Wine Grapes in Quebec?! You’re not the first to wonder how on Earth producers grow wine grapes in this place. When it got going, the Quebec wine industry already had two strikes against it: a short winemaking history and a general prejudice against the quality of its wines.
Quebec wine production falls under the style of cold climate grape growing. Located at a northern latitude where traditional grape production is not supposed to flourish, Quebec producers have had to adapt their crop to fit the harsh climate.
Climate change has producers in traditional wine-growing countries fearful, while Quebec could benefit, researchers project that within a little more than 20 years, most of southern Quebec can reasonably expect favourable climatic conditions for wine production.
An increase in frost-free days and in overall temperatures will see the area suitable for wine-growing grapes, but not all is good news the “new” grape growing problems caused by climate change are:
- Extreme cold temperatures in early winter
- Extreme warm temperatures in late winter
- Late spring freezes
- Heavy and untimely rainfall.
As an emerging wine region, Quebec faces constant questions about what grapes to plant. Growers who have been at it for more than a couple decades are beginning to get a sense for what works and what doesn’t and the range of cold-hardy hybrid grapes currently grown will expand.
A new cold climate red wine grape
Many factors are at play for any vine in a given vineyard site. Focus on development of new grape varieties on these new challenges (A Climate Change-Resistant Grape) are crucial.
Petite Pearl is the newest red wine grape for northern climates a Minnesota-bred grape grown for a few years now in Quebec, it was developed by Tom Plocher beginning in 1996 and was first released for sale in 2012.
Tom bred Petite Pearl in using MN 1094 and ES 4-7-26 as parents, during field trials it was designated as TP 2-1-24, and the name was chosen by the public in a Facebook contest.
Petite Pearl is winter hardy, it has been productive after low temperatures of 32C (32F), is highly disease resistant to powdery mildew, downey mildew, black rot, and bunch rot, and makes wine with surprising tannin for a hybrid.
Low acid levels make Petite Pearl ideal for northern red winemaking. It makes a standalone varietal wine and also serves as a valuable blending component. The wine has a dark red garnet color. It shows complexity in aroma and flavor that can be easily shaped by yeast selection and blending. The wine tastes of ripe fruit and has soft mid-mouth tannins. This elegant wine will only improve as more skilled winemakers discover its great potential.
One of my favourite vineyard in Quebec is the Vignoble Ste-Pétronile with their 9.45 hectares of vines planted on the island of Orleans and located 15 minutes from Quebec city and 9 KM from Montmorency Falls, they produce one of the best examples of Petite Pearl blend with a limited production of 6 600 bottles.
Grape(s): Marquette, Petite Pearl
8 months, 50% French oak – 50% stainless steel.
Medium ruby colour. Charming nose with aromas of red cherry, raspberry and black pepper. Notes of coffee and leather due to the ageing in both the oak barrels and the bottle. Very well balanced on the palate, this wine shows soft ripe tannins and a fresh acidity, which makes it very easy to drink. The finish is long, with flavours of cherry brandy, cranberry and toast.
This wine is great with grilled lamb chops, duck confit, ratatouille, and many dishes accompanied by a black pepper sauce.