Gerard Bertrand is the largest and most influential winemaker in Languedoc-Roussillon in the South of France. Gerard has a colorful past as a talented Rugby player and played professionally for many years. His love for wine goes back even further. Gerard grew up amongst the vines where he apprenticed with his father. Today, the Gerard Bertrand brand spans 16 wine estates that are farmed biodynamically with the purpose of revealing the soul of their terroir. His wines transport you to the South of France with emotions of the “Art de Vivre” – the “Art of Life.”
Gerard Bertrand’s knowledge and passion for the region have made him one of the most prominent producers in the South of France. As an ambassador of the region, Gerard has put Languedoc-Roussillon back on the wine map, producing wines of the highest quality with a commitment to share his knowledge of the terroir with the world.
Gerard’s commitment expands into wine tourism, through his charming Château l’Hospitalet. The Chateau is a hotel with a restaurant, art gallery, and wine shop that is surrounded by enchanting vineyards in the heart of the protected massif of La Clape. The hotel is also the magical venue for the hugely popular Gerard Bertrand Jazz Festivals, where some of the greatest musicians in the world have performed in the vineyards in an open-air venue.
I had the opportunity to spend four days with Gerard Bertrand and his gracious family to experience the Art de Vivre of Southern France. Gerard’s story is inspiring, continue reading for my exclusive interview.
Gerard Bertrand Interview
You have grown-up amongst the vines with your father. What winemaking techniques and skills did you learn from your father that you carry forward to this day?
Gerard – My father taught me a lot of things, but most importantly he opened my heart. He said feelings are more important than techniques. I did not learn enology, nor do I have a background in enology. I work with my inspirations, intuition and imagination, rather than techniques. I learned winemaking techniques in the cellar year after year, but I found it was most important to taste the berries, taste the pips, and taste the grapes. Then I would decide when to pick the grapes and what wines to blends. I allow my intuition to come to me in order to make decisions. This is what I learned from my father.
When you were a rugby player did you always know you want to make wine?
Gerard – I played rugby for passion, not for business. You can make wine all your life, but Rugby is a sport for young players, when you turn 30-35 you eventually stop playing. It was easy and I did not need to make a decision, I got to do both. For ten years I played rugby, and now I get to make wine. I started making wine with my father when I was 10 years old and now it is my life.
Your wines are farmed biodynamically. What specific steps have you taken in the vineyards to make biodynamic wines?
Gerard – The first and most important step was the elimination of chemical products in the vineyards. We stopped using potassium and we now use the lunar calendar. The vineyards are prepped with horn dung and herbal tea is placed in the field to stimulate the vines. These are just a few of the many strategies we take to protect the land. We follow the same respect in the cellars.
You started the biodynamic process in 2002. Now many years later, what is the results you are experiencing in the vineyards?
Gerard – It was important to me to have a biodynamic process for my team and my staff, especially for those that are working in the fields. Today we are seeing the vibrancy of our terroir. This is a new paradigm for us, we are finding that there is also great potential to age these wines. At the end of the day, you need to learn and understand your terroir. We must also respect the land for the next generation and for the biodiversity of the planet.
You have 16 estates. Do you have a favorite grape or favorite vineyard or château?
Gerard – I cannot answer this question(says with a smile and laugh). I cannot say if I prefer my son or my daughter. It is all a matter of time and mood. We have 365 days of the year, some days I am in the mood for different wines from a different vineyard.
Languedoc-Rousillon wines are on the rise? You have helped elevate the quality of the wines coming from the South of France, many say that this was a way to honor your father?? Can you elaborate on that?
Gerard – At the end of the day, this is my path. I realized my path when I was young. When I was young, my father asked me to work with him, and when I was 22 years old I said yes. My father was so happy I said yes, but within 3 months my father passed away. So I did what I did for the memory of my father for a couple of years. After several years of making wine, it was important to me to ask myself the question – why do I do what I do? I quickly realized that it was really MY mission and MY path to make wine and to promote the South of France. Every single day I enjoy what I do.
What do you attribute to your brand’s success and the surging popularity of Gérard Bertrand wines around the world?
Gerard – It is all about the 1001 details. I say to myself and my team, never give up, keep the vision, keep the right strategy, and reach for excellence. My passion is blending wines, and that is what I love to do. This is how I can make a difference, by making fantastic wines.
Can you elaborate on the Art De Vivre and the lifestyle of the South of France? How did it come about?
Gerard – I started to discover the joys of the South of France when I bought this place, Château l’Hospitalet. It is more than just a wine estate, we have vineyards, a hotel, a restaurant and a craft shop. I realized the “Art de Vivre” is a way to promote the South of France experience. When you have a chef cook locally prepared cuisine paired with the right wine, it is an amazing and memorable experience. Château l’Hospitalet gives you a global experience of food, wine, music, art and culture. That is why I am so happy.