Atlantic Canadian vintners have moved from frontier to frontline, blending traditional methods and innovations
Wine is not just about savouring tastes for Moira Peters. The notes she looks for in her glass are not just flavour profiles or what’s on the nose, but also people and place–the toil and talent that came together to create what’s inside that glass. Each wine tells a story and Peters says the story told by East Coast wines is one of winemakers pairing a cold climate with novel ideas on how to capture landscape in a bottle.
“I tell people who are new to East Coast wines to use their senses, not biases, when approaching wine…and to come to table with open mind and open palate [to] see what the wine is telling us,” says Peters. “Our wines continue to tell a story of excitement and struggle, of potential and success,” she says. It’s a story she and fellow sommelier Craig Pinhey captured within a story of their own, A Wine Lover’s Guide to Atlantic Canada, and one that’s evolved since the book’s 2016 publishing.
Pinhey says New Brunswick is following a similar path to the Annapolis Valley and is on the verge of its own boom and regional renown, while Newfoundland, at one time among the world’s largest blueberry wine producers, has been producing exciting wines from its unique berries like cloudberries, partridge berries, and crow berries. Prince Edward Island, which Pinhey says has a small but mighty wine industry, continues producing a strong offering of white wines that captures a lot of tourist attention.
Peters says the East Coast region’s most renowned wines-—whites, chief among them the Tidal Bay, and sparkling whites—are both part of the regional story of excitement and struggle, of breaking down barriers while convincing wine consumers with traditional tastes to try something new.
“Our winemakers are being really smart about the grapes they grow and figuring out what kind of style of winemaking uses them best,” says Peters. “I’d be proud to pour a Tidal Bay or traditional method sparkling for any wine critic that came around.”
Peters says the region’s traditional method sparkling whites are making international waves and are her choice for wine connoisseurs, but she is equally as excited by the region’s aromatic cabernet franc wines, with aromas created as a direct result of this cool-climate region. Open the bottle, pour it in the glass, swirl, then sniff. Peters says this will reveal an aroma bomb unlike any other, one that’s sure to please wine experts and newcomers alike.
“I applaud the wineries’ embracing of our grapes that are able to fully ripen, which produces really great, light, fruity red wines that are pleasant, interesting and easy to drink. You won’t find aromas like these anywhere else,” she says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has moved in-person events to virtual platforms, including wine tastings. New Brunswick wine writer, sommelier and tastings host Craig Pinhey has hosted virtual wine tastings, including his family’s annual Pinot Party. Pinhey says a virtual tasting may be different than in person but is still a great way to gather and enjoy wine together.
“I hosted our party through my Zoom account and gave each person a turn to do a blind wine tasting where they had to guess which kind of pinot it was. It was weird, but fun,” he laughs.
Throw a party with taste with these pro tips on how to host your own wine tasting
You don’t need to be a wine expert to host your own tasting, but tips from one could bring your do-it-yourself tasting party to the next level.
Nova Scotia wine writer, sommelier and Unwined tasting party host Moira Peters says that $200 will get you a great selection of wines – she recommends eight bottles, among them white wine, red wine, rosé and sparkling – for an eight-to-10-person tasting. But Peters says hosting a tasting is about more than just the wine. There are subtleties to consider, such as lighting.
“It’s so important to have decent light and that really surprises people. It’s really nice to appreciate how the glass of wine looks, especially with rosés, which sparkle, or sparklings. It’s nice to take a moment and enjoy the visual beauty of wine,” she says.
To capture that visual beauty, Peters says tasters should swirl their glasses. This means glasses should have a large bowl, with enough room for swirling without spilling. When it comes to food, Peters says hosts can plan some pairings or even a snack break in the middle of the tasting as a palate cleanser–crostinis or rice crackers–but should never overwhelm the tasting with too much food.
There is one non-negotiable element that all tasting parties must have, according to Peters: a pen and some paper, so guests can note down their tasting impressions. If people are wondering what to write down, Peters says to narrow it down to two factors: whether you liked the wine and whether it was good value for money, since good wine can be found at any price.
“Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive. I often bring a range of wines, including a boxed wine, a Nova Scotia wine and a sparkling, along with a good selection of whites, rosé and reds, including one pricey bottle. When people note down which is their favourite, you might be shocked–people are often surprised at what they ended up liking,” she says.