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On the Bubble 

Gaspereau Valley's L'Acadie Vineyards make a world-class fizz.

Winemaker Bruce Ewert is well-known in Canadian wine circles for his still and sparkling wines. He received multiple awards at BC wineries and won double gold for his 2007 L'Acadie Star at this year's All Canadian championships.

But what interests me is his bubbly. L'Acadie Vineyards in the Gaspereau Valley is the first Nova Scotia winery to release a premium traditional-method wine with their 2005 Brut.

Bruce fashions his Brut from the L'Acadie, a grape practically unknown outside Atlantic Canada, but well-established here as the main white-wine grape. Ewert chose L'Acadie for several reasons. He was familiar with its success in Nova Scotia as a still wine, but he was particularly encouraged by its ripening characteristics.

"I have made sparkling wine from Riesling for many years in BC," Bruce says, "and I see similar flavour development in L'Acadie: flavours developing early in the ripening process and a retention of the natural acidity."

These qualities are very important for making premium sparkling wine using the traditional method. L'Acadie ripens at a low sugar level, resulting in a low alcohol level in its initial fermented form. Ewert prefers this, because a secondary fermentation in the bottle increases the alcohol. The final product has good fruit flavours and aromas without a high alcohol content. Plus, the firm acidity of L'Acadie provides refreshment---part of the attraction of a Brut (dry) sparkler.

The 2005 Brut ($37.28) is a terrific bubbly, with the fine mousse and toasty notes to be expected from three years of bottle conditioning. It has crisp acidity and delicious tree-fruit aromas and flavours.

But Brut lovers had better move quickly---this one is moving fast. "We are doing very well in terms of the number of restaurants, especially in Halifax, that are carrying our brut," enthuses Ewert.

L'Acadie Vineyards aims to be an organic grower and producer, which means the winery must practice low-sulphur winemaking. Because of its high pressure, a sparkling wine does not need sulphites for stability, so it makes an ideal wine for organic producers. That said, it takes several years for vines to mature to winemaking potential, so most of the current L'Acadie wines were made from locally sourced grapes, not all of which were organic.

While all of their estate wines will eventually be organic, only one, the 2007 Organic L'Acadie ($21.46)---a white table wine---is currently certified. Ewert also specializes in dry and dessert wines incorporating dried grapes. Their 2007 L'Acadie Soleil ($27.11 for a 200ml bottle) is an extremely exotic and decadent sweetie.

They also have an off-dry, rosé sparkler in production, with an expected pre-Christmas 2008 release. Based on initial sampling, this Marechal Foch-based bubbly has bright cherry and cranberry fruit and lively acid, making for a balanced, eminently quaffable wine that will pair perfectly with Christmas turkey.

That is, if you can hold off and save enough for dinner.

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