Charles-Henri De Coussergues
Co-owner of Vignoble de l’Orpailleur | Dunham
In the early 1980s, the French wine industry experienced some difficulties. This is what has motivated many winemakers, young and old, who want to continue their passion for wine to migrate to other continents.
Many people have decided to settle in the United States, but very few winegrowers choose Quebec! The absence of vineyards in Quebec and above all, the cold of our winters seems to discourage producers rather used to much milder temperatures.
Fortunately, a son of a French winemaker, Hervé Durand is determined to establish a vineyard on our beautiful province. He then undertook a soil study taking into account the number of days between the last spring frost and the first fall frost. He made his choice on land in Dunham, in the Eastern Townships. Hervé Durand embarked on this ambitious project for the time with Pierre Rodrigue, Frank Furtado and, … Charles-Henri de Coussergues. The latter, also the son of a winegrower from the south of France, thought he would just come and help his friend to start the vineyard. The first vines were planted in 1982 and the very first bottle of L’Orpailleur wine was sold in 1985.
It was just the beginning!
Creativity and perseverance
The first years require great creativity! We must redouble our efforts to adapt the work tools to the needs of the structure. In Quebec, the wine industry was in its infancy and it was more difficult to find the necessary machinery and work tools. But above all, it took a lot of creativity to protect the vines from the cold winter weather. They then found a solution to maintain their vines during the winter: cover them with soil, which provides good protection (protection method still used in some vineyards). It was only years later that geotextile fabrics were developed. Creating a quality wine required a lot of motivation and persistence!
After having produced their first wine in 1985, it was necessary to sell it and find ways to make the vineyard profitable. But how? Note that in 1985, Quebec wines were not yet sold to the SAQ! Fortunately, Charles-Henri had the idea of opening the vineyard to the general public. The goal was of course to sell bottles of wine, but Charles-Henri also had another idea in mind: he wanted to inform and educate the population about Quebec wines. An industry leader was born!
Charles-Henri had no idea that his mission would define him throughout his career and above all, that his teaching would have such important and exceptional spinoffs for our beautiful province.
Its contribution to the development of the industry
Anyone familiar with the world of Quebec wine recognizes the goodness and the great generosity of this man. Her benevolence and sense of sharing have enabled many Quebec winemakers to grow and develop. He is what you could call the “godfather” of Quebec winegrowers!
Charles-Henri de Coussergues is at the heart of many major projects that advance the wine sector in Quebec. So often involved in viticulture projects, he always takes industry further. His work approach is also highly appreciated, he facilitates collaboration, promotes team spirit and above all, makes sure to always consider and respect people.
Charles-Henri was a founding member of the Association des Vignerons du Québec (renamed the Conseil des vins du Québec in 2018), of which he assumed the presidency from 2008 to 2016 and where he still sits actively by being present on the council of ‘administration. He is also Vice-President of the Quebec Appellation Wine Council (CVAQ); which manages and supervises IGP Vin du Québec and Vin de glace appellation wines. He is also President of the Association of Agrotourism and Gourmet Tourism, which promotes the development and improvement of the quality of the tourist offer.
Did you know that it was Gilles Vigneault, the Quebec author, composer and performer, who came up with the name of the L’Orpailleur vineyard?
In 1982, the founders had to find a name. They wanted a name that would represent them and that would allow them to anchor themselves in the region. It was one of the founders, Frank Furtado close to Gilles Vigneault, who, during an evening told him about his project, explaining that they were looking for a name for the vineyard. A few months later, with surprise, Gilles Vigneault called his friend back and suggested the name « l’Orpailleur ».
In the eastern townships, there were gold miners, men looking for gold flakes in the bottom of rivers. There were a lot of links to make between the artisanal gold miners and our 4 winemakers… whose patience! He wrote a poem:
« The Gold Miner is the one who washes the gold alluvium to extract, in time, science and patience, the gold flakes found there. This is how, for the first time in Quebec, winegrowers put science, patience and the time it took to extract from Quebec soil a dry wine, unique in all respects, from a grape variety here planted and harvested, and its grapes vinified in the vineyard in the best tradition. »
Gilles Vigneault, 1982