With French still wine exports to the U.S. rising 14% to 12.5 million cases and 18% to $1.4 billion last year, the Languedoc-Roussillon region in Southern France has emerged as one of the key growth drivers. Languedoc-Roussillon shipments to the U.S. surged 26% to 746,000 cases in 2017, according to Impact Databank, and have roughly tripled since 2010. Leading the way is Gérard Bertrand, whose namesake label accounts for nearly half of Languedoc-Roussillon’s U.S. volume. Bolstered by the rosé boom, the Gérard Bertrand brand enjoyed substantial growth in 2017, depleting 350,000 cases on a rise of 46%. Such strong progress earned the label Impact “Hot Brand” honors.
The brand’s surging growth illustrated the increasing impact of Bertrand’s work as the unofficial ambassador of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. “I associate my brand with the Languedoc,” says Bertrand, a former professional rugby player who took over the family business in 1987 after his father’s death. “When I first started, nobody knew where Languedoc was. It’s important for me to make the link between my wines and the lifestyle of the region.” Reportedly the largest rosé producer in Languedoc, the winery’s extensive rosé stable includes the Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc at $16 a 750-ml., Cotes des Roses at $19, and GMVW—a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Vermentino, and Viognier—at $60-$70. “It’s important for us to offer a diverse lineup of rosés across a number of price points,” Bertrand notes. “We see great potential for the category all over the world and particularly in the U.S. market, which is among the most exciting right now because of its growth.”
To that end, Bertrand is releasing two new rosés this spring and summer through his Gérard Bertrand USA import unit. The first, Diving Into Hampton Water ($25), is a collaboration with musician Jon Bon Jovi and Bon Jovi’s son, Jesse. The wine is available across 14 states on the East Coast and quickly sold out to distributors. Meanwhile, this summer will see the release of Ballerina ($49), a high-end sparkling blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that Bertrand believes has major on-premise potential.
While rosé is currently the company’s top growth driver, Bertrand sees opportunities across the range, especially with higher-end biodynamic and organic expressions. “We know the biodynamic and organic category will continue to grow,” he says. The company first began to adopt biodynamic principles in 2002 and has since fully implemented them at eight of its 14 estates. “The French market is very aware of both types of wines, and we increasingly see more consumers from around the world looking for those offerings as well,” Bertrand says. As evidence, he cites the positive progress of the estate-grown biodynamic wines, all retail priced at above $35 a 750-ml., as well as the successful recent launch of Perles de Sauvignon Blanc ($16), a wine made from organically grown grapes that Bertrand says will be a significant growth contributor this year.
Aside from new product launches, Bertrand spreads consumer awareness of the Languedoc-Roussillon region through such lifestyle events as the Festival Jazz à l’Hospitalet, now in its 14th year. The music festival-dinner party hybrid has previously showcased the likes of Boy George, Earth Wind & Fire, and Norah Jones. This year the festival is set to take place from July 25-29 and will feature Seal and Gregory Porter, among other musicians. Bertrand hosts the Festival Jazz à l’Hospitalet at his main estate in Narbonne, France. “We like to promote the brand in many ways,” Bertrand says. “It’s important that we make the consumer a part of our community, and show them the lifestyle that accompanies the south of France.”