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N.S. vintners testing potential of sparkling wine production


October 29, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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winegrapesOctober 27, 2008, Halifax, N.S. –
Some people thought it a bit odd when veteran winemaker Bruce Ewert
left B.C. for a patch of northwest-facing slope in Nova Scotia’s
Gaspereau Valley to plant his vines.

October 27, 2008, Halifax, N.S. – Some people thought it a bit odd when veteran winemaker Bruce Ewert left B.C. for a patch of northwest-facing slope in Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley to plant his vines.

winegrapesBut the owner of L’Acadie Vineyards and the producer of the province’s first sparkling brut clearly knew what he was doing, in following his business sense, and his heart. His wife is from Nova Scotia.

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“The requirement for a cool climate vineyard is that you have a slope to drain off the cold air,” said Ewert of his fully organic operation.

“And what happened when the glacier retreated from this valley is that it deposited all the glacial rocks and till and slate on this side, so I didn’t have to put any drainage tile in.”

The slate also retains and radiates daytime heat, nurturing the vines through cooler evenings.

But Ewert, who jumped into winemaking after obtaining a biosciences engineering degree from the University of British Columbia, believes there's an even bigger payoff in what the land is doing for his grapes.

“The mineral content, the flintiness in the wine, we’re getting it from the soil and I’m focused on flavours,” says Ewert, a big proponent of terroir.

He says that’s something the French have done with great success in marketing their wines.

“They’ve been so good at giving their wines a sense of place. It’s the land, the flavours from the land. We want to focus on that,” says Ewert, who developed his expertise in sparkling wines with stints at Hawthorne Mountain and Summerhill Pyramid wines in B.C.

His excitement is sparked in large part by the versatility of the tart, green L’Acadie Blanc grape that he uses to make his sparkler and some of his still wines.

“It reaches ideal sugar levels at physiological maturity and the acid and pH levels are there, so it has an enviable flavour profile.”

Other Nova Scotia wine growers are beginning to recognize the area’s potential for making good sparkling wines as well.

Not far from Ewert's vineyards near the town of Wolfville, the owners of Benjamin Bridge are also making plans.

Having just sold out of their first offering of a lightly effervescent apertif call Nova 7 they hope to move more heavily into “methode classique” production with hopes of developing sparkling wines on the order of the best French champagnes.

Dr. Andy Reynolds, a professor of biological sciences and viticulture at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., says any area that can grow grapes with low sugars and high acidity carries potential for sparking wines.

A researcher at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Reynolds says Nova Scotia certainly fits the profile.

“Nova Scotia doesn’t get too, too cold, so there’s probably no reason why you couldn’t grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier for sparkling wines the same as Ontario and B.C. are doing.”

However, Reynolds says production volume is usually driven by marketing issues.

“You probably don’t open a bottle of Champagne every night, but you might drink a half-bottle of table wine,” he says.

Reynolds also admits he doesn’t put much stock in terroir.

“Most grapes don’t know what soil they’re in, whether it’s slate or limestone,” he says.

“Soil does have an indirect effect though, through the growth of the vine, the exposure of the fruit. Flavours are produced in the grape itself so it’s variety, climate and it’s viticulture.”

Local inns and restaurants are already buying into the notion of Nova Scotia-produced sparklers, offering them to guests looking to celebrate special occasions.

Sean Doucet, an executive chef and sommelier in Halifax, even teamed with Ewert for a Nova Scotia Wine Festival event to pair the 2005 Brut with local seafood, including sauteed scallops in an apple butter.

“It’s a great sparkling wine and it’s great to see this because I believe this province has the potential to produce even more,” said Doucet, who has added several locally produced wines to his restaurant lists.

“If you think about it, in a lot of ways, with the exception of the cold, cold winters, we have a somewhat similar climate to that of the Champagne region of France.”

Doucet said sparkling wine and seafood are a natural combination with the crisp acidity cutting through the richness on the plate.

“I’d like to see more people start off their evening out dining with a sparkling wine. I’ve always had a passion for them.”