Terroir-Nova: The Search for a Legit Newfoundland Wine

NL is gearing up to grow canola ... and wine grapes?

As an assignment for CBC Radio in Corner Brook – I was sent to the experimental Canola Field growing in my home town.

This field (which is now a really trippy neon yellow) is part of a provincial government research program, carried out by the department of forestry and agrifoods.  The crop is unique – it is the first canola planting in province history. Canola is grown in every other province in the country. It’s pretty damn lucrative.

(It’s also pretty cool because it’s organic and pollenated by its own bee colony.)

This program is (in my humble opinion) a piece of brilliant investing in DB’s and CB’s universally loved provincial budget:

Essentially, the province is footing $1 million to test upwards of 40 varieties of common, high-profit crops that have potential to be profitably grown by farmers in the province.

This is big news as currently, we’re relegated by the good lord to growing very hearty but very cheap crops competitively (carrots, turnip, potatoes – the jigs dinner fam).

So what’s good in the research field?

A whole bunch: the grain crops are going to be huge, the berries are cute, and the wine grapes blew my mind.

Canola/soy – it’s simple really: feeding livestock. Right now, there are no major sources of animal feed being grown on the island.

Last year, the provincial government completed a cereal grain study with very positive results. Currently, importing animal feeds represents the biggest cost to livestock production in the province. Higher costs, less domestic consumption, we all lose. These crops, while less fun than others, are potentially the most important.

Berry Breeds – Ever wonder why you don’t have a blueberry farm in your front yard? So did these researchers. The explanation I was given was these test bushes are a cross between the native NL Lowbush varieties and other Canadian Highbush varieties. The result is a bush that can survive the acidic, rocky soils of our shining land but won’t require the mass field torching and clearing required to currently farm native blueberries.

Wine Grapes – Imagine an NL wine with NL grapes. If it was HALF as good as Iceberg Beer it would be in every tourist trap from St John’s to Griquet.

One vineyard operator in Nova Scotia believes that parts of Newfoundland may be even more favourable for vineyards than our Southern-Atlantic counterpart!

There are grape varieties that can handle our minimal sunlight, our short and unpredictable growing season, and the wacky soil conditions. Now, over the past 30 years of accelerated vine evolution, there appears to be cultivars that can live in these extreme cross sections.

The agricultural regions on the Avalon, Central, and West coasts all have potential micro-climates suitable to cultivation (demonstrated by the success of the pilot program) but what we need is the next-step: a winery.

It seems inevitable; there are reports of 4 wine makers interested in the endeavour.  A surge in interest around microbrewery start-ups in the province is combining cheap digital marketing with a cultural love for the sauce to great fanfare.

I personally, cannot wait to talk about the stellar new Pinot Grigio vintage coming out of The Goulds.

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