Marc Théberge and Eve Rainville have created this little gem in Hatley, in the Eastern Townships. Called Bergeville – a contraction of their names – the 13-acre vineyard includes a few parcels of land in front of the building, but most of the vines are planted in back on the hillside sloping down toward Lake Massawippi.
Like most wineries, Domaine Bergeville welcomes visitors for tastings on the premises.
The enchanting property, acquired nine years ago, is the culmination of the couple’s life ambition. After a prolific career in the virtual world – he as an engineer, she as a statistician – and years spent building up their “vineyard fund” while also travelling the world, living in England, learning the wine business and meeting wine growers, they felt the need finally to put down roots and make the transition from dream to reality.
They had a clear vision from the outset: Make quality bubblies by using the traditional method, involving a second fermentation in the bottle. “This mindset guided our decisions,” say the vintners. “We wanted to create a product that reflects our terroir and does so without any pesticides. The vineyards that most impressed us on our travels practised organic or biodynamic techniques. The results were nuanced, subtle and genuine.”
Next came the time to find a location. Like good scientists, they mapped out Quebec in terms of soil types, climate and the length of the four seasons. Where would they find the best place to obtain the necessary minerality and acidity for their grapes, the essence of a good sparkling wine? The township of Hatley looked ideal since it possessed limestone, a temperate climate and close proximity to the tourist-friendly villages of North Hatley and Compton, the cradle of Quebec’s organic movement. Rustic grape varieties, which adapt well to the soil and climate here, were a given.
After five years of planting, harvesting and learning by trial and error, the vintners have reaped the fruits of their labour: fresh and delicate sparkling wines, high in acidity and rich in aromas. All their wines are certified organic (and available in their shop as well as several restaurants and gourmet stores). As weather conditions are unpredictable, and in order to maintain steady production, the Théberge-Rainvilles had to look outside for their fruit supply. Vignoble Côtes des Limousins, their new partner, has agreed to convert to organic methods and its grapes are currently in transition to that end. Starting next year, their Blanc and Rosé bruts sold at the SAQ will be certified as such.
“We made the right decision by concentrating on effervescence”
For the time being, the winery is hard at work pursuing its expansion program and developing maturity. “We made the right decision by concentrating on effervescence,” say the vintners. “The consensus among sommeliers is that sparkling wine is a growing trend in Quebec. We were the pioneers here, and to this day, we are the only winery to produce sparkling wine exclusively.” Now that’s what you call foresight!
Photos: Domaine Bergeville