Our maritime climate and traditional method sparkling wine

The little corner of the world Nova Scotia occupies has a climate impacted by the waters that surround us. As far as wine regions of the world go, we have one of the coolest of the cool climates, and one shaped by our waters. It is those waters allow us to grow grapes on the edge of possibility. Every grape growing region in the province has a body of water to thank for creating the conditions necessary to do so. In the Annapolis Valley and Gaspereau Valley, where the concentration of our wineries and vineyards intersect, it is the power of the Bay of Fundy, and it’s changing tides that moderate the temperatures throughout the seasons. In an already short growing season, it is the power of the tides and our warm ocean breezes that keep the fall frost at bay. This gifts us with the opportunity to ripen the grapes, slowly. Leaving the fruit to hang on the vine to concentrate flavours but never to the point of sacrificing the acidity. It is our maritime climate the delivers grapes with low sugar levels, hence lower alcohol levels after initial fermentation, but with bright, bracing acidity. A key piece of this tale.

If we look beyond the shores of Nova Scotia and set our sights on France, to another little region of the world, Champagne. Nestled in northern France, it’s in a wine region considered part of the cool climate family. Without getting into the storied history of the area – one could write a whole book on that – It was discovered as many great things are, by accident, that the grapes of the region (which also ripen with lower sugar levels and higher acidity) could be ideal to craft a unique style of wine, one with bubbles. By using wine from the first fermentation as a base, then putting it through a second fermentation in the bottle, a wine of greatness could be created. Capturing the CO2 gas produced during that second fermentation slightly increases the alcohol level while maintaining the acidic backbone.  This is the key to making Champagne. It’s a process that was perfected in the region, and that created the blueprint for traditional method sparkling wines known as, méthode champenoise.

Back across the Atlantic in Nova Scotia in the early 2000’s these two worlds – our maritime climate and traditional method sparkling wines – converged. We can thank Bruce Ewert of L’Acadie Vineyards and the McConnell family of Benjamin Bridge for realizing that, just like the Champagne region, our climate delivers grapes of high acidity and t lower alcohol – the key that unlocks the door to this tale. These visionaries saw the similarities between the two worlds and trusted in the thought that just like champagne, our grapes could be used to craft traditional method sparkling wines of distinction. They dreamed big, worked hard, and believed in Nova Scotia’s ability to produce sparkling wines that (one day) could be the same calibre of the world’s best champagnes. A lofty vision, but one quickly coming to fruition with each vintage and each international accolade this style of Nova Scotia wine is garnering.

Two tiny regions of the world. Champagne, with a reputation linked to some of the world’s finest wines and Nova Scotia, with determination to rival that reputation. With as many differences as similarities but both able to ripen grapes that hold the key for sparkling wine.  For our young wine region, this is a tale of finding your niche and making your mark on a style of wine as distinctive as the climate that created it.