Martin Laroche and Mylène Gaudette run Domaine Le Grand St-Charles, a winery in St-Paul d’Abbotsford in the Montérégie region. When they bought what is now the winery, in 2008, it was a cider house. They still make cider, but in 2011 they planted vineyards here, opting for modern hybrids: Frontenac Gris and Rouge, St Pepin, Petite Perle and Vidal. Mylène still teaches; Martin was also a teacher, but quit the day job a couple of years ago. The winery opened in 2013.
Behind the property there’s a mountain, Mont Yamaska. This provides a degree of protection from spring frost, and it also means that they get a lot of snow. They train the Frontenac low so that in the winter they can cover it with geotextiles, and then cover everything with snow.
Our first vineyard stop is to look at the St Pepin. Alas, this block doesn’t fertilize well, and yields a miserly one ton per hectare.
Second stop is Vidal, which yields much more generously, at 12 tons/hectare.
Third, we look at Frontenac Gris. This is a good variety, but the acid is very high, and Martin uses carbonic maceration as a way of moderating the acid: it works really well. Sometimes he still needs to de acidify: for example, the 2017 Frontenac Gris came in at pH 2.9 and 12-14 g/litre of tartaric acid.
Domaine Le Grand St Charles Frontenac Gris Gamme Séduction 2017 Quebec, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Fresh and juicy with nice bright citrus fruit. Lemons and oranges with a touch of grippiness. This is lively and juicy. 87/100
Domaine Le Grand St Charles Le Roche Vidal 2018 Quebec, Canada
Fermented in concrete egg. This shows nice texture: it’s creamy and grainy with a stony edge and a fine lemony core. Pure. The acidity integrates well. A nice juicy style but with layers. 90/100
Domaine Le Grand St Charles St Pepin Gamme Séduction 2018 Quebec, Canada
This has 6 months in French oak. Bright with fresh acidity and nice supple pear and tangerine notes. The oak adds roundness, some texture and some attractive spiciness. There’s a slight salty, buttery edge. 88/100
Domaine Le Grand St Charles Farniente Rosé 2018 Quebec, Canada
Frontenac Gris and Noir, with carbonic maceration. This sparkling wine is undisgorged traditional method and has a pressure of 4 bars. Full red colour. Lively with sour cherry and plum notes, a nice mid-palate showing a rich, savoury note, with lovely fruit. Tart, with high acidity and some red apple on the finish. 89/100
Domaine Le Grand St Charles La Roche Petite Perle 2018 Quebec, Canada (barrel sample)
Sweet floral nose with ripe strawberry and red cherry. The palate is fresh and intense with nice pure, bold red fruits. Very fruity, but has quite soft tannins and good acidity. Finishes sweet. 88/100
Cidre La Brutée Houblon, Quebec, Canada
This is made using hops (Cascade, Chinook, Willamette and Sauvin. It is complex, tart and shows nice citrus and herb characters. Nicely bitter with good focus and complexity. Layered and delicious.
Le Brise Glace Ice Cider 2014 Quebec, Canada
11% alcohol, 135 g/l sugar. Cryo concentrated by putting the apple juice outside: for every 1000 litres, the result is 200 litres of concentrated juice. Deliciously bold, spicy and appley. Concentrated with nice acidity. Viscous, with a lovely baked apple character and good acidity. 93/100
La Grande Reserve Apertif Cider, Quebec, Canada
16% alcohol, 35 g/l sugar. Same cryoconcentration process, but the fermentation was allowed to carry on. Intense, savoury and nutty with high acidity. Has a spicy, raisiny character after two years in oak, with some intense flavours of marmalade, spice and lemon peel. 88/100
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See also: In Quebec, Vignoble Les Pervenches
Thanks to fellow wine journalist Nadia Fournier for arranging this series of Québec visits.