Bay watch: the three best Tidal Bays of 2016

Standout bottles from the latest vintage of Nova Scotia’s signature wine style.

click to enlarge These Tidal Bays are crushable thanks to their “wake-you-up tanginess. - JESSICA EMIN
Jessica Emin
These Tidal Bays are crushable thanks to their “wake-you-up tanginess.
Tidal Bay has quickly become a staple of Nova Scotian patios and cottage parties. The new vintage, the wine that was made from summer 2016’s grapes and bottled in the last month, is ready for you to put on ice.

Tidal Bay is not a grape, or a wine region—it’s a style of wine unique to our province. The Winery Association of Nova Scotia introduced this designated style with the 2011 vintage, and more wineries have been producing it ever since, says Gillian Mainguy executive director of WANS.

There are 12 wineries making Tidal Bay, with an allowable blend of several grapes varieties that highlight the best of what our wine regions can produce, which are bright, aromatic whites.

“Our cooler climate, and short growing season, comparative to other wine producing parts of the world, make it so that these hearty, resilient grapes are high acid, low alcohol and smell heavenly. The 2016 vintage is top shelf; A great growing year, the hot summer with little rain creates ideal growth conditions,” says Mainguy.

When should I drink Tidal Bay?
Tidal Bay is wine that’s made ready to drink, because cellaring won’t necessarily improve it, and the reasons it is unique—its wake-you-up tanginess and fresh fruit character—might even diminish over time. Each vintage of Tidal Bay usually sells fast, so find it while it lasts at the wineries, the handful of private wine shops, the Seaport Farmers’ Market and the NSLC.

Which foods pair best with Tidal Bay?
The Bay of Fundy, cool coastal waters and sea breeze have a great influence on our terroir, so it only makes sense that Tidal Bay is a likely pairing for seafood. You can cut through the fat of fish and chips with its brightness, or pair to its strengths with a citrusy ceviche or poached lobster. Other pairings could be crab cakes, salad with fruit, spicy chips or desserts made with rhubarb.

The Top 3 of the 2016 Tidal Bay vintage

1. Planters Ridge (11% abv)
Grape blend: l’Acadie Blanc, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, Muscat, Seyval Blanc
This is the best wine I’ve tasted from Planters Ridge to date. The young winery’s Tidal Bay is ripe and aromatic. It is a noseful of canned pear in rich syrup, cotton candy, fresh white plum and pineapple. It’s light on the palate, with bright acidity. The notes of stonefruit and pear carry over to the palate. The lasting impression is ripeness, rather than sweetness, and the wine’s finish is light. In my opinion, this is the most layered
and complex of the Tidal Bay wines this

2. Lightfoot & Wolfville (10.5% abv)
Grape blend: l’Acadie, Geisenheim, Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal
For a winery that has yet to open a retail tasting room, Lightfoot & Wolfville is really making a name for itself with its Tidal Bay, and also its Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Riesling. This wine is all crisp apple, lime juice, grapefruit and mineral notes. The texture is lively, and dances on your tongue. The acidity is high, but perfectly counters the sweetness for an awesome balanced finish.

3. Avondale Sky Winery (9.6% abv)
Grape blend: l’Acadie Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Geisenheim 318, Petite Milo
This wonderful winery, and winemaker Ben Swetnam have been in my top Tidal Bay wines for the last three years—clearly he’s got a handle on what’s good. Notes of key lime, fresh apricot, apple and a stony mineral note, like a little lick of granite, predominate. Fresh and aromatic on the nose and light to medium bodied with good acidity and a sweeter finish.