They make wine in Quebec?

| September 29, 2019 | 0 Comments
Michael Marler and Véronique Hupin, of Les Pervenches, work the vines at their winery.  (Photo: les pervenches)

Michael Marler and Véronique Hupin, of Les Pervenches, work the vines at their winery. (Photo: les pervenches)

Yes, they make wine in Quebec — and in a few cases, some of my favourite wines in the country. Historically, due to the brutal winters, producers in the province mainly planted hybrid grape varietals (grapes developed in a lab to be able to withstand colder temperatures), which can certainly make tasty wines, but rarely offer the same depth as vitis vinifera or European grape varieties, which are used in most high-quality wine production. The harsh conditions also mean that for many, liberal use of chemicals both in farming and winemaking is very tempting.
The result has been wines that have lacked character and quality. In recent years, however, a few courageous and innovative producers in and around the Eastern Townships have captured the attention of wine professionals and wine lovers alike and have developed a much-deserved cult following. The incredibly challenging but unique terroir paired with the natural talent of these winemakers are no doubt major factors in contributing to why I (and so many others) are so taken by these wines, but I see a few other factors as well. Many wine lovers, myself included, are unapologetically more partial to wines that are produced with organic grapes and fermented without the addition of yeasts or chemicals. Unlike the other major wine regions in Canada, all the most celebrated Quebec vignerons seem to adhere to these philosophies.
In Magog, Frédéric Simon and his wife, Catherine Bélanger, of Pinard et Filles have planted a small vineyard that consists entirely of vitis vinifera grape varieties (Chardonnay, Riesling, Savagnin, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Dornfelder, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Meunier). The grapes are farmed organically (although they aren’t certified organic) and the wines, which feature beautiful labels designed by Quebec artist Marc Séguin, are every bit as beautiful as they look. These natural wines — which contain no additives, with the exception of sometimes a small dose of sulphur — are bright, fresh and drinkable.
Nearby, in Farnham, you’ll find Les Pervenches and very likely Quebec’s oldest Chardonnay vines, which were planted in 1992. Mike Marler and Véronique Hupin purchased the small vineyard in early 2000 and have been working the land according to organic and biodynamic principles since 2005. Like Pinard et Filles, Les Pervenches works with a combination of vinifera and hybrid grapes and the vintners aren’t afraid to be playful, often blending reds and whites together and experimenting with skin maceration. The wines are incredible, almost always fresh and bright, while at the same time textural and complex.
Also be sure to keep an eye out for the wines of Matthieu Beauchemin at Domaine du Nival. He is making brilliant wines from Pinot Noir, Gamaret, Vidal and Albariño.
Unfortunately, due to some archaic laws, it’s nearly impossible to procure these wines in Ontario, so I encourage readers interested in trying these vintages to either contact the wineries directly to purchase or to visit Soif Bar à Vin in Gatineau. It features many of these wines and very often by the glass.

Alex McMahon is the wine director at Riviera restaurant in Ottawa.

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Category: Delights

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Alex McMahon is the sommelier at Riviera restaurant in Ottawa.

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