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Quebec wines


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This thread is for discussion of Quebec wines, winemakers and wineries.

Last week I picked up a copy of John Schreiner's The Wines of Canada, a 2005 addition to the Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library. The hardback retails for $39.95, though I got my copy at the Giant Booksales outlet in the Faubourg Ste-Catherine, now in the premises formerly occupied by Plantation. As of yesterday, they still had a couple available at $16.99 (plus if you buy four books, you get the cheapest one free).

The Quebec section of the book begins with an interesting seven pages on the history of viticulture in the province. It'd be great if I could reproduce it here but copyright's copyright, so a few quotes and some summarizing will have to do.

Let's start with this quote: "It would be hard to find vignerons more challenged and courageous than those of Quebec." The main reason is the temperature. Lacking large climate-moderating bodies of water like Niagara's Great Lakes and BC's Okanagan Lake, winter lows often drop to -30ºC, whereas Vitis vinifera vines (chardonnay, chenin blanc, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, syrah, etc.) are hardy only to about -20ºC. Not surprisingly, very little vinifera is grown here; most vintners opt for European or North American hybrids. Also, despite the market's preference for red, most of the wine is white. "'Why don't we concentrate on making crisp, clean whites?' asks Michel Marler, who makes one of Quebec's rare Chardonnays at Les Pervenches. 'The whites we make are of a more international standard. The reds are tourist wines.'"

Another challenge facing the winemakers is yield. Schreiner quotes Jacqueline Dubé of Vignobles Les Blancs Coteaux as saying that, for the grapes to ripen sufficiently, yields must be kept as low as one bottle per vine, compared with four bottles per vine typical for equivalent wines in France. Add to that the extra work involved in burying and unburying the vines for winter survival, the high winter die-back rate and the low prices the wines command, and it soon becomes clear that wine-making in Quebec is above all a labour of love.

While most of Quebec's wineries are found in the Eastern Townships and the Montérégie, five are located north of Quebec City and "are among the most northerly wineries in Canada." Oddly, the area is Quebec's only traditional wine-growing region: after finding wild vines on Île d'Orléans in 1535, Jacques Cartier proposed calling the island Ïle de Bacchus "until the need arose to curry the favour of his royal sponsors." Grapes from such vines were used by Jesuits to make sacramental wine when their European supplies ran low.

More on the history at some later point. For now, how about we hash over this: Are Quebec reds forever condemned to tourist-wine status? And has anyone tried that chard from Les Pervenches? Chardonnay in Quebec – who knew!

Edited by carswell (log)
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More on Les Pervenches. They're located in Farnham and they have a website. They make three wines with grapes from their two-hectare vineyard: an 85-15 seyval-seyval blend; an 85-15 Maréchal Foch-vidal noir blend; and the "chardonnay." The quotes are because it, too, is a blend: 60% chard and 40% seyval. What's more, part of the chard comes from Ontario (by law, all Quebec wines can contain up to 15% Ontario fruit). The wine is barrel-fermented. Quoting Schreiner, at "$20 a bottle, it is one of Quebec's most expensive wines, and one of the best." The wines can be purchased at the cellar door and in several Quebec restaurants including Montreal's Toqué!, APDC, Bû, La Chronique, Le Club Chasse & Pêche, L'Express, Le Jolifou and even La Paryse (see the winery's website for a complete listing). Winemaker Michael Marler says the restaurateurs are pushing him to make a 100% chardonnay.

Edited by carswell (log)
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I have had the Les Pervenches "Chardonnay" twice: once at Toqué! and once as a gift. The best that I can say is that it's somewhat inconsistent and I agree with the restauranteurs in that the Seyval should be dumped from the blend.

The glass at T (part of the tasting menu with booze) had a slightly odd bouquet as the Chardonnay character was muddied somewhat by the Seyval and probably a bit too much oak. In mouth, it was crisp with a very short finish, but it paired well with the tuna.

The bottle was given to me from someone who had purchased it at the winery and who had held it a couple of months in their little micro-cellar. It was a write-off: all smoke and acid, no fruit. I do not know if it was simply an off bottle from production or if the intermediate storage harmed it (I'm leaning towards the latter) but the remnants are turning into an interesting white wine vinegar.

I did have a sample of an interesting Vidal-based ice wine made in St-Eustache; will dig up the producer and post. The only Québec red that I was aware of is L'Orpailleur, though the SAQ has 68 product entries. Haven't considered L'Orpailleur since watching Jacques Pépin start talking about how great Québec cheese was immediately after sampling their white (just prior to his taste test, he had waxed on about how South African reds had improved tremendously).

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Thank you Mr Carswell!! Happy New Year!

Having started a vineyard in Quebec last summer (disclosure!) I did not feel it was appropriate for me to start. Now the problem is going to be how to get me to shut up!

Ok, first for those in Montreal that would like to sample QC wines, the easiest route is to visit Marche des saveurs at JTM. They have a good cross section of what is produced in the province.

CAVEAT: A lot of the products you'll find there are fruit wines, "mistells", fortified wines, hydromel, Ice cider etc. Not to dwell on judgement of those products, IMHO we need to seperate out those out from "vinis" based products - WINE - which I propose should be the subject of this thread. SAQ also carry limited inventory of QC wines but heavily "diluted" by the other products mentioned above. (Which eventually could deserve their own thread.)

Also to be noted is that some of the best QC wines produced are only available at the wineries, or at Montreal Restaurants - for instance Les Pervenches. But MdS is a good way to start & get access.

Wineries to look for there (for starters and reresentative of what's available):

- Vignoble des Pins

Very small production by innovative owner Gilles Benoit. Check out his Late harvest Geisenham and the Troubador which is a red blend featuring Frontenac with some residual sugar.

Also Rose for summertime sipping.

- Vignoble de L'Orpailleur

By far the largest QC producer. Try their Rose next summer.

And by all mean try their "Red" and "White". Representative of *current* QC wine production.

Vidal Ice wine.

- Domaine du Ridge

Rose.

-Vignoble de la Rivière du Chêne

This is the Winery in St-Eustache mentioned above.

Marechal Foch Red

Vidal Ice wine & late harvest

That's a start for those that might be interested.

I'll get back on the questions C. posted re: Chardonnay & Tourist reds & what the future might bring.

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I have not tasted these wine lately , but the rosé from L'orpaillieur was among my wines of last summer.

And I often will have there bubbly , wich is not as good as Chateau Moncontour , my favorite bubbly , but still very good.

Now , I will have to try be be a better analyst of what I drink ! :rolleyes:

visit my fondation: www.ptitslutins.org

I started a food blog : http://antoniodelaruepapineau.blogspot.com/

(in french)

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toto2, it's not easy to make you drink bad wine!

Les Pervenches is really bad and I even don't know why people on this forum are talking about it. Wines from Quebec are not good! Can we please forget them for good?

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Wines from Quebec are not good!  Can we please forget them for good?

Like anything in the food industry, it only takes time to develop the best ingredients and products. And Quebec Wines are farely new.

Give it a few more years of test and error and we will have a great name to talk about.

have any of you tryed the "Gris" from Orpailleur?, wich is a Grey wine, mix of red and white grapes, excellent!

...snow is pretty

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toto2, it's not easy to make you drink bad wine!

Les Pervenches is really bad and I even don't know why people on this forum are talking about it.  Wines from Quebec are not good!  Can we please forget them for good?

Why? We're only supposed to talk about high-end restaurants, cult wines, rare coffees and olive oils that most of us can't afford?

This is a forum about Quebec (and Eastern Canadian) topics. Discussion of all local produce, including Quebec wines, is appropriate here. Whatever you think of it, Les Pervenches' chardonnay is of interest, is worth discussing, because it is a trailblazer, one of the only, if not the only, Quebec-made vinifera wines available to consumers. What's more, it and several other Quebec wines are poured in some of the province's finest restaurants. You don't like our talking about them? Tough. No one's forcing you to read this discussion, let alone take part in it.

Edited by carswell (log)
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I am not asking to talk about the high-end stuff but at least decent stuff.

This wine is good for cooking only.

Sorry carswell if I ofended you, that was not my intention but this wine is barely drinkable.

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Jfl91 I don't particularly like what you are saying but I understand where you are coming from, and I would even agree with you to some extent.

But the world does not only consist of Per Se and Utopie and Grand Crus, and even they did not rise phoenix like from nowhere.

It would be interesting to know what QC wines you have sampled and if you could be a more specific about what you consider bad with them... Nobody said it would be easy to produce decent wines in QC and if we are to be successful we need superior efforts on the production side but also constructive critique and analysis from consumers. So we need you and your knowledge but we don't need to be ignored. Have you checked out Ice wine from Marathonien and from Chapel St Agnes? Have you Sampled Vignoble des Pins products?

As far as the prospects of Chardonnay in QC, they are dim. Normally Chardonnay has a 90% bud death at -20 Deg centi. So it's a challenge to get sustainable crop in QC. And if that means relying and fudging on imported Chardonnay - what's the point?

A much better propect is to introduce the vinifera (european wine) quailities on the genetic levels through hybrid breeding of vinifera and native hardy grape species.

Turns out we now live in "interesting times". Current QC production from Hybrid grapes are often based on Hybrids developed a long time ago from Vinifera and Labrusca types. Now we are in a period where several new hybrids resulting from the last 15-20 years of breeding - based on Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Riparia - are released, mainly from research at Univerity of Minnesota and Cornell In NY. Unfortunatly it takes another 2-3 years after US release before we can plant them in Canada because of the Canadian gov. regulations and foot dragging.

Anyway - in a few years you'll see Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent etc. wines becoming available. Of course it will take some time to learn how to vinify these new grapes, but it is highly likely that we'll see some very interesting and unique (world class?) wines from Quebec during the next 10 years.

Meanwhile small steps are taken all the time in improving QC wines. Please check them out and report what you think and be specific - even if you think like jfl91.

Edited by sf&m (log)
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sf&m, the problem with our icewine is the price. It's really expensive to produce icewine and there is not that much choices available from our production that are worth it. Producers here are lucky that SAQ do not import more wines from Germany because their sales would drop significantly. I prefer the icewines from Ontario wich have way more richness and complexity. But even at this point, some of the finest icewines from Ontario are way too much expensive compared to what Germany can offer. I must admit that some Niagara producers are top notch like Royal De Maria (the cabernet sauvignon is really impressive but again too expensive). But it's just impossible to find these rare wines (you have to buy it from the producer wich is 6 hours driving from here).

Les Pervenches chardonnay is really out of balance and almost undrinkable. Les Pervenches seyval was a disaster also and CC&P people were just serving it in kir.

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Hmm, jfl91.... don't know if I can agree that Icewine price is the problem, especially not compared to German Icewine. I have a good German wine importer in SF and his German Icewine is very expensive usually 100-300 $ per 375 ml bottle. Candadian ICewine is usually about $50 per split. In Canada we can reliably produce Icewine every year, in Germany maybe 3-4 times per decade. I am talking about "available" wines now.... maybe you have some in on extra special ONTARIO Icewines.

Icewine will never come down in price. Remember you get about 10% of the juice when you press the frozen grapes, not to speak of hanging loss in the vineyard. But Canadian Icewine has been a success in Asia - price no object.

If you mean "late harvest" vs German Spatlase or Auslese I agree, the latter are often bargains.

I had PErvenchance at BU and I was not impressed either. I think a lot of people were surprised/interested in the Chardonnay. I've seen their vineyard and it's not an especially good site.

And I agree the distribution of Ontario wine in QC is horrendeous, and vice versa. Of course distribution is a big problem just inside QC with SAQ setting all sorts of barriers.

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I didn't try 10% of the wines produced in Quebec and if it was not that difficult to buy these wines maybe my jegement would change a little.

Eisewine are way more expensive but the difference is significant. Riesling is not the best varietal for Quebec.

I 100% agree with you about the Auslese and Spatlase that we don't get here enough. But, there is still some Dr. Loosen 2003 at SAQ and I don't understand why.

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I've mainly tried the "fruit" wines and that rose last summer (I think) and it was okay. It wasn't that expensive so it was a good bbq drink.

The ice wines/ciders are pretty good. I find it funny that we can't find a lot of QC wines in the SAQ (at least while I'm browsing). But, now I'll take a look around.

I have seen some qc wines on wine lists but I couldn't justify a 200%(plus) mark-up on something with a very high variability that could ruin the meal.

Thanks for bringing up the subject as I probably will be steered towards more positive examples. Maybe a winery tour is in order this summer...

max

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Max, the SAQ on the north side of JTM has decent inventory of QC wines. But then, if there you might as well go across to the south side at MArche des Saveurs which has an excellent cross-section of QC wines - and cheaper than SAQ.

Look for Vignoble des Pins, Domain Ridge and L'Orpailleur to start with. So you don't have to wait for summer!

Remember that 2004 was an especially bad year for QC wines. The summer was cold and rainy, and it looked to be a total bust when finally a couple of weeks warm weather in September "saved" some of it. But it's bad vintage. However, the 2005's should be some of the best wines produced in QC.

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