I could have named this article “Gerard Bertrand and the art of living the joy of south”. I didn’t because it would have been trivial, because it represents a largely used slogan and because Gerard Bertrand is much, much more.
Welcome in a magical place, in the surroundings of Narbonne, along the Via Domitia, the ancient Roman road connecting Spain and France to Italy. Here the peace of nature and a secular vocation to hospitality are in force. It is said that right here, within these walls where wines and the resort guests now rest, medieval knights hosted pilgrims in their journey to Santiago. In 2002, when he was a brilliant Rugby player of Narbonne RC, Gerard Bertrand bought this estate and had the foresight to maintain the original purpose of the place by giving life to Chateau l’Hospitalet.
Bertrand understood that things must happen around wine: he is a pioneer of wine tourism at international level, creator of a jazz festival that every year comes up again in the Summer. This is a place engaged in active sustainable development policies aimed at respecting and protecting wine landscape, where biodiversity is promoted and biodynamic farming practices are practiced.
Inclination to excellence as exaltation of beauty is the hallmark of Bertrand’s philosophy and perfectly incorporates the classic concept of beauty.
HOSPITALITY EXPERIENCE AT CHATEAU L’HOSPITALET
We therefore decided to make a visit with tasting: maybe too long, but equally interesting. This is a classic guided tour: it begins with an introduction where we are informed about the early stages of agricultural activity, and then it continues with a tour of a vineyard overlooking the sea (pleasant intermezzo: a tasting among the rows, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea), an emotional movie halfway through and, finally, the visit to the barrel room.
Later, we approached the tasting counter to experiment how the landscape marvels enjoyed along the visit fall in the glass. This experience turns out to be a total immersion in the scrub, in the heart of Clape massif and in the human and climatic warmth of this splendid part of France, where you can feel the wind of Spain. An enchantment. The typical vegetation surrounding Chateau l’Hospitalet is called Garrigues; this is the peculiar landscape of the hinterland of the Mediterranean basin, where sun has always been there and where time does not exist, with the exception of the inner time.
I had a very sharp impression: we were in one of the 11 estates of the undisputed wine lord of Languedoc-Roussillon, with a successful sporting past and a present and a future as an internationally renowned winemaker. Yet this man possesses the humility of someone who knows how to listen to earth. He remembers when he was ten years old and his father, who passed on to him the passion for wine, addressed a young Gerard in front of a vineyard: “when you will be forty years old, you will already have thirty years of winemaking experience”. Earth was already talking to him and still today it continues to whisper him very important revelations to pass on to future generations.
MY RANDOM TASTING NOTES
I had one white wine only, as I preferred to dedicate myself to the spectrum of rosés (not the complete range, it would have been impossible), and to red wines. The first one inaugurating the procession is:
- Perles de Sauvignon Blanc, a tribute to the oysters cultivated in the south of France; the blue glass stopper reminds of the sea: this is a wine that talks about the pearls of the French Riviera. The bottle appears beautiful: its decoration resembles a necklace of transparent glass beads and it is designed by the French artist Chantal Thomass. The bunches of Sauvignon that will become Perles are harvested at night to maintain the typical freshness and aroma.
A very small percentage of this Sauvignon is vinified in French oak barrels for 5 months, the rest at a controlled temperature in steel tanks. Perles is delicate, no “wow effect”, but the fruity and fresh character makes it an ideal accompaniment to light catch.
Let’s move on to the rosè
- Chateau La Sauvageonne The Villa AOP – Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier and Vermentino), a cool and elegant summer night. Floral, powerful like the best whites, which is very similar to.
- Gris Blanc – I confess: my favorite of all-. It comes from Tautavel, an area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees, not far from Perpignan. I like Grenache because it is emblematic of this land, because its minerality is powerful and delicately refined at the same time.
- Hampton Water (Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache). Selection of the best grapes. I expected it grittier; it is indeed very delicate but short in persistence. The ephemeral joy of the label captures our eyes.
Last one: Chateau de la Soujeole AOP Malepère (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec). We ideally moved to the area of Carcassone, in another Bertrand estate, in an area known by botanists for its immense amount of biodiversity and plant varieties. It is a very elegant wine, far from the sensory vibrations characterising the previous ones. The body is full, the mouth softened and the red fruits are the undisputed protagonists of this velvet wine. With a few years of patience, chocolate and tobacco flavors can develop. Up to ten years of aging.
- Then again: Or & Azur (Cinsalult, Grenache). Pale salmon, cassis, strawberry and violet present on nose and palate. Maybe cloying, but the finish also recalls notes of citrus fruits, grapefruit in particular. Very balanced and fine. As usual, I fall prey to the labels’ graphic design; they explained to me that it is a “bee friendly” wine, obtained thanks to organic farming practices safeguarding the bees. Furthermore, gold and blue, or “sapphire”, are part of the heraldic colors in which bees have been present since ancient times. Today the two colors are meant to be an ode to the landscape, to the sun and to the Mediterranean. A beautiful wine, rich in everything.
- Prima Naturae (100% Syrah), is part of a range without added sulfites. I have written on my notes: delicate rose and memory of strawberry on the finish. It goes perfectly with a light aperitif, with white meats, and it perfectly pairs with the landscape I see around me.
- Joy’s (Syrah, Grenach, Cinsault): a hymn to joy, a feminine and sinuous bottle, the glass cap culminates the hymn to brightness. Fresh, round and elegant.
- Finally the last two, I chose some red at the end of the show.
- 6ème Sens PGI Pays d’Oc (Syrah, Merlot, Grenache, Cabernet). The ruby expression of this land, with its emblematic grapes that give flowers (violet) and fruits (red fruit and strawberry) to our senses. Velvety and not very tannic, it is very quaffable. They suggested us to open the bottle not before 3 years, to develop all the nuances and give voice … to the sixth sense!
- Chateau de la Soujeole AOP Malepère (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec). We ideally moved to the area of Carcassone, in another Bertrand estate, in an area known by botanists for its immense amount of biodiversity and plant varieties. It is a very elegant wine, far from the sensory vibrations characterising the previous ones. The body is full, the mouth softened and the red fruits are the undisputed protagonists of this velvet wine. With a few years of patience, chocolate and tobacco flavors can develop. Up to ten years of aging.
I was satisfied and happy at that point and I also showed a vague cheerful expression. I was only looking for new wines and I found the richness of a timeless territory, where knights still travel proud and upright on their steeds, where travellers seek refuge for the night and where observant and pure heretical communities keep on looking for the perfect faith in a landscape of shrubs, stones and bronze crosses.