I was annoyed when I first read this article by Beppi Crosariol (Surprise! One of Canada’s best wines is from Nova Scotia – The Globe and Mail). I normally like him, and I don’t think he is a snob, but what annoyed me was the tone of the article, as if to say “can you believe Nova Scotia of all places is making great wine”. Actually I can, and if you are someone who wants to find a place to start your own winery, you should be smart and consider buying land and starting in Nova Scotia. Here’s why:
- Microclimates: I was not surprised to see that winery in question, Benjamin Bridge, is located in the Annapolis Valley. It may be a surprise to everyone mentioned in the article, but everyone from Nova Scotia knows that the Valley has always had a better climate than most of the province. Spring comes earlier and winter comes later. Temperature are generally milder. The growing conditions in other ways are good too: the Valley is known for it’s apple orchards and other farms. It’s no surprise grapes will grow well there too. But it’s not just in the Valley. Take a look at the map of Nova Scotia wine country. The wine regions are either inland or in the case of LaHave River Valley, tucked away in a cove. Those areas are sheltered from the harsher weather associated with being next to the North Atlantic. There are lots of locations like that in Nova Scotia. If someone were to look around, they could find many more, I’ll bet. You might not be able to do that in Cape Breton, but that’s ok: they are making award winning single malt scotch whisky there.
- Latitude: southern Nova Scotia has a latitude of 45 degrees. So does northern Italy and southern France. Obviously there is more to winemaking than that, but it shows that Nova Scotia is not at the “Arctic Circle”.
- Global warming: as a kid growing up in Cape Breton, I used to review the seed catalogs and was disappointed with how many seeds were not recommended for Cape Breton because of the climate. One of these was grapes. Recently my dad has been growing healthy looking grapes in Cape Breton of all places. What this means to me is that winemakers should rethink what is possible to grow in Nova Scotia. Global warming is a fact. Wine making takes time. Winemakers that started now could take advantage of global warming to grow grapes that once might have been harder to grow in Nova Scotia. (Not to make light of global warming, but migration of crops will occur if warming persists.)
- Tourists/markets: Tourists LOVE Nova Scotia. They come from all over the world, including the North Eastern parts of the U.S., which is a short distance away from Nova Scotia. A winemaker that wanted to build a nice winery in Nova Scotia would have absolutely no trouble attracting visitors and selling wine. Especially wine that went well with all the fine fresh fish that minutes away. As well, Nova Scotia is close to alot of east coast markets on the Eastern seaboard. Combined with the Halifax harbor, it is easy to reach customers in Europe as well. Not to mention other parts of Canada.
- Lower costs: land and labour is relatively cheap in Nova Scotia. Setting up a winery in Nova Scotia would certainly be alot cheaper than setting up one on the west coast of the the United States. For a new winery, that means you have more money to invest in making a good product, as the folks from Benjamin Bridge did.
- Ripe for changing: right now Nova Scotia uses alot of varietals associated with cool climates, like Vidal and Marechal Foch. They make good wines, but not the type of wine that sells for top dollar, to my knowledge. However, in the article, it is interesting to me that the winemaker grew pinot noir and chardonnay. I believe if he could, others could too. (See microclimates and global warming, above). Twenty years ago in Ontario everyone sold Marechal Foch: now it is very hard to find. A smart winemaker would fine a way to grow the top selling varietals in Nova Scotia, blend it with some of the hardier stuff, and be a success. Maybe take some of the vines from Northern Italy or other regions with similar climates and move them to Nova Scotia.
I expect there to be a boom in wine making in Nova Scotia in the next 10-20 years. It may be a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of wine places like Australia turn out, but it will be a dramatic increase from what Nova Scotia currently produces. And it will be great.
(Image above links to the Wines of Nova Scotia web site).