VQA regulations limit the use of hybrid grapes in Ontario wines sold through the LCBO even though the hybrids’ mix of European and Canadian grape varietals makes them very hardy and disease resistant. The VQA preference is for European vinifera which do well especially in Niagara because of the long hot growing season and short winter. In Prince Edward County, they have to bury the European vines over the winter to protect them. This year’s bitterly cold winter has damaged a lot of the European vines in Niagara but the hybrids have survived, causing some winemakers to take another look at hybrids as part of their plantings.
Nova Scotia’s growing season is so much shorter and cooler that they have embraced the science of hybrid grapes and have developed a wide selection of varietals that delight the palate especially unique citrusy, flowery, aromatic whites that thrive in their climate. Although l’Acadie is the provincial staple, this week’s wine of the week is from a white hybrid that is incredibly versatile. It is wonderful alone, spices up the provincial Tidal Bay appellation wine, is a key element in Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 and really rocks when blended with Vidal grapes in an icewine.
The wine: Gaspereau Muscat 2011 $19.99
The wine is salmon pink and described as having intense tropical fruit aromas of lychee, passion fruit and pink grapefruit and a touch of fresh mint. Sweet on the nose, the wine is dry with a long grapefruit finish.
The winery Gaspereau Vineyards
Gaspereau Vineyards is owned by Jost Vineyards as a boutique winery for the development of unique small batch wines. It was rated the 16th best winery in Canada by Wine Access magazine three years ago.
The winemaker: Gina Haverstock
A brilliant winemaker trained at Brock University, Gina has brought a steady flow of medals and recognition to Gaspereau Vineyards. There is a very feminine touch to her wines with citrus, fruit and floral bouquets that are extremely popular especially with women.
Why I chose this wine: My first dinner out on a wine tour to Nova Scotia last year was at Chives Restaurant in Halifax. The restaurant is known for its fresh locavore cuisine from celebrity chef Craig Flynn. For me, lobster is always a must and the menu suggested a pairing with Gaspereau Vineyards’ Muscat. The food was excellent but wine was nectar from the Gods.
My first thought was “Why isn’t this wine up on billboards, it is so amazing?” Then as I continued my tour over the week, I discovered that every winery in Nova Scotia makes a New York Muscat wine, each subtly different from the others and each very special. My memory of that visit, however, starts with that first glass of Gaspereau Muscat at Chives restaurant and the pure pleasure of its taste.
I’ve since tried Muscat wines in the Finger Lakes and in Ontario and the long humid heat of their summers totally overpowers this grape and makes the flavours flabby. Perhaps with careful selection and breeding, a good varietal could have been found but when the VQA system is set up to discourage the planting and experimentation with hybrids, that doesn’t happen.
Gaspereau Vineyard Muscat is now sold through LCBO Vintages. It’s a ” must try” wine and a great excuse to splurge on lobster, although it’s also good with scallops, crab and mussels.
Previous blogs I have written on Gaspereau Vineyards on this site:
The Valley Girls Day Trip for Travel + Escape