By Susan Desjardins
A long history of winemaking, dating back seven generations to Alsace, stands behind Château des Charmes. In the 1840s, the Bosc family ancestors were granted land in Algeria, then a French colony. Paul Bosc Sr. was born and married there, eventually working as General Manager of one of the country’s largest and most successful wine cooperatives.
With the revolution which led to Algeria’s independence in 1962, the Bosc family found itself evacuated back to France, forced to leave all behind and start anew. The French Algerians, known as ‘pieds noirs’, found it difficult to re-establish themselves, leading Paul Bosc Sr. to uproot his family for a new life in Canada.
They settled in Montreal, where Paul secured a position with the SAQ. Through this role, he became aware of Ontario wine, identifying a problem he felt he could address. After meeting a senior representative of Château-Gai wines, he was soon once again uprooting his family and moving them to Niagara.
Working as Winemaker and Director of R&D, Paul became convinced that Ontario had to transition from native grapes to vitis vinifera to create world-class wines. By the early 1970s, he was creating wines that were garnering attention across North America.
In 1978, in partnership with Rodger Gordon, he established Château des Charmes (named for the seaside cottage the Bosc family owned in Algeria) as a 60-acre estate winery and planted the first commercial Canadian vineyard growing only vitis vinifera grapes.
In 1994 Château des Charmes opened its new winery and visitor centre, creating a unique landmark in the Niagara wine industry. Paul Bosc designed the building with a green roof, paying homage to the iconic Canadian landmarks such as the Château Laurier and Château Frontenac. The solid, stone building pays homage to the Canadian strength and perseverance the young family felt was represented by these unique hotels.
A true pioneer of the modern Niagara wine revolution, Paul Bosc Sr. was recognized for his impact and vision with an Order of Canada in 2005, and recently was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, recognizing his extensive contribution to the Canadian wine industry. He was delighted to have the opportunity to receive it in the presence of his 4 ½-year-old grandson, Alex, and to place it beside the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, with which he was honoured 10 years ago.
Mr. Bosc, Founder and Winemaker at Château des Charmes, oversees and has the final word on all production issues. He’s still actively involved in the vineyard and continues to experiment with new clones and vinifera varieties.
His wife is the winery matriarch and ambassador, while son Paul is the President, and Michèle Bosc focuses on hospitality and tourism to ensure an outstanding guest experience. Like many family-owned wineries, there is always someone onsite, helping out where needed during the busiest times. Says Michèle, ‘During harvest, Paul Bosc Sr. is in and out of the winery at all hours of the day. You do what has to be done’.
You will find several wines produced by Château des Charmes available at the LCBO, including three of those below, and a slightly different selection at the SAQ. Quality, value and accessibility are clearly priorities with the family – ‘We have always believed it’s better to delight with a $15 bottle than to disappoint with a $25 bottle’. With 280 acres spread across four vineyards, the Bosc family can produce a range of wines, offering great value at a variety of price points. Savour and be delighted!
Château des Charmes Aligoté 2010
VQA St. David’s Bench LCBO 296848 $13.95 13% alcohol
A variety rare in both its native Burgundy and in Niagara, this Aligoté is produced from a single vineyard planted in 1978. Attractive floral notes, citrus, a whiff of mineral and hints of orchard fruit tantalize the nose. Appealingly smooth yet lively in texture, the wine offers fresh flavours of lemon, lime zest and green apple on a frame of crisp acidity and clean minerality. It’s dry, medium bodied and refreshing, finishing long with a tangy pithiness. A fine patio sipper and a good match for pan-fried white fish with a squeeze of lemon.
Château des Charmes Gamay Noir 2009
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake LCBO 57349 $12.55 13% alcohol
Beet red, this approachable, dry, mid-weight wine was fermented in stainless steel. There’s an appealing nose of spice and pepper, ripe berries, and a notion of milk chocolate coated cherries. Flowing on a wave of juicy acidity and fine tannins, the promise of lively red cherry/berry fruit is delivered, garnished with mixed spice and dried herbs. Nicely balanced, mouth-wateringly flavourful, it’s a fine value to serve with grilled salmon or roast pork.
Château des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2009 (200 ml)
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake LCBO 565861 $25.95 9.5% alcohol
Rich alluring aromas leap from the glass—stone fruit, floral notes, honeyed vanilla custard and apricot preserves. A luscious ambrosia, beautifully viscous, the wine flows like satin across the palate, offering rich honeyed fruit, marmalade and those lovely apricot notes. Enjoy the long, lush fruity finish, well balanced with tasty tangy acidity. Michèle Bosc suggests serving this wine with crème brulé.
Château des Charmes ‘Estate Bottled’ Sparkling Rosé 2009
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake LCBO 78005 $28.95 12.7% alcohol
Created in the traditional method from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, this wine spent 3 years on the lees before being disgorged by hand. Showcasing delicate red berry fruit from start to finish, this wine also offers pretty nuances of tangerine, brioche, and stone. Dry, light and lively, the fine mousse explodes on the palate, paired with clean fresh acidity. It’s flavourful and nicely balanced through the finish. Enjoy it with roast turkey or chicken, or savour on its own.
Susan Desjardins has been involved with the marketing and promotion of wines for the last seven years, as an accredited sommelier. In addition to organizing and hosting both public and private wine and food events, she has participated in the LCBO’s Vintages release tastings for the last two years.
An Algonquin College-trained sommelier and avid amateur ‘foodie’, Susan spends her spare time traveling in Western Europe and the wine regions of Canada meeting winemakers, vineyard owners and other wine industry personalities.
Her background in business, horticulture and wine has created a broad interest in and familiarity with the diverse aspects of the industry. She seeks value and quality in wine tasting, and looks forward to introducing people to varietals and wines with which they may not yet be familiar.