Nova Scotia Winery Dries for Success
February 05, 2009— Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is famous for its maritime culture: historic bluenose schooners, fantastic beaches, the Bay of Fundy's record tides. Add great red wine to that list. With support from the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), winemaker Bruce Ewert has created a bold red wine with which Nova Scotians can toast their sea-bound coast.
Ewert's L'Acadie Vineyards is an organically farmed seven-acre vineyard in the Gaspereau Valley, a smaller valley within Nova Scotia's famed fruit-growing Annapolis Valley.
"Growing grapes in a cool climate requires large bodies of water that don't freeze in the winter and so moderate air temperature extremes. And in this area it's the influence of the Atlantic Ocean that makes vineyards possible," says Ewert.
Winemaker Bruce Ewert hoists a glass of Nova Scotia's first traditional method sparkling wine (aka Champagne) in L'Acadie Vineyards Annapolis Valley winery.
L'Acadie is the province's ninth winery, part of an industry started in the late 1970s that's quickly developing a solid body.
"There's a lot of optimism for the Nova Scotia wine industry," says Ewert. "And at this early stage, research is critical to our growth."
The 44-year-old wine maker has a fine nose for the benefits of wine R&D. With more than two decades of experience as a winemaker, at locales ranging from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia to southern Ontario, California and Australia, Ewert has a deep technical interest in winemaking. While a winemaker with Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards, Ewert collaborated on several NRC IRAP-supported projects as a member of the R&D committee of the British Columbia Wine Institute.
So in 2004, he and his wife and L'Acadie co-owner, Pauline Scott, sold their B.C. home. They packed their kids into the family car and headed east to Nova Scotia with a vision to make premium wines with the region's unique grape varieties.
And while mixing a love for the science and art of winemaking, Ewert is doing just that.
He says the region's post-glacial soils give the grapes grown here a distinctive terroir - or soil-derived flavour. The winemaker is capitalizing on this to create Nova Scotia's first traditional method sparkling wine (the generic term for "Champagne"). And, with the vineyard's red grapes, he's enhancing their down-home flavour profile with an Old World winemaking technique: grape drying.
"In Europe, particularly Italy, grape drying is an old tradition in winemaking designed to enhance a wine's flavour, but this is the first time it's been done with Nova Scotia grapes," says Ewert.
He is in the midst of a rigorous, three-year proprietary research project to find the best way to dry the locally grown Marechal Foch, Luci Kuhlmann and Leon Millot red grapes. Ewert has the support of NRC-IRAP in collaboration with Kentville, N.S.-based Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientists, Dr. Robert Prange and Dr. John DeLong and Nova Scotia's Department of Agriculture.
"It's not just simple desiccation; there are unique flavour profile changes," Ewert notes.
The research involves regulating and varying specific drying factors, such as humidity and air speed at the surface of the grapes. Ewert then monitors the resulting physiological changes within the grapes, principally sugar levels, as they dry. The research program was designed in consultation with NRC-IRAP's Kentville N.S. Industrial Technology Advisor Don MacAulay.
After its second year, the research is already giving cause for popping corks. At the 2008 All Canadian Wine Awards, the winery's inaugural red wine from dried grapes Alchemy, won gold; Leon Millot Soleil, a sweet red wine made from dried grapes, won silver.
"We've started with a great portfolio of award-winning wines. This is fantastic for our initial image and means that we're hitting the ground running for growing our business. We couldn't have achieved this without NRC-IRAP support for our research," says Ewert.
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