Industry experts offer winery, vineyard tips
Offer winery, vineyard tips
October 3, 2008 By Dan Woolley
Two of Canada’s most knowledgeable
and experienced winery and vineyard observers provided some timely tips
during the Third Atlantic Canadian Wine Symposium, held this past
Paul Troop, a winemaker on B.C.’s Salt Spring Island, shared his views and advice on vineyard production and winery development in the Atlantic provinces during the opening session of the Third Atlantic Canadian Wine Symposium, hosted by Nova Scotia.
Two of Canada’s most knowledgeable and experienced winery and vineyard observers provided some timely tips during the Third Atlantic Canadian Wine Symposium, held this past summer.
Tony Aspler, Canada’s foremost wine writer, and Paul Troop, a winemaker on B.C.’s Salt Spring Island, shared their views and advice on vineyard production and winery development in the Atlantic provinces during the opening session of the symposium, hosted by Nova Scotia.
Aspler, based in Toronto, Ont., said he has noted tremendous growth in the industry since the late 1970s when Roger Dial founded Nova Scotia’s first modern winery and vineyard. There are now 10 wineries in the province, he added, while another two are slated to open in 2008 and more are expected to begin production in the next few years.
Troop said the situation on the B.C. Gulf Islands, where he lives, “is very similar to here. It is almost eerie.”
Currently, the Gulf Islands have almost 500 acres in vineyards and 30 wineries, explained Troop. “You are going through the same growth situation we did seven or eight years ago.”
As a new wine region, Aspler believes Nova Scotia should play to its strengths.
“You have a signature grape that no one else has,” he said. “Think of L’Acadie in those terms.”
Besides its winter-hardiness, the grapes can be made in a variety of styles, Aspler said. “You are never going to ripen Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Concentrate on sparkling wines and your aromatic wines, the dessert wines.”
The high acidity of Nova Scotia wines means not only do they last a long time, they also possess “a special cachet,” declared Aspler. “Don’t compare yourself to Ontario and British Columbia. You should compare yourself to the Loire Valley, the Moselle, the Alto Adige. What makes your wines so special is they go so well with the food you produce. You should market them as food wines.
“You want to produce your wines as a region,” he added. “Embrace the emblem of Brand Nova Scotia.”
Aspler also recommends the rigorous application of quality regulations to Nova Scotia’s wines. “One of the triumphs in Ontario and B.C. was the setting up of VQA. These regulations gave Ontario the basis for the quality of wines it now has.”
Troop is more cautious on the issue of regulation, cautioning growers to make sure any regulations adopted for the Nova Scotia industry doesn’t become too rigid “because your industry is too young,” he said.
Regulation can be very useful in protecting what is very good “but it could be 100 years before you know what works well here.”
The VQA has been a “phenomenal marketing tool” but it has also stifled the ability of the industry to work with new varieties outside the official VQA list, Troop said. “I strongly recommend you don’t allow a restrictive list of varieties during your lifetime.”
Picking the right varieties and production methods also play important roles in grape and wine quality.
“A cool climate viticulture region can only be defined by the grapes you can grow, not the weather you have,” said Troop. “The trick is to grow grapes that can ripen 10 years out of 10.”
He recommends growers try to reduce input costs by planting disease-resistant varieties. “First of all, I look at resistance. Our main disease problem is botrytis. You have other mildew issues.”
Troop praises the hardiness of the vines of Swiss plant breeder Valentine Blattner, noting their “vastly superior disease resistance.”
Out of 60 Blattner vines he has tried, he has narrowed them down to about 20 varieties for commercial planting.
When selecting vines, Troop recommends choosing those that are upright, vertical in growth and produce few laterals. “If they are not, they will cost more to manage.”
Troop believes the major issues in vineyard management are row spacing and weed control. In an establishment year, it is very important to allow the young vines a good, healthy start by keeping the ground clear, he said.
Round Up in combination with Ignite will work; but plowing is probably a better idea for soil health, he said. “I have been using a heavy woven ground cloth.”
Troop has also found that spraying accounts for 15 per cent of the gross value of his grapes. As well, organic vineyard management increasingly means sustainable vineyard management.
“Any time you eliminate a tractor pass through your vineyard, you are saving money,” he said. “Fuel costs have doubled this year. What will happen 10 years from now?”
Aspler praised “the collegiality” of Nova Scotia’s grape growers and vintners. “Sharing and caring about each other will serve you well in the future,” he said.
It was a sentiment shared by Troop.
“Pull on the same rope in the same direction,” he added.
The enthusiasm of the Nova Scotia wine industry is infectious, said Aspler. “I think the future is yours. You only have to go upwards from here.”
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