December 30, 2011 – By Bruce Erskine, Business Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
Nova Scotia sparkling wines are every bit as worthy of ringing in the new year as their better-known international competitors, says the sommelier at the Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill in Halifax.
“We can compete with the best,” Avery Gavel said in a recent interview.
French champagne has traditionally been the benchmark for sparkling wines, but Gavel said Nova Scotia is carving out a niche for itself through the efforts of traditional-method, bottle-fermented sparkling wine pioneers such as Bruce Ewert of L’Acadie Vineyards in the Gaspereau Valley.
“He has 25 years experience,” Gavel said.
Ewert is a British Columbia native who specialized in making sparkling wines at two boutique wineries in the Okanagan Valley.
He moved east with his Nova Scotia-born wife in 2004 to capitalize on the effervescent potential of the province’s signature L’Acadie Blanc grape.
“We were hoping we’d do well at Effervescents,” Ewert said in a recent interview.
“It further validates us. We are known.”
Ewert said Nova Scotia’s climate compares with the Champagne region of northern France and L’Acadie grapes provide ideal sugar and acid levels necessary to make fine sparkling wines.
“We’re right on the cusp. You can’t get colder and grow grapes.”
Although the vineyard’s exports are restricted by antiquated interprovincial laws and large production volume requirements, Ewert said sales are up 26 per cent this year compared with last year.
“There could be more. The business works and has growth potential.”
Not far from L’Acadie Vineyards is Benjamin Bridge, another boutique winery whose limited edition traditional-method sparklers have been acclaimed by well-know wine writers Tony Aspler and Beppi Crosariol as rivalling France’s best bubbly.
Benjamin Bridge makes its wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes grown in Nova Scotia.
The winery released two sparkling wines in 2010 that sold quickly, a blended Brut Reserve 2004 and a Blanc de Noirs 2004 made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes.
It released a Brut Reserve LD (late disgorged) 2004 this year that, with only 900 bottles made, also sold fast.
“Benjamin Bridge has been able to establish that the terroir of Nova Scotia really does provide an opportunity to make sparkling wines of world-class distinction,” said owner Gerry McConnell, who co-founded the vineyard a decade ago as a labour of love with his late wife, Dara Gordon.
“I see an opportunity for the Nova Scotia wine industry to make a mark on the wine scene internationally.”
Traditional-method sparkling wines require expertise and patience because they take longer to develop than still wines.
But McConnell, who expects production to increase by almost 50 per cent in the next year, said there is a business case to be made for producing world-class sparkling wines in Nova Scotia.
“It can be viable with volume and pricing,” he said, noting that export restrictions have frustrated the ability to meet demand for Benjamin Bridge bubbly from Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.
Other Nova Scotia vineyards producing quality sparking wines include: Gaspereau Vineyards, down the road from Benjamin Bridge, which makes a Vidal-Muscat sparkler and recently unveiled a traditional-method Riesling Brut; Blomidon Estate Winery in Canning, which recently launched two bottle-fermented sparklers, a L’Acadie Blanc Brut and a blended Cremant; Wolfville’s Domaine de Grand Pre, which makes Champlain Brut, a traditional-method L’Acadie Blanc-Seyval Blanc blend and Ice Cuvee, which adds a dash of Vidal icewine to that mix; and Jost Vineyards in Malagash, which makes sparklers from Muscat and L’Acadie grapes.
Gavel said Nova Scotia produces sparkling wines in a variety of styles — traditional method, prosecco, cremant and moscato — to suit every taste.
“Whatever your palate, whatever your taste, Nova Scotia can produce it. You don’t need to leave home.”
Bruce Ewert, owner of L’Acadie Vineyards, holds a bottle of Vintage Cuvee at the winery near Gaspereau in Kings County. (TIM KROCHAK / Staff)
Source: The Chronicle Herald