With 2014 just around the corner, a lot of us will be popping corks to announce the new year. New Year celebrations and bubbly go hand in hand, but what to pick? More and more of us are eating locally, but what about toasting locally?
For a long time, Nova Scotian wines were like the adolescent sibling of the Canadian wine scene: moody, unpredictable and occasionally unbearable. Thankfully, a few people recognized something special here, and cared enough to nurture and help it discover its strengths. One of those strengths comes in the form of sparkling wine.
"Here, we have a microclimate that works well with sparkling wines," says Jean-Benois Deslauriers, head winemaker at Benjamin Bridge. Benjamin calls itself an "ultra premium sparkling wine house" in its press materials, and with good reason. Its wines consistently score well, as well as generate good buzz amongst wine aficionados and amateurs. The microclimate where Nova Scotia's grapes are grown is very similar to that of champagne, the region of France synonymous with amazing sparkling wines. However, our region may have an advantage over champagne, in that our grapes are harvested later in the year, yielding much different grapes when it comes to flavour.
"That makes a tremendous difference in complexity and concentration," says Deslauriers. "Everything is ripe, as opposed to green and immature. Also, the use of the varietals that are not usually used in sparkling wines, such as L'Acadie Blanc, which is specific to Nova Scotia, make it unique. Our cool climate ensures very fresh and crisp and bright wines."
Deslauriers is quick to point out that Benjamin follows the same methods as those in champagne when it comes to making their sparkling wines. In fact most of the sparkling wines produced in Nova Scotia follow this method, including those from Blomidon Estate Winery. Simon Rafuse is the winemaker there.
"It's important thing to know that there are different sparkling wines, some are more intensive in making then others," he says. "At the top end would be things like champagne, made by méthode traditonelle. Those are wines where the second fermentation are done in the bottle. It's generally reflected in the price point in the wines, but it's a good indicator of style and quality of the wines. We do méthode traditionelle from a quality perspective, it gives the wine more character or elegance."
Blomidon's Cuvée L'Acadie is a great example of a traditional method sparkling wine, with the 2010 vintage voted best at the 2012 Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards.
Nova Scotian vintners are also producing various types of sparkling wines, not just classic champagne-style wines. Blomidon's produces a crémant, which Rafuse describes as being "made in a slightly lighter style than l'Acadie. It is under less pressure---closer to certain proseccos---and a hint of dry, and low alcohol."
Blomidon also produces the BMD, a sparkling red similar to certain Italian wines. And Benjamin Bridge has garnered a lot of attention for its Nova 7, which strictly speaking is not a sparkling wine, but its light effervescence and easy drinkability has made it a big seller.
When it comes to New Year's Eve, Deslaurier suggests Benjamin Bridge's 2009 Brut: "It is a prototypical Nova Scotia sparkling. It shows and displays the critical elements: very fresh, very bright and very sound from a technical point of view. A great embodiment of how our environment goes with traditional methods." Blomidon's Rafuse takes a more celebratory approach: "If I am going to have two glasses, I'd have the L'Acadie. If I am having the whole bottle, I'd go for the crémant."