In our continuing exploration of the rich diversity of terroirs in the Languedoc-Roussillon through the wines of Gérard Bertrand, we move from the Tautavel of Cotes de Roussillon and travel a bit north to the more expansive AOC of Corbieres.
Corbières is the largest AOC in the Languedoc and is sub-divided into separate arondissements and cantons, with some of those being elevated to AOCs in their own right (Boutenac most recently). The soils range widely from small pebbles to sandstone, marl, and in the higher elevations, limestone and schist.
Most of the wine production is red, with small percentages of rosé and even less white produced. Combine the diversity of land and soils with the complex requirements for varietal planting and blending, and you have a wide range of possible styles, with the constant usually being a given blend of three or more varieties.
The primary requirement for reds here focuses on what is planted; Corbières requires at least two of the major red varieties to be grown. The principal red varieties are Carignan, Grenache, Lledoner Pelut (similar to Grenache), Mourvèdre and Syrah. However, when it comes to the blending, greater latitude is shown. In practice, many of the producers use Grenache and Syrah as their base varieties, with the third choice putting a significant imprimatur of style on the final blend while still adhering to the traditions and regulations of Corbières.
With the Grand Terroir Corbières, Bertrand poses an intriguing proposition of both typicity and style, and leads to an inevitable comparison with the aforementioned Grand Terroir Tautavel. Where the Tautavel was Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, the Corbières is Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre! The differences are profound.
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Corbières 2010 is a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre---and the Mourvèdre here makes all the difference in the world. The fresh fruity vivacity of Grenache is instantly apparent; the plump blueberry and considerable sturdiness of Syrah fills out the fruit component while giving some structure; and the Mourvèdre adds that essential deep, dark, fresh-plowed-earth and wet leaves and mushroom funkiness, like the difference between boeuf bourguignonne and beef stew, like thick chunky-chewy preserves rather than jelly.
There is a distinct sauvage quality to this Corbières, something deep and dark and not-quite-tamed. It’s the Call of the Wild in a wine bottle. And it is irresistible.
This is, in the vernacular, a fruit bomb of a wine---but not at all in the way of a New World fruit bomb, because it’s not tricked out with lavish vanilla milkshake oak; it’s very much an Old World style of fruit bomb, a “Paulaner All Fruit” style with a little animale, relying on tannin and acidity for its underpinnings, a wine fully reflective of its Languedoc origins.
Next we’ll tackle the formidable Gérard Bertrand Cigalus, an impressive estate wine in Pays d’Oc clothing.
Gérard Bertrand Wines are imported by Wine West LLC in Sausalito, California.