For 17 years André Trudel produced beer. Lots of beer. But between two brews, the co-founder of Le Trou du Diable microbrewery in Shawinigan dreamed of wine. His dream is taking shape today in Italy, where he has teamed up with another ex-brewer, Giovanni Campari. The first cuvée named Is This It is offered as a private import.

In his house in the suburbs of Shawinigan, André Trudel packs his bags. The former Trou du Diable brewer is preparing for a five-week stay in Italy, with the goal of tasting and bottling his wines.

Because after selling Le Trou du Diable to Molson in 2017, André Trudel had to reinvent himself far from the world of beer. The world of wine then became obvious.

Several years ago, André Trudel befriended Italian brewer Giovanni Campari. Together they created several brews. Sometimes in Quebec, sometimes in Italy.

“Every time we met, we drank and talked about wine,” he recalls. These are the beginnings of our project. »

Coincidentally, Giovanni Campari sold his business at the same time as Mr. Trudel. The two ex-brewers found themselves by the sea, in the vineyards of Liguria.

André Trudel admits it bluntly: he does not know the vineyard and he does not want to work in the field.

“I see the Herculean efforts that winemakers are making all over the world,” he says. Being a winegrower means first and foremost being a farmer. I’ve worked really hard in the last 18 years, and becoming a winemaker would give me a second life as busy as the first. »

André Trudel and Giovanni Campari act as negociants: they buy grapes and then vinify them under their Wine Brewers brand name. Since they don’t have a vat or a cellar, they moved to the Cantina San Steva estate, which already supplies the fruit.

The duo has two harvests to their credit. And according to the recent experience of the former brewer, it seems less complex to produce wine than beer.

“In wine, there is one ingredient, grapes, whereas in beer, there are several,” observes Mr. Trudel. Beer is more fragile. It has few tannins and less alcohol. You have to be super careful. »

If winemaking is a simple process, making good wine is not always easy, agrees the ex-brewer. Especially when you work naturally, without added yeast and with very little sulphites.

André Trudel refuses, however, that his natural wines have stable notes, associated with brett, brettanomyces yeasts, or smells of nail polish coming from the volatile acid. Although these characteristics are accepted in beer, the neo-winemaker does not want them in his wine.

“In some natural wines, the terroir no longer speaks, bacteria take over,” he says. I prefer to drink a Cantillon than a natural wine that tastes like a lambic. »

The production of Wine Brewers is still small. The Is This It cuvée produced around 2,500 bottles. But the ex-brewer is thinking big. The duo plans to vinify in different regions of Italy and, why not one day, in Quebec.

This maceration wine, orange wine, is much more classic than the beers formerly produced by André Trudel. Its amber color is not cloudy. In the glass, a saline scent reminds us that at the Cantina San Stefan estate, the Vermentino vines look out over the Mediterranean. Notes of fresh herbs and fresh apricot complete the bouquet. Although the grape skins have been in contact with the juice for 30 days, the bitterness is moderate. The aromas of orange peel mingle with those of yellow fruits. Serve with antipasto. Privately imported by La QV.

During his travels in Italy, André Trudel discovered aperitivo, a bitter herbal liqueur. Back in Quebec, the ex-brewer reconnected with his former business partner, Isaac Tremblay. The latter works at the Quai Distillery. They produced Bitter de luxe, a bitter liqueur with organic citrus fruits and around twenty herbs from Quebec. The marriage of balsam bayberry, dune pepper and raspberry leaves blends wonderfully with grapefruit and orange. A subtle bitterness balances the sweet finish. The drink is on sale directly at the Distillerie du quai in Bécancour and privately imported by the Bulles, mousse et tannins agency. The liqueur is also served in several establishments, including Isle de Garde and Pastaga, in Montreal, as well as L’Affaire est Ketchup, in Quebec.