Gérard Bertrand highlights the potential of the Languedoc fine wine offer

Languedoc winemaker Gérard Bertrand is pushing ahead with his dream of creating a Languedoc Grand Cru at his Clos d’Ora estate that can rival the best estate in the world.

The director of Bertrand’s estate, Richard Planas, laughs as he calls the Clos d’Ora project a “crazy project” on db recent visit to the vineyard.

The 9 ha estate in AOC Minervois La Livinière, bought by Bertrand in 1997, has the potential to produce around 150,000 bottles of exceptional wines, explains Planas, “an iconic Languedoc”.

“It’s a work in progress, but we’ll get there,” he said.

The unusual estates lie on a geological fault line that straddles limestone, marl and clay soils, which were once subject to seismic changes that caused it to change direction and orientation. This has created a “magical terroir”, says Planas, which “cannot [fully] be explained scientifically.

“It’s a perfect terroir,” he says, emphasizing the contrast between the white limestone on one side of the hill and the “millefeuille” of clay and sand on the other. Bertrand and agronomist Jean Claude Jacquinet have subdivided the estate into seven plots, guided by soil, topography and terroir, which also takes into account the orientation and adaptability of each variety, depending on the impact weather and sun on it. Particular attention was also paid to planting density and the spacing between pruning and rows which is important for the development of the vine, says Planas.

Planas explains that the natural assets of the site have been “amplified” by the choice of grape variety to get the best from each grape variety in this particular terroir.

For example, very old, goblet-formed Carignan vines are found in the clay soils on the winding road to the winery, complemented by newly planted Grenache Noir, the variety also gracing the drier soils above. The south-facing hillside, facing the Minervois and Corbière beyond, features terraces of Mourvèdre, an early and late-flowering variety that likes heat and warmth, as here it can avoid the cold northerly winds that blow. descend from the Montagne Noire and cross the Region.

Meanwhile, the Syrah – “a kind of grumpy vine that otherwise collapses in espalier or cordons” is located on the unusual limestone ridge on the other side of the hill.

The estate is also on the edge of the Languedoc-Rousillion Mediterranean climate – and the cooler, cooler temperatures bring more movement to the wines, says Planas.

The estate is cultivated biodynamically, the soil between the vines being worked by horses.

During the 2021 vintage, the vines flowered early, before the end of winter but fortunately, although the temperatures fell below 7 degrees at the end of April, the topography of Clos d’Ora, perched on the hillside, helped avoid the frost that affected other regions.

“It was a weird winter and spring, with no rain in the spring or summer,” Planas said.

According to winemaker Bastien Dutour, the harvest took place later this year, between September 29 and October 17. At Clos d’Ora, the vines are harvested and destemmed by hand, before being fermented in large concrete vats – one vat per plot – open to the weather on three sides, according to the principles of biodynamics, allowing it to to breathe.

Once the malolactic fermentation has taken place, Bertrand and Dutour make the first blends in January before aging the wines – the majority in oak barrels (80% new oak) tilted to avoid oxidation, but around 15% in concrete eggs , for 12 months.

“The shape of the eggs is important because there is a continuous movement which helps to improve the aging of the wine and means that no beating is necessary,” says Dutour.

While the final blend won’t be determined until March, the 2020 vintage currently features around 50% Syrah and 40% Grenache, along with a small amount of Mourvèdre and Carignan. The result is a velvety, well-balanced and fruity, albeit evolving, wine.

About Michael Brafford

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