In the finale of our video series, filmed in France, we visit passionate biodynamic advocate Gérard Bertrand at the center of his operations, Château L'Hospitalet, just outside his beloved hometown of Narbonne.
We also had a chance to visit his flagship Clos D'Ora estate, a biodynamic jewel nestled in Minervois La Livinière. This property is a shining example of his commitment to making the Languedoc a new French classic. Bertrand's passion extends into the winery as evidenced by the t-shirt he is wearing during our interview. Emblazoned with "Be the Change", it reflects Bertrand and his team's commitment to leaving the earth a better place than they found it, and as you will see, they are well on their way. Post-interview, we shared lunch in the garden nearby at the winery's hotel and restaurant where live jazz is a weekly Friday night event, and a Jazz festival, now in its 17th year, draws enthusiasts from around the world. That, along with an art gallery, connects the wine, food, and the Art de Vivre lifestyle Bertrand espouses. But why not watch and listen for yourself to Bertrand as he speaks from his soul on wine, food, and life.
See Anthony's tasting notes below.
At the age of ten, Gérard Bertrand's father, Georges Bertrand, invited his son to work the harvest in his cellars at Domaine de Villemajou at Boutenac in Corbières, Languedoc. The idea was by the time he was fifty and hitting his winemaking stride, Bertrand would have 40 harvests under his belt and possess more information than anyone in the region. Now that Gérard is 54, it would seem the strategy has worked to perfection.
Bertrand spent a decade playing high-level rugby from Narbonne to Paris before returning to the family wine business in 1987. Ever since, he has been on the mission to raise the image of the Languedoc and its exceptional terroirs.
Pioneer is not a moniker that fits this modern Languedoc producer given the region's 2,000 years of wine history that included incursions by the Celts, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Franks. But it does permit one to pursue wine on a different path to leave their mark further, or perhaps leave no mark at all, on the landscape.
For Bertrand, the New Languedoc is on a mission to get back on equal footing with the other great wines of France. One might even suggest in a hundred years, some of the most renowned appellations of France, and some of its best crus, could be located in the south, far from Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux. Indeed, after tasting Clos d'Ora and Clos du Temple, the flagship crus at Bertrand, it appears getting to the main stage is more than doable.
The Gérard Bertrand empire includes 14-winemaking estates (12 are biodynamic) across nearly 1,000 hectares of top Languedoc terroirs. The estates are what Bertrand refers to as the "crus of the Languedoc." Gérard Bertrand is also a partner to more than 40 winemaking estates with independent wineries, and ten regional cooperatives with a broad reach across the south. The farming is as sustainable or as natural as it can be, and in many cases, it is entirely organic, or certified Demeter biodynamic.
In his book Wine Moon and Stars - A South of France Experience, Bertrand explains his ultimate goal. "First, there is pleasure; it is the basic emotion that we, as winemakers, need to guarantee our customers." From here, Bertrand suggests, "The wine needs to reveal its place of birth, emphasize its terroir, its regionality, its appellation of origin. But stirring emotion is the end game. Only the most exceptional wines travel directly to the heart, provoking that particular alchemy that comes from the perfect blend of friends and wine served at the right temperature, in the right glass and balanced by the perfect food."
Speaking of food, travellers can experience the south of France in style at Bertrand's hotel at Château L'Hospitalet, 10 minutes from the centre of Narbonne, and 10 minutes from the Mediterranean. In the heart of the La Clape Massif conservation area and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, L'Hospitalet boasts walks through the vineyards, vegetable, and herb gardens, or a leisurely hike to the sea. In addition to the aforementioned Friday night jazz concerts, biodynamic vineyard walks, and the restaurant offerings, 24 wines and three set menus are available, speaking to the Occidental experience known fondly as the Art de Vivre.
Gerard Bertrand is rearranging the French wine map with excellence and "savoir-faire", or know-how, as Bertrand puts it, but equally important is "sharing of knowledge." Bertrand's wines are somewhat scarce in British Columbia at the moment; we can only hope retailers wake up before it is too late.
French Short Film Series: