Domaine Bergeville is the only winery in Quebec that produces exclusively sparkling wines. Created by Marc Théberge and Eve Rainville a decade ago, the estate is located in Hatley in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
Genesis of the estate
Eve and Marc met at the end of high school and studied together at the University of British Columbia (she in mathematics, he in electronic engineering). It was during this time that they had the crazy idea of one day owning their own vineyard. They saved for 13 years to raise the capital needed for their project. They also gave it a lot of thought by attending training courses and travelling extensively. They visited Champagne, California, Virginia, Spain, Italy and even Australia and New Zealand. They met many winemakers with whom they were able to exchange. They even fell in love with the south of England, but unfortunately the access to land was too expensive.
Appropriate soils and climate
Marc and Eve returned to the Belle Province with the firm intention of finding the most suitable soils and climate to produce superior quality sparkling wines in Quebec. Ideally, they wanted to find a place that would be close to a tourist hub so that they could sell their future products at the property and in the good restaurants of the area. They chose to settle in Hatley in the Eastern Townships. They found the soils they were looking for, namely soils with a lot of limestone and a climate that is a little cooler than in other Quebec wine regions and therefore adapted to the production of sparkling wines.
“Summers like those in Quebec produce very acidic grapes. This acidity is sought after and is welcome in the production of quality sparkling wines. In general, we harvest about two weeks before everyone else in Quebec” – Marc Théberge, co-owner of Domaine Bergeville
Which grape varieties for a Quebec sparkling wine?
Between 2009 and 2013, Marc and Eve planted 8,000 vines on nearly two hectares. When they started, there was no history of producing sparkling wines from rustic grape varieties (vitis riparia). So they planted 13 different grape varieties, all of which were adapted to the Quebec climate. The Saint-Pépin, Frontenac, Marquette, Radisson, and Sainte-Croix do not require any winter protection and can withstand temperatures down to -35 C! Only the white acadie grape variety requires protection from the winter cold (the vines are stubbed and then covered with geotextile cloths). After experimentation, they pulled out the grape varieties that gave less good results in order to keep only those that proved to be the most promising for the production of sparkling wines.
Today, Domaine Bergeville has 11,000 vines, spread over approximately three hectares. All its sparkling wines are certified organic (Ecocert Canada). The vineyard and the grapes are certified biodynamic (Demeter).
Through its wines, Domaine Bergeville wants to highlight the typical aromas of Quebec grape varieties. All grapes are first vinified separately before being blended. Three cuvées are produced, a white, a rosé, and a red, all of which are made using the traditional method (also known as the méthode champenoise). The estate produces approximately 60% white sparkling wine, 30% rosé, and 10% red.
To produce their white sparkling wine, they blend white Acadie, which brings freshness and minerality, with white Saint-Pépin, which brings roundness and balance, and white Frontenac, characterized by a very high acidity. According to Marc, Saint-Pépin is probably the most interesting grape variety for making good sparkling wine. However, it is so low in production that it makes no commercial sense to make a specific cuvée. The sparkling rosé wine is a blend of radisson and frontenac gris and blanc, the red, of marquette, frontenac noir and sainte-croix.
I tasted all three cuvées during a brief visit to the domain this summer. I really liked the white sparkling wine. I must say that I was very surprised to see such a high level of quality for a sparkling wine made with rustic grapes. Blind, I challenge you to differentiate it from an excellent crémant! The rosé is very lively, with a crisper acidity. As for the red, you will like it… or not… I must admit that a red sparkling wine is not my cup of tea. Red sparkling wines are rather a rarity. You can find them in Australia with sparkling shiraz or in Italy with Lambrusco. Nevertheless, it remains for me a confusing product. It is however very original and probably interesting to match with some dishes. The white will be perfect as an aperitif or with oysters, the red will require a meat and the rosé a fruit dessert. The white sells for $30, the rosé for $32 and the red for $34.
Marc told me that he would like to plant some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He has his own weather station and over the past 8 years, he has recorded about the same kind of weather as Champagne during the growing season. Winter is obviously a different story! The main challenge for the winemaker is obviously the climate with the winter frost and the big temperature changes. But the most delicate episode remains without any doubt the spring frost, often at the time when the vine is extremely fragile. To remedy this, the domain has installed a wind tower (before, they used to make fires in the vineyard!!!).
Marc’s dream is to one day achieve recognition as a Quebec sparkling wine appellation. According to him, the province has a huge potential to produce high quality sparkling wines. Marc would also like to produce an unfined brut. He thinks that with a little longer aging (30 months), he should be able to do so. For information, his white contains 2 grams of sugar per, the rosé 4 grams and the red 6 grams.
Visit the Domaine Bergeville
I can’t recommend enough that you visit the domain. The quality is there and the potential is there to produce even better bubbles in the future (the domain is still young, just like the vines). So come and visit us the next time you are in the Eastern Townships! The winery is open from June to October from Wednesday to Sunday, as well as on holidays, between 1 and 5 pm. The rest of the year, visits are by appointment only.
1030, chemin Sherbrooke
Canton de Hatley, Québec J0B 2C0
Phone: (819) 842-1026