Sometimes you have to interrupt your career to be successful. Gerard Bertrand, the winemaker and owner of six wineries in the Languedoc region of France sets an illuminating example.
Georges Bertrand owned Domaine de Villemajou in southern France’s Corbieres region. In 1975, his 10-year-old son Gerard assisted him harvesting the grapes and making the wine. “Nobody explained life to me”, said the father to the son, “but when you are 60-years old you will have 50 years of experience of winemaking”. Good fatherly advice, but the young Bertrand was more interested in rugby.
In southern France, rugby is more popular than soccer. Bertrand started playing it in his boyhood and rose to the professional level, becoming the captain of this team, Stade Francais. But his father’s untimely death in 1987 placed the responsibility for Domaine de Villemajou on Bertrand’s 22-year-old shoulders. Rugby requires broad shoulders, and Bertrand carried both responsibilities on them until he retired from the sport in 1998.
Freed of rugby’s demands, Bertrand envisioned a larger wine future. “My parents explained to me and my sister that, in this life, you have to tell your own story,” he told me at his Domaine Cigalus. Bertrand decided that his story would be to build the reputation of his region’s wines that had heretofore been a tale of cooperatives producing mediocre wine.
Over the years, he purchased six estates, producing the range of the region’s wines. During my August visit, I tasted Bertrand’s sparkling wines of Limoux, and the roses, whites and reds from many appellations. Our summer weather and Labor Day weekend parties are the perfect moment for Bertrand’s well-made Limoux sparkling wines.
Cremant de Limoux’s history reaches to 1531, when the Benedictine monks at the abbey of Saint-Hilaire recorded making sparkling wine. This was 137 years before the 22-year-old Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Perignon arrived at the abbey of Hautvillers in the Champagne region, where poorly-made still wine was the fare. Ironically, Dom Perignon is now world-renowned for the Champagne bearing his name, while the sparkling wine Saint-Hilaire is only known by wine geeks.
Gerard Bertrand makes two tasty Cremant de Limoux wines that would make the Benedictine monks proud. The 2010 Cremant de Limoux Blanc is a blend of 70 percent chardonnay, 20 percent chenin blanc and 10 percent mauzac, the indigenousness grape that used to dominate all Limoux sparkling wine. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for one year in bottle, it has a pleasantly mild pear and jasmine scent. The refined bubbles bring apple and delicate lemon flavors across the palate with a dry, tingling finish.
The Gerard Bertrand 2010 Cremant de Limoux Rose’ replaces the mauzac with 10 percent pinot noir, giving the wine an onion skin color and mild red fruit flavor. Without mauzac’s acidity, chardonnay’s full body and richness comes to the fore in the rose’. Both wines are well-made, and the stylistic differences will make for comparisons and conversation at your party.
I suggest pouring the Gerard Bertrand 2010 Cremant de Limoux Rose’ as your guests arrive, and serving the 2010 Cremant de Limoux Blanc with a crab salad of slice green apple and diced celery. You’ll have them smiling twice.
The Gerard Bertrand 2010 Cremant de Limoux Blanc and Rose’ retail for about $17.