There are some wine markets that are pretty unique in the world, Nova Scotia is one of them. An island province on the East coast of Canada, they have quite a large young population and are quite densely populated. Alcohol is almost exclusively sold by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSCL), typical of the Canadian monopoly system.
Last week Wines of Chile invited the NSCL to visit some of the wineries in the country, tuck into some regional cuisine and dip their toes in the cooling waters of the Pacific. I spoke to Glenda Williams, Category Manager of New World Wine, and Tim Pellerin, Head of Marketing and Merchandising, to find out a bit more about this enigmatic market.
Nova Scotia like most of Canada has a monopoly market. How does selecting wines for the NSCL work?
Tim: We are a crown corporation with an arms length partnership with our shareholder, the government. We purchase wines on the behalf of our customer. Like any good retailer we look at price point, quality of the wine, the profile, current performance, future potential and look to be on the leading edge of consumer trends.
What’s unique about the monopoly markets in Canada?
Glenda: We have opportunities to buy a diverse selection of wines, from the large volume to boutique production.
And what’s unique about Nova Scotia in its market profile?
Tim: The difference in Nova Scotia is that we have the oldest province in Canada yet we have the third youngest population. So we have an ingrained beer and spirit culture. We are attempting to grow our wine category and the demographic gives us an opportunity to grow our premium wine category. In simple terms, we have less people with more money who buy better!
Are there advantages for producers to be listed on a monopoly?
Tim: Monopolies buy a lot of wine and pay their bills on time… In Canada it is a crown jewel to be listed on a monopoly.
What wines and styles are popular there?
Tim: It’s changing, and pretty dramatically, we are seeing a wave of the trend to slightly sweeter wines in red and white. Californian blends in red are gaining a lot of popularity at premium price points. On whites, it’s fresh aromatic whites.
What Chilean wines are successful in Nova Scotia at the moment?
Glenda: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for the reds, and Sauvignon Blanc for whites.
Tim: Sauvignon Blanc – the grassier, herby ones – is a very polarising grape, it is a love hate relationship in Nova Scotia. Popularity is definitely growing on the Chardonnay side though. And it’s been nice to see some Sauvignon Blanc on the lees this week, making creamier, rounded wines.
Do you have any advice to Chilean wineries wanting to market themselves or sell in Canada?
Glenda: Last year we started to tell the story of regionality but I think that people are still confused.
Tim: Many wineries are going regional in focus and sub regional in focus but our customer is not ready for that. You need to tell Chile’s story first.
What has been interesting to see in Chile?
Tim: The diversity of climates from travelling around vineyards, from the peaks and valleys to the coastal regions.
And in terms of wine?
Glenda: I am a Chilean wine fan. The style is everything I expected. What’s surprised me most is that there’s not been much of a large stretch in quality. It would be hard to find a bad wine. The quality/value ratio here is better than most countries.
Have you got any favourite Chilean wine pairings?
Glenda: Lobster is my favourite and I would definitely have a Chilean Chardonnay with it. The Pinot Noirs are light enough though with a great acidity for Salmon dishes, and the Sauvignon Blanc with white fish or scallops.
And any favourite foods tried here?
Tim: The avocado! Have you ever tried avocado better than this? I cannot eat avocado from home again!
What have you most liked about this trip?
Glenda: The culture, the people, the food and of course the wine!
By Amanda Barnes
Photo of NSLC visitors with Allyson Silva from Wines of Chile