Season provides challenge for Nova Scotia grape producers
April 23, 2008 By Dan Wooley
Nova Scotia grape growers rose to the challenge of a cold, wet spring followed by a cool, wet summer by trading off quantity for quality.
Because the growing season’s weather conditions lengthened the hang time from the normal mid-September harvest to the second week of October, provincial vineyard owners, following veraison in mid-August when the vines shifted energy from growing vegetation into producing sugars in the grapes, began aggressively thinning leaves and bunches on the vine.
This time-tested cool climate viticulture technique increased sugar content in the remaining grapes by allowing more sunlight to reach the ripening fruit.
September also provided a hoped-for warm, frost-free month to complete the successful maturation of the Nova Scotia grape crop. In comparison, to the rest of the growing season it was an above average month said Hans Christian who owns and operates two vineyards and a winery.
He says: “We had most of our growers drop between 20 to 30 per cent of their crop. If it had been a regular summer we would have had a bumper crop.”
Growers shipping to his winery were “proactive,” sacrificing grape volume for increased sugars and flavour in their fruit, says Jost, adding “we pay as much for sugar as we do for fruit.”
Ordinarily, grape shipments to his winery at Malagash on the Northumberland Strait would have “petered out” by October 20, but this year everything has happened after that date because of the longer hang time, he says.
The increased hang time, however, will mean more intense flavour in the wine. “The whites, in particular, will be as good as what we have ever had,” Jost said.
“The later we can harvest the white grapes the better ph and acid
balance we will have.”
Increased hang time will also increase the valued antioxidant content of red wine.
Jost will bleed off some of the juice from his crushed red grapes prior to fermentation to increase the skin to juice ratio to intensify the flavour of his premium red wines.
A cool, wet spring also meant a lighter fruit set for Annapolis Valley apple growers this season. High winds and heavy rains also attacked the late apple harvest in the Valley on October 12, causing “significant damage” around the Dempsey Corner area, says Dela Erith, Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association secretary. But, she also observes “I think, overall, our crop is very good. It is not as high a volume as last year; but the quality is very good.”
She estimates Valley growers will harvest about 1.9-million bushels, compared to the average 2.2-million bushels they harvested annually over the past several years, about eight per cent of the total Canadian apple production. ¶
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