Posts tagged: corbières

Buvons En Coup Ensemble (BUCE) – Minervois & Corbieres

Nadine Franjus-Adenis stands in front of a giant screen with her profile on itIn 2011, I wrote about the Université de la Vigne et du Vin extensively on my vineyard’s blog.  It’s a fantastic conference organized and operated by locals in Aude, and we’re very lucky to have this kind of initiative homegrown in our own backyard.

While the Universite de la Vigne et du Vin tries to bring challenging speakers to the area to make presentations in a somewhat academic format, the organizers also host follow-up events in a more casual format called “Buvons un coup ensemble”.  Two events with the BUCE format are coming up this Friday, one for the Corbieres and one for the Minervois.

The theme is:

« Communiquer, vendre et réussir sur le Net
Concret, efficace et pas cher !!»

So, communication and online sales.  I’ll try to keep my opinions entertaining and short.  And the other speaker noted in the invitations is Francois Druel

The date is Friday January 20, 2012

The time is 9h30-13h30 for Corbieres at the CIVL in Narbonne

The time is 18h00-20h30 for Minervois at the Château St Jacques d’Albas in Laure-Minervois

Corbieres BUCE details

Minervois BUCE details

I’ll be there with bells on.  If you’re reading this, then you’re already involved with the Internet to some degree and I highly encourage you to come to one of these events.

 

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Gerard Bertrand – Winery of the Year

The Wine Enthusiast, a leading Amercian wine magazine, recently named their European winery of the year for 2011.  And the winery is Gerard Bertrand in the Languedoc Roussillon.   I’ve been meaning to write about Gerard Bertrand for a while now, and this might be just the kick in the pants I needed.

The short version

A lot of the visitors to this site are skimming or looking for very specific information (pairing suggestions, tasting notes, etc.) so I have to put this up at the top of the page for the sake of clarity.  This post is a story about getting to know Gerard Bertrand.  It might get a little long winded, and the subject is complex.  If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the short version:

Gerard Bertrand is a complicated cookie. It’s easy to criticize him (his organization is so big that it makes a bigger target), but he’s actually a stand up guy.  I had a relatively negative impression of him when I first came to the region, but I have really come around despite my prejudice against big business, economies of scale, and government subsidies. I still don’t know him very well, but I think he’s good people.

Now that’s a super simplified version.  I really hope that readers will take a few minutes to read this whole article.  Because regions like the Languedoc Roussillon are being shaped every day by a handful of people like Bertrand.

Obviously, it takes the communal work of every grape-grower and winemaker in the region to make the Languedoc Roussillon run.  But there are a few point men (and point women) who lead the charge in their own ways and act as poster children for the entire region.

After spending a few hours with Gerard Bertrand, I feel like people don’t give him enough credit for being a good guy.  They give him credit for being a keen business man, or a shrewd investor, a good schmoozer, and lots of other things, but I don’t think many people ever tried to convince me that he’s just a nice person.

So that’s what this is about.

Gerard Bertrand’s Reptuation

Here’s the excerpt from the Wine Enthusiast:

European Winery of the Year

Gérard Bertrand, Gérard Bertrand
Both landowner and partner of the best winegrowers in the South of France, Gérard Bertrand manages over 325 hectares of vineyards across varying Languedoc terroirs. He fully understands the movement toward expressive, well-balanced and elegant wines that remain accessible and affordable.

When I first came to the region, this was exactly the kind of award I’d expect Bertrand to receive.  Last year, it went to the Portuguese winery responsible for Mateus.  And in a three line bio of the man, you mention he’s got over 300 hectares around the region, maybe with a qualifier like “accessible and affordable” (which is sometimes a euphemism for “sells to supermarkets”).

And the first few times I ran into Gerard Bertrand, it was at trade fairs (ViniSud 2009 and LIWF 2010).  In both situations the retired rugby legend was wearing a suit (which might have emphasized his height and gaunt frame to make him look more than a little imposing).  He seemed a little curt with the people around him.  I mistook this for self-importance, and I projected a lot onto the man because of assumptions I tend to make about large scale producers.  I was always willing to admit that his wine was solid, but I never really gave the guy a chance.

I visited Cigalus, his flagship biodynamic estate, and enjoyed a Bertrand-guided tour.  It was neat hearing him talk about the vineyard and his operations.  Here’s a short clip where he talks about long term changes in the wine world and the generational time scale of winemaking:

Hearing him talk about perspective and patience started to convince me that he might be a lot cooler than I originally thought.  But at the same time, these kind of tours are often put-on.  I wasn’t 100% convinced yet that he was being genuine.

The real Gérard Bertrand

At the jazz fest Bertrand promotes on his primary vineyard, l’Hospitalet, I got to spend more time with him.  And I saw a totally different side of the man.  He was laid back and in his element.  A serious but friendly man who clearly enjoyed sharing a nice moment with the people around him.

The only thing I posted from the jazz fest was a helicopter ride over the Corbieres and Massif de la Clape.  Admittedly, that is very bling bling.  And it’s very generous of him to fly me around like that.  But that is not what I’m referring to when I talk about sharing.  At dinner, he had old neighbors around the table, other winemakers, silly American winemake/bloggers, and so on.  He wasn’t just automatically fulfilling the functions of a host.  He was hanging out with his neighbors.  And he was being really nice to everybody.  And really honest too.  There were some moments of frightening intimacy in the conversation.

There was one point when Gérard talked about the fires that had ravaged the Massif de la Clape in recent years.  This is probably worthy of its own post, but I’ll explain briefly that grape vines play an important role in stopping the spread of fires on the Mediterranean coast.  Bertrand advocates planting more vines on the Massif de la Clape as a way to limit the destructive fires we saw in 2010.  You should have seen the look on his face when he talked about that 2010 fire.  He spoke of the smell of burning leather and smoke as he and his friends ran up and down the massif trying to steer the fire away from a nearby village.  Okay, this is starting to sound like an Ayn Rand novel.  But maybe that’s appropriate. :D

I don’t know if this post achieved what I want it to.  I don’t want to pretend Gerard Bertrand is my hero or that he is going to save the Languedoc.  I just wanted to explain how I was skeptical about his character and it turned out he’s nice and seems like he has very good intentions.  We actually have a lot in common and I feel pretty bad that it took me several years to get to know him a little.  And I’m not important enough to name him European Winery of the Year like the Wine Enthusiast did.  But maybe what I can do on this blog is tell you that he’s a stand up guy.  I’m happy that he’s one of the point men for the entire region.

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Helicopter over Corbieres and La Clape

Oh boy. So I got to fly over some of my favorite places in the Languedoc in one of Gerard Bertrand’s helicopters. Naturally we started and ended at two of his vineyards: Cigalus in Boutenac Corbieres and L’Hospitalet in La Clape. The journey took me over the northeastern portion of the Corbieres, the etangs (type of marshland) around Bages and Gruissan and the Massif de la Clape.

These are all landmarks that define the department of Aude in the Languedoc. These are some of my favorite places, and it was great to see them from above.

The big thing to take in is that the Languedoc and Aude in particular has a varied terrain with lots of peaks and valleys, plateaus, hills, and so on. These differing reliefs run right up to the coast and provide a wonderful backdrop for planting grapevines. They drain well and they create many different microclimates in close proximity. The Languedoc is a land of diversity!

I traced the approximate helicopter route on google maps if you want to follow along.

I also tried to caption a few photos from the ride so that you can be more certain of what you’re seeing when.

The landmarks in the video that people ask about most are the pink rectangles near Gruissan’s beachfront. Those are salins or salt pans where sea salt is harvested from the brine that is left behind after the sun evaporates sea water. The pink color comes from a microalgea called Dunaliella salina. Not all salt pans have this beautiful shade of pink and most fleur de sel I’ve seen in other regions retain a sort of grayish color rather than the pink one.

Enjoy the pictures and video! I hope you all get a chance to experience the massive beauty of the region one day.

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Visiting Vineyards in Corbieres – Top 5

I’m really pleased about how many winemakers in the Corbieres are sponsoring and attending VinoCamp Languedoc on March 19th, 2011.  And after tweeting about the appelation’s enthusiasm, Jamie Goode asked “Which would be your top five corbieres producers for punters to visit?”

twitter screenshot of jamie goode asking about corbieres vineyards

I love the question and I think the answer is worth writing up on this blog in more than 140 character and a slightly more searchable format.  A big thanks to Jamie for asking.

Keep in mind that these are not the only domaines in the Corbieres.  They’re not even my personal top 5 since many of my favorite places are more fun for the engaged wine lover and less fun for your average wine drinker.

This is a list of 5 that are perhaps best-suited for your typical “punter”.  British slang which, to me, implies that the visitor is not a wine professional but just a curious person on vacation who enjoys the occasional glass of wine.  And if anybody gets offended that I didn’t put them on the list, they can always just email me.

Top 5 Corbieres Producers to Visit

  • La Voulte Gasparet, Boutenac – Boutenac is one of the grands crus of the Languedoc now, a special subsection of the larger Corbières.  La Voulte Gasparet is a family estate that receives people for tastings with regular opening hours.  You can also peek around their barrel room if you ask nicely.  While you’re in the area, you might also try to drop by Domaine Fontsainte.  These are estates where you’ll taste with the actual winemakers.   Some other famous properties in the area like La Forge (one of Gerard Bertrand’s) don’t open the doors to the general public :-ç  but you can always try to call and arrange a tasting.Château la Voulte Gasparets
    11200 BOUTENAC
    (0)4 68 27 07 86
    chateaulavoulte@wanadoo.fr
  • Chateau Le Bouis, Gruissan – Le Bouis is a gorgeous estate in the northeast of the Corbieres.  You can see La Clape from their vines, but they’re still technically Corbieres.  They’ve got a restaurant, rooms, and lots of concerts and animations during the summer.  Also, proximity to Narbonne and the beach make this an easy destination for people to plan into the itinerary.  I don’t know what the winery tour is like since I just get tend to get distracted by the restaurant and beautiful landscapes.Route Bleue
    11430 Gruissan
    (0)4 68 75 25 25
  • Domaine Baillat, Montlaur – This is probably the most authentic independent winemaker on the list.  It’s hard to pick just one since the Corbieres has literally hundreds and hundreds of independent producers.  But Christian Baillat speaks English, German, French and even Occitan.  He’s a quirky, organic producer and he participates with WWOOFing programs that bring kids in from overseas to learn about winemaking.  You’d best call ahead.31, avenue de Malbec
    11220 Montlaur
    (0)4 68 24 08 05
  • Castelmaure, Embres & Castelmaure – Since this question was inspired by me fawning over the famous cooperative, I would be remiss not to include them.  But this is going to be a gift shop tour.  That means you go into a nice room where they hold tastings (and it will be conveniently close to a cash register).  If you’ve got a group of 10 or more, you can call and make a reservation to visit the actual winery.4, route des canelles
    11360 Embres & Castelmaure
    (0)4 68 45 91 83
  • Mont Tauch, Tuchan – Another popular cooperative, and another gift shop tour.  Again, groups of 10 can call ahead to get a winery tour.  There are interactive displays and videos all around the shop, free tastings, and that ever present cash register.   The strength of these co-op tours is that they’re unintimidating.  You go in and taste.  You don’t have to say anything clever as you sip through their wines.  If your toddler starts to throw a fit, you can always just leave.Les Vignerons Du Mont Tauch
    11350 Tuchan
    (0)4 68 45 41 08

Google Map

corbieres wineries map

Not really a producer, but…

  • Terra Vinea, Portel – You might be thinking this is more than 5 recommendations.  But honestly this last one isn’t a recommendation so much as a mention.  Terra Vinea is a tourist destination devoted to wine.  I cannot recommend it as I have never been.  But here is a promotional video that you can watch.  You will quickly determine whether it is the place for you.

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