Diaries from the Vine #3: The final push

We are in the final couple of months of the 2017 season and harvest is nearly upon us. Towards the end of September the grapes that have been growing for the past three/four months will be ready to be picked. They are currently going through the process of véraison, which (in a nutshell) means that the grapes are starting to change colour and the volume of sugar in them is increasing/becoming more concentrated. It’s a beautiful thing to see. These once bright green grapes are turning darker and, as we will soon be entering autumn, it seems rather fitting.

Autumn is the busiest time of year for winemakers but, for others in the industry, it’s where life slows down. I won’t be a part of the harvest and will be heading back to England to start my next project, albeit via a trip to New York for the international Raw Wine Fair. We were invited to its London counterpart earlier in the year to sit down and interview its founder – Isabelle Legeron – and we had a blast! (Read about it here). As I am already on the continent, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to head down to ‘The Big Apple’ and indulge in a few biodynamic/natural wines.

In about a month’s time the season is going to start slowing down, less people will be coming through the doors to the wineries and, as autumn kicks in, the vines are going to start losing their rich, green leafy aesthetic, turning yellow/brown and starting their decline (which can look equally as beautiful to its rich summer look).

When I booked my flights back to the UK it made me realise that the season is entering the final stages. So, with this in mind, I thought for my third instalment of ‘Diaries from the Vines’ I would take time to reflect on the season so far, the Nova Scotian wine industry and things I’ve learned during my time here.

Nova Scotia is truly a hidden gem in so many ways. In a previous article Lily wrote about her time in New Zealand and wine tourism in general (Click here to read more) . In this article she mentioned that wineries are normally situated in beautiful places. Nova Scotia is a beautiful place and the Gaspereau Valley is such a delight. Rolling hills, views of the Bay of Fundy and fresh water lakes are just a few things that make this region aesthetically beautiful.

Aside from the beauty, there is a community spirit in terms of the wine industry. This is showcased at the monthly Tuesday night tastings (TNT) where people from the majority of wineries get together and try each other’s wine. It isn’t just exclusive to wineries though. TNT is hosted and run by Laila North, who operates the ‘Go North’ tour company. So, at these tasting evenings, we have representatives from many different tour companies such as ‘Grape Escapes’ and ‘The Magic Winery Bus’ who come for a drink and a chat.

These evenings encapsulate the feeling of community in the Nova Scotian wine industry, as everyone gets together and celebrates the region. There isn’t a feeling of competition, quite the contrary, as it feels more like a group of friends with the same passion gathering to talk about something they love. When I arrived here I didn’t know a soul and the TNT evenings helped me meet a lot of my peers in the industry and gave me the chance to gain a better understanding of the wines being produced here.

This season has been crazy busy. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised as, even back in March when I was on the phone to my boss (Pete), he warned me that the winery and its patio restaurant was the busiest spot in the Annapolis Valley, if not the whole of the province.

As someone who hadn’t come across Nova Scotian wine before, I found it very hard to believe – even in May/June when people were saying, “Just wait until July and August, because this is nothing”. I really did not fully appreciate how busy Luckett Vineyards could get!

We are down to our last fifty bottles of 2016 Ortega. I remember being a part of the bottling process when we bottled over 3,000 bottles of the stuff! It’s crazy how much we have sold in such a small amount of time. However, I’m not that surprised as the 2016 Ortega is fucking delicious. I have worked in numerous busy restaurants and bars for restaurateurs such as Andre Balazs and Angela Hartnett, over a period of about twelve years and I can honestly say that this has been the busiest place I have ever had the pleasure of plying my trade at.

I am truly humbled to have been given the chance to come over here, to an emerging wine region and forward my career. Before I arrived here, I thought that I had a great wine knowledge, but the volume of information I have learned here in such a short amount of time has been truly astounding. The great thing about working in an emerging wine region is that winemakers here are still experimenting with what they can grow, and with the help of initiatives like the Tidal Bay appellation wine concept, we are ensuring that Nova Scotian wine has an identity and is held to a certain quality.

It’s exciting initiatives like these which are enticing me into coming back next year so that I can be a part of the industry as it evolves.

When I return to England I am hoping to expand what we do here at Wined Up. One thing we have championed is the power of music and how it can enhance the experience of drinking wine. A potential avenue I want to explore is wine and music tasting evenings and, over the past few months, I have been working on developing techniques to pair certain music/songs with certain wines (you read up on these techniques here).

Luckett Vineyards gave me the platform to explore this idea and fully backed me to host an evening of wine and music pairing at the winery. This evening was a great success and the feedback I received reassured me that this was something that I want to explore more and focus a big part of my career on. I have been very lucky to have been given this opportunity.

The season isn’t over yet though. We still have another two months of hard work to go and then, as I mentioned, that’s when the real hard work starts for winemakers. Right now, I am focusing on working hard and figuring out how the hell I’m going to send my ever expanding collection of bottles back to England. My brother is arriving for a visit tomorrow… I wonder if it’s too late to get him to check another bag onto the flight?

– James




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