Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Making a silk purse out of the proverbial sow’s ear is part and parcel of any winemaker’s toolbox. For starters, wine is made from fruit – and nature has much to do with its quality. In a difficult vintage, the winemaker’s skill can spell the difference between a bottle that is merely mediocre and one that is magnificent. Combine this with the myriad problems that are encountered during the winemaking process – stuck fermentation, the challenge of color extraction, prevention of oxidation and a host of other headaches – and it is clear that oenology is not for everyone.
As if grape growing and winemaking were not challenging enough, 2020 ushered in the COVID pandemic. Although consumers built retail and online wine sales as they stocked up on lockdown libations, wineries took a hit as restaurants and tasting rooms were shut down globally. But undaunted by the doom and gloom, some wineries somehow managed to turn the pandemic into an asset.
Jean-Christophe Mauro is the proprietor of La Chapelle Bérard, a 68-acre organic winegrower in Saint-Quentin-de-Caplong. He is a maverick whose estate also happens to be located in one of the most traditional regions in the world: Bordeaux. In November of 2020, Mauro unveiled Test Covid, an irreverent take on COVID-19 and one of its signature symptoms, the loss of smell. The minimalist label sports bold red print and is unapologetically modern in its presentation.
Chapelle Bérard’s unusual approach to labeling is driven by Mauro’s belief that Bordeaux needs to modernize its image and reconnect with wine drinkers around the world. He states that “it is very important for our appellation to show people that it can blow the dust off its image. When you look at labels of Bordeaux, they have barely changed over the last fifty years. There are five diagonal rows of vines, a chateau and gold/silver gilding. We have not moved on, but society has.”
The first release of Test Covid sold out in a matter of weeks and a new vintage was released shortly thereafter. The winery has also released a second “post-pandemic” label called “À Chacun Le Sien” (One for Everyone), this time poking fun at the slow rollout of the COVID vaccine in France. Regardless of one’s impression of Bordeaux, the results of Chapelle Bérard’s bold experiment speak for themselves.