of L'Acadie Blanc

The distinctive red-hued shoots of L’Acadie Blanc

The majority of the vineyards in Nova Scotia are planted with hybrids, and the most prevalent is L’Acadie Blanc, which was developed here, and is well suited to the climate. Others include Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, New York Muscat, Geisenheim 318, Baco Noir, Maréchal Foch, Luci Kuhlmann, Leon Millot, Marquette and Castel. These hybrids yield well and ripen before the season runs out of steam.

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Increasingly, vinifera varieties are being planted, and the two leading the way are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, usually with sparkling in mind. To ripen these, you have to have a good site and get your viticulture right.

So what is good here? What does the world need to know about?

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The main story is sparkling wine. Conditions are ideal to make top quality base wines. Incidentally, the hybrids actually make surprisingly good sparkling wine, either alone, or in blends with vinifera, but the main focus going forwards will be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for the serious players. The leader of the field in Nova Scotia is Benjamin Bridge, whose vinifera-based wines have gained international attention. Their business model is very clever: they make the hugely successful, fun Nova 7, using hybrids to best effect, and then focus their energies on no-compromise, world-class traditional method wines. Other wineries who make very high quality sparkling include Lightfoot & Wolfville (a new producer: keep an eye out for these guys because they are making some serious wines), Blomidon and Avondale Sky (some wines).

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Then we have light, aromatic, bright whites, usually made from hybrids. The big story here is Tidal Bay, which is an appellation that was launched in 2012 for this characteristic style of wine. There are 12 producers who make a Tidal Bay every year, and they are very attractive, consistent wines with clean, fresh fruity flavours, keen acidity, and a bit of sweetness to round things off. Tidal Bay is very successful, but it’s not internationally relevant. The wines are perfect for local consumption, and might find a market elsewhere in Canada, but they’d just be too expensive for what they are if they were to be exported. As well as the previously mentioned vineyards, Luckett make some very good bright, fresh whites and a very nice Tidal Bay, as do Gaspereau, Planters Ridge and Domaine du Grand Pré.

The distinctive tasting room of Avondale Sky, which is an old church moved here by boat and truck

The distinctive tasting room of Avondale Sky, which is an old church moved here by boat and truck

Many wineries are quite successful making appealing, commercial, fruity wines from hybrids, and because they sell most of their production through cellar door, it works for them. But I hope that are few become more ambitious than this, because the marginal climate here is ideal for making very high quality sparkling wine, and there aren’t many places in the world where this is possible. I’ll be writing up my notes from producer visits separately.