French Winery in Niagara – Château des Charmes

Château des Charmes, a French winery in Niagara
Château des Charmes is a French winery in the Niagara-on-the-lake region

The French winery in Niagara introduced new ideas when it opened

A French winery in Niagara was an unknown concept when the Bosc family arrived from France and established Château des Charmes. In the mid-1970s, Bright Wines was the only winery that anyone had ever heard of in the region until the new Inniskillin burst onto the scene.

Château des Charmes was waiting in the wings, about to plant its grapevines from France – which would alter the dynamic of the Niagara wine industry forever. At that time, the Niagara Peninsula was the heartland of Ontario’s fruit farming and fruit-laden trees stretched as far as the eye could see, in any direction.

A pioneer of quality viniculture and wine-making in Niagara

Fast forward more than 40 years, and Château des Charmes has not only played a part in pioneering the successful Niagara wine industry, it has put its stamp of quality on Niagara-on-the-lake wine-making and viniculture for decades to come.

The winery’s fantastic wines have become its best promoters. Its buttery Estate Vineyard Chardonnay was the first Canadian table wine to win the gold medal at VINEXPO. With sustainable, eco-friendly vineyards that now spread across 155 acres, the winery’s President and CEO Paul-André Bosc is also known for developing groundbreaking research on the existence of micro-level terroirs within vineyards.

In 1978 when Château des Charmes opened, we locals prided ourselves on the fruit that hung everywhere just waiting to be picked. Now it’s impossible not to boast with pride of the 100+ wineries and vineyards in the region. And the Bosc family played a big part in establishing the local industry’s tradition of quality grape-growing and winemaking right from the get-go.

According to the Grape Growers of Ontario, 93% of Ontario’s grapes are grown in the Niagara Peninsula. The wine industry generates $806 million in retail sales in Ontario, and the wine and grape sector provided more than 18,000 jobs in Ontario in 2016.

The winery was started by a 5th generation French winegrower

When Paul-Michel Bosc, now in his 80s, immigrated to Canada, he brought a superb tradition of winemaking knowledge with him. He is the 5th generation in a family of French winegrowers and taught his son, Paul-André Bosc, the art of producing wine when Paul was a teenager.

As a father-son duo, Paul-Michel focused on constantly improving the quality of the grapes, while his son Paul-André put Château des Charmes on the map as a preeminent French winery in Niagara – which the public started visiting in 1994. Paul-André Bosc welcomed the influx of bigger Niagara wineries over the last two decades since it brought more business to the area.

A first-class wine tasting to remember

French winery in Niagara - Château-des-Charmes

When my guest and I visited the winery last July, we sampled an amazing selection of wines from Château des Charmes. They are all highly recommended.

2016 Blanc de Blanc Sparkling – The famous 2016 Blanc de Blanc Sparkling has an aroma of grasses with a slight hint of mint. It’s double fermented and not that sweet, with tight bubbles that make it really refreshing. Its long finish keeps the great taste going long afterward.

2018 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’ – This light red wine is produced from grapes grown in the St. David’s Bench vineyard, and is left 10 days longer on the vine. The aroma suggests strawberry, raspberry, and tart cherry, and the palate is like sour cherry – reflecting the grape after being aged in stainless steel. It has a concentrated flavour and a medium finish.

Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Chardonnay – We had the chance to sample two Chardonnays, one from each of the estate vineyards. The Chardonnay produced from the Paul Bosc Estate vineyard across the street from the château is from vines that were planted in the mid-80s. The vineyard grows Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, among others, The Paul Bosc vineyard is made of Smithville clay loam and is southern-facing, .producing earthier-tasting wines. This Chardonnay has a rich, buttery taste. Initially, it suggests pear on the nose and melon on the palate, but after a while, it all just melts into a perfect, full-bodied satisfaction.

St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay – This Chardonnay has a fruity aroma and tastes somewhat creamy with a definite spiciness. It has a medium, mouth-watering acidity and has a long finish of wet stones that’s fine and elegant. St. David’s Bench is the vineyard that surrounds the château and has an under drainage that’s extensive, with water running from the Escarpment that contains a lot of limestone. The vineyard was planted in the 90s, is made of Haldimand clay loam, and its grapes include Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gamay Noir.

The winery achieved many firsts

Chateau des Charmes, a French winery in Niagara
Château des Charmes winery exterior

Paul-André’s French-language interview with Philippe de Montigny at Radio-Canada this month tells a fascinating story of the many firsts achieved by the Bosc family:

  • The winery was among the first to plant French vines in Canada, initially planting grape vines that included Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
  • Château des Charmes imported several French winemaking concepts that were firsts for our region, such as developing a winery estate to cultivate your own grapes and have better control over the wine’s quality
  • Paul-Michel Bosc was one of the first to implement the use of wind machines to bring hot air down to the vines – a practice that is now widespread across Niagara wine country

Château des Charmes is pedigreed and unassuming

The more you learn about this winery, the more you can feel the pedigree and modesty of the professionals who own and run it. Among his many other distinctions, Paul-Michel Bosc, the winery’s founder, is a recipient of the Order of Canada. His son Paul-André, President and CEO, is a past Chair of the Canadian Vintners Association, a member of the Winery Growers Alliance of Ontario, and a winner of several awards and distinctions. Their Winemaker and VP of Winemaking and Operations, Amélie Boury, holds an M.Sc. in biotechnology from Institut Sup’Biotech de Paris with a focus on wine research and is an accomplished innovator.

The minute we walked in the door for our wine tasting, we met Alice, who immediately impressed us with her WSET 3 accreditation, her knowledge, and her amazing helpfulness. She told us that when she was studying for the WSET 3, she went to every single winery in the region and sampled their wine in order to perfect her knowledge and ability. Our professional wait staff Marc is WSET 2 accredited and was also exceedingly helpful in explaining interesting facts about the winery and its wines. This is a winery that’s high-calibre from start to finish, across all of its products and people.

Book your tasting at this French winery in Niagara

Contact Château des Charmes to visit the winery or reserve your wine tasting event.

Château des Charmes
1025 York Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake
St. David’s, ON, L0S 1P0
Telephone: 905-262-4219
reservations@chateaudescharmes.com