L'Acadie Vineyards Blog
Welcome to the L'Acadie Vineyards blog and winery news
Both names start with “bio” and there are other similarities, but Biodynamic and Biocyclic Vegan practices diverge when it comes to animal use.
Our winery in Gaspereau, Nova Scotia is certified Organic, grape growing and winemaking, and recently also certified Biocyclic Vegan from soil to glass. Our reasons for following these standards are that organic vegan wine is good for the planet, animals and people. Most people are familiar with Organic farming but may not have heard of Biocyclic Vegan or Biodynamic farming. Let’s compare all three.
There are many pesticides allowed for grapes, surface and internal acting. Grapes are listed as one of the dirty dozen, a list of heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables published by the Environmental Working Group. Hybrid grapes are fairly disease-resistant but more and more disease-susceptible vinifera grapevines are planted in Nova Scotia every year. Organic production follows the Canadian Organic Standard, the practice of producing food without synthetic pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms (GMO), and certified organic is required to be able to certify your winery to Biodynamic or Biocyclic Vegan Standards.
Living Soil and Fertilizer
All three practices promote healthy microbial life in the soil. The concept is that the farmer manages the soil so that it can provide for the vine, rather than the conventional approach of feeding the vine directly with synthetic fertilizers. Biocyclic Vegan and Biodynamic farming both rely on enriching cover crops between the rows to hold carbon (regenerative agriculture) and to transfer atmospheric nitrogen to the soil. Compost teas, either plant residue or animal manure-based, are used to grow beneficial organisms to increase and stimulate life in the soil and on the vine. This is the first diverging practice - Biocyclic Vegan prohibits anything from animals so only plant residue teas are allowed such as composted grape pomace and there is a reliance on cyclical humus management with composted plant material. A second difference is the spiritual approach of Biodynamic - planting by calendar and using preparations such as burying cow horns filled with manure.
All three practices promote harmony with nature. They support ecological protection and animal welfare, and the Biocyclic Vegan approach goes further by excluding all animals, both working animals and inputs from them, recognizing that there are deep ethical considerations. Biodiversity practices that follow this ethos strive for a higher level of harmony than Organic. Biodynamic has animal use required and takes into account the rhythms of nature with a more spiritual approach.
Both Biocyclic Vegan and Biodynamic have human development at their core, nuturing the social and economic development of people.
Organic winemaking is the logical final step to shepherd a wine to the bottle. The Canada Organic Standard has a limited list of natural and non-GMO additives that are allowed and the resulting organic logo on the bottle signifies traceability and third party inspections to give consumers confidence. If the wine is not certified organic with the logo on the label, the grapes can be from conventional sources, even if the winery estate vineyard is certified organic. Both Biocyclic Vegan wine and Biodynamic wine have their own additional logo and the same disconnect in traceability happens if they are not on the label. The major difference for the Biocyclic Vegan Standard is that it prohibits all animal inputs in winemaking, which can include gelatin and egg whites.
This is where the divide widens considerably in Biocyclic Vegan’s favour. By prohibiting all animal inputs, it is not supporting the well documented global warming impact of the livestock industry. Biodynamic farming has animal use as its foundation with manures and preparations using animal organs, but has non-intensive and lower yielding requirements to lessen its environmental impact.
A final note. Our reasons for choosing the Biocyclic Vegan approach from "soil to glass" are rooted in a love for all living beings. As we grow our winery and inspire others, it is important to be informed and know that we all can make a difference.
"When you know better, you do better" ~ Maya Angelou
The cycle of a winemaker’s year is very apparent in the non-winter months with bottling and opening wineshops in the spring, grape growing in the summer, and harvest and vintage in the fall. But what does a winemaker do in the winter? It’s more than you think,
Yes, winemaker activity closely follows the cycle of the vine, illustrated above from an article by Wine & Spirit Education Trust. But a winemaker is definitely not dormant like the vine in winter. Here are typical activities that keep me busy in January, February and March.
- Fermentation – most ferments are finished by December but we quite often have several wines still popping away in January. The old saying is you need to know more to do less and shepherding the wines to their potential means lots of monitoring!
- Filtration – we use a cellulose pad filter to clarify wines and those finished cloudy, yeasty ferments get ample time to settle before we progressively filter them to finer and finer levels.
- Bentonite – a natural clay called bentonite helps clarify and protein stabilize wines. It is an important part of making vegan wine. Each wine has a bench trial in the lab to determine its individual bentonite requirement before it is added in the cellar.
- Blend Trials – harvest and vintage is a very busy time in the cellar and we try keep as many options open as possible so that we can measure, taste, calculate and blend (repeat) later. It starts in December when we have the most family palates available to give opinions on sparkling blends, Tidal Bay and many other blends. We usually submit a tank sample for the Tidal Bay taste panel in January. And order our sparkling bottles from France.
- Excise and other compliance requirements – count, count, count: inventories of tiraged sparkling, bulk tanks and finished wines and tonnage from previous year for Excise, NSLC and NS Agriculture reports. These reports become an important part of traceability audits
for our certified organic wine inspections. Many permits are due for renewal this month.
This is the time of year when Mother Nature gives Nova Scotia a full-on winter. The influential “warm” Bay of Fundy gets chilled to 5-6C and we feel it. Our vineyard manager and crew start pruning our Gaspereau vineyard on the best days, and tanks and barrels of wine in the cellar chill naturally.
- Wine Shows – luckily wine trade understands the cycle of a winemaker and many festivals, trade shows and educational symposiums are scheduled in February. We went to the Vancouver Wine Festival three years in a row before the pandemic, my home province.
- Packaging – planning, and ordering, labels, closures, cartons, shippers. We start bottling new vintage wines in April.
- Disgorging – even if we disgorge traditional method sparkling every week in November/December we usually need to do it again in February for orders. And for wine competitions, especially international.
- Wineshop and Tasting Room – start hiring and planning for the season opening of our wineshop, wine tastings and wine tours. This always seems to come early, and as the shoulder season gets busier in our emerging wine region perhaps late April opening will be normal in the future.
- Organic and Biocyclic Vegan certification renewal – we submit our plans for the whole year of winemaking and viticulture activities and inputs. It is a lot of work by myself and our vineyard manager as we reflect on the past year’s successes and areas for improvements. We follow the plan all season, document everything and get inspected in the fall.
- Online Store and Wine Clubs – we open our online store and ship across Canada weather permitting. We start planning allotments for wine club members – three shipments/year, May, August and November.
- Bottle Charmat Method sparkling – this is new for our winery and the cycles of sparkling production in our two specialized charmat tanks include a March bottling after sitting on its yeast lees for 3-4 months.
2019 was an excellent year for sparkling wine! It was a wet cool growing season with low heat units (960 compared to usually 1100), a delayed budbreak for 18 days, and further aggravated by Hurricane Dorian in September which snapped several end posts but left the vineyard relatively unscathed. Thankfully a long frost-free fall fully ripened grapes for sparkling. We didn't make any red wines in 2019, and instead dried grapes (appassimento) for a new vintage of Soleil, a recioto sweet red dessert wine dried to 40 Brix releasing in November 2021.
As we release new 2019 sparklings from our Gaspereau winery tirage cellar, you will be continually amazed at the quality, freshness and focus of these wines. There is richness, pillows of richness, embracing an often steely acidity that finishes well beyond 10 "steamboats" (playground tag football term). Dosage levels are slightly higher than usual to balance acidity, and Rose Brut was encouraged through malolactic fermentation to soften acidity. These are wines that are expected to age very well on the cork, but as our customary approach, we encourage enjoyment of fresh, recently disgorged offerings from us direct.
Enjoy these gifts from an excellent growing season for sparkling wine, Nova Scotia's signature style to the world! ~be
2019 Sparkling Rose - August 2021
2019 Vintage Cuvee - November 2021
2019 Rose Brut - Club Exclusive November 2021. General release January 2022
2019 Vintage Cuvee Rose - November 2021
The real beauty of our Gaspereau winery is not only the incredible valley views but also what you don’t see. Here are several unseen underground assets that are a part of our sustainable, natural and environmentally-friendly ethos, and could make your wine tastings or wine tours even more special!
Geothermal Cooling, Heating and Hot Water
Summer temperatures are off the charts and we are very thankful for our winery geothermal heating and cooling system that we installed when we built in 2007. As you drive into our parking lot you might not know that deep below you is a network of coils that keeps us warm in winter and cool in summer, and give us hot water. At this time of the year the heat pump moves heat from the winery, wineshop and tasting room to dissipate 6 feet underground - very efficient cooling using a fraction of power compared to other methods.
Our tirage cellar for aging sparkling wine is half underground to keep a more constant temperature, critical for our internationally awarded wine quality. Energy efficient construction is also highlighted with insulated concrete form walls, north orientation and an infrared reflecting roof.
Encouraging a living soil around our vine roots is our main farming goal. Our organic vineyard is grown without conventional pesticides, with natural fertilizers to preserve the ecosystem. Biodiversity is our life blood and organisms live symbiotically with the vine helping it absorb nutrients and, perhaps even more intriguing, terroir flavours from schist, slate well-drained soil.
Have you tasted terroir? A true sense of place in the glass is a moment you rarely forget. It's a moment of reestablishing a connection to the earth, of tasting the relationships of the soil origin, microclimate, microorganisms, and grape variety.
However, wine trends are moving away from terroir. It happened in California's celebrated wine regions decades ago -a movement towards a beverage concept where terroir is over shadowed by winemaking manipulation, blending for uniformity and marketing/packaging.
We at L'Acadie Vineyards have embraced terroir and will not let go! Our practices of organic farming encourage living soils and microbial terroir shines in our Pet Nats and Orange wines, all estate grapes. Also try our new release 2020 Estate L'Acadie and 2014 Prestige Brut Estate. Flavours of the schist and slate well-drained soil are dominant with slight saline from an ancient seabed origin. I invite you to taste our vineyard. Our Gaspereau winery has wine tours and wine tastings daily - book an appointment.
A frequent question since we released our first Tidal Bay a month ago is why did we wait so long? It was introduced 10 years ago according to the Wines of Nova Scotia website with first releases in 2010. The answer is slightly complicated and involves some history of wine standards in Nova Scotia.
First of all, Tidal Bay is a brand of the Wine Growers of Nova Scotia, a voluntary association of wineries, and a winery has to be a member to produce it. We recently rejoined the association after taking a hiatus since 2012 and that makes it possible for us to have a Tidal Bay.
So why did we leave the association? Wine standards were not being followed and it was affecting our business. Specifically, artificially carbonated wines were first produced at the same time that we released the first traditional method sparkling for the province in 2008, confusing the important milestone with misleading labels. Wine standards state that sparkling wines have to declare the production method on the label, in the case of artificially carbonated wines - “Carbonated Method”. Some wineries do declare this, providing transpareny to consumers, but most label their carbonated wines as white wine, not sparkling, and don’t declare the method. In our opinion, this is potentially damaging to our emerging region’s image for sparkling wine - but other wineries and the association did not agree with us, so after repeated attempts to educate and convince, we left.
What changed? New wine standards are coming that protect traditional method and charmat method sparkling wine, both natural fermentations to produce bubbles. We were involved in writing these tighter standards and the industry and association agree with them. And that is why we rejoined and produced our first Tidal Bay.
We have used cork closures for our organic wines since we established our Wolfville winery L'Acadie Vineyards in Gaspereau Valley. They fit our organic ethos of natural, sustainably harvested and recyclable. They also provide a small measured dose of oxygen to cellared bottles for ideal aging, and our library releases of 10 year old sparklings and whites have reflected that care, rewarding our customers with complexities and unique experiences. But there has always been the spectre of possible cork taint caused by a chemical produced by natural cork microbes, TCA (trichloroanisole). Cork taint affects about 2-3% of bottled wine on average according to Wine Folly, lower if you purchase high end corks like we do, but new technologies are lowering that number even more for TCA free wines.
Our cork supplier, Amorim Cork, revealed their new anti-TCA technologies early this year and we couldn't be more excited. They produce about half of all the corks in the world and have introduced thermal, pressure and carbon dioxide processes in parallel with effective screening to claim that their TCA levels are less than the sensory threshold of 0.5 nanograms per litre (ng/l) wine. In fact the production batch being shipped to us now has been tested at 0.05 ng/l !! This is good news for us and our customers as we start another bottling season and prepare to disgorge a special 10-year tiraged sparkling for our wine club members.
Watch this video shared by #TastingClimateChange on the regenerative aspects of corks, Amorim Cork, a sustainable option
Wines not intended for aging theoretically do not need a natural cork for their evolution. We have decided to use screwcaps this year for Rose and our first release of Tidal Bay. Several considerations went into this decision and our first most important question was answered with approval from our certified organic inspector. These are early-release Nova Scotia wines and Rose has been selling out every year and we expect Tidal Bay to be as popular. We are joining a family of Tidal Bays from other wineries in Nova Scotia and most are using screwcaps for ease of opening and re-sealing between sips.
We are releasing our first Tidal Bay in May! Joining a legacy of almost 10 years of previous releases from our Nova Scotia vineyard friends. And we couldn't be more excited about our inaugural blend and new label. If you're a lover of wineries in Nova Scotia you know what I'm talking about, if not, here is a Tidal Bay primer on the Wines of NS website
Why have we not joined the bandwagen in the past? We were not members of the winery association for the past seven years and Tidal Bay is an association initiative. We left the association because of issues with other winery board members in their refusal to protect our region's traditional method sparkling wine image from the growing number of artificially carbonated wines. We wanted better wine standards, they didn't. There are now new government-led wine standards being developed that will protect the image of sparkling wine, resulting largely from our lobbying.
We have built our winemaking reputation on sparkling wine with the first releases for the province and many international awards and accolades. Prestige Brut Estate was even shipped to the embassy in Moscow recently...for the second time! We are a winery that didn't set out to be everything to everybody. But we have been quietly researching and experimenting new styles beyond sparkling, always with the ethos of sustainability and suitability to our climate. Releases that have reflected those efforts are appassimento reds (Passito) and dessert wines, carbonic maceration red, and wines fermented with wild yeasts such as Pet Nat and Orange wine. And we have been doing the same meticulous planning and trial ferments for our new Tidal Bay program.
Our approach - dry and organic. To make sparkling wine you first have to be talented with making base wines that have a sense of place. Our many years of releases of Estate L'Acadie and Prestige Brut Estate show my winemaking style of showcasing our terroir - dry and clear. We planted predominantly L'Acadie blanc on our estate because we were impressed early with its flavours on our many investigative trips to Nova Scotia, Pauline's home province, and saw the potential of matching the unique gravelly terroir of our Gaspereau vineyard with Nova Scotia's signature variety. In fact, enhanced minerality and slight saline from schist, sandstone, an ancient seabed, is our own terroir signature, and getting stronger each year as the roots reach deep, over a metre presently. We approach Tidal Bay with the same lens - dry and the blend is predominantly L'Acadie from our estate.
Organic viticulture has been practiced at our Wolfville winery since inception and our Tidal Bay is a certified organic wine. The blend also has 15% organic Seyval blanc from the Windsor area on typical heavier soils- clay, loam. We are familiar with it from years of blending with Vintage Cuvee and it brings acidity and citrus flavour to the blend, fully complementing the richer tropical notes from L'Acadie. Living soils are prominent in both vineyards, a foundation of organics, with fungal populations helping the vine accentuate its uptake of not only nutrients but also flavours from the soil. A perfect match for a terroir-based wine like our Tidal Bay.
Releasing May 1 on our website and later in May in our wineshop.
UPDATE: As of May 1 you can buy Tidal Bay here
Is wine vegan? Yes, all L'Acadie Vineyards wines are vegan and organic, and we also follow vegan viticulture. So what can makes other wines not vegan? We all know that wine is grown in the vineyard, that practices and weather can play a significant role in ultimate wine quality. So let's start there.
Vineyard management varies depending on varieties, vineyard location and philosophy. Our location is deeply rooted in Gaspereau, Nova Scotia and we grow several varieties - L'Acadie blanc, Leon Millot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Click here for more about our terroir. The latter varieties are in the vinifera family and are more sensitive to disease so require more attention. Strategies include hilling the trunks in winter, leaf removal next to clusters and shoot positioning for air circulation, periodic sulfur applications on the leaves and plant residue teas. That brings us to philosophy, which really has two camps - conventional and organic. We have been organic since first planting our estate in 2005/2006 and our nutrient management includes beet extracts for a nitrogen source rather than animal manure. Synthetic inputs are not allowed in organic systems and these include petroleum-based fertilizers, glyphosate weed killer, and a host of systemic and contact pesticides that ultimately make it into your wine.
Winemaking is the more direct source for non-vegan inputs. The most prevalent is gelatin, derived from animal slaughtering. It is a protein fining agent that is routinely added to hard press juices to reduce the bitter tannins that were squeezed from the skins. And there are other proteins used to similarly reduce bitterness and astringency in wines - egg whites for barrel aged reds, casein (cow milk) for correcting oxidized wine, and isinglass from fish bladders. So what do we use? Bentonite is a clay that has amazing clarification and stabilization benefits, and a riddling aid to help the yeast slide down the bottle for traditional method sparkling. For tannin management, we only make reds when the season gives us ripe tannins and phenolics(don't bother looking for 2018 and 2019 vintages), and after careful maceration techniques and aging in barrels we don't need to reduce astringency.
Organic winemaking is low intervention. And as Heather Rankin at Obladee Wine bar in Halifax said it once, "You have to know a lot to do a little". So very little inputs and essentially nudging the wine along its evolution path to become what it was meant to be in the vineyard, a wine with soul and transparency. Organic certifiers audit our grape sources and all our inputs, and the Canada Organic logo on our bottles is your assurance.
Join our organic wine clubs! Click here for more information
Top 2021 Wine Trends compiled by Natural Merchants - Family Produced Organic Wines
Timely article by Natural Merchants that points to many aspects of our own wine portfolio. I never thought I'd be saying that we are trendy, we've been at this too long to suggest we are bandwagon jumpers, but our wines check the boxes on many of the trends mentioned:
- "Sparkling wine, and Prosecco in particular, has spearheaded the diversification of wine’s consumption occasions. The category has steadily moved away from its one-dimensional image as a special celebratory drink to align with more regular occasions, such as the aperitivo hour."
- “As a result of the pandemic, the importance of sustainability has been reinforced in the minds of consumers. In tandem with increasing the focus on environmental concerns, the pandemic has amplified the trend towards health and wellness. Together, these issues have acted as major drivers of the organic, biodynamic, and low-intervention wine movement.”
- Bio-hacking: "In the wine world, this refers to wines that are low in sugar and alcohol that can be incorporated without dire effects into a diet such as Paleo or Keto. The wines have low-enough sugar (under 1 g/l) and alcohol to keep the body from going out of Ketosis, when consumed in moderation." ~Nova Scotia wines are naturally lower alcohol, and we don't add sugar to sweeten our still wines - all are under 1 g/l
- "Online sales will continue to boom, up for small wineries by 154% in 2020." ~We launched our new online store in August 2020!
- “To put it simply, rosé has exploded in popularity in the last few years, but it also has a lot more versatility and seasonal range than most people realize,” ~ Check our rose wine lineup - Rose, Vintage Cuvee Rose, Sparkling Rose, Rose Brut.