Something you may not know about me is I am a teacher at the Nova Scotia Community College. I first fell in love with Nova Scotia wine back in 2000, when Grand Pre winery opened their doors. Since then, I have become a certified sommelier and passionate advocate for our provincial wine and food culture. But in my everyday life, I teach. As a faculty member in the School of Business and Creative Industries, I teach a wide array of related subjects, everything from Spreadsheets to Culinary Math. And now and then, I am even fortunate enough to teach wine to the next generation of budding Nova Scotia professionals. Each time I kick off a new wine course, the first class always begins the same, with one question; what is wine? I ask them to answer in one word and write it on the board. It is, by far, one of my favourite activities. Wine is complicated; of that, there is no doubt. And it means something different to everyone. I love watching what unfolds in the classroom as students fill the board with the words that connect for them. ‘Intoxicating,’ ‘science,’ ‘social’ ‘music,’ ‘romantic,’ and ‘fun,’ are just a few I have collected over the years. But the one word that always seems to make the board is ‘food.’ As complicated as it is, when it comes down to it, wine is simply food. And, like food, wine is influenced by trends. Current research shows that globally, consumer trends are heading toward bright and juicy lower alcohol wines and the rise of Sparkling premium styles. With that in mind, I’d say our young, local wine region looks to be on-target for success. Can I get a hallelujah?
Wine, like food, is a product of its land. The best food is simple, sustainable, natural, and connects us to the earth. That said, it is easy to fall prey to the enticement of processed, fast, and convenient. And it’s just as easy to do the same with wine. Quickly grabbing a bottle because it is familiar, or on sale, without thinking about where it is from or how it was farmed. The good news is, research shows the average wine consumer is now placing a higher value on a wine’s origin. And they are much more astute to production methods and concerned with farming techniques. This allure means organic and biodynamic wines are on the upswing and interest in “natural” production methods is surging. Natural wine is hard to define; currently, there is no one definition. However, everyone seems to agree that natural wine is farmed sustainably, either organic or biodynamically, and bottled as is. “Natural” wine has existed for thousands of years, but now more than ever, it’s on-trend. Natural wine is wild, fermented with indigenous yeast, low intervention, no added sulphites, and no (or low) filtration. It’s wine that gets to be what it wants to be without manipulation. In our tiny wine region, we are fortunate to have a certified organic winery, L’Acadie Vineyards and Benjamin Bridge with their estate vineyards certified organic and one certified biodynamic winery, Lightfoot & Wolfville. Though currently we only produce a small amount of “natural” wine, a great example is the wildly (pun intended) popular style, Pet-Nat. If you haven’t gone natural yet, now is the time. Just like the best food, it is simple and unforgettable.
Speaking of food, some of the best wines for pairing at the dinner table are the same bright and juicy sparkling and lower alcohol wines currently in high demand. The unique, cool climate in Nova Scotia gifts us the ability to produce these styles with relative ease. Our sparkling is receiving awards around the world and shout outs from critics near and far. And, when it comes to low alcohol options, we are lucky to need not look further than our regional star, Tidal Bay. The standards that guide its making ensures each is light, with maximum alcohol content not above 11 percent. But Tidal Bay is just the beginning of our bright and juicy local options. Nova Scotia makes some incredibly vibrant reds that adhere to global trends. Gone are the days of high alcohol, inky reds. These days lower tannins, bright fruit, and slight acidity are all the rage.
In a fascinating article in the New York Times, Jason Wilson argues we should be searching out “weird” wines. The opinion piece, noted, among other things, that despite having 1,368 known grape varietals in the world, 80% of the world’s wine comes from just 20. I find that astounding, if not surprising—wine production, just like food, has predominantly become a large-scale monoculture. And like food, the sustainability of the global wine industry depends on the diversity of small growers and indigenous varieties. Fortunately for Nova Scotia, our small and distinct wine region is poised to be right in line with this thinking. In fact, with unfamiliar grapes tied to specific geography in high demand, our other local star, L’Acadie Blanc (which I have long professed my love for) can’t help but shine. Aptly named and ideally suited to our local climate, L’Acadie Blanc is difficult to find outside of Nova Scotia, making it a perfect representation of the current trend: scarce, diverse, and tied to the land.
So tell me, what is wine to you? Do you think of wine as you do food? Do you value sustainability? Are you open to trying new grape varieties and wine styles? If you answered yes to any of these questions then next time you pick up a bottle consider a local expression of the global trends because Nova Scotia wine is right on target!