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Remembering the Atlantic Wine Symposium 2012

In May 2012,  Nova Scotia invited wine writers, critics, winery owners and industry leaders to the first Atlantic Wine Symposium. Those of us who were not in attendance found ways to experience it through the eyes of others on Twitter. It was a  terrific “fly on the wall experience” by following #ACwine as the participants, organizers and speakers shared some of their impressions in tweets. Of course like overhearing a conversation in a restaurant or a bystander on a cell phone,  you do not get the full story, but from what was tweeted it was  both a great success and an eye-opening experience for those involved.

Clearly wine experts from other parts of Canada were excited about the NS wines even though  they are predominantly hybrids. Sandra Oldfield, owner/winemaker at Tinhorn Creek winery in BC enjoyed the oak aged Lucie Kuhlmann wine at Grand Pré tweeting  “My California friends would call it Merlot”. Sandra was also enthusiastic about the countryside, with “the million dollar views” at Pete Luckett’s winery and tweeted “If you’re looking for a unique, unspoiled & vibrant place to vacation this year…wine country Nova Scotia is it.”   

Nina Popovic, a writer for Spotlight Toronto and social media expert, was blown away by what she called “sublime sparklings” at Benjamin Bridge “Enjoying the 04 Brut Reserve LD. Retailed at $90. Sold out.” At Gaspereau winery, she said, “First time enjoying Lucie Kuhlmann wine. Nose of Merlot but taste of Cab Franc. Very food friendly!”  Still at Gaspereau she enjoyed lobster tart paired with L’Acadie “Yum! Pairing it with L’Acadie – another first for me. If inter-provincial trade laws weren’t so messed up, L’Acadie would be a welcome sipper & food wine for me back home.”

In addition to thoroughly enjoying a wine tour of Luckett’s Vineyard,  Domaine de Grand PreGaspereau Vineyard and Benjamin Bridge, the participants were trying out the great restaurants and eateries in Halifax from the Shiraz Persian Take-out, to the Five Fishermen with stops in Fid Kitchen, Chives, Obladee Wine Bar, The Press Gang, the Bicycle Thief, Talai Thai and the Seaport Market. And that was only the first night!

Other first day events included a presentation by Elizabeth Slayter of In Short Marketing. Wine bloggers, Chris and Shannon O’Shea, at Unfussy Wine gave highlights of her talk on marketing through the tasting room on their blog

Elizabeth Slayter stressed the importance of connecting with customers, through strong coordinated customer service. “Let them know your unique story. That differentiates your winery more than your medals. Listen to your customers, let them feel they are an important part of your winery’s success. Give your tasting room staff carte blanche to spoil your customers. Connect with your customers through multiple ways.”

Another keynote speaker on the first day was Bill Redelmier of Southbrook Winery in Niagara who stressed that wineries should be working together. “Your neighbours are your best allies on the road to success for the whole region. Who is our largest competitor?  Not other wineries, rather Coke, beer and rum. By working together, a rising tide lifts all.”

Two big announcements were made on the second day of the Symposium: the launching of the Nova Scotia appellation wine, Tidal Bay, (see my previous column and the opening of the Atlantic Wine Institute at Acadia University. The day was filled with workshops on everything from growing techniques, effective websites, and planning WOW events.

One session on Sensory Perception threw out the challenge to the Twitter world for a discussion on the difference between men and women’s sensory perceptions of wine. It made me dig into my archives for a link to one of the first NS wine columns I’d ever written Women the Wine Industry wants You   and realizing just how far the industry has come in the last three years.

In day three, Morgen McLaughlin, wine tourism strategist for the  Finger Lakes Wine Region talked about the strategies that wine region had employed to build up their brand. Her presentation wowed many of the participants who are now considering a trip to the region tp check it out. There was also a very informative panel discussion on social media and wine marketing.

It’s clear that although Atlantic Canada is still a tiny wine region compared to other parts of Canada, it held its head proudly high in an assemblage of wine notables from across the country.

The final tweet came from Peter @yvrblogger “Safe travels and may the spirit and spirits of merry times and Maritimes accompany you always.”

A lot has happened in the last year and both BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have since  lowered their barriers to interprovincial wine shipping for private customers. Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 was launched with rave reviews in Ontario and the Nova Scotia government have increased their support for growth in the provincial wine industry.

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