Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wine-in' it up; Sustainable and local bubbly!

In a few weeks some tiara wearing bachelorette times are going to be had. Although I firmly outlined the minimal waste ground rules (i.e. no paper penis plates, plastic penis candy containers or forever plastic man-part balloons), I conceded on a tiara and some nice wine.

Living in Montréal I was introduced to the fine art of drinking wine. Everyone drinks wine in Montréal (ok, it seems that way). My two years living in the Okanagan Valley in BC entrenched an appreciation for yummy local wine. With so many wineries a few minutes away, why would anyone buy wines from California, Chile or Australia?

Take a moment and consider the carbon footprint of your wine. 

In order to grow the grapes, non-organic or non-sustainable methods require quite a bit of water, land space and use chemical pesticides to grow. These pesticides erode the soil, run off into local waterways and make their way into the foods that we eat. In a time when energy and resources are precious, using them in a non-sustainable manner for a non-essential food item is ridiculous.

Follow that up with the actual fermentation process that use huge metal containers that require energy and cooling systems to run. Depending on how it's aged, the wood used for the barrels (oak for example) doesn't necessarily come from reclaimed or responsibly harvested forest.

Then we have the bottling, using glass (which is easily recyclable) and increasingly synthetic cork or twist caps. Synthetic stoppers are made from plastic, whereas cork stoppers come from a renewable resource and are compostable.

Finally, just how far was your wine shipped on a carbon spewing boat-plane-train-truck to get to your glass? One continent? Two? A couple oceans maybe?

A lot of us don't even consider that there may be fantastic vineyards just outside our neighbourhood. Take Nova Scotia for an example.

I knew there was one local vineyard- Jost. From my bartending days I was never really a fan of Jost wines and like many didn't really consider 'Nova Scotia' wines to be of especially tasty grapes. Surprisingly, Nova Scotia has a burgeoning vineyard community and a pretty decent climate for specific types of tasty varieties.

Nova Scotia has 14 vineyards currently in the province. Yep, 14. I also was flabbergasted at that number. Many of them produce great tasting red and white wines and are run from small family owned vineyards. Also not yet part of VQA wines, they do have a 'Nova Scotia Wine' label indicating province grown grapes only included.

Although some vineyards are featured in the provincial liquor store (NSLC), many still remain a farmer's market find or on-site vineyard purchase. From tasty Muscats to  deliciously decadent Maréchal Foch, you really should be able to find a local wine to your fancy.

Last winter a group of friends went down to the Ice Wine festival outside of Wolfville. One non-surprise is that because of our frosty and temperate climate Nova Scotia makes award winning Ice Wine . The sweetest of desert wines, grapes are picked in the wee hours of the mornings and crushed while frozen. It was amazing to be able to visit the many small vineyards scattered across the Valley in the middle of February.

Now, these vineyards may have won on the 'least amount of carbon-footprint' level, but what about the sustainable methods?

L'Acadie Vineyards, a few short hours away from Halifax, has certified organically grown grapes and is a leader in sustainable wine making in Nova Scotia. The owner of the vineyard is actually from Vernon BC and we chatted for a few minutes while visiting his winery last winter. It was inspiring to see his wines show up in the local NSLC, as he had mentioned how challenging it was to negotiate accessibility at a provincial level.

Here are a few of my favourite Nova Scotia vineyards and wines:

1. L'Acadie Vineyards: I adore their 'L'Acadie' white wine. L'Acadie grape is a special Nova Scotian variety that grows very well on Nova Scotian soil. It's not too dry, nor too sweet... and this one is grown sustainably. Sustainable AND local- perfect.

2. Gaspereau Vineyards. I adore their Muscat and Seyval Blanc. Not as sweet as a Gewurtzraminer but not super dry. A yummy sipping wine. They also have some tasty reds...

3. Grand Pré Wines make quite a few fabulous red wines. Although I prefer the Gaspereau and L'Acadie whites, Grand Pré makes some darn good Foch's. Plus, their vineyard is gorgeous and Le Caveau, the winery restaurant serves delicious yummy food. Definitely worth a visit.

Other wineries in Nova Scotia:
Sainte Famille Wines (still on my list to try, available at the farmer's market)
Jost Vineyards  
Annapolis Highland Vineyards
Bear River Vineyards (has green energy methods, green energy workshops!)
Benjamin Bridge Vineyards (sparkling wines)
Blomidon Winery (sustainable methods used!)
Lunenburg County Vineyards (awesome blueberry wines-mmmm)
Muir Murray Estate Winery
Petite Rivière Vineyards

Coming up- the Fall Wine Festival (September 16-October 17th), which Andrew and I will make an effort to take a short drive and enjoy!

I gotta say, if Nova Scotia can produce some tasty wines, than it's extremely likely there is a local wine near you. If not (if you live in... well... Yellowknife), at least try to stay within your country. If we can't find yummy Nova Scotian wines, we stick to Canadian wines, Ontario or BC. The closer the better.

There's nothing like tasty, sustainable wine enjoyed with friends.

Much Light!

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. girlfriend and i love wine...her mom is from montreal and her dad is from she grew up with wine being drank in the house and she had been to a few wine tours..we go to the gingerbread house in kentville every winter and we were going to go to an icewine tasting and food pairing at blomidon..great blog..i usually skim throught it..good blog is more sports theme..but i try to write about whatever,with 3 kids i dont have too much time to

  2. What a thorough run down. I feel lucky that there are a lot of wineries near NYC in the Hudson valley, finger lakes, and long island. many of them are even sold directly at the farmers markets here or in wine stores. I wish I bought local wine more but sometimes the cheap wine from trader joes wins out. Thank you for the reminder that my next bottle should be a local one.

  3. I live in wine country in Northern California, so I'm lucky enough to have many organic or biodynamic vineyards nearby. But I have to say, in direct observation even the most purportedly sustainable wineries don't seem all that healthy.

    For one thing, there's the water. Where I live, incredible amounts of water are diverted from local rivers (where salmon spawn) to feed the grapes. A popular bumper sticker and billboard around here says "conserve water - drink wine," which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it.

    Grapevines can live a hundred years, but it's common for them to be gouged out of the earth with compacting machinery every few years, which contributes to erosion and all sorts of problems from disturbed soil, plus they're usually piled up in the desecrated field and set on fire, which doesn't help our air quality.

    And all the same issues with monocropping certainly apply to grapes, even organic ones.

    But probably my biggest problem with this whole situation is the fact that such vast amounts of fertile land are devoted to growing a non-nutritive crop. Wine is so enormously profitable for this area that we can't seriously consider turning over that land to expand our local food system, which is really just a damn shame.

    All that being said! I do enjoy the occasional bottle of wine; I'm a sucker for a good Gewürztraminer from our favorite biodynamic vineyard. I just try not to take it for granted.

  4. Hi Kris, thanks for commenting :) You should totally go for a wine tour... a little mini vacation from the children! (they're all beautiful kids btw) :)

    @Julia: I was wondering if there were vineyards in New York. I agree with you about price, in BC local wine was more expensive. weirdly enough, here in Nova Scotia it can be comparable to cheaper wine.

    @Chandelle: thank you for bringing that up. While living in the Okanagan, even the most basic food crops were a huge drain on water. I agree with you, it's a huge waste.

    thankfully, here in Nova Scotia we get a LOT of rain. So not the same climate. we also have a shorter growing season, so less time using that water.

  5. We are lucky enough to live in the Finger Lakes wine region of NY State. Drinking the local wine supports small businesses and reduces our impact. We love going to the summer wine festival and taking wine tours with friends. It is a huge part of the culture here and I am happy to drink it all in ;-)

  6. Hi there.... I just read your blog on the Nova Scotia wineries. As owner of Annapolis Highland Vineyards I would like to invite you to our Harvest Wine Festival on September 18/19. Although we won't be harvesting that weekend we will be serving up Nova Scotian cheese (Foxhill) along with our wine. We'll have local artisans displaying throughout the property as well. We hope you can make it!

  7. @Karen: thanks for visiting the site! I was chatting with a few friends about picking a weekend to visit some of the wineries- and the 18-19th is a good one!
    Hopefully we'll see you there :)

  8. Wow! Loved your post - and love that you are planning already for the 2010 Fall Wine Festival. We just updated the site with this year's event list. The weekend of the 18-19 of September is jam packed with wine & food festivals and events - a great choice!

    Also, from reading your blog, I figured you might be interested to know that Robert Kenner, producer of Food Inc. will be speaking at the International Culinary Tourism Summit on Sept 20 (at the opening breakfast and the lobster dinner)here in Halifax. Tickets for both are open to the public!

    Winery Association of Nova Scotia


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