In winemaking the phrase ‘cool climate’ is generally shorthand for wines with high acidity (that mouthwatering freshness that lifts and balances the alcohol and sweetness). While some grape varieties are naturally high in acid, it is often the result of grapes being picked before they reach full ripeness, an approach especially suited to the production of sparkling wine where high acid is beneficial.

But not all cool climate wine regions are equal.

Nova Scotia – on the western edge of Canada where the North American continent meets the Atlantic ocean in dramatic style – sits at roughly the same latitude as the southeast of England and the Champagne region of France, but its vines must be capable of surviving winter temperatures of up to -25C while in summer the thermometer can reach 35C.

The Atlantic ocean is the single biggest moderator of climate here, a cooling influence at the start of the season (delaying bud break well into May and extending the growing season into November), while coastal breezes keep vines well ventilated and reduce the risk of disease.

Many of the varieties that thrive here are unique local hybrids such as L’Acadie Blanc, and alongside the trademark high acid, the wines are aromatic and floral in character and usually lower in alcohol, often with a salty, mineral tang like a breath of fresh sea air.

Wines from the Tidal Bay appellation may not be more than 11% abv, and must pass a strict tasting panel test before release. They match especially with the world-class seafood that the region is famous for.

The Nova Scotia wines I tasted in London this week included an impressive 2008 Chardonnay Grande Reserve from Blomidon, which spent 13 years on lees in bottle before disgorgement. Showing elegance and maturity with delicate citrus notes and a refined mousse, this would not have been out of place in a line-up of classic champagnes (the winemaker, Simon Rafuse, trained in oenology in France).

There are red wines too, including an impressive barrel-aged red blend from Planters Ridge called Quintessence, and a fun and super-refreshing 6% abv cooler called Piquette from Benjamin Bridge, which is made from a second pressing infused with citra hops and sea salt. With barely any residual sugar and an attractive floral nose, I hope this one makes it across the pond in time for the brief heatwave we like to call summer.

While Nova Scotia has a tiny footprint in global wine terms, its sense of place makes it stand out from the rest and demand attention.

© Linda Galloway 2023