Nova Scotia Wineries
Nova Scotia, a new world wine producer with old world roots, is now being touted as the nouveau “vino-phenom”, ironically, as it boasts the oldest vineyard in North America, established in roughly 1615.
The wine industry in Nova Scotia is burgeoning, boasting new wineries slated to open every year. With a modest beginning (post-17th century) wherein a few vineyards thought to turn their grape crops into something more potable, there are now about 20 wineries in the province, some of which are setting new standards for excellence, winning awards the world over.
Nova Scotia Wines Ideal Terroir
Nova Scotia wineries are taking home international prizes mostly in the acidic or floral whites, sparkling wines and red blends categories. Why? And why not heavy red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon? It’s all about terroir.
Nova Scotia has a superb range of climate and geographical combinations that serve to produce unique vintages. Terroir. The combination of soil, balance of sun and rain, moderation of air temperature, ocean breezes, and the perfect slope of a hillside that affords rapid drainage.
This is ideal synergy for fresh whites (not oak-aged), sparkling wines, and blended wines, as well as lighter reds. The climate is not sufficiently warm year-round for single-vintage, heavy reads. Local wineries focus on what works, and some of them are making magic.
Superstars of the Nova Scotia Wineries
The surprise star of the Nova Scotia wineries is Benjamin Bridge’s gently sweet Nova 7. A frizzante (lightly bubbly, not as frothy and fizzy as champagne), it sold out of its first vintage in a matter of weeks, and at $25 a bottle. Pink and with only 7% alcohol, it’s a sipping wine, or an aperitif, like drinking sparkles. As Nova Scotians shared Nova 7 with their friends in other provinces, the demand grew, and it is now available at most liquor outlets across Canada.
Benjamin Bridge has recently produced an innovative new bubbly, Petillant Naturel (Pet Nat for short), an artisanal wine, unfiltered, and therefore slightly cloudy. At 10% alcohol, it’s got more punch than Nova 7, bout it’s much drier, and rich with aromas and flavour of wild herbs and citrus. Both of these wines are conveniently available in single-serving pull-tab cans.
Three whites dominate Nova Scotia wineries output, the key one being L’Acadie Blanc. Named in honour of the early Acadian settlers, this wine is crisply acidic, dry and reminiscent of true Italian Pinot Grigio, and in some vintages, Sauvignon Blanc. Check out L’Acadie Blanc from Blomidon Estates Winery on the shore of the Minas Basin, or L’Acadie Vineyards.
Seyval Blanc is also popular, largely among people with less sophisticated wine palates, as it is off-dry and easy-drinking. Gaspereau Vineyards produces one of the most popular Seyval Blancs in the region.
Finally, Tidal Bay. Several wineries situated in the lush Annapolis Valley produce their own version of this wine. A touch off-dry (not as sweet as Seyval Blanc), it is an agreed-upon blend between the Nova Scotia wineries collaborative, but each winery’s edition tastes slightly different from the others. Among the best are from Domaine de Grand Pre and Avondale Sky Winery.
The most remarkable red wines in the Nova Scotia cellars tend to be blends, some of which include imported grapes. Among the best of these is Luckett Vineyards’ The Old Bill, a blend of Lucie Kuhlman (an indigenous Nova Scotia grape), dried Cabernet Foch, Castel and Precoce, aged 24 months in American oak barrels. Luckett’s star red wine, Buried Red 2014, is sold out. Yes, that good.
How to Find Nova Scotia Wineries
The majority of Nova Scotia wineries are situated in the Annapolis Valley, with the greatest concentration in the parallel, connected, and smaller Gaspereau Valley. It is proving to be the ideal terroir for wine making. The town of Wolfville (often referred to as the smallest big city in the world) is the centre of commerce and entertainment (food, wine, films (like Devour, a food film festival every November!), theatre, music, and outdoor activities) for the area’s wineries. Several regions of the province are home to a plethora of wineries; here are a few of them:
- Devonian Coast (on the way to Antigonish): Jost Vineyards
- Cape Breton Island: Eileanan Breagha on the Bras D’Or Lake
- Eastern Annapolis Valley (near Windsor): Saint-Famille Wines (older, established); Avondale Sky Winery (unique setting); and the hot new Bent Ridge Winery and Cucina
- Bear River (near Digby): Bear River Winery home of the oldest vineyards on the continent, still using a gravity system for making wines
- South Shore: Lunenburg County Winery (blueberry wine); Petite Riviere Vineyards, resplendent with a music venue
- Minas Basin: Blomidon (a local version of “blow me down”) Estates Winery, right on the water
- Wolfville and area: Lightfoot & Wolfville (if you like pizza with wine, their huge stone oven makes the best); Domaine de Grand Pre, offering an upscale dining experience; Mercator Winery (new kid on the wine route); and Planters Ridge in historic Port Williams
- Gaspereau Valley: L’Acadie Vineyards (organic!); Gaspereau Vineyards (nice patio); Benjamin Bridge Winery (the best of bubbly and more); Luckett Vineyards and its to-die-for outdoor restaurant, with the optimum view of Cape Blomidon, and all-weather tent
Where to Try and Buy Nova Scotia Wines
Care to tour Nova Scotia wineries and sample their wares with no worries? There are several guided mini-bus tours based in Halifax and the Magic Winery Bus, a double-decker bus that stops at four Wolfville-area wineries. Almost all Nova Scotia wineries are within an hour of Halifax. Take a day trip, or spend a luxurious weekend sampling the unique and diverse wines of Nova Scotia. Book your visit today.
If you can’t come to the Nova Scotia wineries, visit your local Nova Scotia Liquor Commission store; they promote Nova Scotia wines and have large sections of products. Nova Scotia wines are so heavenly, they often sell out entirely, so waste no time tasting a few and buying a selection of bottles (or cases) of your favourites.