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Dec. 8, 2019 | Sunday
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Wine Country: A winemaker’s playground for Amélie Boury
Chateau des Charmes winemaker Amelie Boury uses a "wine thief" to check a barrel. (Mario Troya photo)

 

Victoria Gilbert

Special to The Lake Report

 

A slight Parisian girl with metal in her tragus, on her fingers, and around her wrists, Amélie Boury could very well be a French rock star if she weren’t Ontario’s edgiest winemaker.

“This is leaking: fix it now please,” she says kindly but firmly to a worker in the bustling barrel room of Châteaux Des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Harvest is in full swing and Boury’s attention is sharp – she doesn’t miss a trick – from overseeing 255 acres of vineyard on four different sites, to managing the immaculate winery of the expansive châteaux, the petite winemaker is a force to be reckoned with.

With two wine related degrees from France, Boury set out to work the harvests of the wine world. “My idea was to do a vintage in Canada and keep going, travel the world, but I’m still here, nine years later; I just love it,” she says atop an oak barrel she has jumped up on for the interview. She joined Château Des Charmes in August of 2011 and as Vice President of Winemaking and Operations, Boury says making wine in Canada is “like a big game!” because of the variety of grapes she’s able to playwith.

“In Bordeaux you can only grow only five varietals. In Alsace, only the Alsatian varietals, in Beaujolais, the Beaujolais varietals,” she explains from atop her cask.

“You are restricted to what the appellation lets you grow. Where, here in Ontario, at Châteaux des Charmes, I have the Burgundian varietals, I have the Alsatian varietals, I’ve got the Bordeaux varietals, so it’s just amazing to be able to make wine with all of those varietals; I always call it the winemaker’s playground.”

Boury was sworn in as a Canadian citizen in 2018 and her lime green and neon yellow plaid shirt seems to reflect her Canadian and French identity all at once. Her pride in the Niagara-on-the-Lake terroir makes introducing Ontario wines to visitors from her native country a special pleasure.

“When I get a group of French who come here, they are always surprised at the quality of the wines. They don’t expect the new world to be like this – California they know – but Canada? – it is surprising.”

As we talk, harvesters are working the rows of the Chardonnay grapes around the Paul Bosc estate. The Bosc family started the winery in the mid-seventies and the estate continues to be family run; Paul-Bosc Jr. at the helm with continued guidance from his now 84-year-old but razor-sharp father, Paul Bosc Sr. Both father and son were impressed by Boury’s talents as a winemaker and her demand for excellence.

“Amélie represents the future leadership of our industry,” writes Bosc Jr. in one correspondence.

It’s easy to be swept away by Boury’s enthusiasm for her profession and the wines she puts her hand to, after all, it is obvious she herself is swept up in the beauty of her vocation.

“Every vintage is so different,” says Boury. “Taking those grapes and turning them into a wine and give a bit of my signature on it – but not too much – because I love to respect the terroir and I love that you have a sense of place when you drink the wine and give emotions to people when they drink it.”

 

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