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The pro rugby player who saved the Languedoc

It is fitting during this World Rugby Classic month to mention Gérard Bertrand, as he started his professional rugby career with RC Narbonne and ended up as captain of the Stade Francais team.

In 1987, when Gérard was only 22 years old his father died in an accident and for the next 11 years the young man continued his career in sports while also managing the family wine estate.

Finally, he decided to devote his passion and enthusiasm full-time to the production of wine. One publication has called him “the man that saved the Languedoc”, a vast area of vineyards in the South of France.

Once known for rather ordinary wine production, the quality level is garnering far more respect today.

Representatives of Gérard Bertrand Wine Estates have been here this week and say that they now consist of 15 properties covering close to 4,400 acres.

In June, I wrote about five of their varietal wines (chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, viognier and sauvignon blanc) that are certified organic. All sell for $19.75.

We have been told that over the next few years it is their intention to not only be organic, but also Demeter certified as biodynamic (more than 800 acres already have their Demeter certificate).

I recently had it pointed out to me that Demeter was the Greek goddess of agriculture, fertility and sacred law.

To put it simply, I like to tell folks that organic does not harm or destroy, and biodynamic takes it a step further by saying that it will heal and restore the earth as well.

This is so important in maintaining the individual terroir, character, or sense of place of a plot of land that may have given its all to the vines for centuries, or in some cases millennia.

Château Laville Bertrou 2016 is from a small 440-acre appellation controlée called Minervois-la-Livinière, that was created in 1998.

This extraordinary terroir, acquired by Gérard Bertrand in 1997, produces powerful and distinctive wines, classic examples of the Languedoc tradition.

Nurtured by the Mediterranean climate — with hot, dry summers and milder winters — the south-facing vines are planted on the hillsides of a quaint village called La Livinière.

The grapes used are carignan, grenache, syrah and mourvèdre and together they give us lots of full-bodied fruit — such as blackberry and plums — that would match well with a strong cheese. $28.40.

For $19.80 you can try a rather special Gérard Bertrand bottle. Their Corbières Terrior GSM 2014 is the often-used blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre.

With a score of 90/100 it was on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list and the magazine had this to say: “Full-bodied and powerful, with decadent layers of raspberry compote, kirsch and red plum notes that are met with savoury details of herb and cured meat. Offers a tangy, hot stone-accented finish. Drink now through 2025.”

By the way, Corbières is an appellation in the Languedoc.

Gérard Bertrand 2013 Minervois is a syrah and carignan blend that rates 89/100 from Wine Enthusiast magazine that comments: “Ripe, jammy fruit aromas and flavours of blackberry, cherry and plum abound in this attractive wine, with a secondary hint of fudgy brownie adding additional decadence.

“The palate is smooth and medium-bodied, with approachable tannins and ample acidity providing just enough structure. Drink now.”

A Wines & Spirits magazine review actually topped this with 92/100, saying the wine “charms with its supple juiciness and ease”. At $20.50 this is an excellent value.

Looking at the back label of Gérard Bertrand Maury Tuilé 2010,I am thinking that those without an understanding of the French language would still make sense out of “robe profonde aux reflets violets” as well as the note that it is ideal with “patisseries au chocolat”.

The warm, dry climate of an area called Maury is known for sweet dessert wines that are closer to port than table wine.

Like port, the addition of grape spirits during fermentation stops this process and leaves some natural sugar in the finished product.

The powerful nose offers blackberry, blackcurrant and prune. Maury is a wine to have at the end of a meal with strong blue cheese, rich sweet desserts or dark chocolate. Tuilé is a French term that means “colour of tile” and it refers to the orange tint in this wine. $23.35.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Into the cellar: Gérard Bertrand was a professional rugby player before he decided to turn to new job: managing the family wine estate (Photograph supplied)

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Published November 09, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated November 09, 2018 at 7:23 am)

The pro rugby player who saved the Languedoc

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