Tasting the top Gérard Bertrand wines at the harvest festival

The centre point of the Harvest Festival 2021 at Gérard Bertrand was a tasting through the high-end estate wines, which was held outdoors at Château l’Hospitalet. Despite a couple of rain showers the wines showed really well. ‘Two days ago I started my 46th vintage,’ says Gérard – he began working along with his father George at the age of 11. Since he took over the family vineyard in 1987, he’s grown a wine empire in the Languedoc, with 1000 hectares of vines and an emphasis on good farming – many of the vineyards are farmed biodynamically.

This was a tasting of the top wines in the portfolio, co-hosted by sommelier Andreas Larsson, and showed beautifully the diversity of the Languedoc. This is a dynamic region, and one used to having to adapt and reinvent itself. One of the largest adjustments has been moving from a volume-focused region (the market used to need a lot of cheap wine, because consumption was so high in France) to one where quality has to be the main focus. And Bertrand has helped lead the way in showing the world that this is a region that has the capacity for many terroir-focused fine wines.

Clos du Temple Rosé 2020 Langeudoc-Cabrières, France
‘We are introducing rosé into the family of Grand Vins,’ says Gerard Bertrand. He thinks you can cellar this for 15 years. Blending together local red varieties with some Viognier in the mix too, this is a textured wine with broad fruit and some spicy framing. Nice balance and a sense of harmony, allied to power. There’s a finely spiced thread running through the fruit. Finishes with a twist of apricot and table grape. 93/100

Domaine de L’Aigle Chardonnay 2020 Limoux, France
Limoux is a specialist region for Chardonnay, and this vineyard is located at 503 m altitude in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It’s powerful, linear and spicy with rich pear and peach fruit, and lovely spicy detail. Has some richness but also nice finesse. 93/100

Château l’Hospitalet Grand Vin Blanc 2019 La Clape, France
A blend of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Viognier. Fermented in stainless steel then transferred into new oak barrels. Notes of grapefruit and table grape, with some spice and nice richness, and characters of wild herbs and a saline twist. Lovely fruit here with ripeness and generosity, but also restraint and detail. 94/100

Château de Villemajou Grand Vin Blanc 2019 Corbières, France
Ripe and textured with apricots, yellow plums and also some nice ripe citrus and pear fruit. Rich and textured, although there is a fresh salty edge. Has a fine, tapering finish: generous and detailed and quite delicious. 93/100

Château La Sauvageonne Grand Vin Blanc 2020 Languedoc, France
From Terrasses de Larzac, but white wines can’t have the AOP in this appellation. 350 m altitude. Schist terroir with some volcanic soil too. This is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Viognier and Roussanne. Fermented in stainless steel, and half way through half of the wine is transferred to small oak. Herbs, spice and apricot on the nose with lovely detail. The palate has breadth and lovely volume with rich pear notes and a hint of honey. 92/100

Cigalus White 2019 IGP Aude Hauterive, France
This estate is where Gerard Bertrand lives with his family. It’s in the Corbières. Part fermented in new oak. Powerful, broad and concentrated with hints of coconut and vanilla amid the bold citrus and peach. There’s some table grape richness and textured pear fruit. Well defined with nice personality. Has a really lively finish with some grapefruit. 93/100

Domaine de l’Aigle Pinot Noir 2019 IGP Haute Vallée de L’Aude, France
From Limoux. Cold preferment maceration, then fermentation with punch downs that are replaced by pump overs as things progress. Aged for a year in French oak barrels. Lovely stuff: fresh but generous with sweet rounded cherry and plum fruit, and nice raspberry notes. This has freshness, with a bit of sour cherry on the finish. Very stylish with some elegance and lovely fruit. So detailed and fine. 93/100

Château Sauvageonne Grand Vin Rouge 2018 Terrasses du Larzac, France
This project began in 2011, but for the first three years Syrah was the driver of the blend, supported by Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan. The game changer was letting Grenache take the lead, in 2015. This is very stylish with fresh sweet lush cherry and plum fruit. There are some sweet berries, too. Concentrated but showing finesse with hints of olive and spice on the finish. Ripe but balanced with a nice focus. 94/100

Cigalus Red 2019 IGP Aude Hauterive, France
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Caladoc and Carignan. Syrah and Carignan are made with carbonic maceration. Aged in new oak. Lovely freshness: the Cabernet Sauvignon makes its presence felt with a bit of gravelly grip, and then there’s some stylish oak. Nice texture with some freshness and good structure: it’s a polished wine in a sort of Bordeaux style. 94/100

Château de Villemajou Grand Vin 2017 Corbières-Boutenac, France
‘This is the origin, Villemajou,’ says Gerard Bertrand. This is where I started to get the inspiration from my father and mother.’ Old Carignan is key to the blend, and this is joined by Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. This has fantastic aromatics: olive, garrigue, bright berry fruits and grilled meats. The palate combines ripe black cherry and plum fruit with lovely spice, olive, meat and a touch of pepper. Very stylish and elegant, showing nice development. 95/100

Château La Soujeole Grand Vin 2017 Malepère, France
This appellation is in the western part of the Languedoc, where there’s some Atlantic influence, and this wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. There’s lovely freshness here. Aromatic, pure and focused with sweet blackcurrant fruit and some chalky hints. Even a touch of saltiness. I love the freshness and definition: this is bright but also has a lovely aromatic character with cured meat and some red fruits. Serious and ageworthy. 95/100

Château Hospitalet Grand Vin 2019 La Clape, France
Limestone soils are dominant in this marine-influenced vineyard, and this is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Aged 12-16 months in new oak. Wonderful floral, rich nose of pepper, olive and meat with sweet Syrah to the fore, and also some garrigue character. Amazing sweetly fruited palate with good tannin under the blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry fruit. Seductive but well defined. 95/100

Clos d’Ora 2018 Minervois La Livinière, France
Thus is a special site above a geological fault, and the blend is Syrah with Mourèdre, Carignan and Grenache. Rich, powerful, concentrated and smooth with a lush texture and also great depth of sweet plum, cherry and blackberry fruit. Polished and concentrated but also has some softness, with no rough edges. Just a baby, but already quite approachable. 94/100