History & Tradition
Our family’s winegrowing tradition started seven generations ago in the Alsace region of France. Our ancestors were farmers, winemakers and active members of their community. Around 1840 Paul Bosc Sr.’s great-great grandfather was granted land by France to establish vineyards in Algeria, then a French colony. It was in French Algeria where Paul, his wife Andrée and son Paul-André were born.
Paul-André at 2 years old, Marengo, Algeria.
After a violent seven-year revolution, France granted Algeria independence in 1962. At the time Paul was General Manager of the Cave Cooperative de Marengo, one of Algeria's largest and most successful wine co-operatives. The mass evacuation of French citizens, one of the largest in human history, meant Paul, Andrée and young Paul-André had to leave everything behind and start a new life back in France. Unfortunately, many of the “pieds noirs", as French Algerians were called, did not feel welcome back in France. Re-establishing their lives proved to be very difficult.
After a frustrating year in France Paul picked up his family and moved to yet another continent, North America. His brother and a few cousins had found their way to Québec so Paul followed hoping for a fresh start. Canada appeared to be more welcoming. Finding work wasn't difficult for Paul even though winemakers were not a hot commodity back then. He found work with the SAQ, Québec's provincial liquor board. He had to dump defective wine. One particular Ontario wine caught his attention because it was being dumped due to a problem he knew how to fix. So he called the winery's representative in Montréal, assuming they could discuss the issue in French, to explain the problem and recommend a solution. He also suggested the winery may need an oenologist. The winery was Château-Gai. As luck would have it, their Vice President was due to be in Montréal the following day and a meeting with Paul was set. Within a month Paul and his family again picked up everything and moved, this time to Niagara. The only catch was Paul had to work in one of their Toronto stores for three months so he could learn English.
Over a 15 year career that included roles as Winemaker and Director of Research & Development Paul became convinced that the Canadian wine industry had to move away from its traditional grape source, the native labrusca variety, if it was going to survive. He began experimenting with classic European vitis vinifera varieties and by the early 1970's was producing small lots of fine wines that garnered much attention from wine writers throughout Canada and the United States.
By 1978 Paul was convinced the Canadian wine industry needed to adopt the estate winery model, long practiced in established wine regions, in order to re-position itself as a world-class winegrowing region. In partnership with lawyer Rodger Gordon, he founded Château des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake and planted Canada’s first commercial vineyard dedicated exclusively to European vitis vinifera grape varieties. This achievement had long been considered impossible in Canada's climate. He proved the nay-sayers wrong. and it eventually revolutionized the grape and wine industry. Only 10 years after the planting of that pioneering 60-acre vineyard, today known as our Creek Road Vineyard, the Wine Content Act of 1988 banned native grape varieties from table wines.
Paul has always believed in stewardship of the land on which his vineyards were planted. He has been dedicated to the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices in order to produce exceptional quality grapes now and for generations to come.
In 1994 Château des Charmes opened its new state-of-the-art winery and visitor centre. It was immediately hailed as an agri-tourism landmark. It was the first winery in Ontario purpose-built with the visitor in mind. Paul's vision of a world class Niagara wine industry led by high quality estate wineries has reached fruition. Today, the vibrant Ontario industry boasts more than 175 wineries, employs more than 6000 people and receives approximately 1.8 million visitors each year.