“Common wisdom would suggest that if something ain’t broke, you don’t fix it, right?” Jean-Benoit Deslauriers says with a laugh. But as Benjamin Bridge is proving on the 10-year anniversary of Nova 7, you also can’t win if you don’t roll the dice.
As head winemaker at Benjamin Bridge, Deslauriers rolled the dice—essentially fixing something unbroken—after a decade of what has been an unmitigated success. An off-dry sparkling wine made with a proprietary blend of grapes grown by 15 local growers, Nova 7 is Benjamin Bridge’s flagship wine, a bestseller in the province. A change wasn’t necessary, Deslauriers says, but a transition was important to them.
“If you look at the majority of wine products that are available, they are a combination of grapes, but also ingredients that are added to perform the fermentation,” says Deslauriers. “So yeast, nutrients, fermentation aids, sugar. And ultimately those wines end up being the sum of all those parts.”
If you want to make a wine that has the ability to convey what is unique about a specific growing environment, a “terroir wine,” he says, you need to skip those additions.
“The terroir we happen to have here in Nova Scotia is quite unique because we’re working with fruit that grows along the coast of the Bay of Fundy,” Deslauriers says. “It highly impacts the environment around it and it’s equally unique. So can we really afford to put these other ingredients in that will have a huge impact on the finished product when our objective is to highlight precisely that’s unique about the growing environment?” The answer is no. So the answer was wild fermentation.
Deslauriers doesn’t feel like they are reinventing the wheel with their wild fermentation—“there are quite a few still wines that are wild fermented,” he says—but it is uncommon for an aromatic white wine like Nova 7. “To the best of my knowledge I’m not aware of any other highly aromatic wine in the style of Nova 7 or like a Moscato that would be the result of a wild fermentation. Because a winery would never come to the conclusion, unless they were absolutely obsessed with terroir expression, that a wild yeast would give them the best shot at a very specific floral aromatics. That would be more the domain of selected yeast strains that are meant to give you exactly that profile.”
By going wild, Benjamin Bridge has come up with something refined, says Deslauriers. “A transparent product, a wine that is a true expression of where it comes from.”