Gerard Bertrand, the Pharaoh of Languedoc

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The winegrowers have in common with the pharaohs the habit of building pyramids. Of course, those that were built by the former are not of stone but of vines and cellars and keep not mummies, but bottles. The wine pyramids have a summit, one or more rare and severely limited vintages, which are snapped up and make amateurs dream, a middle, prestigious wines in appellations which are no less so and a large base, wines from so-called generic appellations whose regularity and assurance of quality are appreciated by the same amateurs. It is understood, that these pyramids, unlike the Egyptian ones, are built from the top. Marcel Guigal, master in the field, built his wine empire from a few thousand bottles of La Mouline and La Landonne, and many others, in Burgundy, Alsace, the Rhône valley or Bordeaux, have known how to achieve this architectural miracle.

Gérard Bertrand is a unique case – in France at least – of a winegrower having built his pyramid starting from the bottom. Having left the family vineyard of Villemajou, this Corbières child brought up in the tough and double school of rugby and vineyard work had little choice when he took over the family business after the untimely death of his father. Languedoc appeared to be a second-rate vineyard in the early nineties and, among its terroirs, the Corbières appeared to be the most damaged vineyard of all. So he started by selling wine to supermarkets, first from different sources, then under his brand. He gained a certain foundation, an immediate understanding of market expectations and an almost obsessive sense of detail. Many professionals and amateurs have left it at that: a merchant – moreover from Languedoc – cannot become a great wine maker.

However, Gérard Bertrand had the ambition to build his pyramid very early on and never lost sight of this. An anecdote tells it very well. In 2000, he acquired seven hectares wonderfully located on limestone and clay terraces facing the Montagne Noire, in the La Livinière cru. There are old Carignans and Syrahs there. He immediately supplements them with Grenache and Mourvèdre, he has the intuitiont that this Mediterranean multi-grape variety will be the guarantee of a great cru. Twelve years later, here is the Clos d´Ora, the current shining summit of his pyramid. In the meantime, he has, floor after floor, built an impressive kingdom of Languedoc and Roussillon wines, based on 850 hectares cultivated in biodynamics, organized into about fifteen properties all representative of the variety and the largely unknown potential of local terroirs. He solidified his edifice by embracing the rosé vogue, in France and in the United States, to make it the engine of its expansion. But where many others would have been content to lay this new indefinitely laying golden-egg goose, he took the subject of rosé seriously, be it is his accessible and seductive version or the impeccable Côte des Roses or brilliant expressions of crus such as the Villa du Château la Sauvageonne or the very ambitious and successful Clos du Temple, the second summit, implanted in the unjustly forgotten terroirs of Saint-Saturnin. Like Marcel Guigal before him, this demanding monarch does not fight only for him. By reviving crus and terroirs, he restores trust and credibility at the highest level to the leading wine-growing region in France.

 

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