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Nova Scotia sparkling v Champagne: the results

At a recent London tasting, Nova Scotia sparkling wine producer Benjamin Bridge invited press and trade to try a selection of its wines in a blind tasting with several Grande Marque Champagnes.

Coup de foudre
A dramatic shot of a lightning storm over the estate of Nova Scotia sparkling wine producer Benjamin Bridge on 15 September 2015 (Photo: Benjamin Bridge)

Hosted by Benjamin Bridge winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and the company’s ambassador, William Predhomme, the tasting at 67 Pall Mall presented seven wines blind, “three or four” of which were from Benjamin Bridge; the rest a selection of Grands Marques Champagnes, Deslaurier explained prior to the tasting. The wines represented a variety of sparkling wine styles and maturity levels.

Tasters were asked to try to identify which of the seven wines were Benjamin Bridge wines and which were Champagnes, then to put the wines in order according to their subjective, personal preference.

As Deslauriers was quick to point out, the aim of the tasting was not to try to show that Nova Scotia sparkling wine could ‘beat’ Champagne, Judgment of Paris-style, in a blind tasting. Rather, the Champagnes were there to provide a qualitative reference point and to highlight the distinctive terroir of Benjamin Bridge, and by extension Nova Scotia, wines.

“The comparison with Champagne is to provide a qualitative landmark but it’s not in an attempt to emulate the region,” he told db.

“In a way if you’re in the business of selling the story of a specific environment you wouldn’t want them to be emulating what’s done elsewhere; the most fascinating proposition in wine is to be distinct from other places.

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“It’s more to put the wines in a global context. We were quite happy and there were about 25 guests – the sommelier crew from 67 Pall Mall, staff from Cabotte, representatives from the drinks business and Decanter and from Tom Stevenson’s Champagne and Sparkling Wine Guide…”

The overall trends to emerge from the tasting were that in most cases the wines were correctly identified as either Benjamin Bridge or Champagne, and that 80% of the attendees named a Benjamin Bridge wine as their favourite.

Deslauriers explained that several similar tasting had previously been held, and that the results had followed a similar pattern.

“There is a common denominator and there are definitely some similarities between the results of the tastings we’ve done. Generally the wines are very well received. Their level of intensity, in the context of a blind tasting, means they do shine and captivate.”

Cool climate credentials

Benjamin Bridge is located in the upper Gaspereau Valley on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia – the newest of Canada’s cool-climate wine regions. Deslauriers explained that the estate vineyards’ proximity to the Minas Basin at the head of the Bay of Fundy provided an ideal microclimate to enable picking of grapes at a low sugar content but with high phenolic maturity.

The basin provides cool breezes and moisture during the summer months, but also has a temperature moderating influence during winter months, when temperatures in the region often drop well below freezing.

Benjamin Bridge’s sparking wines display a characteristic minerality and freshness, and have helped to raise the profile of Nova Scotia terroir internationally since the brand’s launch in November 2010.

“We’re a small winery so our objectives are not necessarily volume-orientated but we do think really highly of the growing environment we have and we are quite proud of the project,” Deslauriers said.

“Our objective would be to elevate Nova Scotia as a legitimate contender in the production of world class traditional method sparkling wine and speak on behalf of our terroir, and help people discover what’s unique in the proposition of growing along the Bay of Fundy.”

Benjamin Bridge wines are imported into the UK by London-based merchant Friarwood Fine Wines, owned since 2015 by Canadian-born Benjamin Carfagnini, who has recognised Canada as an emerging, cool-climate region.

Nova Scotia versus Grande Marque Champagne: the results

Overall favourite (percentage of votes):

Wine 1: Grande Marque vintage Champagne (2006) – 15%

Wine 2: Benjamin Bridge Brut 2008 – 10%

Wine 3: Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008 – 25%

Wine 4: BB Blanc de Blancs 04 – overall best 15%

Wine 5: Grande Marque NV Champagne – 5%

Wine 6: Grande Marque Rosé NV Champagne – 5%

Wine 7: Benjamin Bridge Sparkling Rosé 2011 – 25%

Identification of wine origin:

Wine 1: Champagne – 60%; Nova Scotia – 40%

Wine 2: Champagne – 35%; Nova Scotia – 65%

Wine 3: Champagne – 45%; Nova Scotia – 55%

Wine 4: Champagne – 50%; Nova Scotia – 50%

Wine 5: Champagne – 75%; Nova Scotia – 25%

Wine 6: Champagne – 80%; Nova Scotia – 20%

Wine 7: Champagne – 25%; Nova Scotia – 75%

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