The phrase “bon vivant” fits Gérard Bertrand like a glove. The winemaker runs 14 estates (12 of which are biodynamic), and is the proprietor of a vineyard hotel, a restaurant and an annual jazz festival. The latter draws thousands to the Languedoc every year, and has featured the likes of Kool & the Gang, Norah Jones, Seal, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
The son of winemaker George Bertrand, Gérard worked his first harvest at the ripe age of 10. He started playing rugby in his teens and later went pro, playing for RC Narbonne and serving as the captain of Stade Francais.
He eventually retired and traded in his cleats to fill his father’s shoes. Now, more than 20 years later, Gérard operates an array of estates across the south of France, producing everything from patio-perfect rosés to Languedoc blends to biodynamic Chardonnays from the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Here, he divulges his fall-in-love bottle and tells VinePair what wine gives him “soul-shaking satisfaction.”
1. What’s the bottle that made you fall in love with wine?
Love is multi-faceted, so I feel comfortable saying that I have had more than one fall-in-love wine.
Vega Sicilia from Ribera del Duero, for the profound wisdom it offers.
Romanée Conti from Burgundy, for the eternal mysteries it can reveal.
Domaine Ott rosé from Provence, for showing that rosé can possess as much depth as any wine.
Pétrus from Pomerol, for being the exemplar of seductive luxury
Château Grillet, a white wine from the northern Rhône, for showing the value of patience.
2. FMK three varieties: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay.
I am a man of the Mediterranean, so allow me to FMK a few other varieties.
F: Grenache. A grape that is both hedonistic and whimsical; it produces wines for quick pleasure and slow, soul-shaking satisfaction.
Marry: Pinot Noir. Not classically Mediterranean, but I have uniquely situated vineyards that produce super results. This is a grape of endless fascination, frustrating at times, but eternally compelling; it’s a grape that offers a lifetime of surprises, just like a great marriage.
Kill: Assyrtiko, the Greek white grape. There are some excellent Assyrtiko, mostly from Santorini, that echo minerality of the island’s volcanic soils, but my experience is that too many of them are either overly searing in acidity with little fruit expression, or, if grown elsewhere in Greece, just alcoholic and fleshy.
3. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper wine?
La Forge 2001. La Forge is a wine from a single, exceptional parcel within my family’s first estate, Villemajou. It represents a lifetime of commitment to the land in which I was raised and, besides, it’s a great wine!
4. You can only drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it?
Clos d’Ora 2013. Clos d’Ora was made on my biodynamically farmed estate of the same name. It is a wine of supreme subtlety, depth, and elegance and epicureanism. It represents the elements (earth, fire, water, and air) in perfect harmony. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy perfect harmony for the rest of his life?
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
The magical and timeless Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy.
6. What’s the best and worst wine on your rack (or in your fridge) right now?
Best: Clos du Temple Rosé 2018, my new rosé that has been hailed in the wine press as the world’s finest. Worst is my Pergamus red 2010.
7. If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your beverage of choice?
Whisky from Scotland. Much like wine, there’s a seemingly endless array of possibilities with Scotch, and it is the only spirit that demonstrates true regional differences.