Did you know that our region is home to some extraordinary farms and vineyards where the passion for organic farming practises is decades old? Caring for the environment and growing healthy food is nothing new for these farmers and vinters.
We are starting the first in our feature series with an article written by Caroline Chagnon, from Domaine de Bergeville in Canton de Hatley. Cheers!
While we are bottling the first wines of the 2021 vintage, the vines are finishing their long winter rest. Soon, they will be stripped of their protective canopies to catch the first rays of sunshine of the year.
Comfortably rooted on the slopes of the Massawippi Valley, our vines flourish in the highest viticultural region in Quebec: the Appalachian Highlands. The 250 m elevation creates a favourable contrast between hot days and cool nights. This temperature difference slows down the ripening of the grapes and preserves a remarkable acidity, which is crucial to the production of sparkling wine. Domaine Bergeville is the only vineyard in Quebec dedicated entirely to the production of traditional method sparkling wines. We believe that it is through the prism of double fermentation that the full potential of our northern climate, our soils and our hybrid grape varieties is best expressed. In other words: we bottle nordicity.
But beyond making wine, our concern is to shape an environment rich in biodiversity. Since the very beginning,
we have been working with organic and biodynamic viticulture. Thus, our vineyard has never known any synthetic product. Following a low-interventionist approach, every effort taken in the vineyard is done with the intention of making it a sustainable ecosystem and, ultimately, a self-sufficient organism. Aware that a vineyard is a monoculture, we have implemented several solutions to maintain an abundant and diversified environment. For example, we have deliberately planted different grape varieties on the same plot, interspersing vine varieties that flower at different times of the summer. Permanent green manures are grown in the inter-rows, which reduces soil erosion. At the edge of the plots, the wildflower patches and the forest are refuges for insects, amphibians and animals that contribute to the biodiversity of the vineyard. Each element of our ecosystem plays an essential role and contributes to its cohesion.
Our soil is our greatest asset. It is rich in silt, sand and pebbles, which makes it acidic and shallow, but also in the life that lives in it. Our intention is to constantly give back at least as much as it gives us. The application of biodynamic principles allows us to improve the health of the vineyard as a whole. Biodynamic herbal preparations help the immune system of the vines, preparing them to fight diseases and insects. In the long term, this practice allows us to reduce treatments and interventions to a minimum, reducing our impact on the environment. We fertilise our vineyard with composted manure from a local organic and biodynamic cheese factory. This takes much longer than chemical fertiliser to prepare, but it is deeper and more long term. Our efforts seem to be paying off as we have noticed an increased presence of earthworms, bacteria and birds in recent years, which is an empirical measure of strong soil life.
In order to work with nature and produce an authentic wine, adapted to our region, we have planted our vineyard with hybrid vines. These are a cross between wild North American and European vines and are better equipped than their European counterparts to deal with fungal disease pressure. Working with these hybrids allows us to significantly minimize the application of organic treatments, without jeopardizing our ability to produce quality wines. Frontenac, Acadie and St-Pepin, in particular, were selected for their robustness and organoleptic characteristics, but also for their rapid vegetative cycle.
Our philosophy remains the same in the cellar. Experience has taught us that healthy grapes require minimal intervention. Supported by healthy indigenous yeasts, the wine will have everything it needs to express the individuality it has taken a whole season to develop. Thus, handling and inputs in the winery are kept to a minimum. A minimal dose of sulphur is used at the beginning of the process, at the pressing of the grapes only. This natural winemaking process can be felt in the wines, which have an honest fruitiness, a freshness and a certain elegance.
For us, it’s all about reflecting the uniqueness of our northern vineyards and making wines with great precision and respect for our land.
Caroline Chagnon, Domaine Bergeville Communications Director