Friday, January 15. 2016
The New Year is upon us and, is my custom, I am focusing on some more affordable products for those who may have spent a little too much over Christmas and the holiday season. It seems particularly appropriate this year as the Canadian dollar has sunk below 70 cents US. All of us will have to tighten our belts to some extent. It is also a good time to think local. Buying local keeps the local economy buoyant and avoids the hefty additional costs of imported products.
It has become much easier to recommend Nova Scotia products in recent years, as our wines, craft beers, ciders and now, spirits, have become truly exciting. Reviews posted below feature some very fine local beers as well as a couple of remarkable spirits.
New Year, New Scoring System
With this posting, I am starting a new scoring system which will allow greater differentiation in various quality and price ranges. The trouble with all scoring systems, like those in schools, is the pressure over time, to inflate grades/scores. With the three star system I have used for many years, I found that if I did not award the maximum three stars, people would tend to ignore very worthwhile wines that I would happily drink myself, but that did not really merit top marks. I believe the new system is more realistic and will more accurately reflect the quality and value of each product. Your comments will be welcome.
Domaine Jean Dauvissat, Montmains 2012, Chablis Premier Cru AC $44.00 The Bishop’s Cellar, Bishop’s landing, Halifax. Refined bouquet reveals pure green apple with a trace of hazelnut. In the mouth, concentrated, sappy green apple flavour comes with background citrus, fine mineral, lively acidity and good weight. Finishes with green fruit, mineral grip and a touch of hazelnut. Can benefit from a bit more time in the cellar. ****
Solane Santi 2012, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore DOC 13% $26.79 NSLC Port of Wines Selection. Red cherry and dark plum scents gain added depth on the nose from concentrated Ripasso method partially dried grapes. Classic bitter cherry flavours show good depth, with lightly firm tannins and brisk, food-friendly acidity. ***
DCW International Series Shiraz 2014, Australia 13% $14.99 (1 Litre Bottle) NSLC General List Shows raspberry and peppery spice on the nose shifting to blackberry and minty eucalyptus in the mouth with good structure and a splash of chocolate on the finish. Straightforward value. **
Spirits – Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Spirit Co., Pictou County, Nova Scotia “Willing to Learn” Gin 42.5% $29.99 NSLC Don’t be put off by the name which makes it sound like an amateur effort. It is way better than that, showing delicately perfumed juniper, floral and subtle background botanicals. Equally lively on the palate, with juniper in the foreground in a smooth, slightly oily texture and a gentle touch of spirit on the finish. A well-made, refined gin. ***
Steinhart Distillery Arisaig, Nova Scotia Haskap Gin – Unfiltered and Hand-Crafted in Nova Scotia 47.5% $19.99 (200ml. bottle) NSLC. Infused with flavours of the increasingly popular Haskap berry, this novel spirit reveals scents of juniper and red berry fruit with flavour similar to black currant in the mouth. There is a touch of berry sweetness, texture akin to gritty pomace with warming, agreeably fiery spirit on the finish. ***
Beer - Nova Scotia
North Brewing Company, Halifax, Nova Scotia “Gus” Belgian Blond Style 6.5% $5.75 (750ml. bottle, $13.50 1.89 Litre growler) Available directly from the brewery, 2576 Agricola Street, Halifax, Private Wine Stores and on tap at several local pubs. Shows hazy unfiltered appearance with light blond colour, interesting nutmeg spicy scents, and subtle Belgian yeast character with rounded creaminess on the palate with a touch of fruity sweetness. Rich malted milk and blanched almond flavours lead into a moderately dry floral hoppy finish. ***
North Brewing Company, Halifax, Nova Scotia French-Inspired Farmhouse Ale 7.5% ($6.50 750ml. bottle, $15.00 1.89 Litre growler) Available as shown above. Attractive red in the glass with enticingly aromatic spicy, floral and fruity aromas suggestive of spiced baked red apple. Spiced apple flavour plays through in the mouth together with red cherry, nutty rich maltiness and gentle hoppy flavours, all harmoniously integrated. An outstanding, classic example of the French Farmhouse style. *****
North Brewing Company, Halifax, Nova Scotia Winter Saison 5.5% ($5.75 750ml. bottle, $13.50 1.89 Litre growler) Available as above. Shows blondish straw colour, with a creamy persistent head and spicy, green herbal and floral scents. Big, richly malted and fruity flavours in the mouth finish off with nicely balancing, lightly astringent dry hoppiness. Another superb brew from this outstanding craft brewery. ****
North Brewing Company, Halifax, Nova Scotia Strong Dark Belgian (Traditional Belgian Dark Ale) 8.5% $8.00 (750ml. bottle) Available as above. Dark reddish brown colour, showing characteristic subtle spicy and nutty malt, shifting to rich dried fruit cake flavours on the palate. Cherry, dried citrus and raisin flavours play against a backdrop of malty richness and moderately dry hop character on the finish. A great winter warmer and will also pair well with chocolate-based desserts and fruitcake. ****
Boxing Rock Blond Rye Ale 5% $5.20 (650ml. bottle) NSLC General List Hazy blond in colour, showing persistent head, aromatic floral and minty herb and subtle malty background aroma. Lightly sweet dried citrus fruit with rounded malty flavours and dry, quite astringent hoppy character kicking in on the finish. ***
Boxing Rock Crafty Jack English Ale 5% $4.79 (650ml. bottle) NSLC General List Dark amber colour with typical English style nutty malt and dried fruit aromas and a hint of roasted malt. Roasted malt comes through more forcefully in the mouth together with fruity notes and dry, persistent bitterness on the finish. ***
Propeller Brewing Company, Halifax, Rye IPA 6.8% $5.00 (650 ml. bottle) NSLC General List Shows straw colour with intense green herbal hoppy scents and malty background aromas. Characteristically strong IPA bitterness dominates over fruity and malty flavours right through the long finish. ***
*Acceptable ordinary quality
**Good quality, everyday standard
** Very good quality in its price range
**** Exceptional quality, top 15% - 20%
**** The finest possible, top 5% - 10%