L'Acadie Vineyards Blog
Welcome to the L'Acadie Vineyards blog and winery news
Our wine region is based on hybrid grapes, grape varieties originating from plant breeding programs that blended the winemaking characteristics of European varieties called vinifera with North American varieties known for winter hardiness and disease resistance. An example of vinifera is Chardonnay and a local hybrid is L’Acadie Blanc, Nova Scotia’s signature grape variety. Many hybrid varieties were pulled out in other warmer regions of Canada in the 1980’s and replanted with vinifera, almost all grapes in BC and less in Ontario, and they were known for high cropping and a quality level that suited consumer preferences of the day – I was in BC at this time in my early winemaking career making Hochtaler and Baby Duck. Myth and stigma continues for hybrid grapes but wines in cool climates like our region are high quality from excellent viticulture and turning heads, and we have to learn to market them without making excuses.
L'Acadie Vineyards recently earned a Gold medal and 95 points at Decanter World Wine Awards in London for a 100% L’Acadie Blanc sparkling wine called Prestige Brut Estate. It has been three months since the announcement and our Gaspereau winery is having an enjoyable ride of media coverage and sales. After a period of reflection my opinion is that Decanter’s take on the win is similar to when a California wine first won at this prestigious European wine competition in the 1970's, dramatized in the film Bottle Shock. Very much appreciate their words about us, but the focus is tilted towards hybrids,
"Canada is a cool climate region that knows a thing or two about the benefits of hybrid grape varieties, and for the first time a single varietal L’Acadie Blanc, a hybrid crossing of Cascade and Seyve-Villard, was awarded a Gold medal in its rendition as a sparkling wine for L’Acadie Vineyards, Prestige Brut 2017 from Gaspereau Valley in Nova Scotia. A noteworthy first-ever Gold for the region too." Olivia Mason, Decanter June 7, 2023.
They focussed on a hybrid grape winning but isn’t the real news, the “bottle shock”, that Nova Scotia won? Or our winery, our organic wine. It's feeding the myth of less quality hybrids but with notable exceptions like this one bubbling up from the bottom now and then. If a wine from Portugal’s Douro Valley appellation won a similar award would the news be about a relatively obscure regional varietal like Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Viosinho or would it simply be the Douro region? I think the latter and much better for marketing the region especially since they rarely label their wines by varietal. And what if a Tidal Bay wine won a big international award? Would the focus be on the hybrid varieties in the blend? Much better marketing for our region would be to promote the appellation wine and Nova Scotia.
How do we change the narrative? Let’s start close to home. I have heard it so many times from wineries in Nova Scotia,
“we have the hybrids pruned and now starting the viniferas”
“how much do you pay for hybrids?”
And more recently, “congratulations on your Decanter gold, especially since it is for a hybrid”
Let’s start talking about varieties as just that, varieties, without categorizing them into a class system. Each variety has unique winter hardiness and disease resistance and we even saw an exception to the myth rule this past winter after the polar vortex - Riesling fared better than New York Muscat.
There has been much effort to plant vinifera varieties in the last 10 years under the impression that wine trade will take our region more seriously if we produce varietals such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The polar vortex was a sobering call and perhaps it’s time to change our mindset, and change wine trade’s narrative. And there are individuals in wine trade that are already our “freedom riders”,
“I’d rather have a ripe Marechal Foch than an underripe Pinot Noir”, well known local wine lover Jeff Pinhey
If you look at our website you’ll notice that we use the term “organic” often, and only when we reference our certifying body do we say “certified organic by Pro-Cert”. We can say “organic”, and we do many times because all of our wines are organic, but we can not say “certified organic” by itself, according to the current Canada Organic standard. We disagree with this requirement.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates the Canada Organic standard and have a draconian regulation that restricts organic operations like our winery to not use the term “certified organic” unless we say who we are certified by. I’m even inviting an official non-compliance letter from them for writing this blog with that term. Why do they have this regulation? They argue that it sounds like a higher level of organic status compared to someone claiming organic. And here is where it gets even more unfair – a non-organic operation can claim organic on their website and other marketing media as long as not where their product is sold. Here’s an example of a website for an imaginary conventional winery not making organic wine: “We follow organic practices in our grapegrowing to make quality wine. Buy our wine here”. They don’t sell grapes, so no offence there. They sell wine, but are not claiming that the wine is organic, so no offence there either.
We need changes at the five year review of the Canada Organic standard this year so that we and other organic producers can use the term “certified organic”. We are certified, not merely making a general claim, and deserve to use the term to stand out in a crowded and noisy marketplace. We spend many dollars every year to have rigorous inspections, traceability audits and mass balance audits all to prove to CFIA that we follow the organic standard. Organic operations in United States are allowed to use the term. It’s time to update the Canada Organic standard so we can use it as well.
Read more about the benefits of choosing organic wine,
The world of fungi is amazing. I always credit kombucha’s yeasty cloudy popularity to wine lovers’ rapid acceptance to similarly cloudy Pet Nats. And Hollywood’s portrayal of “mind-controlling” fungus in Last of Us has further vaulted fungus to rock star status, a sinister version in this case. Another fungus, a beneficial one, called mycorrhiza lives in soil and has a critical symbiotic relationship with roots to help vines access water and nutrients especially during drought and other climate extremes. This is a true rock star.
When plants made that difficult evolutionary step from a nutrient-rich marine environment to a relatively harsh soil home, they had to make an alliance with microbes in the soil to survive. Mycorrhizal fungi grows into root cells to access carbohydrates from the vine, and in exchange, root zone influence of the vine expands to 3-10 times with a complex network of fungus filaments. I call this microbial terroir. Water, nutrients and “flavours” in soil are more accessible for the vine.
Organic practices at our Gaspereau vineyard encourage this living soil, rather than the conventional approach of ignoring microbes and following a regime of feeding vines directly with readably accessible synthetic fertilizers. They seem to know – decreasing their relationship with the roots, almost sensing that they are not needed to cycle nutrients for the vine. Same outcome with animal manures. Other practices that kill fungi are tilling excessively between vineyard rows rather than using a constant cover crop and using herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup). We make plant-based compost teas, a veganic approach, to inoculate vines with beneficial fungi – crowding out disease organisms on leaves and inoculating roots. It's why we are Biocyclic Vegan
Strengthening our microbial terroir helps our vines be more resilient to climate change. Accessibility to nutrients and water is enhanced and that's especially important with extreme weather events.
Here's an article about research in Portugal,
On February 4, 2023 temperatures dropped to -25C in the Annapolis Valley, a polar vortex event in an otherwise mild winter. See CBC news video
We knew that our Gaspereau vineyard would be impacted and the effects are starting to show as we proceed through budbreak. We pruned lightly and left more canes for growth and are seeing a reasonable budbreak so far. The above image is Leon Millot. Even though there are shoots emerging we stll don't know how much crop we will get for 2023...and expect it to be less. Same for L'Acadie blanc.
The next image is Chardonnay that is only showing shoots at the trunk so far. Pinot noir is similar. Fingers crossed that there will be some viable buds on the upper canes. It's expected that our only goal with these two sensitive varieites will be to grow new trunks for future years and skip cropping grapes this year.
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I was recently asked to sit on a panel about the effects of climate change to the Nova Scotia wine industry. This request adds to a significant increase in focus lately - there are new research proposals on how vineyards can be more resilience, trade conferences like Tasting Climate Change, and of course much research into the February Polar Vortex event...which interestingly happened after the panel topic was chosen.
I plan to discuss organic farming and the benefits of resilience. And then share data and trends of grape maturity for sparkling wine.
Organic viticulture, the practice of growing grapes without synthetic chemicals, can make a vineyard more resilient to climate change in several ways:
- Improved soil health: Organic viticulture relies on the use of natural fertilizers and soil amendments, which can improve soil structure and water-holding capacity. This means that the soil can retain more moisture during droughts and absorb excess water during heavy rains, reducing erosion and soil compaction.
- Improved mycorrhizal fungi networks: living soils are optimized in an organic system – pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and excessive tillage reduce populations. The expanded influence by this network to the root zone allows vines to source more nutrients to have higher tissue sugars for cold hardiness and disease resistance.
- Biodiversity: Organic vineyards typically encourage biodiversity by providing habitat for insects and other wildlife. This can help to create a more resilient ecosystem that is better able to adapt to changes in climate and weather patterns.
- Reduced carbon footprint: Organic viticulture often involves the use of more sustainable practices, such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, and the use of natural pest management strategies. These practices can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the vineyard, which can contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change.
- Resilient grape varieties: Organic viticulture may favor grape varieties that are better adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. This can result in a more diverse and resilient vineyard that is better able to withstand extreme weather events such as drought, heatwaves, or cold snaps.
Overall, organic viticulture can help to create a more sustainable and resilient vineyard ecosystem, which is better equipped to adapt to the challenges of climate change.
The 2010 growing season was the first time I felt heat that reminded me of my previous sparkling career in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. We had moved back to Pauline's home province in 2004 to make sparkling wine in a better climate for the style. Coincidently, that year corresponds closely to what researchers in our region identify as the start of the effects of climate change, and it marked our second vintage to earn medals at Effervescents du Monde in France.
Read more about the contrasts of making sparkling wine in the two regions.
Moderate sugars, acid retention and brown lignified (ripe) seeds are the characteristics of a world-class sparkling region, and Nova Scotia has it! As it gets warmer, though, we have been watching acidity more closely and adjusting pick dates to keep optimal freshness. See below for data from 14 years of harvesting Prestige Brut Estate from the same block showing that we have been not only maintaining freshness but also slightly trending higher acidity.
Other strategies to retain freshness in a warming climate is to prune for more crop....more grapes per vine tends to increase acidity and lower sugars at harvest. There are limits though. Champagne regulations usually have an upper limit of 10-12 tonnes per hectare, approximately 4-5 tonnes per acre, and many growers crop even higher and sell the unusable excess to distillers. But at these crop levels and higher there can be impacts on flavour and, to a lesser degree, possible nutrient deficiencies in the juice causing fermentation problems. Remember we are still striving for ripeness, and what works in Champagne might not work here in Nova Scotia. Most of the vintages listed above were cropped at 3-4 tonnes per acre, which matched our terroir of rocky well-drained soil with about 8 inches of humus-rich top soil in the block where we grow Prestige Brut Estate. And all years had brown seeds, ripeness!
Transparency and Sustainability: the benefits of choosing certified organic and vegan wines
Welcome to our blog! We are passionate about certified organic and Biocyclic Vegan wines, and committed to sustainability and transparency in everything we do. Discover why our award-winning wines are a must-try for health-conscious wine lovers.
Transparency is a cornerstone of certified organic and certified Biocyclic Vegan wines, backed by rigorous inspections of grape growing and winemaking, to inform you of what is not in your wine. The Canadian Organic Standard prohibits genetically modified ingredients, synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and the Biocyclic Vegan International Standard prohibits animal inputs in the vineyard and winemaking. This effectively eliminates many common ingredients and since nutritional information and ingredient declarations are not required for wines, certified organic vegan wines are your only guarantee of what wasn’t added to them.
The certification logos on labels are your guide to choose wisely. You can also view our list of organic wines at our certifier’s site,
Lower alcohol in cool climate wines offers a health advantage, another benefit of buying local. Add the health benefits of organic wines and you have a winning combination! You avoid synthetic pesticide residues - yes, every spray in the vineyard makes it into your glass, and preservatives such as potassium sorbate. Sulfite is naturally occurring, produced by yeast, and organic winemakers can only adjust sulfite levels to half the maximum in federal standards.
Social Change and Environment
Biocyclic Vegan standards start in the vineyard compared to other vegan certifications that just focus on winemaking. These wines are vegan from soil to glass, and not using animal manures is a clear message to oppose conventional livestock practices. Composted grape pomace, left over after pressing, is alternatively used to create a humus-rich soil teeming with beneficial microbes - a living soil that supports vine health.
Cover crops and no-till practices, a pillar of organic agriculture, promote living soils and better nutrients, and mounting information indicates that carbon-holding benefits can lessen global warming.
Water and air quality benefits from organic practices are well proven. Nanotechnology is prohibited because these engineered substances in food and packaging can add to the problems of plastics in our water systems and our health..
~~In vino veritus
Vineyard Update - February 4 Polar Vortex Impact
On February 4 and 5 our estate Gaspereau vineyard experienced a bud-damaging cold temperature of -25C. We are still assessing the impact of the polar vortex event but preliminary bud viability analysis is indicating about 65% bud loss in our L’Acadie blocks. We haven’t assessed Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Pinot Noir yet but have heard from our industry that vinifera vines were hardest hit and that it might take years for recovery. Minimum temperature and bud loss at our Gaspereau Valley location seems to be similar to other vineyards in Annapolis Valley and we are plugged into information and guidance from our Nova Scotia Grape Growers Association and researchers at the Kentville Research Centre and Perennia.
Why is there so much impact?
It is being described as a “perfect storm” for severe crop damage mainly due to the unseasonal warm January that prevented vines from reaching their normal bud hardiness. The weather event was an advective freeze with winds preventing inversion or radiative warm air. Snow cover was not enough to give any blanketing insulation effects but the hilled soil over the trunks of our vinifera vines hopefully protected them from severe trunk damage.
What is the impact on our wine production?
We are adjusting our pruning to leave more canes and buds which will hopefully give us a reasonable 2023 crop. After the 2018 spring frost, our L’Acadie blocks adjusted to the shorter growing season to ripen a small crop, and we hope it will show its suitability to our climate again. Also, our organic and vegan vineyard practices should give us a measure of resilience to climate change and we may see those benefits as the growing season progresses. Climate Change and 2022 Vintage
Inventories of tiraged aging traditional method sparkling will be impacted for future releases in much the same effect as the 2018 frost. Release of 2020 Vintage Cuvee and 2020 Vintage Cuvee Rose will continue as planned for this spring.
Our 2022 Tidal Bay production is less than previous years and we will have to allocate 2023 sales accordingly. Similarly, charmat method
A new report from the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction has found that any more than two drinks a week is a health risk. This is sharply reduced from the past 10-15 drinks per week guideline.
This could lead to mandatory alcohol warnings on wine bottle labels, a good step towards transparency, and has me thinking of other label declarations that would benefit consumers.
I welcome transparency much like we are transparent with our organic wine and vegan wine traceability. Consumers have a right to know where their food is from, how it was produced and, yes, health risks involved. The responsibility has always been on organic producers to prove their integrity with inspections and audits, but shouldn’t non-organic farmers be required to provide a list of carcinogenic pesticides like Round-up, a widely used herbicide, recognized by WHO (World Health Organization) as a probable carcinogen. I have worked for large wineries and was always amazed seeing the same pesticides used in the vineyard always show up on the pesticide analysis of bottled wine.
Another level of transparency for consumers in GMO labelling. Genetically modified food does not have to be declared on labels in Canada or the USA, but are required in EU.
Will this new alcohol consumption report and possible label warnings affect wine sales? Wine is different than other alcoholic beverages and it’s possible that its alignment with food, lifestyle and moderation might give it more resilience. Nova Scotia wines in particular have lower alcohols than warmer wine regions – Tidal Bay, the region’s signature white blend, must be less that 11.0 % alcohol.
Give consumers information they need and let them make wise choices.