Domaine Frédéric Brouca / January 13, 2016
The Ottawa man who tends to his French vineyard.
Call him an accidental winemaker. Frédéric Brouca, an Ottawa resident who makes wine from his own vineyard in southern France, was headed for a career in business. Born in France, he studied in Lille at one of the country’s top business schools. But, as he tells the story, after graduating and being offered a banking job, he got into a car with his father and told him he was going to turn the job down as he just didn’t see himself working in a bank.
Instead, he turned to wine. He had a passion for wine and the idea of being a winemaker. Once he’d decided against banking, he gave that passion full rein.
Although he did not buy his vineyard until four years ago, and the first vintage of his wine was 2013, Brouca, 39, says: “I have been ‘concepting’ this winery for 15 years.”
This wasn’t a matter of day-dreaming on a couch. It meant getting up to speed theoretically and getting some wine-business experience. He obtained his sommelier certificate at Algonquin College, and represented Burgundy wineries in America and Asia.
He visited growers and winemakers around the world, in France, of course, but also in California, Oregon, New Zealand, Spain and even India.
Of course, he also visited wineries in Canada – and even worked for a year at Creekside winery in Niagara — because of his Canadian connection. That’s his wife, Elaine Brouca. She grew up in Kanata and she and Frédéric met when she was an exchange student living in Lille.
Since then, she has worked for Global Affairs Canada, and they lived where she has been posted, in Mumbai, where Elaine was vice-consul and trade commissioner at the Canadian Consulate General and more recently in Singapore where she was first secretary and trade commissioner at the High Commission of Canada.
The Broucas now live in Ottawa with their children, although Frédéric often travels to France to look after the vines and make their wine.
Unlike many winemakers, Brouca is largely self-taught, and took no formal courses on viticulture or making wine. His concept of growing grapes and making wine coincided with an approach adopted by many winemakers — reducing human intervention in the processes. That included cultivating vines without chemicals and making wine without using any of the many techniques widely employed to create wines in particular styles.
Brouca did a lot of research on farming before the Second World War, when the uses of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides was not as widespread as they are now. His vines are farmed organically and the grapes are all hand-harvested.
He picks his grapes two or three weeks earlier than most vine-growers in the region, so as to avoid overripe flavours in the wine and to keep the alcohol level down. If he waited for the grapes to be fully mature, he says, “we will have 15 or 17 per cent alcohol! It’s better to pick when the grapes give you 13 or 13.5 per cent, when you want to eat the grapes because they’re juicy and ripe.”
The French are looking for fresh wines like his, he says, and I agree that this style – juicy, fresh, clean, and relatively low in alcohol – is becoming more popular.
For winemaking, Brouca says, “we work only with what Mother Nature gives us, grapes and native yeasts to produce non-manipulated wines. We bottle our wines unfined and unfiltered.”
The wine is matured in stainless steel or in old, large barrels that do not contribute the oaky aromas and flavours in many oak-aged wines.
He bought his 25-hectare vineyard in 2012. “Fortunately, land in Languedoc is still relatively affordable compared to other wine-growing regions,” says Elaine Brouca. “Truthfully, you are looking at about a half-million euro investment. With our savings, some family support and frugal spending, we were able to make it happened!”
The vineyard is in the Faugères appellation in Languedoc, not far from the town of Béziers, and the vineyard has been certified organic since 1997. The main grape varieties are cinsault, grenanche, carignan, syrah and mourvèdre.
Broucas’ winery is still very small. He produced 2,500 cases of wine in 2013 and 4,000 in 2015. Even so, he has developed a robust export market. He sells 30 per cent of his wine in France, and 70 per cent in the United States (in 17 states), Canada and Asia.
Although Brouca’s wines aren’t yet available at the LCBO, they are on the wine lists of four Ottawa restaurants (Fraser Café, Fauna, the Rowan, and Play).
Domaine Frederic Brouca wine is also available by the case through consignment in Ontario and private import in Quebec. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Domaine Frédéric Brouca Champs Pentus 2013
Made from 40 per cent syrah and 30 per cent each of grenache and carignan, this bottle speaks of Languedoc. The flavours are concentrated and well-defined, with plenty of complexity, and the acid is balanced and clean, adding fresh juiciness to the texture. It’s dry with ripe and supple tannins, and very versatile at the table. Pair it with red and game meats and hearty vegetarian dishes featuring mushrooms. Alcohol: 13.5 per cent.
Domaine Frédéric Brouca Clos Sauveplane 2013
This is a blend of mourvèdre (70 per cent) and syrah (30 per cent), with the vines 50 and 30 years old respectively. It’s a powerful wine, not because of the alcohol (which clocks in at a reasonable 13.5 per cent), but because the fruit is very concentrated, well structured, and layered. It’s backed by fresh acidity that gives the wine juiciness, and it’s framed by ripe, sweet tannins. This is a natural for fairly intensely flavoured food.