Tasting Notes - Gérard Bertrand's Organic French Wine Festival
This week I tasted through 11 Gérard Bertrand wines (3 whites, 2 rosés, 1 orange and 5 reds) as part of his virtual Organic French Wine Festival. Some background and tasting notes below.
A leader in organic and biodynamic viticulture and named ‘Green Personality of the Year’ in 2020 at the Drinks Business Green Awards (the world's largest competition aimed at raising awareness of environmental issues in the beverage industry and rewarding exemplary sustainability and environmental performance), Gérard Bertrand discovered his passion for wine at his family’s estate, Villemajou, in 1975, started running it in 1987 and created the Gérard Bertrand wine company in 2002 to showcase and develop wines in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France. The company now includes 16 châteaux, estates and wineries covering over 850 hectares cultivated using biodynamic methods in one or more of 6 levels of certification: conversion to organic agriculture; organic agriculture; no added sulphites; vegan; bee-friendly and Demeter-certified biodynamic. Guiding his philosophy is that these organic practices are not only an essential way to act for the planet and to ‘be the change’, but also that they allow the identity of the terroir and sense of place to shine through and for the wines to ‘taste of somewhere and not of something’!
The selection of wines:
A few notes on the wines tasted:
Change Sauvignon Blanc, IGP Pays d’Oc, 2020 / Organic, Change is what they consider their activist line of wines from vineyards converted to organic farming. Hand-harvested and vinified in stainless steel tanks to preserve the varietal aromas and freshness, this Sauvignon is fruit-driven, crisp, pure and well-balanced with lemon, lime, grapefruit and black currant on the nose and slight green or herbal notes on the palate. Would pair beautifully with oysters, any manner of shellfish or with very lightly grilled vegetables.
Naturae, Chardonnay, IGP Pays d’Oc, 2020 / Organic, with no added sulphites or additives and vegan, the grapes are quickly cooled, pressed, and fermented cool to preserve the fruit and freshness of the grapes. Light but with a nice balance and roundness, it has aromas of citrus fruit, apricot, apple, white flowers, and a creamy palate with a bit of vanilla, honey, and spice. Would pair beautifully with white fish in a butter sauce or with a vegetable pasta dish.
Cigalus, White, IGP Aude Hauterive, 2019 / Demeter-certified biodynamic, Cigalus is a mix of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. With Hand-picked grapes, 70% of the juice undergoing alcoholic fermentation in new barrels and 30 % in stainless steel vats, temperature controlled malolactic fermentation to conserve the freshness and integrity of the aromas and light fining, the Cigalus is rich, ripe, intense and complex with aromas of citrus fruit, peach, pear, apricot and honey and full, creamy flavours with notes of vanilla, toast, cream and exotic fruits on the palate with a rich, long finish. Definitely ageing potential, but beautiful now. Fun fact: the name ‘Cigalus’ is from the French word (Cigale) for cicadas, the insects singing loudly at certain times of the year near the estate. Would pair beautifully with creamy scallops or chicken/fish cooked in a butter sauce. (91-93 RP)
Source of Joy, AOP Languedoc, 2020 / Organic and vegan, Source of Joy is made up of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Manually harvested and made using the saignée method (grape bunches are briefly tank macerated with extraction once the desired colour has been reached) with a portion (30%) aged in oak barrels but without MLF to preserve the freshness. It’s fresh and vibrant with crisp acidity. Fruit forward aromas on the nose (think cherry and fizzy strawberries), a bit of spice, pepper, and light toasty notes from the oak, it would pair nicely with sushi, ceviche, seafood, or a summer salad.
Clos du Temple, AOP Languedoc Cabrières, 2019 / Awarded ‘Best Rosé in the World 2020’ at the (blind tasting) Global Rosé Masters of Drinks Business, Clos du Temple 2019 is Demeter-certified organic, and an assemblage of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Viognier & Syrah. Manual harvested in crates, each plot is harvested at the optimum date and vinified separately with maturing done in new barrels precisely for 6 months on fine lees. Gérard Bertrand designed this wine to mirror a temple with the foundation being Grenache, the columns – Cinsault, the walls – Syrah, the architecture – Mourvèdre and the roof – Viognier. Pale and delicate in colour, on the palate it’s rich, complex, layered, perfectly balanced with great acidity and a super long finish. Elegance in a glass. Full of aromas and flavours of ripe strawberries, citrus, peaches, stone fruit, notes of pepper and present but nuanced hints of cedar and vanilla from the oak. In all transparency I am not normally a big fan nor drinker of Rosé wines and this one rendered me speechless. And did the same for the 2 other people that tasted it with me. It is stellar (and yes, it comes with a stellar price tag). Wow. Beautiful on its own but would pair beautifully with very simple lobster or scampi.
Orange Gold, Vin de France, 2020 / Organic, with the label representing a seed, this blend of hand-picked Chardonnay, White Grenache, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac and Muscat grapes is vatted without any destemming or crushing, semi carbonic maceration and the pressed wine is blended in stainless steel tanks before completing the maceration in barrels. Super fresh for an orange wine, well balanced, light tannins, a light bitterness, orange with gold tints, it has an intense fruit nose (peaches galore, citrus, clementine, candied apple, stone fruit), a bit of vanilla and a full, round palate. Would be amazing with tapas, grilled calamari, spicy Asian dishes, or hard cheeses.
Change Merlot, IGP Pays d’Oc; 2019 / Organic (the label represents a seed starting to sprout), hand-picked, with traditional maceration from 10 to 15 days with controlled temperatures to preserve all the aromas and aged in stainless steel and cement vats for a few months after malolactic fermentation, it’s fresh and smooth (no oak) with a beautiful expression of Merlot fruit with plum, blackcurrant, strawberry, forest floor on the nose and some spice and pepper on the palate. Easy, everyday wine would pair beautifully with barbecued ribs, grilled meats, Italian dishes, and grilled veggies.
Pollinat’ Syrah, IGP Cévennes, 2019 / Organic and certified bee-friendly (with agricultural practices aiming to protect bees and pollinators), the grapes are lightly macerated during pre-fermentation before being placed on fine lees in post fermentation. With a deep ruby colour and grippy tannins, it’s fruit-forward and concentrated with generous notes of red fruit (raspberry, cherry), spice, leather, and pepper on both the nose and palate. Would pair beautifully with grilled meat or barbecue – it’s a warm wine just calling for steak!
Naturae Cabernet Sauvignon, IGP Pays d’Oc, 2019 / Organic, with no added sulfites and vegan, made according to traditional wine-making processes but with no added sulfites or other inputs, macerated 10 days with a daily pumping over and then racked again to eliminate the coarsest lees before the malolactic fermentation. Deep purple in colour, elegant and velvety, the nose and palate have super ripe fruit (blueberry, blackberry, cherry), toast, spice, pepper, tobacco and a bit of herbs and vanilla with a nice finish. Would be lovely with Middle Eastern dishes or grilled eggplant in a tomato sauce.
Cigalus Red, IGP Aude Hauterive, 2019 / Demeter-certified biodynamic (since 2002!), Cigalus is a heady mix of international and local varietals: Syrah, Merlot, Caladoc, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan. Caladoc you ask? New to me as well, it’s a cross between Malbec from Bordeaux and Grenache Noir. Hand-picked grapes are placed in small wooden crates to preserve their condition and avoid any crushing. Carignan and Syrah are vinified separately with carbonic maceration and all other varietals are in the traditional way, placed in new French oak barrels for 12 months after fermentation and bottled unfiltered. Complex, rich, bold yet nuanced, the nose has tons of red and black fruit (ripe strawberries, dark cherries, blackberry, plum), coffee, cacao, cigar box, slight toast but not overly oaked and pepper with an intense palate (fruit, coffee and pepper) and long finish. Could be decanted but was beautifully drinkable as is. With its complexity and at 15.5% abv this would be amazing with rack of lamb, duck confit, roasted meat, or extra ripe strong cheese.
Clos d’Ora, AOP Minervois La Livinière , 2017 / Demeter-certified biodynamic, Clos d’Ora benefits from an exceptional terroir situated at La Livinière in the Minervois at an altitude of 220 meters and is the first Grand Cru of Gérard Bertrand wines; a beautiful blend typical of Southern France of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache. The entire estate is cultivated using biodynamic methods and with only horse traction used to work between the rows. Hand-picked, each varietal and each parcel are macerated in separate batches with distinct winemaking methods and very gentle maceration to limit the extraction of tannins. Deep, deep ruby in colour, the nose has black fruit (blackberry, plum, cherry), chocolate, pepper, incense, coffee, warm earth with a bit of cedar; and the palate is intense, complex, ripe, well-structured and warm but maintaining a freshness (despite the 15.5% abv). Tasted just opened, an hour after opening, and decanted – the decanting definitely makes this wine sing and the tannins become more subtle, smooth and mellow. Exceptional – would age beautifully! Pair this with grilled, aged, or slowly cooked beef.
A truly beautiful tasting through a selection of Gérard Bertrand estates and wines!