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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Chateau des Charmes’ Paul Bosc hailed for lifetime of innovation
Paul Bosc Sr. with one of his beloved Egyptian Arabian horses. SUPPLIED
Paul Bosc Sr. with wine writer Michael Vaughn at Cuvee '18 event. SUPPLIED
Paul Bosc Sr. in the barrel cellar at Chateau des Charmes. SUPPLIED

Paul Bosc Sr., who died Saturday, is being remembered as the “ultimate pioneer” of Niagara’s wine industry, an innovator and a nurturer of young talent.  

The man who founded Chateau des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake died peacefully after a brief illness.

He was 88 years old and tributes to his life and his life’s work have been piling up.

“His legacy is written across the vineyards of Niagara and beyond,” said Tony Aspler, longtime wine writer for the Toronto Star. “He was really THE pioneer of vinifera in Ontario.”

Vinifera is the family of European grapes most people are familiar with, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and more.

Michael Vaughan, a wine expert and former wine columnist for the Globe and Mail and Toronto Life, echoed the sentiment, saying, “Paul was a master winemaker and he knew it all started with the grapes.”

Bosc is credited with being the first person to plant vinifera grapes in Niagara on a commercial scale, at a time when most of the grapes being grown here were hybrids.

Vinifera grapes make much better wine, but common wisdom at the time said they couldn’t be grown in Niagara, because of the climate and soil conditions.

Bosc, who had been educated in France, was sure they could grow here and went on to prove it.

“He was interested in generating grapes to produce the best-tasting wines possible,” said Vaughan.

Donald Triggs, another Niagara wine industry pioneer, told The Lake Report, “Paul was a special guy to work with. He had a sense of humour and a spark. He was always getting people up and going.”

Triggs worked with Bosc at Chateau Gai in the late ’70s, before going on to co-found Jackson-Triggs. He then helped parlay Vincor, which owned it, into the biggest winery in Canada. 

He recalled developing Marechal Foch with Bosc, a red hybrid and the first wine in Ontario to be named for its grape varietal.

Triggs said he recalls clearly the TV commercial for Marechal Foch that featured Bosc in the vineyard. The wine became very successful for Chateau Gai.

He remembers Bosc fondly.

“I have a high regard for Paul, both his technical knowledge and his charm,” he said. “Paul’s vision on vinifera viticulture opened the doors for our industry.”

The two men also connected through their mutual love of horses. “As someone who grew up on a farm, I very much appreciated his love of horses. That was something we shared,” said Triggs.  

“I am saddened by Paul’s passing. Paul brought a foundation on which our industry prospered,” he said. 

Bosc was widely recognized for his accomplishments, winning multiple accolades, including the Order of Canada, Order of Ontario, an honorary doctorate from Brock University, the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, and the Canadian Vintners Association Award of Distinction.

“His story is the story of a new Canadian, who brought new ideas to Canada,” said his son, Paul Bosc Jr., the president and CEO of Chateau des Charmes.

Bosc Sr. came from five generations of French winemakers, and learned viticulture and winemaking at university in Dijon, France.

“He was the beneficiary of knowledge from centuries of winemaking and he brought those values around quality with him to Niagara,” his son said. 

After arriving in Canada, he built a career at Chateau Gai, where he produced some of the very first vinifera wines in Niagara on an experimental basis.

Then he launched his own winery in 1978 – Chateau des Charmes – and planted almost exclusively vinifera grapes.

“He also introduced three new varieties here, Alligote, Viognier and Savagnin, from France,” said Aspler. “He was the ultimate pioneer in the industry.”

He recalls being in the vineyard with Bosc in those early days when Paul Sr. showed Aspler one particular vine. 

“It towered over the other plants, and Bosc exclaimed, ‘I’m going to propagate that one!’ He did and it was Gamay Droite, a new varietal that he created.” 

“He put Gamay on the map in Canada, and today it has blossomed,” Vaughan added.

Bosc Jr. recalled his father’s spirit and work ethic. “He was a self-proclaimed fighter, he never gave up and that was crucial because he was up against some tough adversaries, including Ontario weather.”

“Vines are not a crop that you plant and they pop up in a few weeks. Vines are vulnerable, a lot could go wrong,” he said.

“There was a lot of trial and error, but he was always learning from failures. He made a huge contribution adapting a non-native crop to a brand new climate, with no previous history here.”

Vaughan noted, “He was always working, especially in the vineyard. That’s what he loved the best.”

Bosc was always ready to share his knowledge and hard learned lessons with others.

“He was very generous with his time with others in the industry, and he wouldn’t dictate to anyone how they ‘should’ do something, his approach was more ‘I’ll show you how I do it,’ ” said Bosc Jr.

“He was very free with his knowledge. He encouraged younger people. He nurtured young talent,” said Aspler.

One of those people is Amelie Boury, who is now vice-president, winemaking, vineyard and operations at Chateau des Charmes.

She grew up in France, was educated there and began working with Bosc Sr. in 2011. 

“We became very close. I was only 27 when I started working with him,” she said.

“I grew up with him mentoring me, teaching me and I was like part of the family. It was amazing. He knew so much and I was like a sponge.” said Boury. 

“He was always curious and involved,” she added. “Even this fall,  during harvest, he was right there on the crush pad as the grapes came in, checking them out.”

“I hope he will never be forgotten. He was a grand monsieur (a great gentleman),” said Boury.

Bosc Jr. said his dad never stopped being engaged and participating in the winery. “Despite being 88 he found ways to contribute right until the very end.” 

“He remained very independent, living in his own home, just him and his three cats,” he noted.

A public funeral service will be held at Our Lady of Scapular Church in Niagara Falls on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 11 a.m.  

 

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