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Wild fruit wines experience an Atlantic Canadian revival as wine enthusiasts expand their palates

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People have made wine from wild fruit as far back as one can imagine, so it only makes sense that entrepreneurs in our provinces are looking to fermentation as a means of earning additional profit from the bounty already growing around us.

Fruit wine often features the commonly grown apples, blueberries, and cranberries, but also lesser known fruit varieties like sea buckthorn berries, haskap berries, and rosehips. Some wild, some cultivated, these fruits bring their own unique characteristics.

“I’ve made wine from haskap and sea buckthorn but not cloudberry,” says fruit-wine maker and author Dominic Rivard of Muwin Estates Wines in New Ross, Nova Scotia.

Rivard uses local and imported fruit in his wines. He says haskap can be excellent as a big, dry, red table wine and can take oak ageing. “Kind of halfway between a wild blueberry and a black currant,” he adds. As for sea buckthorn, he says it makes “a golden coloured wine, full bodied with an interesting almost ‘soapy’ finish.”

Big Sky Ventures, a sea buckthorn farm in Chipman, New Brunswick, started making a wine using this orange berry in 2015. They produce several blends incorporating sea buckthorn juice. The Riesling blend, which incorporates grape juice, is yellowish and tastes sweet and very peachy.

Rossignol Estate Winery in Little Sands, Prince Edward Island has a great reputation for grape wines, but is also doing interesting work with fruit wines. Its oddest concoction is Wild Rose, a liqueur made with by soaking P.E.I.-grown rosehips (rose bush berries) in liqueur for many hours to infuse their flavour. The result is complex and delicious, rare and expensive.

Rossignol is also known for its intense Blackberry Mead, a regular award winner at national competitions, made with local blackberries and honey. Back in Nova Scotia, fruit-wine specialists include Luckett Vineyards in the Gaspereau Valley, which makes grape and other fruit wines. Luckett works with Muwin Estates’ Rivard on most of its non-grape wines.

Cordelia is Luckett’s fortified wine made from blackberries, and Amelia is a blackcurrant liqueur that’s aged in oak. These are both tasty and perfect for cocktails, such as the classic Kir featuring white wine with a splash of black currant liqueur. Use dry sparkling wine and make a Kir Royale.

Magnetic Hill Winery in Moncton won two medals at the 2015 All Canadian Wine Championships and the Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards, both for its dessert wines: Illusions, a rhubarb table white, and Resurgo, a dry, rhubarb based sparkling wine. Rhubarb wines need a lot of sugar to reach the desired alcohol content and body, but the result can be similar to grape wine.

Verger Belliveau Orchards in nearby Memramcook is best known for apple wines and cider, but makes an excellent Poire. This much-lauded pear wine, including a Double Gold (Best of Category) at the All Canadian Wine Championships, evokes Alsace Pinot Gris.

Wine journalists use other fruit, such as green apple, dark cherry, and blackberry, as descriptors for the aroma and taste of grape wines, so why not use a famous grape and wine region to describe a pear wine? Similarly, wines made from the lesser-known fruits like cloudberry, haskap, and sea buckthorn are easier to understand when compared to more common fruit.

Auk Island Winery on Twillingate Island, Newfoundland, makes wines from unique local fruit, including the popular cloudberry, known locally as bakeapple. This golden berry is shaped like a raspberry, but tastes like apricot. Auk Island’s Bakeapple Iceberg is a medium-sweet dessert wine made with water from the numerous icebergs that make Twillingate a tourist destination.

The best fruit wines are the ones that surprise you. Like the better grape wines in the world, some fruit wines have something beyond the expected flavours of the fruit itself. Complexity is a common trait of the world’s best wines.

Whether made using rosehips, sea buckthorn, or bakeapple, there should be something memorable and unique. The diversity of fruit provides a wine for everyone’s taste in Atlantic Canada. Explore our region this summer and find yours.

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