The Vigneron walks in designer shoes, uninterested in the mud from the vineyard damaging the soft leather. His attention is directed to the crouching workers on either side of a long row of vines heavy with Chardonnay, glistening in the late summer sun. “I’m going to show you how you pick grapes,” says Monsieur Paul Bosc Senior, as he gestures to a young man for his clippers, squats down nimbly and begins clipping at the bunches, removing any imperfections with the dexterity of an expert and the love of a father. Château Des Charmes in Niagara-onthe- Lake, Ontario sits above a sea of vines which have been nurtured by the Bosc family for four decades and it is no wonder their immaculate vineyards have a reputation for being among the most pristine in the region. “If you don’t have a beautiful vineyard then I don’t think you’re going to have beautiful wines,” says the sprightly 84 year-old as he moves the clippers, his wrist sheathed in pressed cotton and black onyx cufflink, his initials P.M.B embroidered on the fold.
“In the late seventies, Monsieur Bosc was the first to plant a vineyard dedicated entirely to vinifera, the European grape (Vitis vinifera) that is the main source of old- world wine. This came from his education in Dijon, Burgundy where Bosc was also introduced to the grapes of that region.” “He felt there were a lot of similarities between Niagara and Burgundy,” says his son, Paul Bosc Jr., who manages the winery. “The gentle slopes, you have that in and around Beaune, like the Niagara Escarpment, lots of limestone, both are northern cool climate regions. There are soil similarities, climatic similarities and so he doubled down significantly on the Burgundian varietals. The original plantings back in the late 1970’s were Gamay and Aligoté. We had the most Aligoté in North America, tons of Chardonnay and tons of Pinot Noir; those were the big four.” In 1982, the Château Des Charmes’ vineyard was thriving; the vines lush and two meters tall by the middle of summer when Monsieur Bosc Sr. was walking his rows of Gamay and one particular vine stood out to him. “This Gamay vine was more than half a meter taller than all the other ones,” says Bosc Jr. of his father’s discovery. “Imagine if a basketball coach was wandering the halls of his elementary school and you had a boy who was two feet taller than the other boys, the basketball coach would notice him and think; ‘that’s a basketball player.’ My dad in this story is like the basketball coach.” Monsieur Bosc Sr. knew immediately that something that much taller is a clonal mutation and it caught his attention. “Thank God my dad’s curiosity wasn’t sated. He wondered if the wine from these vines would be different.” The tall Gamay was different; the vines needed more time to ripen, the brix levels were higher, the colouring more intense and the aromatics and taste profile. “In the mid 90’s my dad was convinced he had identified a commercially significant clonal mutation,” says Bosc Jr. A total of 225 buds were grafted to form an entire row of these extra tall Gamay grapes which the Bosc’s dubbed “Gamay Noir Droit.” “Droit” means upright or straight in French. “Its tendrils were longer and stronger, and they were catching the trellis wires as the vine was growing, now that is commercially significant. Why? Because we spend a lot of time through the course of the summer, going through the vineyards, picking up vines that have fallen over and if you don’t thread it through the trellis, the tractor will chew them up. This is all part of keeping a very narrow, tight trellis; encourage everything to grow along the trellis and this vine was doing it all on its own. We saw a laboursaving opportunity there. That was enough incentive to propagate that one vine,” says Bosc Jr. The Bosc family applied for International Plant Breeders Rights for the Gamay Noir Droit; a three-year process which granted the Bosc’s the right to what Bosc Jr. claims to be the first Canadian vinifera grape identified in Canada. Gamay Noir Droit was released to the public in 1999. “Vineyards need attention,” says Monsieur Bosc as the sun begins dipping over the expansive estate, “There was a saying in France, that one man should know exactly what is happening to 30,000 vines. In other words, if you have three or four hectares you have to know every vine, how they perform. That’s a tradition to pay attention to.” Well-known wine critic, Beppi Crosariol of the Globe and Mail recently awarded the tall Gamay 91 points and Château Des Charmes’ Winemaker, Amélie Boury agrees Gamay Noir Droit has a distinctly different taste. “Because this wine is so interesting in the glass, we decided to not oak age it… so you taste the unique flavours of Gamay Droit.” “Its aromatics are of red fruit; to me it reminds me of being in a cherry tree as a kid,” says Bosc Jr. The sky is darkening pink above the Estate and Alex, Paul Bosc Jr.’s son has joined his father and grandfather in the vineyard. Alex is 12-years of age but runs and plays among the vines with the ease of the grandson of a master Vigneron. The three generations of Boscs walk between the rows which will most likely continue to be tended to with the attention to detail instilled by “Grand-père” Bosc. “The truth is in the vineyard,” says Monsieur Bosc Sr. with a twinkle in his eye. TM