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An introduction to Quebec’s cool climate wine regions

June 25, 2024
Quebec’s winemakers are redefining what it means to produce quality wines in a northern climate

Known for its vibrant food and wine scene, Quebec is emerging as a notable player in winemaking, thanks to its unique cool climate, growing network of passionate winemakers, and innovative wine industry.

Although the story of Quebec viticulture goes all the way back to 1535 (with Jacques Cartier sailing up the St. Lawrence River, discovering wild vines growing on Île d’Orléans and naming the island ‘Île de Bacchus’), the actual history of winemaking in Quebec is relatively young compared to other wine regions.

In 1980, a first commercial vineyard, the Domaine Côtes d’Ardoise, planted vines on Quebec soil in Dunham, in the Eastern Townships region, followed shortly by Domaine de l’Orpailleur in 1982. Initially, the focus was on hybrid grape varieties that could withstand Quebec’s harsh winters. Over the years, advancements in viticulture and a growing appreciation for local products have fueled the expansion of the wine industry.

Read Also: Off the Beaten Path: Ontario’s emerging South Georgian Bay region

Today, Quebec boasts over 160 wineries, produces more than three million bottles annually and its vineyards represent eight percent of Canada’s total vineyard area.

Although the Eastern Townships are often considered the heart of Quebec’s wine country and the birthplace of it’s winegrowing industry, the Conseil des vins du Québec currently outlines nine different winegrowing regions in Quebec – each defined by unique geological, climatic and terroir differences, and offering varied conditions for grape growing – and emerging regions continue to develop.

Quebec Wineries

Photo: Vignoble l’Ardennais

The Brome-Missisquoi region alone produces 60 percent of the province’s wines and is home to some of the oldest vineyards, including both Domaine Côtes d’Ardoise and Domaine de l’Orpailleur.

Grape varieties

Quebec’s winemakers embrace both hybrid and Vitis vinifera grape varieties, contributing to the province’s distinct wine profile.

Hybrid varieties are bred for their resilience to cold and disease resistance. Key hybrids include Frontenac (blanc, gris, noir), marquette, petite perle, La Crescent, and St. Pepin. These varieties thrive in Quebec’s climate, offering unique flavours and high acidity.

Hybrid grape varieties continue to be the majority in Quebec vineyards (80 percent of grape varieties), but Vitis vinifera varieties are gaining ground, now representing 20 percent of the Quebec terroir (particularly in Quebec’s wine regions with milder climates). Notable vinifera varieties include chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, chenin blanc, gewurztraminer, and gamay.

Overall, more than 80 grape varieties are found in Quebec with, in order of % of vine plantations in Quebec, the most popular being: Frontenac noir, Frontenac blanc, vidal, seyval blanc, marquette, chardonnay, Frontenac gris, pinot noir, St. Pepin, petite pearl, seyval noir, pinot gris, maréchal foch, and riesling.

Winemaking techniques & cold climate adaptations

Quebec’s winemakers are known for their innovative and experimental approaches, often blending traditional methods with modern techniques.

Quebec wines

Photo: Vignoble l’Ardennais

Winemaking in Quebec comes with its own set of challenges, primarily due to the extreme climate. Harsh winters and unpredictable weather patterns can impact grape yields and quality. Techniques such as burying vines and using protective coverings help vinifera varieties survive harsh winters. Hybrid varieties tend to be naturally resilient and require less intervention.

Sparkling wines

Quebec excels in producing sparkling wines, including traditional method, pet-nat (pétillant naturel), and frizzante styles. The province’s cool climate imparts high acidity to its effervescent wines.


Officially recognized as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in 2014, Quebec’s winter weather conditions are ideal for the production of Icewine. The cold weather conditions, wind, low humidity of the air and alternating freeze-thaw temperature cycles cause the natural dehydration of the grape and allow the evaporation of the fruit’s water, leading to the concentration of sugars that give Icewine its characteristic taste and aroma with sustained acidity, distinctive freshness and balance.

Natural and organic wines

There is a strong emphasis on natural and sustainable winemaking in Quebec. Many producers use native yeasts, minimal sulfur, and organic farming practices, reflecting a growing commitment to environmental stewardship.

Collaborations and co-fermentations are also a hallmark of Quebec’s wine scene with winemakers experimenting with blending grapes with other fruits or honey resulting in unique creations. This spirit of innovation and community is a defining characteristic of Quebec’s vibrant and rapidly evolving wine industry.

Quebec Wineries

Photo credit: Audrey Eve Beauchamp (La Bauge)

In recent years, the distribution of white versus red grape varieties has remained relatively stable although there is still a slight upward trend in the proportion of white grape varieties with almost half of the wine produced in Quebec (44%) being white wine. Red wine represents 29 percent of Quebec’s wine production, rosé 18 percent, then sparkling (5%), and the balance is made up of orange wine, fortified, late harvest, and Icewine. Small-scale vineyards are another defining characteristic of the Quebec winemaking landscape with half of the vineyards (51%) having less than five hectares of vines.

With its diverse regions, unique grape varieties, and a community of passionate winemakers, Quebec is carving out a distinctive place in the world of wine, with an industry that continues to adapt and evolve.

“Quebec wines possess a unique character and profile, and a qualitative aspect that puts them on par with those of Old World wines. With their acidity and freshness, Quebec wines offer so much to discover, both from our hybrid and Vitis vinifera grapes. There is a world to explore in Quebec wines, driven by the passion of our winemakers and the richness of our terroir, for those open to discovery. It is an exciting time to be involved in the wine scene in Quebec as there is more and more interest in our wines, both locally and on a national stage – and beyond!” – Catherine Denault, Co-owner & Wine Merchant: Saucette Caviste & Buvette de Quartier

Quebec wineries to visit

Quebec’s wine industry is marked by a number of producers that have gained recognition for their quality and innovation. And while some much-lauded ones such as Pinard & Filles, Les Pervenches, and Domaine du Nival are not open for visits or tastings (though their products can often be found on the curated wine lists of restaurants and wine bars in Montreal and Toronto), many of the province’s wineries offer a diverse array of visits, tastings and activities.

Vignoble Rivière du Chêne

Established in 1998 in the Lower Laurentians by winemaker Daniel Lalande, the estate extends over more than 25 hectares in St-Eustache and offers a vast selection of wines, including sparkling, fortified and Icewine.

Why visit? The winery offers a plethora of services from commented tastings, guided visits, picnics in the vineyards with regional products, self-guided or guided tours, a full-service Bistro in an enchanting setting with vineyard views, weekend brunches & regularly scheduled special events (from Lobster Roll & Vino meals to Vino & Bachata, Yoga & Wine and more). To celebrate their 25th anniversary you can book a VIP tour that includes a tour of the vineyards, winery and cellar with a sommelier guide, the tasting of five signature wines including their special 25th Anniversary Cuvée and a souvenir glass.

Vignoble Riviere du Chene

Photo: Vignoble Riviere du Chene

Vignoble l’Ardennais

Stéphanie Thibodeau and Pier Cousineau acquired their Stanbridge-East vineyard in 2016 and biodiversity and agroforestry are at the heart of their agricultural practices (a pond was dug to act as a thermal regulator as well as a habitat for turtles and migrating geese, herons and ducks; swallow huts and bat hotels were installed and the resident insectivores help reduce insect pests; strips of flowers and shrubs were selected and planted for the benefit of pollinating insects). Chefs by training, and who worked in the Arctic, France and Switzerland, before meeting and falling in love in Tremblant, Vignoble de l’Ardennais is a family affair, with both of their children, Charlotte & Eliot, involved.

Why visit? In addition to guided tastings in the tasting room on the back terrace and special events or dinners announced via their social media platforms, look out for their highly anticipated and much-loved family (and dog!) friendly monthly sunset aperitivo evenings – held in their picturesque vineyard setting with a pairing menu provided by a local caterer (July 25th and August 22nd this summer).

Vignoble l'Ardennais

Photo: Vignoble l’Ardennais

Vignoble de l’Orpailleur

A pioneer in Quebec’s wine history, Vignoble de l’Orpailleur celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2022. Located in Dunham in the Eastern Townships, L’Orpailleur is a leading wine tourism destination in Quebec with an agritourism site, a winegrower’s ECONOMUSEUM®, and a full-service restaurant, Le Tire-Bouchon.

Why visit? In addition to guided tastings, visits and saberings, an interpretation trail, and a combined tasting experience with recently purchased Union Libre Cidre + Vin, you can also reserve to park your RV in the heart of the vineyards and spend a night sleeping in the calm and tranquil surroundings.

Vignoble La Bauge

Another pioneer in Quebec wineries established in 1986, La Bauge is located in the Brome-Missisquoi Valley, at the foothills of the Appalachians and is known for its commitment to regenerative agriculture, biodiversity and innovative viticultural approaches.

Why visit? In addition to tasting flights, guided tours, walking trails, picnic areas to enjoy a bottle of wine and selected local products the winery is family friendly and offers an animal trail complete with sheep, llamas, alpacas, Galloway cows, white-tailed deer and chickens. Multiple sheep enclosures can also be found throughout the vineyard.

Quebec Wine

Simon Naud, Steve Beausejour, Veronique Lemieux of La Bauge. (Photo by: Audrey Eve Beauchamp)

Vignoble et Domaine Beauchemin

Located in the municipality of Yamachiche in the Mauricie region, Domaine Beauchemin was founded in 2010 and acquired by Liudmila Terzi (owner of private import agency, Les Filles du Vigneron specializing in Moldovan wines) and Richard Brasseur in December 2022 with the goal of producing cool climate wines focusing on the freshness specific to the region and its terroir, made from indigenous yeasts, and with as few inputs as possible.

Why visit? In addition to guided tastings and a shop offering products from the winery, visit Domaine Beauchemin for their pizza days (fresh from the wood-fired oven on Fridays and Saturdays) and their Sunday brunches in the vineyards (serving a fusion of Moldovan cuisine with local and seasonal ingredients, menu changes every week, reservations required).

Les Vallons de Wadleigh

A family winery founded in 2008, Les Vallons de Wadleigh now farms 4 hectares of Frontenac (blanc, gris and noir), Marquette, Radisson, Acadie, Riesling and St. Pepin grape varieties on their bucolic land (vallon is French for valleys).

Why visit? In addition to guided tastings and a terrace overlooking the vineyards and valleys, visit Les Vallons de Wadleigh for their ‘Fridays in Music’ during the summer months featuring live music and dishes from local food truck La Cour du Baron.

Val Caudalies

Val Caudalies is owned and operated by three young, dynamic and creative entrepreneurs in Dunham on a property offering a panoramic view on the valley adjacent to Mount Pinnacle and the Appalachian Mountains.

Why visit? With a selection of wine flights, picnic tables (you can bring your picnic or stock up on local snacks and products in their shop), a forest trail, three tasting terraces and a selection of wines and ciders, the winery is also family friendly and offers their own non-alcoholic sparkling apple juice for children.

“We stop at Val Caudalies on the way to the village of Frelighsburg and the view of the United States mountains is breathtaking! A personal favorite is their white wine made from the hybrid grape variety, Vidal. It always expresses a beautiful aromatic purity with notes of orchard flowers and orange blossoms, discreet aromas of pears and apricots. For me it is an authentic expression of this wonderful grape variety which adapts very well to the Quebec climate. A must-have is also the estate’s sweet vermouth. The first Quebec vermouth! Delicious as an aperitif on the spot or with tonic and orange zest.” – Kristine Mansuy, Sommelier, Founder & Events Director at KiKico


– Alana Lapierre is VineRoutes’ regional editor for eastern Canada


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