Nova Scotia Invests in Its Wine Industry

Funds for new vineyard plantings, research, marketing and quality standards available for next four years

by Linda Jones McKee
benjamin bridge nova scotia
New funding for the Nova Scotia wine industry will support vineyard planting, research and marketing. Photo: Benjamin Bridge Vineyards
Halifax, Nova Scotia—With 23 wineries and 94 grape producers, the province of Nova Scotia is not one of North America’s largest wine regions. But Nova Scotia has an international reputation for its ice wines and a very supportive provincial government led by Stephen McNeil, premier of the Canadian province.

The level of that support became very clear early this month, when Nova Scotia’s Department of Agriculture made two simultaneous announcements. Agriculture minister Keith Colwell in Halifax and MLA (member of the legislative assembly) Keith Irving at Domaine de Grand Pré Wines in Grand Pré both announced that a $3.5 million investment in Nova Scotia’s wine industry would be included in the 2016-17 budget. These funds will be a part of a four-year, $12 million investment in the province’s wine and grape industry that will be made through the Vineyard and Wineries Investment Program.

Hanspeter Stutz, owner of Domaine de Grand Pré Wines, told Wines & Vines, “A big part of the money is going toward grapegrowing and supporting growers who are willing to take the risk and put grapes in the ground. There’s some money for marketing, and we will need to address the issue of quality standards with a program similar to the Vintner’s Quality Alliance systems in Ontario and British Columbia.” Stutz also noted that prospective growers can’t just put grapes in the ground. In order to qualify for vineyard funding, a grower must either be part of a winery or have a signed contract with a winery for the grapes that will be planted.

This new funding will be the second round of funding for grape growers, as the province provided $1 million in 2015 for vineyard development. Gillian Mainguy, manager of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia, commented that the new funds “are the first real funding for the wine industry. The $3.5 million in this year’s budget will support the second year of vineyard planting, but the rest of it will support marketing, research and quality standards.”

The marketing aspect of the program will focus on identifying and developing new export markets, creating promotional activities including boutique retail and food service events as well as trade show participation. According to the Department of Agriculture, the department and the industry will work with “existing partners at local colleges and universities on research and development related to site selection, environmental factors, storage, production and quality standards.”

Agriculture minister Colwell started the process that led to the recent funding for grapes and wine when he established the Nova Scotia Wine Development Board in August 2014. He told Wines & Vines, “I wanted to bring in people from the industry and the department to look at the issues, how we can work together and help move the industry forward. We know we have the soil and growing conditions that can produce some of the best wines in the world—certainly sparkling wines, but also others.”

He continued, “When I met with some of the winemakers and growers, I told them I wanted the industry to be five times bigger in five years, and they about fell off their chairs. But now they are looking at the possibilities of that happening. The industry is doing it right, they’re enthusiastic, but taking steps carefully. I think over time Nova Scotia will establish itself as one of the premier wine regions of the world.”

Stutz summed up the industry/governmental relationship: “The key message is that Ottawa has Nova Scotia on its radar screen. There’s a recognition of what we’re doing here,” Stutz said. “And Nova Scotia sees the value and realizes what the wine industry can do on the economic impact side. They were willing to make a commitment for the next four years.”

An investment to improve quality
The Nova Scotia wine industry learned in late March that a new research laboratory will be funded at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. Growing Forward 2, a five-year agricultural program that is funded 60% by the federal government and 40% by the provincial government, will invest $487,960 over two years to establish the lab in the chemistry building at Acadia University. It will be used for academic research and for industry collaboration. “Having access to lab facilities here in Nova Scotia has been identified as a priority,” Colwell stated. “They know this will help to build knowledge and expertise right here that can help the industry grow.”

Construction of the lab and installation of equipment is currently underway, and the laboratory is expected to be operational by June or July.

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