Nova Scotia Grape Varieties
In 1951 the variety was brought to the cooler viticulture regions of North America, such as Nova Scotia, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Oregon. In 1955 the variety was brought back to Canada, where the “George” clonal variety is commonly used. Baco noir was the target of a vine-pull program in Canada in the early 1980s, which means that there are few older plots of this variety left in Canada.
Baco Noir is known for producing rich, robust and highly pigmented red wines with pronounced acidity. Aromas of Baco wines are pleasantly rustic with a signature smokiness. On the palate, Baco Noir excites the tastes buds; its lush mixed berry and plum flavours are complemented by savoury and herbal notes. The best Baco Noir examples are made with some oak. They are capable of moderate to longer term aging, which will soften the wine’s acidity and integrate the flavours.
is a vigorous variety that is often recommended for heavier soils as excessive vigor and increased winter injury often occur when this variety is planted on lighter soils. It is prone to early bud break and therefore has a greater risk of frost injury in spring. It has small clusters with blue-black berries which tend to be high in acid but low in tannin, and produces a deeply pigmented wine of good quality.
Food Pairings: Pork, lamb and chicken. The wine will also go well with any tomato-based dish because of its high acidity.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine grape variety of the grape vine species vitis vinifera. It is the most widely grown red wine grape variety in the world, and its wines were recently ranked as the most searched and sought after in the world.
It can form a full-bodied, complex, fruit forward and dry wine when vinified correctly. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape has received most of its notoriety from being grown in the Bordeaux region of France. Traditionally speaking, these wines taste of heavy red and black fruit backed by noticeable tannic content.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the acknowledged king of red grapes. Its flavors display a wide variety of black fruits, including currant, cherry and plum, and often show notes of spice from oak aging.
Food pairing: When young they are best matched with robust red meat dishes such as game and braised lamb, while older Cabs are superb accompaniments to simply prepared roasts and steaks and aged cheeses.
Cabernet Foch, a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Marechal Foch, was created by famed Swiss grape breeder Valentin Blattner. Blattner is a highly respected expert in his field, and is well regarded for his work in Switzerland, New Zealand and in Canada’s cold climate vineyards. Experimental plots of Cabernet Foch have been planted in Ontario and British Columbia’s Vancouver Island DVA and now Nova Scotia. Initial results with the Cabernet Foch have been very promising, both in terms of winter hardiness and the organaleptic qualities of the resulting wines. It displays the aromas of cherry and blackberry with hints of cassis. Good tannin structure will enable this wine to be cellared for several years.
Food Pairings: Pairs well with grilled meats, and spicy pasta dishes.
Is a dark-skinned grape variety that is among the most planted in Portugal. It is produced both varietally and in blended wines with other native grape varieties, and in a range of styles from still red and rosé wines to fortified and sparkling examples. The finest Castelao wines come from where the terroir is conducive to the production of rich, concentrated wines.
Castelao’s popularity with producers comes from its hardiness: it thrives in arid climates but can also produce good wines from cooler, countries. including Nova Scotia, Canada. On the nose, this wine is quite aromatic and gives out the flavours of tart cherry fruit and dusky raspberry. On the palate, this wine gives out flavours of red cherry fruit and juicy raspberry along with some stewed berry flavours. When it comes to the structure, this wine tends to be a full bodied, having a high acidic content and low tannicity. Overall, this wine, thanks to its earthiness which balances the flavours, is a fairly simple wine having nice fruity flavours along with a distinct bitterness at the end of the taste.
Food Pairings: Enjoy with simple seafood dishes such as steamed clams or mussels.
This wine grape was developed from crosses of the hybrids Schuyler and Seyval Blanc done at Cornell University ‘s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York . It is a hardy vine with some bunch-rot disease resistance. It should be picked at low sugars to avoid over-ripe, sometimes labrusca-like, flavours. Picked at the proper time it can produce a very nice sparkling wine with good acid balance, structure, and pleasant aromas or a fruity white wine similar to a Riesling. Petite Riviere’s Lulu Rose is made from Leon Millot and Cayuga White. Jost Vineyards also uses this as one of wines in their Tidal Bay blend.
Chardonnay is one of the world’s most popular white wine grapes. Winemakers love it because it acts like a blank canvas, easily transformed into a wide range of styles depending on where it is grown and what techniques are used.
Originating in France, Chardonnay has been produced in various styles throughout Burgundy and the world. Chardonnay ranks second as the most planted white grape in the world. With an abundance of over-oaked, bulk Chardonnay on the market in the past 10 years, many people have shied away from this wonderful grape. Chardonnay is currently making a comeback and many winemakers have re-focused their efforts to now produce styles that better highlight the true characteristics of the grape.
Chardonnay is perhaps the most widely grown European variety grown in Nova Scotia. It is moderately vigorous and productive but like most other European varieties is highly susceptible to most diseases. It appears to be adequately winter hardy but should only be grown in areas with mild winter minima such as the Annapolis Valley and South Shore. It is a late midseason variety that ripens about the same time as Seyval, producing a high quality wine with apple and pear flavors. Chardonnay is perhaps the best known wine variety in the world and is highly regarded for both its still and sparkling table wines. Unlike the hybrid varieties, Chardonnay tends to be grown on grafted rootstock in Nova Scotia as opposed to its own roots. Newer to Nova Scotia because of winter hardiness concerns, Chardonnay is performing quite well and ripening into nice quality grapes. A classic vinifera, elegant and refined, Nova Scotia Chardonnay is crisp and clean with green apple and mineral notes on the nose and palate. Oak aged versions develop toasty notes on the nose and rich, creamy textures. It can only be grown in the mild winter minimal regions Annapolis Valley and South Shore.
Food pairing: This wide range of styles can accompany a wide variety of dishes, from simply prepared seafood to most pork and poultry dishes. A must with grilled Nova Scotia seafood such as salmon.
A French-American hybrid wine grape variety used to make red wines . It was developed by Albert Seibel circa 1860. It is also known as Seibel 9549 and is a cross of Seibel 5163 and possibly Seibel 793. The grape was named after Adhemar de Chaunac , a pioneer in the Ontario wine industry. De Chaunac is known to have a very vigorous growth habit and good resistance to powdery mildew and downy mildew . It is grown in varying amounts for wine production across the northeastern side of North America, especially in the wine growing regions of New York , Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Michigan , and other northeastern wine growing areas.
De Chaunac is a vigorous and productive variety. Clusters are large and loose and require thinning to maintain consistent yield and quality. Wine is considered fair in quality. It is a late mid-season variety in Nova Scotia and requires high heat unit sites and good canopy management to reliably ripen. Some characteristics include lengthy black cherries, bell peppers and chocolate overtones.
Food Pairings: It will compliment the heartiest of red meat dishes and fine cheeses.
Frontenac is a relatively new grape to Nova Scotia. Bred at the University of Minnesota to withstand bitter cold, these vines will survive -35 degrees Celsius. Very disease resistant. High sugars matched by soaring acid levels. Grown for many years in New Brunswick, and only recently catching on in Nova Scotia where warm fall evenings drop acidity. These grapes are doing very well in Planters Ridge’s Tidal Bay.
White wine producing hybrid cultivar technically known as GM318-57 created in 1957. Reported as derived from Riesling cl.239 F2 and Chancellor parents . Moderately winter hardy. Susceptible to leaf burn from copper-containing sprays and fungus diseases such as Powdery Mildew. Usually ripens late September where successfully grown in Nova Scotia, Canada. A reportedly slightly hardier yet similar hybrid is the Jost (Geisenheim). A somewhat similar cultivar, currently grown on the south island of New Zealand, is a variety named Breidecker. Top producers are Jost Vineyards
l’Acadie Blanc (L’Acadie)
L’Acadie is considered Nova Scotia’s signature white wine variety. It is considered hardier than Seyval and vines are upright growing with medium vigor and productivity. It has good disease resistance and fruit produces a very good wine that tends to be richer and fuller bodied than Seyval with crisp apple and citris characteristics. It has been called Nova Scotia’s ‘Chardonnay’ and like the latter lends itself to a variety of winemaking styles including oak fermentation and/or maturation, sur lees aging, partial skin contact and even sparkling wine. It ripens slightly earlier than Seyval but later than midseason varieties like Foch.
L’Acadie blanc is a white Canadian wine grape variety that is a hybrid crossing of Cascade and Seyve-Villard 14-287. The grape was created in 1953 by grape breeder Ollie A. Bradt in Niagara, Ontario at the Vineland Horticultural Research Station which is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia with some plantings in Quebec and Ontario. Some wine writers, including those at Appellation America, consider L’Acadie blanc as “Nova Scotia’s equivalent to Chardonnay.
Food Pairings: L’Acadie Blanc is an ideal pairing for the Maritime classics of pan-fried haddock or the traditional fish and chips. Fresh goat cheese, cream-based pasta and many chicken dishes.
Leon Millot is a sister variety to Maréchal Foch being produced from the same cross. Its vine characteristics are also similar to Foch although Millot is considered more vigorous and productive. Bunches and berries are smaller than Foch and produce a wine with distinct berry aromas and medium to full body that is highly regarded. It is considered slightly less hardy than Foch and ripens about a week earlier. Vibrant and fruity, Leon Millot produces dry medium-bodied wines dominated by black cherry, berry fruit and peppery characteristics – ideal with most meats and dishes with tomato based sauces.
Food Pairings: Pork, steak, roast turkey and tomato base dishes.
Lucie Kuhlmann is an early-ripening grape variety in Nova Scotia and a crosssed sibling of Marechal Foch. Lucie Kuhlmann ripens reliably but tends to have high acidity and an herbaceous character. The wine created from this grape is used on its own and as a part of local blends.
It is vigorous, productive and very winter hardy, but has tight, medium sized bunches (larger than Millot but smaller than Foch) that show some susceptibility to bunch rot and powdery mildew. Lucie Kuhlmann ripens reliably to 20 Brix and above but tends to have high acids and may have an herbaceous character. The wine can be good on its own or be used in blends. It can have a lack of body which can be remedied by cluster thinning prior to harvest. It responds favorably to oak aging. This variety is widely adapted and can be successfully ripened in grape growing areas across the Province.
The wines are bold in colour but with lower tannins. Big and fruity, Luci Kuhlmann produces full flavoured dry red wines with berry fruit and smoky notes on the nose. On the palate, they are rich and often have slightly spicy finishes.
Food Pairings: Ideal companion for robust beef, hearty stews or lamb dishes, Osso Bucco and many tomato-based Italian dishes.
Marechal Foch is a mid-season ripening variety in Nova Scotia and is considered the industry standard for red wine grapes. It is very winter hardy and has medium vigor, disease resistance and production levels. It has small berries and medium sized clusters that produce an intense, dark red-violet wine of good quality. In hotter years the wine may have a much lighter color. This grape is reliable, hardy and common in Nova Scotia vineyards. Refined and characterful, Marechal Foch produces medium to full-bodied red wines with distinctive berry and bell pepper aromas and flavours. Oak-aged versions offer a great balance of fruit character with dry, slightly tannic finishes. Jost is an excellent producer of this wine.
Food Pairings: Due to its more robust nature, this wine is a natural choice for Nova Scotia lamb, ribeyes, and slow-roasted red meats.
is an inter-specific hybrid red wine grape variety. It was developed at the University of Minnesota , and is a cross between two other hybrids, MN 1094 and Ravat 262 Marquette’s high sugar and moderate acidity make it very manageable in the winery. Finished wines are complex, with attractive ruby color, pronounced tannins, and desirable notes of cherry, berry, black pepper, and spice on both nose and palate. Bruce Ewert, L’Acadie Vineyards is growing Marquette for his Sparkling wines. Jost vineyards also grows Marquette.
Food Pairings: Pork, vegetarian, mushrooms.
The grape is famous for its use in the production of Italy’s off-dry sparkling wine: Asti. Nova Scotia grows the New York Muscat which is a Muscat-hybrid created in Ontario. With very similar characteristics to the original Vitis Vinifera Muscat , this hardy hybrid produces some exceptional aromatic white wines in cooler regions. Muscat has a labrusca-like growth habit with good hardiness and disease resistance. It has a tendency to be low yielding but produces a highly aromatic muscat style wine that is highly regarded by many.
New York Muscat is a mid-season variety in Nova Scotia, ripening in the same harvest window as Foch. Its tendency for low yields limits its potential acreage. The grapes range in colour from white to near black and have an intense sweet floral aroma. The number of varieties of Muscat grown around the world suggest that it is one of the oldest domesticated grape varieties. There are many offshoots of the Muscat family of grapes but Muscat Blanc Petit Grains is considered to be the best.
Food Pairings: Muscat is the perfect partner for curry dishes, crab cakes and shellfish. Nova Scotia mussels steamed in Muscat with onions, peppercorns and garlic.
Across between Muller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe varieties mostly used for white wine blending. Cold-hardy grape found in Germany and Canada. Comparable to Riesling. Ortega ripens early, is not sensitive to frost and reaches quite high must weights , typically 20 degrees Oechsle higher than Muller-Thurgau. It is therefore often used for sweet wines, which are considered to improve with cellaring. Ortega wines have aromas of Muscat and peach and are high in extract. Ortega’s winter-hardy character has allowed this grape to be successfully grown in British Columbia, and with success in Canada’s eastern province of Nova Scotia. Some top producers are Domaine de Grand Pre, Luckett and Jost.
Ortega is a brilliant wine with intense aromas of pear, dried apricot and honey, layered with delicate floral notes and rose petal. Produced in an off-dry style, the pronounced nose leads to an elegant, balanced and complex palate.
Food Pairing: Enjoy this wonderful wine with summer greens, fish, poultry or your favourite cheese.
Pinot Noir is one of the best known red wine varieties in the world and has been trialed in a number of Nova Scotia vineyards. It is considered one of the more difficult varieties to grow but is also considered the red vinifera with the greatest potential to produce high quality wines in our cool climate. It is perhaps the most susceptible to winter injury of the varieties listed in this publication but is capable of reliably ripening on warm sites. Like other vinifera varieties it is very disease susceptible and is particularly prone to Botrytis bunch rot due to its very compact bunches of thin-skinned berries. It can be used for a variety of wine styles including red table wine and white sparkling wine – either alone or in blends. There are numerous clones of Pinot noir and some are reported to be earlier ripening and hardier. Careful attention should be paid to these characteristics when selecting a clone for trial in Nova Scotia. Pinot noir is a late mid-season variety recommended for sites having warm summers and mild winters. Light and earthy, Nova Scotia Pinot Noir is light and elegant with subtle berry and earthy aromas. On the palate it is light with dry, crisp finishes.
The earthy, ethereal aromas and silky texture of Pinot Noir have beguiled wine connoisseurs for centuries. Coastal California possesses several areas that produce great Pinot Noir, and Napa Valley’s Los Carneros was one of the first to recognize its potential. One of the hallmark qualities of Pinot Noir is its bright acidity, which makes it a versatile partner with food.
Food pairing: Pinot Noir is one of the few red wines that pairs well with seafood (think Nova Scotia salmon, tuna and bouillabaisse), a wide variety of cheese and is absolutely perfect with game birds and grilled lamb chops.
Riesling is another white vinifera variety being trialed with success in Nova Scotia. It is primarily of interest due to its high winter hardiness (relative to most other vinifera varieties), and suitability for high quality still and sparkling wines. Like Chardonnay and Pinot noir, it is very susceptible to most grape diseases but its chief limitation in Nova Scotia is its late ripening. Like Vidal it makes a high quality white still wine but may have it greatest opportunity for sparkling wine production and/or ice wine. Riesling is very susceptible to bunch rot and requires careful attention to disease management if ice wine is the intended use. This variety is recommended for Nova Scotia’s warmest sites only.
Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines . Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked . It is usually included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc . Riesling is a variety which is highly ” terroir expressive”, meaning that the character of Riesling wines is clearly influenced by the wine’s place of origin. Ontario has always been know for its Riesling and its use in Icewine. In BC the grape is also popular and used in icewine. Because it has good winter hardiness and is used in Sparkling wines its popularity is increasing in Nova Scotia top producers Gaspereau Vineyards and Jost. Geisenheim Riesling is produced by Annapolis Heights Vineyards.
Food Pairings: Ideal pairings include cream and broth-based soups, pork roasts, seafood, sushi and various fresh cheeses.
Seyval is one of the most widely planted hybrids in eastern North America and can also be grown in Nova Scotia. It is a late mid-season variety with an upright growth habit and low to moderate vigor. It tends to overbear and should be thinned to ensure adequate ripening in Nova Scotia’s short cool climate, and to maintain vine health. It is slightly less hardy than L’Acadie and is very susceptible to Botrytis bunch rot due to its large compact clusters. Wine from Seyval can be made in a variety of styles and compares favorably to that of many viniferas. It requires high heat unit sites with deep, well-drained soils and a moderate winter climate for best performance. This grape is hardy and versatile and performs well in Nova Scotia’s warmer regions. Crisp and clean, Seyval Blanc produces light to medium-bodied white wines with crisp citrus fruit aromas and flavours– has a sweet and clean bouquet reminiscent of pears and citrus fruit. Some top producers are Jost Vineyards,Domaine de Grand Pre, Petite’s Rivieres. Blomidon Estates and Sainte Famillie.
Food Pairings: It’s characteristics make it an excellent pairing wine for many cuisine categories from delicate seafood dishes to slightly spicy Asian food.
Vidal is a late ripening variety with only moderate winter hardiness and disease resistance. Clusters are very large with small berries and thinning is required to prevent over-cropping. Adequate ripening is the greatest challenge for this late variety. Lively and versatile, Vidal Blanc’s fresh lemony flavours and vibrant acidity make it well suited to making a dry, off-dry or impeccably balanced Icewine. It’s primary use is for icewines in Nova Scotia. It should be grown on only the warmest sites in Nova Scotia. Domaine de Grand Pré and Jost area top producer. Avondale Sky Winery produces a dessert wine called Pinnacle Hill with Vidal.
Food Pairings: Dessert is the expected pairing, provided the dessert is less sweet than the icewine. Blue cheese is another classic pairing.
Growth of Nova Scotia Wine Grape Varieties
Nova Scotia’s commercial wine industry is still developing and the selection of
suitable varieties for this new ‘cool climate’ region has undergone much discussion, trial
and error, and evolution during this time. The best sites in the Province typically have
winter minima above -23 °C and growing seasons above 1000 degree days of heat (Base
10 °C). Respectively, successful introductions must be hardy enough to survive these
conditions without significant injury and be able to ripen fruit in a truly short, cool
growing season. Other factors influencing the success of a new variety include the
management skills of the wine grape grower and the complexity of Nova Scotia’s climate
itself as it changes in response to global warming.
Commercial grape varieties fall into one of three categories – European or vinifera,
American or labruscana, and Hybrids which are derived from crosses between members
of the former two groups. The European varieties belong entirely to the species Vitis
vinifera and are known principally for their wine attributes, but tend to be the least winter
hardy and most disease susceptible. Chardonnay and Pinot noir are examples of vinifera
grapes grown in Nova Scotia but generally speaking only the earliest and hardiest
varieties can be grown successfully in Nova Scotia.
American varieties are derived from native North American species (V.riparia, V.
labrusca, V. rupestris, etc) and are typically vigorous, winter hardy, and disease resistant
but are generally not considered suitable for quality wine production. Examples of
prominent American varieties occasionally found in Nova Scotia gardens include
Concord and Niagara. There are no varieties from this group grown for commercial wine
production in the Province.
Hybrid varieties were developed to combine the hardiness and disease resistance
attributes of American species with the superior wine quality attributes of the European
varieties. Consequently, successful Hybrid varieties tend to have superior hardiness and
disease resistance compared to European varieties and wine quality can be excellent,
particularly in Nova Scotia’s cool climate. Nova Scotia’s wine industry is based
predominantly on the production of these hybrids and prominent examples include
Maréchal Foch, Leon Millot, Lucie Kuhlmann, L’Acadie, Seyval, and New York Muscat.
At present there are about a dozen varieties that are recommended for consideration when
establishing a vineyard in Nova Scotia.