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JEAN-SEBASTIEN MORIN: Homegrown wine offers a feast for the senses

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Matos Winery

Winemaking is part art and part science. However, winemakers are much more than just artists and scientists. They are, among other things, pioneers, farmers, problem-solvers, marketers and champions. They must possess countless qualities to succeed: patience, perseverance, discipline and dedication to name just a few. Winemakers are remarkable, passionate people who contribute a tremendous amount to their vinous endeavours and to their communities.

Prince Edward Island is fortunate to count several wineries and meaderies (honey wine) as part of its rural landscape. These businesses are an important component of P.E.I.’s identity as a world-class tourism destination. 

Grape-growing and winemaking convey a certain idyllic and premium image to any region where these activities take place, which is why they are key to any culinary tourism proposition. One only needs to think of what wine has done in recent years for the Niagara Peninsula, in Ontario or, closer to us, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.

Wine is perceived by many as an agricultural product imbued with a special cachet for the fact that it both captures and expresses, a sense of place and time. The French elusively refer to it as terroir – the soil, the weather, the topography and many other aspects that give each wine its specificity.

Enjoying wine from the Island, for both Islanders and visitors alike, is an opportunity, an invitation to “experience” or to “relive” the warm summer sunshine, gentle sea breezes and crisp autumn nights that shaped a specific wine, made in a unique place by a passionate artisan of the land. 

Grapes and other fruits have been cultivated commercially on P.E.I for the production of wine for close to 30 years, but in an industry where evolution and progress are measured in terms of generations, not in years, this is just the beginning. Much remains to be done to identify the best growing sites in term of soils and microclimates as well as the best-suited grape varieties for each type of site, not to mention the challenge of growing capacity and knowledge. Prince Edward Island is far from the first region to have to feel its way through this geo-climatic puzzle, but even when building upon lessons learned elsewhere, it remains a process that takes time, patience and perseverance.

Much thanks is owed to the intrepid winemakers (and growers) who have bravely forged this path and got P.E.I.’s wine industry to where it is today along with the possibilities that it offers for the future. They are indeed more than artist and scientist; they are heroes.

Given the topic of this column, Island winemakers were singled out for well-deserved praise, but much the same could be said about P.E.I. brewers and distillers who also contribute mightily to the Island’s identity as a vibrant and innovative scene for all things culinary and beyond.

Visit liquorpei.com/local for more information on Prince Edward Island wineries, distilleries and breweries and their world-class products.

  Island Honey Wine Company Lavender Mead  Prince Edward Island, Canada  15756A  $24.99 (500 mL)  Intense lavender and honey on the nose with hints of rosemary and crème brûlée.  Definitely some sweetness but less than the exuberant nose would lead you to believe.  The flavours of lavender are complemented by a pleasant creaminess and a touch of acidity on the finish.  Would be an inspired pairing with semi-soft cheeses such as Oka or would dazzle as a “secret ingredient” in gin-based cocktails or in a fruit salad.
Island Honey Wine Company Lavender Mead Prince Edward Island, Canada 15756A $24.99 (500 mL) Intense lavender and honey on the nose with hints of rosemary and crème brûlée.  Definitely some sweetness but less than the exuberant nose would lead you to believe.  The flavours of lavender are complemented by a pleasant creaminess and a touch of acidity on the finish.  Would be an inspired pairing with semi-soft cheeses such as Oka or would dazzle as a “secret ingredient” in gin-based cocktails or in a fruit salad.

Matos Gamay Noir Prince Edward Island, Canada 07029Z $17.99 Gamay is the variety used to make Beaujolais.  It does well in cooler climates.           Light to medium-bodied with aromas of dark and tart cherries and a hint of green almond on the finish.  A touch of sweetness is balanced by refreshing acidity and the tannins provide just enough structure.  Would be a delightful accompaniment to rotisserie chicken or a charcuterie board.
Matos Gamay Noir Prince Edward Island, Canada 07029Z $17.99 Gamay is the variety used to make Beaujolais. It does well in cooler climates. Light to medium-bodied with aromas of dark and tart cherries and a hint of green almond on the finish. A touch of sweetness is balanced by refreshing acidity and the tannins provide just enough structure. Would be a delightful accompaniment to rotisserie chicken or a charcuterie board.

Purple Finch Beet Mead Prince Edward Island, Canada 07034Z $16.50   Off-dry with floral and earthy aromas reminiscent of buckwheat honey.  The same flavours appear on the palate and offer a nice counterpoint to the sweetness along with balancing acidity. A perfect pairing for this wine would be with a red and golden beet salad with fresh goat cheese and candied walnuts served on micro greens and topped with edible flowers.
Purple Finch Beet Mead Prince Edward Island, Canada 07034Z $16.50 Off-dry with floral and earthy aromas reminiscent of buckwheat honey. The same flavours appear on the palate and offer a nice counterpoint to the sweetness along with balancing acidity. A perfect pairing for this wine would be with a red and golden beet salad with fresh goat cheese and candied walnuts served on micro greens and topped with edible flowers.

Rossignol Isle Saint Jean Red Prince Edward Island, Canada 07101Z $22.99   Maréchal Joffre with a bit Maréchal Foch, both well regarded hybrid grape varieties with the Maréchal Joffre being particularly early-ripening. Surprisingly ripe and velvety on the palate with well integrated oak and lively acidity. Dark cherry, blackberry, blueberry and raspberry flavours are complemented by a pleasant savouriness/herbaceousness reminiscent of Cabernet Franc.  Would pair beautifully with braised short ribs or a pulled pork sandwich.
Rossignol Isle Saint Jean Red Prince Edward Island, Canada 07101Z $22.99 Maréchal Joffre with a bit Maréchal Foch, both well regarded hybrid grape varieties with the Maréchal Joffre being particularly early-ripening. Surprisingly ripe and velvety on the palate with well integrated oak and lively acidity. Dark cherry, blackberry, blueberry and raspberry flavours are complemented by a pleasant savouriness/herbaceousness reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. Would pair beautifully with braised short ribs or a pulled pork sandwich.

Jean-Sébastien Morin is a category manager with P.E.I. Liquor. He is an accredited sommelier, wine writer, educator, and wine judge. His love of wine was born in the late 1980s, while studying and working in Europe. Inspired Grapes aims to transmit Morin’s passion for wine while never forgetting that the pleasure of a glass of wine often resides in the moment and the company in which it is shared. To reach Morin, email infopeilcc@liquorpei.com

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