It’s Nova 7 Time – across Canada!
I discovered Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 when I visited Nova Scotia back in 2013, The friendly folks at Bishop’s Cellar, one of the province’s four private wine stores, described a marketing campaign for the Nova 7 annual release similar to that of Beaujolais Nouveau.
They told me about publicity that leads up to its Victoria Day Weekend release and banners proclaiming “it’s Nova 7 Time!” festooning an entire wall of their wine store stocked high with bottles of Nova 7. It’s routinely sold out as the enthusiastic customers rush to purchase a summer supply.
Every year since, Benjamin Bridge, the not so secret weapon of the Nova Scotia wine industry, is taking on the country selling their Nova 7 to eight out of ten Canadian provinces. Only Saskatchewan and Newfoundland have been left out in the cold.
On a wine tour of Nova Scotia in 2013, I went to unravel the mystery of Benjamin Bridge. Although its wines were sold through the Liquor Commission or online, their winery was only open to the public by appointment. They rarely ever competed in wine competitions. I did notice in 2018, they are now open to drop in visitors.
At the time of my visit, it took a little negotiation to visit Benjamin Bridge, as exclusivity is part of their marketing style and I had to guarantee to buy $100 worth of wine.
Their rationale was simple, their icewine and table wines are more expensive than most Nova Scotia wines They are best known for their sparkling wines which start at $44.50 for their rosé and rise to $74.50 for their more recent Brut Reserve. Their earlier and limited edition and late disgorged sparklings had ranged between $119.50 for their 2004 Blanc de Noirs and $275.50 for their 2004 Blanc de Blanc Reserve.
To be more competitive in the local market they have since developed an NV Brut and NV rosé which is a blend of vintages and predominantly popular hybrid vines including l’acadie, seyval, vidal blended with chardennay and pinot noir which sells for $27.95
People who want their table wines can easily find them at the wine stores but you don’t crack open a $74 bottle of wine for every casual drop in. For the same reason, you will not find Benjamin Bridge wines in the national wine competitions. Leading wine writers and critics across the country have already raved about their wines at special tasting events and they simply don’t need the affirmation of a bunch of medals to attract their target market of high end wine connoisseurs.
It would have been easy to miss the turn off to the Benjamin Bridge winery because the modest retail building was hidden by a shabby building that could be seen from the road. But there is nothing shabby about Benjamin Bridge. Its business consultants at start up included Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble whose names are golden in the Canadian wine industry as well as the internationally renowned Raphael Brisbois as consulting winemaker for their sparkling wines. Their onsite winemaker, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, has gained his winemaking experience in a number of the world’s great wine regions.
Talent like this costs money and owner Gerry MacConnell, a Nova Scotian who earned his fortune in mining interests, is not afraid to pay for the best.
Nova 7 was fashioned by Peter Gamble to resemble a moscato di asti style of wine that he and Ann enjoy for summer sipping with friends. One of its major ingredients is New York Muscat an aromatic hybrid with pink grapefruit, lychee and citrus notes. The winemaker’s tasting notes add jasmine, white rose and passion fruit to the nose and hints of mango and candied green apple on the palate. The wine is fragrant, with a mist of bubbles and pale salmon in colour. It pairs well with seafood, salads and spicy foods and at only 7% alcohol works well as a light aperitif wine.
At a time when many Nova Scotian wineries still only sell half of their wines through the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission NSLC and are waiting for the Free My Grapes movement to break down the interprovincial barriers to sell wines in other provinces, MacConnell has paid the price to ensure that Nova 7 and several of their other wines are available at premium wine stores across Canada.
I’m not sure what blows me away more: the fact that a Nova Scotia wine made predominantly from hybrids not allowed by Ontario’s Vintage Quality Assurance (VQA) standards is likely to sell out across Canada or that 105,000 bottles of it will be bought in Nova Scotia alone at a price $4 -$8 higher than comparable Nova Scotia table wines.
The Nova Scotia, I left in 2010 was only just waking up to the fact that it had a wine industry. Thanks to Gerry MacConnell and Nova 7, the rest of Canada got the wake up call in 2014.
Needless to say a couple of bottles of Nova 7 came back with me from Nova Scotia to share with my girls on Canada Day. You never really say farewell to Nova Scotia.
Previous blogs that I’ve written on Benjamin Bridge winery