Andrew Peller Eyes Nova Scotia Investments

Canadian wine producer hopes to plant vines, make wine in province

by Peter Mitham
vineyard andrew peller wine vineyard
As the growing season gets started at Peller Estates Winery in Ontario, Canada, parent company Andrew Peller Ltd. is sowing the seeds of expansion in Nova Scotia.
Truro, Nova Scotia—Canada’s largest winery is scouting vineyards in one of the country’s smallest provinces, a move the local industry welcomes as a vote of confidence in its ongoing maturation.

Andrew Peller Ltd. of Grimsby, Ontario, claims to sell a bottle of wine in Nova Scotia every five seconds. That’s helped put annual sales on track to exceed to $325 million (Canadian) in the most recent fiscal year ended March 31, 2016 (results have yet to be released, but sales growth was tracking at just over 5% for the year).

However, more of that wine is set to come from locally grown grapes as the company seeks contract growers and sites for new vineyard development.

“We’re heavily invested in Niagara and in the Okanagan Valley, and (Nova Scotia) will be a great place to continue growing our Canadian wine business,” Greg Berti, vice president responsible for Peller’s business development, told Wines & Vines this week. “We’re actively looking out and committed to making investments in Nova Scotia, viticulturally and in winemaking.”

The fertile Annapolis Valley, best-known for its orchards, is the most likely location. It’s the epicenter of Nova Scotia’s wine industry, with the majority of the province’s 23 wineries, more than 500 acres of vineyard and a convenient location just west of Peller’s existing winemaking facility in Truro.

Set up in 1965, the Truro plant focuses on fortified and sweet wines as well as Peller’s popular blended products. With a production of 3.8 million liters (more than 1 million gallons), it dwarfs the 1.8 million liters (475,510 gallons) produced from local grapes. The largest winery in Nova Scotia, it produces four of the 15 top-selling brands in the province.

Recent investments include installation of a new filler and new tanks intended to, “improve efficiency and production and significantly increase the capacity at the winery.” The plant recently began producing local cider under the No Boats on Sunday label, and local wines are the next logical step.

The development of the local industry through champions such as Devonian Coast Wineries Ltd., owner of Jost Vineyards near Malagash, Nova Scotia, and Gaspereau Vineyards near Wolfville, Nova Scotia, as well as the creation of the Tidal Bay designation, have helped secure Peller’s interest.

Producers have done well with L’Acadie Blanc, a variety that distinguishes the province on the national stage, and sparkling wines from producers such as L’Acadie Vineyards and Benjamin Bridge have won critical acclaim.

“We’re motivated by the potential there, particularly the sparkling wines and the white blends,” Berti said. “We just wish there was stuff already planted and available for us, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.”

While Peller will work with growers if it can, the company is also scouting suitable vineyard locations and becoming familiar with the kind of grapes that suit the local conditions best.

“We’re in the midst of tasting all the varieties available there already, and what others maybe should be there,” Berti said. “We know grapegrowing extensively in the rest of the country, but we’ve got a lot to learn in Nova Scotia.”

Peller’s potential investment is encouraging to local producers such as Stewart Creaser owner with Lorraine Vassalo of Avondale Sky Winery, located west of Truro in Newport Landing, Nova Scotia.

“It’s something we wouldn’t have imagined a few years ago,” he said of Peller’s reconnaissance of the province, noting that vineyard economics also play a role.

“Cost of land per acre would be far lower than in other parts of Canada, and certainly in a lot of other parts of the world,” Creaser said. “We are still a very small industry, and there’s actually quite a bit of viable land here for planting.”

Creaser’s own winery produces less than 5,000 cases a year, using grapes grown on 22 acres.

A vineyard expansion program announced in December 2015 aims to boost plantings to more than 1,000 acres by 2020, backed by recent funding for industry development, means greater opportunities for Creaser and new entrants such as Peller (see “Nova Scotia Invests in Its Wine Industry”). 

Creaser will add 2 acres to his vineyard this year, adding to existing plantings of L’Acadie Blanc, Petite Milo, Marechal Foch and Lucie Kuhlmann. Pinot Noir, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, also are featured.

The funding is encouraging to Berti, who said it points to the industry’s growing stature.

“It’s been nothing but positive signs for the wine quality, for the reputation of all the other producers there now,” he said. “There’s a certain critical mass that you need, and I feel like it’s coming, where the reputation really starts to expand, and we’d like to play a small part in that.”

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