Gérard Bertrand’s Virtual Organic French Wine Festival

Gérard Bertrand held a virtual Organic French Wine Festival last week, with invited distributors, media, retailers, and sommeliers tasting through a line up of his organic and biodynamic wines in a taped and live online session. Goode and I both received the wines (these were full bottles, not decanted samples), and tasted through independently, in our respective time zones.

Bertrand is a leader in organic and biodynamic viticulture, with 880 hectares certified in one of 6 designations, from estates in organic conversion, to vegan, to organic, through to Demeter certified. All use biodynamic practices. This is spread across his 16 châteaux and wine-growing estates in the Languedoc and Roussillon regions, as well as in partnerships with other vignerons in Southern France: 

  • Since 2010, 40 partnerships with winegrowers in organic farming (1,600 hectares)
  • Since 2017, 15 partnerships to accompany the winegrowers in the technical process of sulfite-free wines certification (600 hectares)
  • Since 2018, 25 partnerships with winegrowers in conversion to organic agriculture, 600 hectares
  • Since 2020, 800 hectares in partnership with agricultural farms certified in organic and bee-friendly farming

For his efforts and leadership, he was named the 2020 Green Personality of the Year, by Drinks Business.

Born in Corbières, France in 1965, Gérard Bertrand grew up among the vineyards of the family’s chateau. At the young age of 10, Gérard began studying winemaking at his father’s side at the Domaine de Villemajou in the town of Boutenac, in the Aude. In 1992, he founded and developed the Gérard Bertrand wine company on his own after the accidental death of his father. At the same time, he was actively engaged in a career as an international rugby player until 1995. He began converting his estates to biodynamics early in 2002, starting with Domaine de Cigalus.

We tasted some familiar wines, as well as some new projects, including the first glimpse of his ‘Grand Cru’ Clos d’Ora 2017, and the new orange wine.

Gérard Bertrand Change Sauvignon Blanc 2020, IGP Pays d’Oc, France
Change is their ‘activist brand’, from grapes in conversation to organic farming. These Sauvignon Blanc grapes were pressed quickly, cool, and in stainless to preserve the freshness. Lemon-led, with fresh green notes, melon, grapefruit, on a fine lees-lined palate. This finishes crisp, tart, and bright. 87/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Pollinat Chardonnay 2020 IGP Cévennes, France
12.5% alcohol. This is really fruity and rounded with some pear drop notes, and lively, smooth pear and citrus on the palate. It’s a really clean, primary, appealing fruity style of Chardonnay with some richness. 87/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Naturae Chardonnay 2020, IGP Pays d’Oc, France
Naturae is a range of wines with no added sulphites or additives. These organic grapes were native fermented cool to preserve some freshness of fruit. Yellow apple, sour lemon, melon glides along the creamy palate, with a finish lit by some ginger spices. Unfortunately, this bottle was affected by mouse taint. Work in progress. 85/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Prima Nature Chardonnay 2020 IGP Pays d’Oc, France
12.5% alcohol. No added sulfites. This is an unusual wine with some nuts, honey, meal and spice as well as crystalline citrus fruit. There’s a hint of apple, too, with lots of personality. Alas, there is just a touch of mousiness, too: I wish I could ignore it, but I can’t. 78/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Blanc 2019, IGP Aude Hauterive, France
This is a rich, round, and ripe blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. 70% was fermented in new barrels, with the remainder in stainless. This remained on lees in barrels 7-8 months with regular batonnage. Perfumed white peaches, ripe pear, white flowers, light honey is woven with ample vanilla and butter, on the full and expansive palate. What this lacks in acidity, it makes up in power. Best taken with butter drawn scallops, and some cellaring. 89/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Blanc 2019 IGP Aude Hauterive, France
14.5% alcohol. Biodynamic. A blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, with 70% new oak, the rest stainless steel. This is a powerful, layered wine with sweet ripe fruit: citrus, pear, peach and even some melon. It’s a broad, multidimensional wine with many personalities, and finishes with some tapered, spicy oak. Rich and convincing. 93/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold Vin Biologique 2020 Vin de France
13% alcohol. The first Bertrand foray into orange wine. Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac and Muscat, fermented semi-carbonically for 10-15 days on skins and then pressed to stainless steel, and then finished off in barrel. A golden colour with aromas of mandarin, spice, marmalade and table grapes. The palate is complex, fresh, spicy and grippy with grapefruit, table grapes, spice and refined grippy structure. So interesting. 92/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Pollinat Grenache Rosé 2020 IGP Cévennes, France
12.5% alcohol. Really fruity and modern with some pear drops on the nose, some strawberry fruit, and a smooth texture. Has a note of orange peel and lemony brightness on the finish. A pure, dry, fruity style. 87/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Source of Joy Rosé 2020, AOP Languedoc, France
This very pale hued rosé is a new release, blending Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault. After each organically farmed grape is vinified separately in the saignée method, these were blended and rested, partially in oak. MLF is blocked to preserve freshness. Strawberries, silken raspberries, red liquorice is scented with fine spices. This runs a long, silken palate to a very finely spiced finish. Would be lovely with sashimi. 89/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Source of Joy Rosé 2020 AOP Languedoc, France
14.5% alcohol. Beautifully packaged, this is pale pink in colour. It is rounded and fruity, and quite delicate, despite the alcohol. It has tangerines, some pear and lemon, and also a tapered, finely spiced finish. There’s some mid-palate volume, with lovely fruit but also a hard-to-define elegance and poise. Still very young, but there are layers of flavour here. 91/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Clos du Temple Rosé 2019, AOP Languedoc Cabrières, France
This is the 2nd vintage of this icon wine for the GB house. Rich, wooded, full and ample spiced, this blends Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Viognier. Each plot is harvested and vinified separately, in new French wood, where it remained for 6 months with bâtonnage. The wines were blended on a fruit day. Powerful and elegant, with wild strawberries and raspberries, pear, apricot blossom, imbued with a fine dusting of pink peppercorns. Super long in the mouth, I reckon this polished and powerful pink will age quite smartly. Super premium, at approximately $200 CDN. 91/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Clos du Temple Rosé 2019 Languedoc Cabrières, France
14.5% alcohol. This is very pale in colour. It has a nose of spice, pear and citrus with a touch of fennel and dried herbs. The palate is where this wine shines: it is concentrated and dense with good acidity and a real harmony: very sophisticated with some cedar spice from the barrel fermentation and a nice tapering finish with some crystalline detail to the pear fruit. Very sophisticated and more in common with a white wine than anything else, with no red fruit characters. Will age well: this is just a baby now. 92/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Change Merlot 2019, IGP Pays d’Oc, France
The Change line of wines comes from vineyards in transition to organic certification. This Merlot was aged in a mix of stainless and cement for 6-12 months. Dark plum, boysenberry, juicy cassis, red liquorice fills the softer palate, with slightly ragged tannins housing this to a vanilla-kissed finish. Simple and friendly. 88/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Pollinat Syrah 2019, IGP Cévennes, France
Pollinat’ is a new line from GB, and result of a collaborative project and movement to protect bees in the region. This Syrah is pressed under gas, and rested in stainless, to keep the grape’s fresh, fruity notes. Dark, peppery fruit rules (blackberry, blueberry, plum), with ample cracked pepper, and soft tannins leading this to the shorter, cinnamon spiced finish. 88/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Naturae Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, IGP Pays d’Oc, France
The Naturae wines are made organically, without any inputs. This cabernet sauvignon comes across as branchy, with hard-pressed fruit, dark earth, bitter black cherry, and ample peppery notes. Tannins are fine but gritty and ragged, to the bitter finish. Work in progress. 85/100 TR)

Gérard Bertrand Prima Nature Syrah 2019 IGP Pays d’Oc, France
This is really nicely fruited with a slight warm savoury, mealy, creamy edge to the floral black cherry and blackberry fruit. It’s textural and rich, but also has freshness. There’s a slight saltiness, too. An impressive, ripe, drinkable red with good fruit purity. Such a lovely wine. 90/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Rouge 2019, IGP Aude Hautrive, France
This powerful red blends Syrah, Merlot, Caladoc, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carignan, all Demeter certified. The syrah and carignan are carbonically macerated, with the others each vinified traditionally. Each variety goes into new 225L French oak barrels for one year before being blended, and bottled unfiltered. Rich and full, with ample garrigue housing big blackberry, black plum, peppercorns on a round, sweetly ripe, classic Southern France palate. Very peppery on the finish. Drinking smartly now, and will reward with aging. 91/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Château l’Hospitalet Grand Vin Red 2018 AOP La Clape, France
15.5% alcohol. Biodynamic. Intense, tarry, spicy, salty blackberry fruit on the nose with some liquorice notes. In the mouth, this is richly fruited with a slight Christmas cake edge to the fresh black fruits, and notes of salt and liqourice, as well as some spice. It’s a dense, brooding wine. Yes, it is sweetly fruited and very ripe, but there is a balance here. Refined tannins add some grip and freshness, and the saline palate tapers really nicely. It captures the place well. 94/100 (JG)

Gérard Bertrand Clos d’Ora 2017, AOP Minervois la Livinière, France
Clos d’Ora is the essence of Gérard Bertrand’s 20+ year long dream to capture the unique terroir, and spiritual experience Bertrand first felt on the Minervois la Livinière property in 1997. He considers this his first Grand Cru, and it is treated as such throughout. This Demeter certified blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Grenache grows around 200m, with the soils worked by horse. The grapes are harvested and macerated separately in concrete before spending a year in French oak. The Syrah is destalked; the Grenache and Mourvèdre are destemmed and lightly crushed; and the Carignan is whole bunch at higher temperatures. Dark and brooding blackberries, black plum, dark earth, charcoal, resinous herbs fill the dense, structural palate, ripe and intense with the southern France sun. Grippy and peppery, firm tannins house this to an amply spiced finish. This is a baby right now; give this some time in cellar. 92/100 (TR)

Gérard Bertrand Clos d’Ora 2017 AOP Minervois La Livinière, France
15.5% alcohol. This is ripe and generous, with concentrated sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit, but also layered. There some spice and chalk under the fruit, and over it there are notes of tar and dried herbs. It’s a concentrated, ripe, sleek wine with a sense of luxury, and some salty hints alongside sweet, slightly jammy black fruits. There are some liqueur-like notes, and it walks the tightrope of ripeness, retaining freshness and drinkability. There are also notes of vanilla and cream from the oak. A very stylish, impressive, luxurious wine. It holds up over three days after opening, which suggests a long future. 95/100 (JG)

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Treve Ring

Treve Ring is a wine writer and editor, judge and speaker, and perpetual traveller. [She is also Correspondent Anorak.]