Domaine des Salanges, make the impossible possible

Make the impossible possible! André and Laurence Olivier Brossard – The only winemakers in Iles-de-la-Madeleine !!!!

There are some encounters that leave us an indelible imprint and mark us forever. My meeting with André Brossard is one of those.

He fell in love with Diane Coderre, a daughter of the Îles-de-la Madeleine and a crush on her country. Physical education teacher, father of six children, author, motivator, he became in 2004 at 55 years-old, with Diane and his second son Laurence Olivier, owner of the Domaine des Salanges. Together, they will pursue their dreams: a flower garden and a vineyard. In fact, André will say that he is the “idea-tor” and manager, Diane the artistic director and LO as he likes to call his son, the real winemaker.

The Dream

Laurence Olivier, with his experience as a horticulturist, dreams to leave a beautiful and large flower garden. He talked about it to his father and to whom the idea smiles. Son of a farmer, he had always loved the land. Planting vines, why not! Rows of vines are beautiful. André loves this bucolic image and  rural environment to cultivate vineyards. Laurence Olivier accepted, postponed his big garden and leaves in 2002 to study viniculture in Beaune, at the Domaine de l’Arlot, which included internships in various famous vineyards, such as Morey-St Denis in Burgundy. He learns the ins and outs of winegrower’s life. The Quebecois, as he was known, had a green thumb.

In search of suitable land and grape varieties.

During Laurence Olivier studies, André goes in search of an agricultural land without knowing if the vine will give quality grapes. Their other condition was of an esthetic matter. In the Islands, there are no resourceful persons with wine experience of this particular area.

In the course of his research, André meets Alain Brault, a nurseryman specializing in vines who already advises several Quebec winemakers. Alain suggested that he plants Baltica, a red variety that is extremely resistant to extreme climates and is said to make a superb red wine. This selection is endorsed by the University of Minnesota specializing in the development of hybrid vines. Moreover, during a trip to Estonia (which has a similar climate as the Iles) with Alain Brault, LO met winemakers who assured him of the quality and the resistance of this grape variety. They also discovered a white grape variety named Solaris (very close to a Sancerre in style) which will be planted later.

From the 6 plants of Baltica available at the University of Minnesota, it took 2 years to clone them in Sainte Étienne des Grès until they obtained and planted 8,000 vines.

Baltica Grape Variety

One Particularity of the Islands is that the land is f=very fragmented. Several families each have their piece of land. “We were looking for something beautiful”. André had to negotiate strongly to get his land with a great view overlooking Havre-aux-Basques, Lavernière, Cap aux Meules and Havre aux Maisons. “It was very, very rural. It was a place where the vines could be happy. But there, I just had woods and four owners to contact by telling them that I wanted to buy their land to make a vineyard ”. Try to imagine the reaction of these landowners.  “I went to visit the field myself, climbed up a tree, and was amazed by the beauty of the landscape. What I did not know was that I was not on the right ground. Mine was next door and the view was even more beautiful.” There’s a micro-climate surrounded by small mountains (elevation of about 250 feet) that protect the vines from the winds that can be violent in the Islands. In fact, this protection gives 4 degrees warmer than anywhere around.

You have to clear, build and plant!

It was necessary to find roads in the forest to work and proceed to deforestation. In the Islands, you can’t make clean cut. ” You have to cut in checkers for a dead tree to protect a living tree. We must create barriers to strong winds and the rigors of the climate. We took lumberjacks from the islands because they know the terrain and they know how to do it. After a year we had cleared everything. Then as the soil was very acidic, we desiccated and sowed cereals to increase soil pH. ”

As for the buildings (the cellar, the vault and the towers) as the land is zoned agricultural, you can’t build something new. There was already an old house on the land called “La Cayeute”. By keeping some parts, they’ve built a new house. Of note, the two flanking towers resemble two maritime lighthouses. On the first floor is the vinification facilities, the second is habitable and in the basement is the underground cellar.

8 acres of Baltica vines were planted on four acres, separated by two feet. This variety was recommended for its resistance to climate and winds of the islands. In addition, we were told that if the sugar level of Baltica was not high enough, we could make sparkling wine. Unusually, we had to plant the vines according to the winds so as not to get them torn off. We also had to deal with sun orientation to get the maximum amount of sunshine.

 ” What gives a particularity to our vines is the ‘salange’. It’s a salty drizzle that settles on the grape peel which will give the wine a sweet little salty side ”. That’s what inspired Diane to give the name: Domaine des Salanges to the vineyard.


Finally, the wine !

Domaine des Salanges has been producing grapes for 5 years now. In 2009, the vine produced a lot but the black rot attacked the vines and they lost 50% of the grapes. Finally in 2017, they produced 800 bottles of red, the Beausoleil. This is the first vintage put on sale at the Domaine after all these efforts. And the result is more than interesting! The name Beausoleil, like this patriot, has body, courage, bravery and is able to adapt to the rigors of the climate. He brings with him the smell of his travels, which gave him his identity. The boat on the label was developed by Annabelle Brossard and Diane Coderre Artistic Director of the Estate. It represents the Pembrooke, a boat that was renamed the Great Ghoul after being captured by Beausoleil. Harvest is usually done at Thanksgiving and lasts approximately 3 days.  “It’s not always easy to find workforce, we are looking for a solution and consider the possibility of bringing Guatemalans.”

Recently 2,500 plants of Muscadet de Beaupré from the Quebec region were planted. Another recommendation from Alain Brault. Before cloning and ultimately planting a new variety, it is tested for 6 years. For example, the Estonian grape variety Solaris has followed this process and has now been cloned. By testing grape varieties during this period we learn the types of diseases, the level of resistance of the varietal and many other things.

Success is on the horizon.

As for the success of the Domaine: ” Formerly, we were asked if it would grow. Now people wonder if there’s going to be enough wine for them.” The 800 bottles were sold quickly to the Madelinots and tourists from the 8 to 10 cruise ships that stop every year in the Islands. There are even winemakers from the region of Cognac, Champagne, Italy who came to visit the vineyard. Things are improving every year. This success, André owes it to his son Laurence Olivier, his wife Diane, his children, his friends and his close collaborators including Alain Brault nurseryman, Sebastien Vicaire Oenologist, Robert Robitaille agronomist and Brigitte Renault.

Beausoleil wine

We tasted it among sommeliers and found beautiful aromas of ripe black cherries, beautiful chocolate flavors, some herbaceous notes all in a nice balance between balanced tannins and the most refreshing acidity. Currently it is the only wine sold at the estate.

New products are on the drawing board including the grape coulis that is produced according to the principle of making maple syrup. Coming eventually is a rosé (Rosé des Demoiselles), a sparkling wine (LibelBulles) and a fortified (Margoulette) all made with the Baltica variety. As for white, Muscadet and Solaris grapes won’t be ready anytime soon.

It’s not because it’s difficult that it’s impossible.