I had the opportunity at the end of the summer, to meet Simon Naud, owner of the Vignoble de La Bauge. What a beautiful meeting!
From the outset, the whole vineyard, its oeno-tourism concept as well as Mr. Naud’s philosophy of viticulture seduced me. The latter, following extensive research, strongly believes in the potential to produce excellent wines from Quebec varietals (hybrids). In addition, his eclectic side has led him to breed several rather exotic animals all over the vineyard, an added value in terms of oeno-tourism concept. On a path of about half a kilometer, bordered by large fences, enclosures, are mixed wild boars, New Zealand red deer, Tibetan Yaks, Emus from Australia, Lamas of the Andes Cordillera and several species from all over the world. Several other activities are offered to visitors: A visit with the Cellar Master, A multisensory tasting, Prestige tasting, have a locally produced meal or organize various receptions including weddings and other.
A little history
Originally from Montreal, Alcide Naud moved to Sweetsburg and purchased a vast 142-hectare dairy farm. After 35 years of hard work, in 1986, he sold his flock and bought 6,000 vine plants instead. His son Robert followed the wave of the rise of local products in Quebec and started to breed wild boars. Alcide thought that with all the sausages and pâtés and boar terrines, only a good wine was missing! The first vines were planted in 1987 and the first bottles produced in 1989. The name of Bauge, which is a boar’s lodge was all addressed for this special place. The wild boar hunt continued until 2002 …
In 1992, Simon, the youngest son, completed his studies in the field of rural engineering and joined the family business. Then, in 1996, he officially took over. The passion that drives Simon is the search for new cultivars best adapted to the Quebec climate.
In search of the best grape varieties or make wine in Quebec
In the early 2000s, a childhood friend, Alain Brault, who planted vines at the same time as Charles-Henri de Coussergues (L’Orpailleur), became a nurseryman and now sells to many wine growers in Quebec. At first, he was looking for interesting plants and turned to the University of Minnesota and Aylmer Swanson for advice on various plants to try in Quebec. “In 1994, Alain came to me to ask me if I was interested in trying Mr. Swanson’s recommendations. A plot of vine was determined at the end of my field and about twenty varieties were planted from Minnesota. We tried this for 3 years with no winter protection and then we decided to go further and vinify these grapes.” Says M. Naud.
“We formed a small informal research committee in 1996 where we shared the first harvests and we tried everything. The most interesting plants were offered to Quebec winemakers. Among all, the most promising grape varieties was the Frontenac, a strong, productive vine that can produce grapes years after years.”
In 1999 he founded, with three other winemakers, and Alain Brault “Quebec’s Research and Development in Viticulture Club”, which became in 2001 the Research Committee of the Association des Vignerons du Québec, of which he will be President for 7 years. He still serves as Vice President. He travelled to various cool wine regions of the world to list new grape varieties that could be of interest for Quebec.
” With time came White Frontenac and Gray Frontenac. In my opinion, these grape varieties that are an insurance policy since they are productive, qualitative, and they make good wine. Then, the Seyval started to grow popularity and according to Simon Naud ” it’s a good workhorse. It is a grape variety that is quite straightforward and a good producer. ”
In the early years it took him some time to gauge the productivity needed to have balance in his wines. His Seyval were initially a little too acidic, a little green and over time the vines have matured. “We knew how much trellising was needed to get the ripeness of the grapes, a beautiful expression, a good sugar level and find the balance to have a good harvest every year.” With time, Seyval has become an important plant for the development of the wine industry in Quebec (especially in Brome-Missisquoi) and obviously for the Vineyard.
” The first years, this grape was buried during winter and in the early 2000s, we started to protect it as well as our Vidal with geotextile. The mortality rate of the buds was lower. With the textile, we can achieve a -10 degrees of protection even without snow cover. As soon as you have snow cover of an inch, you never go down below -6 degrees. It provided stability and effectiveness. I stumbled for 19 years and then we really made the official transfer to textile given their efficiency.
He perceives the Vidal grape, an hybrid, like an aromatic grape with great versatility just like Loire Chenin blanc. It can be made in dry white wine, sweet wines and can produce very fine ice wines.
“I tried Vinifera grapes out of curiosity, for personal pleasure too, to see what it would look like. For so many years, we heard that for some it worked and for others it did not. Finally, I was going to find out. I planted a row in which we tried 10 different grape varieties. I cultivated them for 10 years and I studied them on several criteria (productivity, resistance to climate, diseases etc.).
“In this row, I took the five most interesting, and we planted 300 vines of each. We had Savagnin blanc, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Out of these 5 varieties, we wanted to find out which would stand out. I went gradually, slowly with tangible results and always validating the expression of each grape once bottled. The big question is ultimately can it be profitable? ”
Finally, he did like the vinifera results. However, according to him, the hybrid grape varieties are sure values. “We should stop comparing Hybrids vs. Vinifera. We shouldn’t be ashamed to makewine with Vidal, Frontenac or other. The Quebec market is evolving. When we were young, as a winemaker we were looking for straightness but the evolution of craft beers made us evolve. Quebec microbreweries are having a blast in everything and our young audience is looking for lots of new products. We have different varieties, we have a different identity, we have ways of cultivating that are different. Discovering all these flavors and aromas is so interesting. We now have a clientele who wants to discover what we have to offer as new products and new flavors. If the wines are good, people will love them. Before People tasted Quebec wines with great apprehension. Now when we serve our products we feel a real interest. We’re expecting exciting years ahead of us.”