Petite Rivière Vineyards is the largest winery in the LaHave River Valley Wine Region on the south shore of Nova Scotia. The unique terroir of the region is based on the sedimentary soil and rocks left behind by the last glaciers that formed part of Nova Scotia's surface by taking all the rock out of Annapolis Valley and depositing it on the south shore.
This rocky, well-drained soil with low organic matter grows grapes with more concentrated flavours, more tannins and thicker skin. These soils are ideal for growing red grapes and 80% of Petite vineyards are planted with red varietals. The vineyards experience the constant coastal breeze of Nova Scotia’s South Shore (that is the Gulf Stream) that evaporates moisture, keeping the vines safe from disease with no need to spray.
The winery building is set atop a drumlin hill with the vineyards sweeping below the stone terrace. The setting is a picturesque, beautiful countryside; a French-designed winery with lavender gardens - visitors often comment, “it is like being in Provence”.
Petite Rivière Vineyards is noted for the quality of its red wines. It relies on the unique terroir of one of the oldest grape-growing regions in North America to make distinctive wines. Petite has two vineyards; both built on a classic drumlin hillside, the drumlin situated next to the winery is rich in slate rocky soil. Drumlins are small, rolling rocky hills created by retreating glaciers.
Petite’s winemaker, Christian Perlat, from Burgundy France, grew up on a 200-year family-owned winery. He uses French methods in his winemaking with 20 years’ working in many of the great wine houses in France and several years in the Okanagan. He shares the belief with the owners that the winemaking starts in the vineyard. He is a prolific expert vineyard manager having grown grapes all over the world.
In addition to great reds, Christian has introduced a series of fortified wines, otherwise referred to as Port. The 2016 Mighty Maroon, made specifically for the Canadian Army, won an all-Canadian silver medal.
Region & Association
The South Shore Grape Growers Association has over 20 members all with vineyards in the South Shore. The association is working on developing the Osprey Ridge Winery CoOp and South Shore Agri-Innovation Park to further develop the wine industry in the South Shore. The Winery CoOp would allow for smaller growers to have wines professionally made, with options to sell their wines. The CoOp will have 5 acres of experimental vineyards where they plan to plant the Varieties-of-the-Future to determine what grape varietals grow the best wines in the region’s unique soils.
Petite uses a variety of hybrid grapes in their red wines. Perlat says, “The hybrid is a grape with a big character,” stressing the importance of time in making good red wine. “Hybrids require a lot of patience. To change the reputation of red wine in Nova Scotia, we need to be patient.”