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Talking with Jon Bon Jovi on Crafting Rosé

Forget Bad Medicine—the iconic rock star and his son have teamed up with renowned French winemaker Gérard Bertrand to create summer’s new go-to rosé: Diving Into Hampton Water. Managing Editor Lauren Buzzeo spoke with the trio to get the skinny on the Languedoc sip made from Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah.

Gérard, Jesse… Jon? Bon Jovi? Jon Bon Jovi? What do I call you?

Jon: Just one long word… JonBonJovi. [laughs] Jon would be nice.

So, Jon, have you always been into wine?

Jon: As a consumer, yes. It’s my beverage of choice. Never imagined we’d someday be in the wine business, but it’s really all I drink. I don’t drink any hard alcohol.

And no beer?

Jon: No.

Has it always been that way?

Jon: Many, many years. Many, many, many years. Unless you’re at a Yankees game eating a hot dog… so it’s very rare. But I’m a wine enthusiast.

Did you just admit you’re a Yankee fan?

Jon: Yes!

Oh… okay. This is gonna get good. So, can you remember, what was your first a-ha wine moment?

Jon: Oh my goodness, probably discovering Italian reds in my youth. You know, pretending to be cultured. Anything more than a twist-off cap in my youth was considered cultured. But with time, age and experience, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel most of the world, and so whether it was the South of France or Italy, Australia, Africa, there’s great wines all over the world. So I’ve had the opportunity to taste quite a few.

Jon Bon Jovi's rosé
Photo by David Fritz Goeppinger

Were you familiar with any wines from Languedoc-Roussillon prior to this partnership?

Jon: Yes, I was. As a matter of fact, that’s how we were led to Gérard. When Jesse came to me with the idea a good 18 months ago and then when we seriously started taking it into consideration last June, we had been quite familiar with Gérard’s wines because they’re sold in East Hampton, where our home is, and so I was very familiar. And then, through a mutual friend and associate, that’s how we were ultimately introduced to him and, you know, built upon that to be here today.

Are you admitting you drank Gérard’s rosés in the Hamptons over Wolffer? [lots of laughter] That’s a big deal, Gérard, you have no idea.

Jon: One has to support the locals too, you know!

Jesse, you and your dad starting exploring this brand idea after drinking what you called lots of “pink juice.” Is that how you were first introduced to wine, or did you have an introduction prior to your pink juice days in the Hamptons?

Jesse: No, that was really my introduction. I mean, I’m only 23 years old, so there’s not quite the long, many years of drinking wine for me. But, you know, most of the wine that I have enjoyed has been rosé, and that was really kinda my first stepping stones into the wine world. It’s always just been something that we’ve had around and, like my dad said, there’s always been wine around the house, but yeah, rosé was kinda my introduction into it and then now, spending time with Gérard, getting a lot more of an education on the little details that go into it, has been absolutely amazing.

Were you drinking a lot of rosé at Notre Dame?

Jesse: Surprisingly, out in Indiana, it’s kinda hard to get your hands on any type of good wine, so, honestly, it was a lot of beer back at school. But when we’d be out in the Hamptons and…St. Barts, we were always drinking rosé, that’s really all that we had. And I enjoy it because unlike a beer or something like that, you can start drinking this at noon and you’re not gonna fall asleep at four, you’re not gonna be full and feel sick. You can drink this all day long and kinda carry on about your day, which I think is pretty nice and something that we really focused on when we were making this, because we wanted something that was drinkable, we wanted something that was light, we wanted something that we would be proud to share with the world, and I think that we really have created it.

Jon Bon Jovi's rosé
Diving into Hampton Water / Photo courtesy of Villa Casuarina

Is that the reason you really wanted to create this brand? Because you liked rosé and you wanted to create one of your own or are there potentially other things you wanted to explore in creating this brand, or opportunities or successes that this brand could help you achieve?

Jon: I think there’s going to be opportunities for us to grow upon the brand. The brand is strong. The name was strong. And then the label, the first iteration of the label, was truly art. And then with education, we realized we couldn’t quite do what we presented, which was a shrink wrap, which was a very detailed kind of look, but in our education, have learned that while the shrink wrap concept, with the lady diving from the water into wine, was a great idea, it looked great on the wall, so we had to realize that paper labels was the way to go. But the brand name, we realize there’s a lot of opportunity with and I believe that we’ll be able to grow upon our first offering.

I read that you were familiar with the Cote d’Azur from your travels, but had never been to Languedoc-Roussillon prior to this project. Is the connection what made you go there and how did you specifically connect with Gérard on this project?

Jon: Like I said, we were consumers, and we enjoyed his wine. Côtes des Rosés, for example, was the rosé of choice in East Hampton. And, through a mutual friend, we were introduced to Gérard. I was introduced to him over the telephone. I pitched him our thoughts, and he said I like the idea, if I like you guys as much as I like the idea I can either produce it or import it or partner; let’s see where our relationship goes. And so, we began a relationship and Jesse went over to Languedoc and then a couple of months later I was able to go over to Languedoc and we talked constantly in the last eight, nine, 10 months over the phone, the computer, and then I went over with my wife and our wives, you know, our families all hung out together, and we got to this place. So no, I had not been to Languedoc prior, but I had been throughout the region, you know, whether performing or as a guy on vacation or to people’s homes.

You’re a guy on vacation? You do that?

Jon: Yeah, once in a while.

So, when you spent the time together and you got to know each other, did you know sort of immediately that this was going to work?

Jon: Without putting words in their mouths, I think that the truth is, yeah, because we loved what Gérard’s catalogue of wines were, and I think that he reacted to our concept. And then, he was also willing to educate us, so this blend was done by the three of us in his blending room, like literally with the eyedropper and the test tube, so this isn’t a white label that he had in some back room. We really put a lot of passion into creating this blend, so we could be proud of it. This isn’t a celebrity vanity project.

Bon Jovi performing
Photo courtesy of Villa Casuarina

I think that’s an important distinction. What was that experience like for you? The blending trials, the tastings, I know it’s a lot.

Jesse: Yeah, I mean, one, it was incredibly educational. Normally when we try wines, we go, oh!, and there it is. But literally, we walked into the room and there was 20 bottles laid out with all different grapes and from different places and to have Gérard say, okay, take a sip of this one and now your mouth is gonna salivate, and you go, yeah, it did! Take a sip of this one and there’s a little bit of this spice. And literally, like my dad said, we laid out a bunch of glasses and it was all different varieties and blends and we said, okay, we like this one and this one and this one, and then it was okay, we like this one and this one. And to watch him, you know, to watch the master at work, and he’d go, okay, now try it, and then a couple more drops of this, okay, now try it, a couple more drops of this, now try it, and to really go through that and to see not only the passion that goes into it, but the science that goes into it, and the exact surgical measurements that go into it, I think it was really educational to us and it was amazing to see him at work. It was incredibly enlightening.

Jon: It’s not dissimilar from making a record. Because, you know, there’s the instrumentation—when I’m in the studio mixing, the difference between turning something up one dB [decibel] or not could change the entire feel of the record. So as we got closer and closer to the blend, and then Gérard said nope, wait just a second, literally took an eyedropper and it was a couple more drops of this and a couple more drops of that, that was the nuance that [was like] when I’m in the studio, putting a little more high-end on the cymbals. And that’s when we all walk away, when you say, There’s the record. There was the one.

Gerard, as a supporter and lover of the arts, I’m sure you were thrilled with the idea of working with Jon Bon Jovi and his son. As a winemaker, what did you endeavor to express in the bottle to symbolize that harmony between music and wine?

Gérard: For me first, as Jon mentioned, it was important to meet the man behind the culture and the music and song. We like to make and to create new products, but when you create a partnership, especially for wine, you need to develop a friendship before. Wine is, my father taught me, a thousand and one details, and of course, we have a culture of excellence, so we didn’t want to create just a rosé because we don’t care and I don’t care for that.

We don’t need endorsement. What we do need is to create friendship and to have a long-term vision about this project. Of course, the first time Jon and Jesse proposed to me the concept with the diver, I loved this concept because I loved the idea to change water into wine, it’s very interesting because it’s very symbolic. And then, also, it was important for me to understand their expectations, and we agreed to make a superpremium rosé. That means a rosé that we could drink all day but also a rosé that would fit perfectly with food… I want to see them very proud about the wine, because they put their heart and their soul into this project and I have done the same. That’s [also] why I said no, I won’t make the blend by myself, I want to see you coming to the South of France, making the blend, to spend time together, go in the vineyards.

We visited the city of Carcassonne, we visited different estates, and we enjoyed two days together with our families, and then I said okay, on Saturday morning we will do the blend. And of course, we spent more than three hours to work on this blend, and we changed the blend with one drop, because that’s the way we work. We are very happy because everything has been aligned and when you see the balance of the diver you can feel the balance into the glass of wine. We have selected the best grapes and also we aged 25% of the wine in oak to have a long finish. This is like a song—you need to start well, you need to have beauty in the middle and to have a fantastic finish. That’s why also we are connected, because, I think, music and wine business, it’s emotional. That’s why we like to spend time together and to enjoy this project, because of course we need to connect the two different cultures, between the French culture and the American culture, and of course, wine is the best way to connect cultures and to connect people.

Do you find parallels between the Hamptons and the beaches of Narbonne?

Yes. I think you have many places in the Hamptons, especially one called Surf Lodge, and when I go there, I feel like I am in Roussillon facing the Méditerranée. Because of course, we can feel the same experience, especially for the sunset, we have a beautiful sunset and in the Hamptons, it’s the same. At the end of the day, people who come to the South of France, they understand the culture and the lifestyle, and when I was for the first time in the Hamptons, I recognized it. The people are peaceful, happy, which is important, especially in this world.

Could there be another expression to come in the brand’s lineup?

I think we need to be focused this year on this project, because it’s important, and it’s a big world. And then, we will see.

From left to right: Jesse Bongiovi; Jon Bon Jovi; Gérard Bertrand
From left to right: Jesse Bongiovi; Jon Bon Jovi; Gérard Bertrand / Photo by David Fritz Goeppinger

So, Jon, you’re known and loved as a Jersey Boy… maybe Diving into Jersey Shore?

Jon: Born and raised in New Jersey and obviously strongly identify with New Jersey, but I also have lived in Manhattan for the last 10 years, I’ve had a house in the Hamptons for 15, so that’s really my home. It’s the place where all my four children were brought up in their summers. So the Hamptons are our summer home, and the city our home. I am born and raised in New Jersey and obviously very strongly identified by it, but you know how it is… New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, we’re all really the same at the end of the day, divided by a tunnel or a bridge, that’s all.

Will Diving into Hampton Water be the official rosé of the This House is Not For Sale tour?

Yes it will! And I know a place where you can get it—my dressing room!