Writing a list of must-try Atlantic Canadian wines was once a simple task. “You have tons of stuff to choose from nowadays,” says Craig Pinhey, a wine judge and sommelier from Rothesay, N.B., and co-author of The Wine Lover’s Guide to Atlantic Canada. “You didn’t used to have those options.”
Nova Scotia’s sparkling wines garner international acclaim. L’Acadie Vineyards in Gaspereau won a silver medal in 2011 at Effervescents du Monde, an international sparkling wine competition in France. Last year, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay announced he would offer 2008 Brut Reserve from Benjamin Bridge, another Gaspereau vineyard, at one of his London restaurants.
With similar growing conditions to that of the Champagne region in France, Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley is ideally suited to producing them.
Benjamin Bridge’s Brut uses a combination of traditional Champagne grapes–Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier; its makers use the traditional French method, in which fermentation takes place in the bottle. When Benjamin Bridge was first getting off the ground about 20 years ago, extensive climatic and soil research determined the vineyard could thrive at making sparkling wines. With notes of almond and apple, there’s also a touch of salinity, which comes from the Bay of Fundy’s impact on the air in the area.
“When I say salinity, it’s not a salty wine … there’s a huge underlying acidity, but richness and brininess from that,” says Alex Morozov, the vineyard’s assistant winemaker.
Another option is L’Acadie Vineyards’ 2015 Vintage Cuvée Rosé, which is made of l’Acadie Blanc and Marechal Foch grapes. It has pleasant strawberry aromas and toasty notes.
Vineyard owner Bruce Ewert says while rosé is fine to drink yearround, there’s a reason it’s popular in summer. “I don’t know if it’s a New World thing or an Old World thing, but traditionally rosé is a summer sipper by the pool, having a barbecue, and so on,” he says. “Sparkling rosés follow that theme.”
People often associate sparkling wines with toasts, but they can also go great with meals. “People don’t think of it as carrying you all the way through the meal, but it’s going to accentuate the meal because it’s going to help your mouth to salivate and it’s got enough acidity to be bright beside anything, which is nice,” says sommelier Kathryn Harding, retail manager at Halifax’s Bishop Cellar.
Trying a Tidal Bay wine from Nova Scotia is a summer must. Made of 100% locally grown grapes, wines bearing this appellation must meet strict standards, including using only certain kinds of grapes and limits on how much of the wine they make up. Also, an independent blind panel tastes them, so you can rest assured any of these crisp, fresh whites that feature green-fruit flavour and minerality will be a good pick. “It’s a cool way to try Nova Scotia whites and kind of see the expression of the winery through that,” says Harding. According to the provincial wine association’s website, 11 vineyards produce Tidal Bay: Avondale Sky, Benjamin Bridge, Blomidon Estate Winery, Domaine de Grand Pré, Gaspereau Vineyards, Jost Vineyards, Lightfoot & Wolfville, Luckett Vineyards, Mercator Vineyards, Planters Ridge, and Sainte-Famille Wines.
While New Brunswick’s vineyards are better known for their fruit wines, Motts Landing Vineyard and Winery in Cambridge- Narrows offers Summer Solstice, a quintessential summer wine with its citrus and floral notes.
Sonia Craw, the vineyard’s winemaker and owner, studied winemaking in New Zealand. One of the techniques she learned is to grow some grape clusters in the shade to bring out more of the fruit flavours, which New Zealand winemakers do with Sauvignon Blancs to bring out the passionfruit. “That’s sort of what I try to replicate here,” says Craw.
In Newfoundland, Rodrigues Winery & Distillery in Whitbourne is noted for its blueberry wine. “Newfoundland has a reputation as having a pristine environment and part of what makes that true is the blueberries they use are wild,” says Moira Peters, a sommelier and co-author of The Wine Lover’s Guide to Atlantic Canada based in Maitland, N.S. “There are really very little chemicals used on their fruit,”
One final Atlantic Canadian wine option is Murray River, P.E.I.’s Rossignol Estate Winery’s Blackberry Mead Wine. As a wine judge, Pinhey tastes it frequently because it often wins medals. “It has a very intense blackberry flavour,” he said, noting with fruit wines, you want that pure flavour to shine through.
The right wine can accentuate any meal from fish and chips to lobster risotto. Here are six pairings to tickle your taste buds this summer:
Brut, Benjamin Bridge: Harding suggests oysters, fish and chips, a ham dinner, or charcuterie. 2015 Vintage Cuvée Rosé, L’Acadie Vineyards: Ewert recommends roasted or grilled chicken, pasta with a white sauce, lobster risotto, butternut squash, or barbecued meats.
Tidal Bay: Harding suggests drinking Tidal Bay by itself on a hot day on a patio, but with a meal, she says it’s great with seafood, pastas, vegetable dishes, and chicken meals. Summer Solstice, Motts Landing Vineyard and Winery: A perfect summer-drinking wine that pairs well with salads and fish, says Craw.
Blueberry Wine, Rodrigues Winery & Distillery: Peters recommends drinking this with cheese, pork chops, or bacon and eggs.
Blackberry Mead, Rossignol Estate Winery: Pinhey suggests having it with a Maritime dessert, like a crumble or grunt, or on its own before or after a meal.