It is fair to say that 2016 is a banner year for Nova Scotia wine and grape growing across the province. Following a summer of quite serious drought, we received just enough rainfall in late August to remain in the healthy zone. September was not any hotter than average, but the nights stayed warm – as high as 20º overnight in a few instances – something unusual for Nova Scotia. It is the change between warm days and cool nights that protects acidity in fruit, as it halts ripening when the temperatures dip, then starts back up again in the morning. Our cool climate with moderate summers means that grapes ripen slowly most years, allowing us to hang the fruit on the vine for longer, in turn extracting more flavour.
So, this season the grapes continued to ripen overnight, bringing the sugar in the fruit up, faster. The earlier drought is actually what saved us from bringing the crop in too early, because the lack of moisture held the ripening back a bit during September when the nights carried on cooking. This allowed us to hang the ripe fruit just a little longer without losing our precious, signature acidity.
As we look out onto the vineyard on one of the first of the brisk evenings, the plants are looking perfectly primed for a healthy dormancy. Most varietals have entered senescence – the colourful shutting down of the plant as it begins its descent into sleep for the winter months. This dimmer switch marks an important phase as shutting down properly, and on time, will be the vine’s best defense against our cold, variable winter.