The South of France — Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence — has over the past decade been establishing itself as the most-exciting "new" old region of France. This is especially true with red wines, where combinations of grenache, syrah, mourvedre, and carignane have yielded good to excellent wines at often bargain prices.
Gérard Bertrand, headquartered in the coastal region near Narbonne, has become increasingly well-known for giving us terroir-driven choices from his estates throughout Languedoc and Roussillon. These four new releases — all priced at $20 or less — are similar, yet different. All are full-bodied with good fruit, moderate tannins, and good acidity. Even though they are all approachable now, they can all blossom a bit if decanted for a 30 minutes before serving. The only caveat is that a couple of them are somewhat soft and less-structured in the middle body.
However, readers who are interested in learning about reds from this region might want to buy all four wines at these prices for a good comparative tasting.
The 2009 Gérard Bertrand Saint Chinian (about $20), a blend of syrah and mourvedre, is a light soufflé of blueberries and chalkiness with some strawberries thrown in. There are soft tannins around the edges.
The 2009 Bertrand Corbières ($15) — 40/40 grenache and syrah with 20 percent mourvedre — is my favorite of the lot, a bigger, burlier wine with dark aromas and flavors of ripest blueberries and black raspberries and a touch of balsamic. It is very well-integrated and quite drinkable now but will get better after two to three years in the cellar.
The 2008 Bertrand Minervois ($15) is appealing as a savory wine — less fruit, more herbs, hints of dried leaves, and not as complex. From Roussillon comes the 2008 Bertrand Tautavel "Grand Terroir" ($20) made of half grenache, a third syrah, and the remainder carignane. It is fruit-forward even after four years — somewhat dark in tone, but dark in a red-fruit manner.
There are a variety of meat dishes that would match all these wines, but I personally would start with a sausage-heavy dish of cassoulet with a thick crust of breadcrumbs!