The grape we know and love as l'Acadie blanc out here in Nova Scotia is a complex hybrid whose geneology can be traced to many different vitis species.
Naturally, in order to make good wine, Vitis vinifera accompanies the other Vitis aestivalis, Vitis berlandieri, Vitis cinerea, Vitis labrusca, Vitis lincecumii, Vitis riparia, and Vitis rupestris. Perhaps most surprising in its complex lineage is the Spanish vinifera, Pedro Ximenez. This mid- to late ripening white grape of Andalusian origins bestows authority to the excellent botrytized dessert wines for which it is frequently used. Sherries made of Pedro Ximenez are famous.
Despite the particular character of this great-grandparent varietal, today’s L’Acadie blanc is very far from a sherry dessert wine. It was originally developed by viticulturalist Ollie Bradt at the Vineland Research Station in Lincoln, Ontario in 1953 for a cold climate. Unfortunately, it did not thrive in its original southern Ontario home. Among all kinds of possibilities concerning the suitability of that terroir, the climate is not ideal. The gdd (growing degree days) of the Niagara peninsula can reach 1400 (some say even 1590) whereas Nova Scotia is around 1000 to 1100 and, therefore, more suited to this new, hybrid grape. In the second place, the original name given to Bradt’s viticultural creation was less than inspired. No one is going to lift their glass and say, “What a fine V53261 this is!” or “Let’s toast to that with this excellent V53261!” I suspect the grape developed an inferiority complex as a result of its original, laboratory name. Once the grape was brought out to the more suitable Nova Scotia terroir and was given its beautifully resonant name of “L’Acadie blanc,” it was destined for great things.
Marsha S. Collins, the author of the very recent Imagining Arcadia in Renaissance Romance (New York: Routledge, 2016), maintains that the etymological origins of the toponym we know as l’Acadie (that inspired the name for the grape that we enjoy), is shrowded in legend. Predating the French, the term harks back to the work of the Neapolitan writer, Jacopo Sannazaro, whose 1504 prosometric romance entitled Arcadia conjures a pastoral, edenic land from classical antiquity:
'According to legend, Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, inspired by the plentiful trees and greenery he saw on the Atlantic littoral north of Virginia, dubbed that coastal land Arcadia, and so it appears in the 1548 Gastald map of the world, with later reinforcement from Samuel de Champlain’s use of “Arcadie” in Des Sauvages (1603). Nevertheless, with the passage of time and the growth of the French settlers’ contact with the Micmac Amerindians who inhabited part of what would become Canada’s maritime provinces, the “r” began to disappear. This shift from “Arcadia” or “Larcadia” to “Cadie,” and/or “Acadie” supports the more prosaic notion of the toponym’s origin as an adaptation of the Micmac word “Quoddy” or “Cady.” Eventually, with the eighteenth-century Acadian diaspora, some of the descendants of those pioneering French settlers would move southward from Canada to Louisiana, carrying with them a label merging Micmac language with Grecoroman myth, and the full weight of an imaginary land and community whose origins extend back thousands of years. (1-2) '
In addition to being the Nova Scotia version of Robert Mondavi for starting up the local wine scene in the late 1970s with Grand Pré, Roger Dial (also of California origins, like Mondavi) is credited with dignifying the grape with the current name of L’Acadie blanc.
This rockstar grape achieves its phenolic ripeness at a low sugar level which means it can be picked at a time that can produce a low-alcohol wine (and base wine for sparklings) without an overly fruity character. When done in stainless steel, this amazing grape retains its distinctively crisp, acidic quality and fresh aromatics that can make of it such a tremendous pairing with local Nova Scotian fish and seafood (think lobster, scallops, and/or pan-fried haddock!). These are only some of the illustrious examples:
When it is oaked, L’Acadie blanc frequently reminds people of a top-shelf west-coast Chardonnay that seems to confirm its nickname as “the Chardonnay of Nova Scotia.”
This exceptional grape is very often blended with other varietals (from Chardonnay, to Pinot noir, to Seyval blanc, for example) in order to produce some of the amazing traditional method sparkling wines that are winning awards throughout the province, country, continent, and across the ocean in Europe. We will do justice to the kick-a** Nova Scotia Sparkling wines in a separate blog post. For now, here is a teaser photo:
When L’Acadie blanc’s distinctive Nova Scotian herbaceous quality (on both the palate and nose) is calculated in, you have something special, indeed! The winds are blowing favourably and the tides have come in for this quintessentially Nova Scotian grape! With any of the glorious versions produced here you can (and should) lift your glass and toast to the bounty of l’Acadie blanc!
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