Our wine world has lost an innovator and passionate advocate with the death of Paul Bosc. His accolades and achievements are impressive, and his legacy will live large.
Behind the truly grand accomplishments was a truly inspirational man.
I had the great privilege of spending many an afternoon with Paul Sr. (as he was known), in the last year or so, gathering up his life story for his biography.
Diminutive in stature, always dapper, and distinguished in every way, he unfolded a remarkable narrative.
Forthright and fascinating, the stories flowed, often with great good humour and enjoyment in the telling. There was no detail unremembered, no event forgotten.
He had so much to be proud of, but his recounting of his many successes was very matter of fact, even understated. He was never boastful.
I came to think he must have been born with a spine of steel, because he overcame obstacle after obstacle, never even contemplating compromise.
He arrived in Canada from France in 1963, as a young man still in his twenties, with his wife and son, Paul Jr. Despite the fact he didn’t speak English, he landed a job as winemaker at Chateau Gai.
He learned English, no small feat, and built a highly successful career at Chateau Gai, which included the iconic TV commercials he starred in in the 1970s. Those of a certain age will remember them, because they saturated the airwaves.
That image of Paul Bosc in the vineyard, in his leather jacket and full head of hair, promoting Marechol Foch, with the tagline, “In order to make good wine, you need good grapes. At Chateau Gai we know that.”
Others might have rested on their laurels at that point, but not Paul Sr. There was more to come.
He started his own winery, Chateau des Charmes, in 1978. He was determined to plant European vinifera grape varieties in his vineyards, instead of the hybrids that were being grown at the time. Everyone said it would never work.
There had been experiments growing those types of grapes, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, etc., but he was the first to go out on a limb and plant them on a commercial scale.
He relied on his expertise from his education in France, and his hard work – and it did work. He made award-winning wines and eventually others followed suit.
With few exceptions, all of the vineyards in Niagara are now planted with vinifera grapes. The grapes no one thought could grow here are now the foundation of the wine industry in Niagara.
Paul Sr.’s demeanour was one of quiet confidence. He knew who he was, he knew what he had done and he didn’t need to trumpet it.
So let us do that. Let’s truly appreciate the gifts he brought to our vineyards and our wine industry, and celebrate him as the giant pioneer that he was.