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Nova Scotia dessert wine finds sweet spot as wedding gift

It would be nice to give a wedding gift that's a little offbeat. Something that few people buy for themselves but that is enjoyed by most. Something that can be savoured over many sittings.
Local dessert wine makes a sweet wedding present. Add a pair of antique sherry glasses to the gift bag, clear ones if the gift is Annapolis Highland Vineyards' 2015 Mille Fleurs, all the better to appreciate the wine's just-pink hue.

'Tis the season to be wed.

Everyone, it seems, is going to weddings this summer. I have been to two, organized my own, and had to send regrets to a fourth. Multiple wedding gifts put a strain on the ol' savings, and these days people often marry after having established a household, so the significance of wedding presents is not what it used to be.

At the same time, it is nice to leave a token of support and thanks with the happy couple. A special bottle of wine will always be appreciated, and doesn't have to leave you counting pennies — er, nickels — come winter.

What's a little harder to decide is what kind of wine. The bride likes red, the groom, white. Bubbly seems like an obvious choice, and local bubbly is second-to-none, it's true. But maybe neither partner imbibes much.

It would be nice to give something a little offbeat. Something that few people buy for themselves but that is enjoyed by most. Something that can be savoured over many sittings. Why not, then, tuck a sleek little bottle of dessert wine into a gift bag, add a cute card with a nice message, and call it a day?

Dessert wine will last about a week in the fridge unless, like port or sherry, it has been fortified with alcohol — in which case it will last a month in a cool, dry cupboard. Fortified wines don't go bad quickly because of their high alcohol content, which acts as a preservative.

And while sweet wine may seem less sophisticated than dry, keep in mind that some of the world's most beloved wines — Sauternes, Tokaj and Vin Santo — are sweet. Matched with the proper levels of acidity, the sensation of sweetness becomes soft and refreshing.

Pleasant and long-lasting, any of the dessert wines mentioned above would make classy wedding gifts. To satisfy the happy locavore couple, though, Nova Scotia vintners are also making high-quality dessert wines in all flavours and styles.

Icewine is the top-tier dessert wine option, classic to Nova Scotia and sought worldwide. Because our long, cool growing season slowly ripens grapes without forfeiting their acidity, the icewine's sweet is matched by sour, keeping it lighter than you'd think.

Many wineries make icewine, most from Vidal Blanc grapes. A 375-ml bottle will run you $30 to $55, depending on the season, the grapes and the winemaking method.

Another high-end but rare dessert wine choice is Blomidon Estate Winery's Vin de Paille — named for the French method of partially drying grapes to concentrate them by packing them in straw. This delicious, caramel-like Chardonnay-based wine is $35 at the winery and NSLCs, and likely won't last much longer on the shelves.

A local favourite, Domaine de Grand Pré's Pomme d'Or is $22.50 at the winery, NSLCs and Bishop's Cellar. Pomme d'Or is made with local apples, again with nice sweet-and-sour character. Grand Pré also makes an award-winning cream liqueur version — Crème de Pomme d'Or.

Devonian Coast Wineries produces the oh-so-Canadian Maple Wine ($20 at the winery and NSLCs), a lovely smoky treat that finds the kid in any grown-up (like my new husband).

If Maple Wine isn't perfect for a honeymoon breakfast, Planters Ridge recently released a Sparkling Mead ($15 at the winery) that, while officially a white wine (it doesn't have enough residual sugar to be labelled dessert wine), comes in a petite bottle, a sweet and curious gift. The wine's aromas reflect the clover honey from which it is made while in the mouth it's clean and crisp. With its sparkles and medium sweetness, it's a fabulous brunch cocktail.

A very pretty dessert wine, just released by Annapolis Highland Vineyards, Mille Fleurs ($15 at the winery and NSLCs) is a grape blend that falls just on the dessert side of sweet. The delicate pink tinge is a trick — this wine has voluptuous body but is still refreshing, the mark of a good sweet wine. Nice with blue cheese or fresh fruit and whipped cream.

For the remainder of wedding season, avoid those awkward, roundabout conversations intended to find out whether your friends prefer cotton or fleece sheets, or whether they need sheets in the first place. (They probably don't.) Stroll instead into a farmers market and pick out a light little bottle of dessert wine. Pair with appropriate card — go for cheese.


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