Sunday, April 19, 2015

(Benjamin) Bridging the Country

Now that I'm into the last 100 bottles before I hit the blog's stated goal of 2001, I'm hoping to open a healthier proportion of nicer bottles than we usually would - particularly during the middle of the week when it's just dinner at home. I figure this is a great place to start because I've been waiting close to a couple of years just to get my hands on a bottle of tonight's wine, let alone get to knock it back.

I don't think I would have known about the wine or the winery had we not, by happenstance, been sharing a table at an Australian Wine Appreciation Society winery dinner with Matt Lane - also known as @champagnelane on his Twitter handle.  I published a post about that dinner - an AWAS tribute to Peter Lehmann after he passed away - but what I didn't say in that post is that Matt has a passion for bubbly, particularly Champagne, and he advised us that he thought Benjamin Bridge - hailing out of all places, Nova Scotia - produced sparkling wines that rivalled some of the best of France.

Now, Boo and I had taken a quick "guided" tour of three or four wineries in the Gaspereau region of Nova Scotia when we visited Halifax in 2008 but I don't recall anyone mentioning Benjamin Bridge at all. And, heaven forbid that Nova Scotian wines would ever make it all the way across the country to be listed for sale in BC. When I saw a notice saying that some of the winery's Brut had actually made its way to BC liquor stores, I ran out to grab a couple of bottles.

Tonight we got to pop the cork.

1902.  2009 Benjamin Bridge Brut (Nova Scotia)

The winery saw its naissance around the turn of the last century. In 1999, the 60 acres that makes us the winery lands were purchased and, in the following years, the lands were cleared and studied and the first blocks of vines were planted. The winery's website explains that those studies determined that the Gaspereau is "one of the rare grape-growing regions with a growing season remarkable similar to Champagne. The valley's geography and cool climate foster extremely low natural cropping levels - leading to a precious, expensive yield of grapes with rich flavours, texture and length."

The inaugural release of a Benjamin Bridge sparkling wine was in 2004 and the production of and praise of the wine has been building ever since. The Brut is made in the traditional méthode classique; however, the fruit going into the wine are largely foreign to growers in Champagne. While a quarter of the grapes are Chardonnay, and therefore traditional to Champagne, the balance is made up of two grapes commonly grown in the Gaspereau: L'Acadie Blanc (57%) and Seyval Blanc (18%) and, although you may have never heard of them, both grapes merit reference in Jancis Robinson's tome, Wine Grapes.

The wine is aged three years on its lees, resulting in a richness on the palate. We were surprised by the surprisingly bright citrus notes though. The wine was full of tart grapefruit and lime. It could have been a sipper on its own and it was a good contrast to some rich halibut cheeks but I think it was at its best paired with some soft cheeses that we brought out for dessert. Personally, I would have loved a little more mouthfeel from an amplified mousse but I'm thrilled to have had a chance to try such an up and comer.

An added bonus is that I get to add both the L'Acadie Blanc and Seyval Blanc grapes to my Wine Century Club tally - although I'm somewhat surprised by that as I know we've had both grapes previously. I suppose it must have been before I started keeping track on this blog. This brings me up to 178. Who knows, maybe I can hit 200 and a doppel membership before I reach my goal on this blog.

Can it be any wonder why I so love this Odyssey of trying wines of all types from all regions? Here's a renowned bubbly from a tiny little region in Atlantic Canada and I get two "new" grape varieties to boot. I hope to keep 'em coming is all I can say.

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