Southern France, 1 (big) region, 6 wines

I went to a tasting last Friday that offered various wine from Gerard Bertrand, one of the main producers in Southern France. He’s a bit of a media darling, having graced the cover of Wine Enthusiast under the headline “Southern France’s Leading Man” complete with a picture of him with flowing locks and boyish good looks.

Anyway, he produces a lot of different wines, from a vast collection of vineyards and regions spread around the central part of Southern France, around the cities of Narbonne, Montpellier and Perpignan and his production is structured in ranges, including an organic wine range called Naturalys.

At the tasting I went to we had access to wines in the Terroir (focused on a region), Grand Terroir (focused on smaller, more defined appellations) and Reserve Speciale (variety-based) ranges. Here are my quick impressions

Cremant de Limoux : $12

cremant de limoux

Started off with the sparkling. Cremant is a generic word for French sparkling wines. Usually made with the same techniques than champagne, cremants can be found in various regions: Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant du Jura). This one is made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac, it was nice and refreshing, an easy alternative to champagne.

Terroir Picpoul de Pinet : $12

gb picpoul

Made entiterly from the Picpoul variety. I never tried this grape and I ended up finding the wine a little flabby, lacking some acidity to give it structure. Nice pear notes but it remains my least favorite wine of the tasting

Reserve Speciale Viognier : $15

viognier

One of my favorite grapes, very aromatic, lots of white peach, apricot and white flowers, great value for money if you like Viognier.

Reserve Speciale Pinot Noir : $12

GB pinot noir

I always have my doubts about warm climate Pinots, they tend to be overly jammy for my taste, not this one. Apparently the grapes are grown on the highest part of the vineyards where the temperatures are a bit cooler which preserve enough acidity for the wine to function. You still get ripe fruit but not overwhelmingly so, very enjoyable, a twist on regular Pinot Noir that will not make my Burgundian ancestors roll in their graves.

Grand Terroir Pic Saint-Loup : $17

gb pic st loup

I actually wrote a full review of this wine a few months ago. I stand by it, it’s easy to drink and I would still call it a slut of a wine, but I use the term affectionately. It’s a classic GSM wine (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre)

Grand Terroir Tautavel : $13

tautavel

This one comes from the appellation Cotes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel. Another solid red wine. Blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Lots of ripe red fruits with a little bit of spice. Nice body and tannins.

All the wines have decent value for money, except for the Picpoul which I didn’t care for. It seems that Gerard Bertand is focusing quite a bit on the US market so most of these would be available stateside. Gerard Betrand has a lot of different wines, what is listed there is but a small sample. Sound off in the comments if you had some of his other products.

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Tasting Notes : Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Pic St-Loup 2010

Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Pic St-Loup 2010

Region: Pic St-Loup, Languedoc, France

Grape: blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache

Price: around $20

PSL

I had my friend who works in the wine industry over for dinner the other night and, since I didn’t have any dessert ready, we decided to have wine as dessert instead. My stock of red wines was limited and I chose the Pic St-Loup because I thought it would be a good conversation wine. Pic St-Loup is a specific sub-region of the vast Languedoc region in Southern France. Languedoc is traditionally known for producing a lot of simple, cheap, easy to drink wines even if recently the overall quality has been rising and smaller sub regions like Pic St-Loup have been established. The region produces mostly red wine and the varieties are centered on the GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) trilogy.

Eye: very deep ruby

Nose: Clean, intense. Well, hello jammy fruit! Plums, prunes and blackberry, I also detected a hint of thyme, very Southern France flavors

Palate: medium acidity, medium body, low tannins, short finish

I’m going to start by saying a very snobby thing, but I promise, if you bear with me, I will explain and it won’t sound as bad once I’m done. Deal? Ok here it goes. This producer exports a significant part of his production to the US, and you can tell he caters to a perception of what Americans expect from a wine. This Pic St-Loup is a very easy to drink, very enjoyable and ultimately very forgettable wine. It has very little tannins, very little structure and almost no staying power at all. From the first sip on, it’s pure fruit, very well rounded, very simple and, I think, very efficient. Languedoc wines can be a little harsh with high alcohol but this wine is very well rounded and goes down easily. A third of the wine is aged 9 months in oaked while the rest is kept in vats and the two parts are then mixed together to produce a smooth, fruity result. By design, this wine is easy to drink.

Food pairings: As I said, this wine was my dessert. I think it would work well with dishes that include herbes de Provence. Lamb chops grilled with thyme come to mind for some reason.

Overall opinion: My friend called it a slut of a wine. It gives you everything right away without making you work for it. Instant gratification that ultimately leaves you not totally satisfied. This Pic St-Loup is enjoyable, but it is not interesting.

 I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, sometimes easy to drink and accessible is what you’re looking for. Ultimately that’s what it comes down to: what are you looking for? If you want a wine that will change your life, challenge you and make you see God, then this is not your wine. If you want to sit back, relax and just have a glass of wine then, by all means, have some of this Pic St-Loup.