I’ve got grape fever.
This province’s wine industry, while still small, is growing rapidly. Nova Scotia’s biggest success, Jost, is just down the road. One of the projects I was most excited about when we moved to the area a few years ago – a rural property, with a bit of acreage – was growing our own grapes.
Making wine from scratch.
Well, fast forward three years, and we’ve brought in our first harvest. Grapes have been harvested and crushed, and juice is fermenting.
The project began with a few vines. Jost vines, actually. If memory serves, I bought a dozen that first summer, from a nursery in Tatamagouche that was starting l’Acadie stock for Jost. I kept half of them and gave the other six to my father-in-law (FIL). I planted mine in the front yard, and he put his behind his barn.
We added more each summer. Some came from local sources, like Wal-Mart. Other varieties came from afar: a Frontenac vine was mailed from a grower in Quebec. He planted and I planted. The trellises grew, as did the variety: Pinot Noir and l’Acadie, Frontenac, Marechal Foch and Baco Noir. I threw in an eating grape, Beta, for good measure, and my FIL has an eater or two, too.
Terroir has been the big challenge at my place. While the grape crop flourished at my FILs this summer – perfect weather this year for grapes – mine stumbled along. My whole front yard is built of trucked-in subsoil. Not a nutrient to be found. By the time the raccoons poached the best globes, I was left with a cup or two. The FIL’s vineyard, though – just under 20 vines, perhaps – was planted on fertile ground, with a barn wall reflecting heat on it every day.
I might not have had grapes to contribute to the endeavor, but I could offer labour. So last weekend I parked myself beside the trellises, scissors in hand, and clipped clusters from vines. Then, with my father-in-law lending elbow grease – he’d had surgery just days before – a 4X4 was used to pound the grapes into slurry, which was then poured through panty hose – new panty hose, I should specify –into a fermenting pail.
We got 19 liters of juice. I stole the additives from a wine kit I had. It was a 23-liter kit, so we added four-and-a-half liters of water and a kilogram of sugar to the juice. Then a bit of bentonite – the wrong way, just sprinkled and stirred into the mix – then the yeast.
It’s bubbling away now. Come the weekend, we’ll transfer it to a glass carboy. A month or so from now, after another additive to clarify the mix, it should be ready. We’re expecting at least 25 bottles. ‘Back behind the barn’ is the name the FIL’s settled on, for the vineyard, the wine or both.
It may not be a good wine – we’ll see – but it’s a good name.