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Discovery Program

Defining LAcadie

L’Acadie Blanc - Nova Scotia’s quintessential varietal

Defining L’Acadie:

by Mark DeWolf, Regional Editor

L’Acadie has long been regarded as Nova Scotia’s equivalent to Chardonnay – a grape with broad enough shoulders to handle, and a willingness to mold to, a number of winemaker techniques.

Nova Scotia L’Acadie Blanc is typically a medium bodied wine with grassy and citrus aromatics not dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc, but with a mineral edge that is uniquely Nova Scotian. The wine is generally noted for its crisp acidity and good length of finish. Although the wine lends itself to oak enhancement, the best examples are typically un-oaked.

On the afternoon of June 30th, at the 5 Fisherman Restaurant in downtown Halifax, winemakers, winegrowers, writers, sommeliers, and a handful of other industry notables gathered to take part in an Appellation Discovery Tasting of Nova Scotia L’Acadie Blanc. In our search for the common and defining character of Nova Scotia’s signature white grape variety, fourteen wines from six wineries and six vintages (1999 thru 2004) were tasted.

L’Acadie Blanc began life as one of thousands of experimental cultivars developed at Ontario’s Vineland research station. However, the cultivar known only as V-53621 was deemed ill-suited to Ontario’s warm growing season and was scrubbed at Vineland. As good fortune would have it, a handful of test vines, previously sent to Nova Scotia, escaped the purge. At the time, with no farm wineries in existence in Nova Scotia, this could have been a virtual death sentence for any grape cultivar looking to become wine. However, the vine performed well at the agricultural research station in Kentville and in the vineyards of Dr. Norman Morse at Grand Pre. With the opening of Roger Dial’s Grand Pre Winery in the late 1970’s, V-53621 would at last become wine under the label L’Acadie Blanc, in honor of the French settlers who established the region more than three hundred and fifty years prior.

Since Dial’s early work with L’Acadie Blanc, the grape has become Nova Scotia’s most planted and well regarded cultivar. Despite L’Acadie Blanc’s success and recognition there has been a surprising lack of unbiased tastings done to determine the organoleptic similarities between the various L’Acadies produced in the large Nova Scotia appellation.

Appropriately enough, Roger Dial chaired the AppellationAmerica Discovery Program’s tasting of Nova Scotia L’Acadie Blanc – a long overdue critical examination of a grape near and dear to his and all Nova Scotia wine lovers’ hearts.

L’Acadie has long been regarded as Nova Scotia’s equivalent to Chardonnay – a grape with broad enough shoulders to handle, and a willingness to mold to, a number of winemaker techniques. It has widely been assumed the defining link between L’Acadie Blanc across the province is richness in texture and suitability to a number of style choices. After the Discovery tasting, this definition of L’Acadie Blanc could be altered. Observations drawn from the Appellation Discovery Tasting suggest this cultivar may actually have more similarities to Sauvignon Blanc than Chardonnay, and its defining characteristics may be best suited to minimalist winemaking techniques.

Not surprisingly, as Nova Scotia is quintessentially a marginal climate, vintage also plays an important role in the success of each wine. The best examples (showcasing a clear link in character) all come from years with late bloom and a slow but long ripening season -- with the cool vintages of 2004 and 2002 yielding the majority of wines honored with the “Appellation Signature” distinction. Technical data revealed that all of the 'Signature' wines were picked in mid-October (October 9th to October 24th), with remarkably consistent brix levels – most ranging from 17.5 to 18.5 with only two wines (2000 Domain de Grand Pre and 2001 Blomidon Estate) having grapes picked above the 20 brix level.

So what is the defining style and character of Nova Scotia L’Acadie Blanc?

The most clear organoleptic links between the wines awarded “Appellation Signature” standing are grassy and citrus aromatics not dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc, but with a mineral edge that is uniquely Nova Scotian. A floral link was also suggested by the Confirmation Panel, and a strong enough opinion was made to include their observations as part of the defining style of L’Acadie.

In terms of the structural profile of L’Acadie – once thought to be full figured – this tasting has shown wines produced from the grape to be lighter than prior expectations. Few panel members noted any wine as full bodied, with most being described as mid-weight. Acidity was predominantly noted as balanced, with a couple examples from the very cool 2004 vintage showcasing firm acids as would be expected. There was little clear evidence to suggest if malo-lactic fermentation is a positive or negative influence on varietal character as just half the wines undergoing M-L earned 'Appellation Signature' status. Two wines from particularly cool vintages (2002, 2004) received partial M-L and were also included in the 'Signature' selections.

A slight astringency on the finish was also a common link. Most wines were observed to have a favorable medium length of finish.

The “Appellation Signature” List
The following wines garnered the Appellation Signature distinction based on overall quality of wine while showcasing a common and defining link between other L’Acadie Blanc:

  • 2000, Domaine de Grand Pre L’Acadie Blanc – Despite its age this wine showcased fresh L’Acadie character. Pale color with some yellow from age. Nose displayed canned vegetables, mint, citrus fruits, and mineral with some sweeter tropical fruit notes. A smoky, vanilla quality was noted by one panelist. The palate was mid-weight, with good glycerin levels and balanced acidity. The finish was slightly bitter with a medium length.
  • 2001, Blomidon Estate L’Acadie Blanc – A split decision but eventual inclusion of this wine amongst the 'Signature' wines. Two panelists initially remarked on a rather shy nose. After collective discussion it was agreed that its L’Acadie character and similarity to other wines warranted its inclusion. Pale yellow with mint, citrus, and tree fruit, along with some jammy and waxy fruit character on the nose. Some panelists also noted a honeyed/dried fruit character emerging on the palate. The wine showed mid weight, with balanced to high acidity, and a medium to long dry to off-dry finish.
  • 2002, Jost Vineyards L’Acadie Blanc – Pale yellow color. Nose showcased strong citrus, treefruit, and petrol (as indicated by one taster) with an indication of oak (13 months French Oak) and butterscotch (perhaps the result of partial M-L). The palate was mid-weight with balanced acidity and a slightly bitter, astringent finish.
  • 2002, Blomidon Estate L’Acadie Blanc – Tasted blind, this wine garnered the most positive praise with the notable exception of one panelist, who exclaimed “one of these is not like the others” in reaction to the wine’s overtly pronounced character. Based on its seemingly atypical nature, this taster marked this wine as flawed, but was not supported by the rest of panel, which judged the wine exceptional. The intensity of the wine made it cl

Nova Scotia Discovery Panel

Confirmation Panel:

Also tasting and witnessing the Discovery Process were:

Roger Dial (Moderator): Publisher, AppellationAmerica
Mark DeWolf (Co-Moderator/Recorder): Regional Editor, AppellationAmerica; Food & Drinks Editor, Occasions magazine
Adam Dial: Managing Editor, AppellationAmerica
Craig Pinhey: Wine columnist, [here] magazine and the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal
Amy Savoury: Sommelier, Domaine de Grand Pre
Wallace Fraser: Sommelier, Vincor International
Donna Huestis: Accounts Representative, Jost Vineyards
Martha Reynolds: Marketing Co-ordinator, Winery Association of Nova Scotia