amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc


Leave a comment

Coutelou crew

20170209_180815

l-r Me, Vincent, (Icare in front), Julien, Carole (with Maya) and Fabrice

Version francaise

One of the greatest pleasures of being involved at Mas Coutelou is the friendships which are formed with people from all around France and the rest of the world. There is a core group of local people who work most of the time with Jeff at Puimisson, notably Michel and Julien. However, many others come along from week to week to spend time with Jeff because they love his wines and, of course, Jeff himself.

My recent visit was typical. Carole who has worked for many years on the domaine was there to prune the vines alongside Julien. Vincent, a former teaching colleague of Jeff’s was also there, learning the job of vigneron and winemaker as he has planted his own vines in his native Béarn. Fabrice arrived, who harvested Cabernet Sauvignon in Segrairals one day with me in 2015 was back to help plan an event later in the year. Céline (who helped to pick the Grenaches I am making) and her husband Brice were around for a few days too. And Jérom arrived.

p1020332

Jérom(e) is a fascinating guy, a skilled metalworker who has made racks for the large format bottles in Jeff’s own cellar (what he calls ‘the library’) and was here to add finishing  touches to the new rooms in the cellar, the office and tasting room. He explained to me how he loves working with iron as it comes from the earth and, like a vigneron, he is working with natural things. I look forward to seeing his finished work when I go back, it will certainly add a touch of class.

Julien and Vincent also shared their own wines, Puimisson is a training ground for future star producers. Julien showed a white and red, I was really taken with his Chateau Des Gueux white last year (Julien’s first vintage) from Terret and Clairette grapes. The 2016s promise to be even better. Vincent had taken the juice from the grapillons of his new vines and though high in acid there was plenty of Manseng character already present.

p1010694

James

Whilst there I also heard from James who worked the vendanges last year. He is back in Australia and a proud new father but also about to produce his first wines. As I said Puimisson is a crucible of winemaking talent.

I am very fortunate as yet another incomer from outside the area to have made such great friends who share a passion for wine and, especially, the wines of Mas Coutelou. There is a truth in the belief that wines reflect their producer and the open, warm friendships surrounding Jeff are a parallel of his wines.

20170128_211231

Jeff surrounded by friends


2 Comments

Le Vin De Mes Amis – a sparkling event

mes-amis

Le Vin De Mes Amis is the biggest of the offline events in Montpellier. It takes place at Domaine De Verchant, a luxurious hotel providing a very good lunch as well as the dozens of producers. Labelled a natural wine event, it actually includes many biodynamic and organic producers who do not make natural wines. There were many good wines available to taste, however, I would admit that, overall, I was slightly underwhelmed this year in comparison to the 2016 event.

There were some very good still wines notably:

Maxime Magnon (Corbières) – Magnon is a producer who Jeff recommended to me a few years ago and though I have had one or two of his wines this was the first occasion I had been able to taste a few together. Every single bottle was very good, white and red. The round white fruits of the Grenache Gris, the deeper Rozeta and Campagnès (all 2015) but especially the Métisse 2016 with delicious light, clear red fruit flavours of Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. The star of the show.

3d16c818-4292-4c09-aabd-423c45052136

Christophe Pacalet (Beaujolais) – classic fruity Beaujolais wines but with some complexity especially the Julienas and Moulin À Vent (both 2015), the latter with darker fruit flavours, the former so very drinkable.

ac81c8dd-d38f-4d19-a8c2-589a349734d4

Olivier Cohen (Languedoc) – a young producer whose wines were very drinkable, especially the Rond SNoirS made from Syrah and Grenache with lovely round fruit flavours and some depth.

ba09710a-b2b2-4433-9219-4ff421480e5d

 

Chateau des Rontets (Pouilly Fuissé) – an organic producer with lovely clear wines, classically Pouilly Fuissé especially the minerally, zesty fruits of Una Tantum 2015 an assemblage from all parcels.

74541a10-9072-447c-9ad9-22424374583c

Domaine Vacheron (Sancerre) – one of the first domaines I visited in France many years ago, now a celebrated biodynamic producer of very clean and lovely Sancerre. I liked the range, especially the Guigne Chèvre 2015.

There were a few disappointments along the way I freely admit, including some well-known producers. However, what really made the event fizz was the range of sparkling wines. These are not usually my favourite types of wine at all so to have a number of such bottles amongst my favourites of the week’s tastings was a surprise to me. From Champagne to PetNat and, especially amazing to me, Limoux. Let me explain the latter point first.

I have stayed in Limoux a few times, I have tasted many Blanquettes and Crémants from there. Virtually all have been disappointing, lacking flavour and length. When my friends Benoît and Nicholas told me to try the wines of Monsieur S I was highly sceptical but they were correct and I discovered my favourite wines of the day along with those of Magnon. The white and red still wines were good but it was the sparklers which shone. A vibrant non dosage Blanquette showed lovely white fruit flavours; the Rosé De Saignée with just a little red Pinot Noir fruit and, especially, a delightful green apple Crémant (100% Chardonnay). These were far and away the best Limoux wines I have come across. Well done Étienne Fort, the producer. However, that would not be to give them enough validation, these are top class sparkling wines from any region.

54e90424-5eb3-4e1c-a398-a28884b632e6

Champagne Jacquesson – very good champagnes with a clarity of fruit and minerality, I really liked them but Cuvée 735 (based on the classic combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) was my favourite with more evolved flavours from the base of 2007 wines.

Champagne Clandestin – biodynamic since 1998 but this was a new range to me and a lovely discovery. This seems to be a group of producers with Vouette et Sorbée as the principal one. There was a depth of fruit and fine mousse and I really enjoyed them all including the non SO2 Saignée De Sorbée 2012. Stars were the cuvées Fidèle, a 2014 of Pinot Noir with round, ripe Pinot Noir fruit and Blanc D’Argile a pure Chardonnay with an amazing (and delicious) rhubarb flavour, very clean and fresh.

Jousset (Montlouis) – Producers of very good still wines but it was the PetNats which were the stars. Mosquito had a very grapey flavour with a nice clean finish. Then two cuvées called Ėxilé, a rosé and a white, both were lovely. The rosé had lovely ripe Gamay fruit and a very dry yeasty freshness. The blanc was even better with vibrant, clean Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc fruit, a wine to simply enjoy.

It was these sparkling wines, along with Magnon’s, which left a lasting impression and would be top of my list to buy. Le Vin De Mes Amis is a great event in a beautiful setting which caters for its attendees with real style.

fa5f3309-3377-4d21-b9af-4dcbfa7619b4

Reflecting on a good day with a glass of .. water

 


2 Comments

200

 

 

20170208_224559

Version française

This is the 200th blog post of amarchinthevines.org. For the 100th post I wrote about the making of a wine which Jeff Coutelou encouraged me to make in celebration. It was based on the three types of Grenache (Noir, Blanc et Gris) which grow in Rome vineyard. The wine was then put into three separate containers; a younger barrel (60l), an older barrel (30l) and a 27l glass bottle.

IMG_2423

I have reported on their development in previous posts and, in particular, about the influence of the three containers. The older barrel has been used many times before and is almost  airtight, so, the fruit in the barrel is still youthful. The younger barrel shows more wood influence as the staves are less sealed and, therefore, there is more contact with the air. The wine tasted slightly less fruity and has a drier flavour. The glass bottle took much longer to finish fermentation and the wine tasted much more like new grape juice, full of fresh red fruits and still sweet as the sugars remained in the wine awaiting the completion of fermentation.

P1000771

Old and new barriques showing clear difference in October 2016

Well, on February 8th it was the day before my birthday and Jeff, as so often, was very generous in making  a bouillabaisse for our dinner and a lovely bottle of Boulard Champagne ‘Les Murgiers’ (the very cuvée I wrote about in my review of Les Affranchis in blog post 199!)

He suggested that we should re-taste the wine so that I could report on its development and make each century an update. So, as the hour approached midnight we were in the solera cellar and the tasting began. The wines tasted much rounder and more complete than the last time I tasted them in October, we discussed the possibility of bottling in early summer when I return to Puimisson. The two barrels showed the same influences, more fruit from the older barrel, more complex, secondary flavours from the newer barrel. The biggest change was from the glass bottle, still very fruity but much less residual sugar as fermentation has completed. This wine is now rounder, it is real wine rather than fermenting juice.

20170208_225324

The glass bottle

Then, in yet another act of incredible kindness, Jeff went into the family cellar and found a bottle of wine from birth year. The 1959 was a Muscat De Frontignan which Jeff thinks was gathered by his grandfather when he worked for an agricultural company, possibly the domaine of the owners of that company.

I have never tasted a 1959 wine before and when it was opened it delivered a delicious depth of old Muscat, deep brown in colour and deep, raisiny fruits which lingered long on the tongue. Just as the memories of a special night will linger long in my memory.

 


4 Comments

Les Affranchis 2017

affranchis

Two of the main salons of the year take place in Montpellier in January, Les Affranchis and Le Vin De Mes Amis. Both are based around natural producers though there are other producers present who follow organic or biodynamic methods but who do use SO2 in their wines.

Les Affranchis (The Liberated) meet at Chateau de Flaugergues, happily this year the event was back in the main rooms of the domaine rather than the marquees of 2016. The Sunday was relatively quiet and it made it easy to get around and talk to the producers as well as taste their wines. Though some were familiar, Jeff Coutelou and Olivier Lemasson for example, there was plenty of opportunity to meet producers whose wines were new to me.

0b2b027e-8273-4907-90c5-42558ff4d98e

A familiar range

Rather than a bottle by bottle description here are my highlights from Les Affranchis:

La Busattina (Tuscany) – completely new to me but what an impression. The white San Martino was lovely and came in two forms, the traditional and the longer maceration which I actually preferred with cleaner, direct fruit and acidity though both versions were very good. Legnotorto 2012 was a Sangiovese of real cherry fruit and impressive length, and the Ciliegiolo 2008 was even better showing the value of aging these wines with truffle, cherry and round flavours. It was pleasing to hear other friends also praise these wines, the real highlight of the day.

Kumpf et Meyer (Alsace) – I am a fan of Alsace wines but this was a new domaine to me and quickly became a favourite. Julien Albertus presented an excellent range from a lovely fresh PetNat, top still wines and a delicious sweeter wine. Favourites were a Crémant of Chardonnay and Auxerrois plus a Pinot Noir Weingarten 2014 of lovely fruit and depth. I never thought an Alsace Pinot Noir and Crémant would be highlights of any tasting so these were a lovely surprise. Best of all though was the Riesling Westerberg 2014, classic Riesling flavours with a freshness and drinkability all too rare. I shall be looking out for Julien’s wines in future.

d9933c68-0018-467b-93da-b616cf1fbfd6

Binner et Cie, Les Vins Pirouettes (Alsace) – yes Alsace again. This is a range of wines where Christian Binner has enabled young producers to move away from the co-ops and bottle their own wines. There was one producer, Stéphane, whose wines shone here. His Tutti Fruti, a blend, was lovely classic Alsace wines but the single cépage Riesling Bildstoeckle, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer were all just lovely, marked by freshness, fruit and flavour. The Riesling was top class and Gewurz is a grape I find difficult but was delicious. Prices are very affordable too.

More familiar wines which again proved worthy of a place at the top table came from:

  • La Ferme Saint Martin (Rhone), a long term favourite of mine and this time it was the Beaumes De Venise Vieilles Vignes 2015 and the delicious Le Blanc 15 which took the prize
  • La Sénéchalière (Muscadet), proving how the region has really moved on and is producing top fruity wines of distinction. Favourite cuvées were the well named Miss Terre 16 and, especially, the longer macerated Nuitage 15.
  • Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme (Touraine), more lovely, fresh Loire white wines from all across the river’s length. Lovely Melon De Bourgogne 16, round apple and pear fruits made from grapes bought from the Landon family. Very nice Pouilly Fumé 15 of real minerality and clean fruit and lots of other good cuvées too.
  • Boulard (Champagne), lovely wines, champagnes of real freshness and length. Les Murgiers was my favourite cuvée and came in two forms, non-dosage and 5mg dosage. Both had their merits though the former had clearer floral notes and a zesty finish.

Other wines I really enjoyed were:

  • Les Roches Sèches (Anjou) – Pentes Douces with a lovely, dry fruit and a well-judged touch of sweetness from Chenin Blanc
  • Tetramythos (Greece) – Muscat Sec 15, fresh and grapey
  • La Paonnerie (Anjou) – Les Champs Jumeaux 15, a lovely Chenin Blanc, clean, fresh and mineral; Loire white wine at its best

 

  • Rémi Dufaître (Beaujolais) – Côte De Brouilly 16, darker fruit and lovely Gamay, joyful
  • Chateau Meylet (Saint Ėmilion) – the 2010 showed the benefits of age for this lovely wine. I had forgotten how good Bordeaux wines can be and this has freshness and very deep fruits. The other vintages were good but this was lovely.

6aa32647-a908-485c-9ac3-28e62cfd4a87

An excellent event, relaxed atmosphere, great producers and not too crowded. I missed out on some other top producers as always at any tasting, however the wines above and many more made for a lovely day. Surprises in the form of enjoying Crémant and St Émilion, variety from Greece and Italy, favourites from previous years – liberating.

9245f926-0175-4e83-a81a-c0401c34d7a2


7 Comments

Vinisud 2017

bandeau_fr

En francais

January and February see wine fairs, or salons, appearing regularly including some of the bigger events. For some reason best known to themselves two of the larger fairs, Millésime Bio and Vinisud, fell out and decided to hold their events simultaneously, meaning that Millésime Bio moved to Marseilles from its usual Montpellier home. However as Many of the offline events remained in Montpellier I decided to attend those and Vinisud. (It was announced on Feb. 4th that a rapprochement has been found and next year will see both events back in Montpellier).

Vinisud is a huge event, 900+ producers from all around the Mediterranean gather and professional wine buyers, cavistes, restaurateurs and journalists make appointments with them, it is big business. For someone like me, who cannot offer to buy thousands of bottles it is a little daunting so I prefer to attend some of the help yourself areas such as the sparkling zone which is self- explanatory. Sadly, there was little of any real interest for me in this zone, some neutral Limoux and Proseccos which offered nothing exciting. Sadly neither did the Picpoul zone really offer much of interest.

19

There was also the Palais Méditerranéan where hundreds of bottles from some of the producers are available to serve yourself. If a bottle appeals then you can always pop along to the stand of that producer. I tasted almost a hundred wines here. Some decent white wines from:

  • Crouseilles co-op (Pacherenc du Vic Bilh)
  • Chateau Estanilles (Faugères), Inverso 2015, nice use of wood to add complexity
  • Jacques D’Albas (Minervois), Blanc 2013, fresh and zesty
  • Frères Laffitte, Côtes De Gascogne 2016, really well balanced demi-sec
  • Domaine Barreau (Gaillac), Caprice D’Automne 2014, nice clean, sweet wine

And reds from:

  • Dondona, ‘Chemin Des Cayrades’ 2014, a nice, fresh pure Carignan (Montpeyroux)
  • Cébène, ‘Ex Arena 2015’, (IGP Pays D’Oc from Faugères), fresh, full fruits
  • Mas Champart, ‘Causse Du Bousquet’ 2015 (St. Chinian), soft red fruits

22

My favourite area was that of Wine Mosaic, an organisation which promotes rare and unusual grape varieties. Again, you can serve yourself wines from unusual and rare grapes from Turkey, Greece, France etc. A real opportunity to try something different and to promote the growth of these cépages oubliés. Mollard, Viosinho, Sidalan, Kotsifali were just some of the cépages I had never even heard of before. Ironically, it was the very familiar Carignan which provided my favourite wine produced by Domaine Nizas near Pézenas.

I did also attend some producer stands notably Mas Des Capitelles, the Faugėres domaine which I really like. The Laugé family have converted to organic production in the last couple of years but they have been making classic Faugėres for many years. They reward patience in bottle developing real complexity and maintaining an admirable freshness. They are big, well-structured wines but they remain balanced between fruit and power ensuring you can enjoy them in the short or long term. My particular favourite is the Carignan based Loris 2013 but other older bottlings of special vintages (cuvées such as No.1 and No.2) are a real treat and deserve the multiple awards they garner.

Corvezzo is another domaine which captured my attention and admiration at the 2016 event, like Capitelles. This large Prosecco producer (125 hectares of vines) is again organic and, unlike any other Prosecco I have tried, these cuvées have depth, fruit, freshness and length. They hold their own against many champagnes. The Extra Dry, for example, has lovely spice and lemongrass notes, very good. They also produce some lovely white wines such as Manzoni and their Pinot Grigio Ramato full of fresh fruit flavours.

23

Even better was an amazing red, Rosso Riserva, produced in Amarone style with dried Robosa grapes and had great flavours and aromas of dark fruits along with a leathery complexity and which built in the mouth long after drinking the wine. A truly excellent wine.

8

The other stand of interest for me was Les Beaux Nez Rouges, a group of natural wine producers under the umbrella of oenologue Hervé Chabert. I declare an interest as I know some of these producers quite well, eg, Regis and Christine Pichon of Domaine Ribiera, Grégory White, David Caer (Clos Mathélisse) and Lionel Maurel (Mas D’Agalis). Hervé kindly gave up half an hour to lead me through tastings from Ribiera, Domaine Henry (St Georges D’Orques) and his own wines, Wine Drop.

Ribiera is a favourite of mine and wines such as Causse Toujours 2015 shows lovely fruit with some complexity. The Cartagène was also dangerously drinkable. Top on the day though was La Vista 2016 a pure Cinsault of lovely sweet fruit with a touch of tannin too. Lovely.

Domaine Henry was new to me and I really liked wines such as the fruity Paradines 2015 (not yet bottled for sale). Fascinating was a cuvée called Vermeille (pictured top left) which is a saignée from all the cuves of the year, ie they run some of the juice from each tank – sounds mad but it is an old practice in the region and Vermeille was light, fruity and delicious. Equally of interest was Le Mailhol 2015, a complantation of old Languedoc cépages which gave lovely fruit with a touch of raisin to add complexity.

Hervé’s own Wine Drop bottles were good, Cuvée No.5 2014 had lovely Cinsault red fruits with a touch of body from some Grenache. Grenache to the fore in No.6 2014 which had lovely aromas and a touch of spice and fruit. The 2013 No.4 had more structure and shows how well natural wines can develop with time, good balance of fruit, power and complexity.

20

Vinisud offered a very interesting day for me after the offline events I had visited the previous two days. There is much to offer the visitor from classic wines to natural, wines from all around the Mediterranean, business opportunities, masterclasses, seminars and the chance to match wine and food amongst others. A valuable day in my wine education.


3 Comments

Fair Play

En francais

The numerous salons at this time of year bring into play various tactics when attending. Faced with dozens, even hundreds, of producers at the wine fairs where do you start? I look though the list in advance and highlight some I must visit, but things never work out so smoothly in situ.

Take Le Vin De Mes Amis an event featuring dozens of very good producers with organic, biodynamic and natural backgrounds from France but also Italy and Spain. Here is the website with the list of producers. Now, there are dozens of great winemakers listed there and I have only a few hours to get around. So, strategy time.

ec4e7d96-33aa-4f46-9282-f8143a94388f

Get there early

  1. Random chance – just go where the fancy takes me on the day, often because there is nobody else at the stand / table of that particular person. Some of my best discoveries have been like that, Corvezzo at Vinisud last year, Casa Pardet at La Remise. Sure enough the day before this event I tasted Chateau Meylet from Saint Ėmilion at Les Affranchis purely because he was next to a producer I had been tasting at and happened to have nobody there, and I really liked the wines even though Bordeaux, especially Merlot based Bordeaux, would never have been my usual choice.
6aa32647-a908-485c-9ac3-28e62cfd4a87

Chateau Meylet

2. By region. Faced with so many wines how can I get a really fair comparison of the quality of the wines when I am comparing a tough Cahors with a light Loire Gamay? One method is to try to select a region and try wines from different producers so that house styles emerge, eg Alsace wines taste different from Bott Geyl, Albert Mann and Hausherr. The problem here is that most salons have winemakers scattered all over the room(s) and it becomes difficult to track them all. The Real Wine Fair in London was a notable and welcome exception where regions were grouped together, I found that useful.

3. By style of wine. When I first attended wine fairs I used to try to taste whites in the morning, reds in the afternoon. Reds do become more difficult as tannins begin to coat the mouth. These days I find that that mixing things up and tasting a range from one producer at a time, through the different styles, helps to keep me fresher.

4. By selection. As I said I look through the list of producers and pick out ones that interest me most. That might be because I have tried them before and really like them and I want to taste the new vintage. It may be a name I have had recommended to me and wish to try for myself. The problem here is moving from one stand to another and finding that everybody wants to try Barral, Foillard and other big names, time is lost and patience required. Often these producers are so pressed that they simply pour and move on to the next person without any real opportunity to describe the wine and its provenance, something which is part of the pleasure of a salon.20170130_134143

In the end my strategy is … not to be too bound by a strategy. Go early, try to get in first to the producers you really want to meet and then play things by ear as you see gaps, empty stands. By all means work your way through the list you made but accept that it may not be possible to taste all of the wines and that there will be another day.

Etiquette at the fair (based on real incidents in Montpellier)

20170129_152042

The best behaved attendee, Icare

  1. Please don’t wear heavy perfume or aftershave and then stand next to me at a wine tasting, your smell is much less interesting to me than the aromas of the wines I am tasting.
  2. Just because you are a representative for a big buyer does not mean that you should barge though and demand to be served and never mind the poor sucker (ie me) who is waiting his/her turn
  3. If you are spitting into the provided vessel please bear in mind that as I stand behind it I would rather not have your saliva / wine sample splashing all over me
  4. Please, don’t have a conversation with someone else about your night out last evening whilst standing at the front of the stand and there’s a queue of people behind waiting to taste the wines. As a mild mannered Englishman I will smile and say “Je vous en prie” when you finally move over but inside I am fuming at you.
233deba7-bdd2-41ba-bfc1-78b5f064277a

Pleasure of talking with Thomas from La Ferme Saint Martin

5. Wearing light coloured clothes and then spitting red wine is a mistake, I often make it.

6. Getting into your car to drive when you have been drinking the wines, not spitting them, is just wrong.

0b2b027e-8273-4907-90c5-42558ff4d98e

I have seen this range before somewhere

Salons are great, they are fun, educational, social. But they can be frustrating, even stressful. I need a glass to chill out before La Dive Bouteille this weekend.

fa5f3309-3377-4d21-b9af-4dcbfa7619b4

Is that… water?


Leave a comment

Return to Mas Coutelou – in the cellar

Version francaise 

p1020310

As pretty as the vineyards are, even in winter, it is the main cellar at Mas Coutelou which attracts attention this January. The continuing modernisation of the cave continues apace. Last year saw the relaying of much of the floor, new stainless steel tanks to replace some of the very large fibre glass ones and the introduction of a new mezzanine built on ironwork. On this level some of the cuves are stored but now there is the addition of two new rooms made from wood. These will form a new office for Jeff to work from (freeing up space in his own home) and, also, a tasting room with bottles laid out for visitors to try and buy. The old windows mean there will be plenty of light and air in here, as well as a good view over the village and countryside. A good view of those of us working down below too!

The cellar has changed so much in the last 3 years, all to make the winemaking more manageable and, now too, the admin side of Mas Coutelou moves forward. Not that the admin gets any easier, Jeff spent two hours on the phone the other day on a minor issue!

p1020301

Meanwhile, there were two main jobs being done in the cellar. Habillage of more 2015 wines (Buvette À Paulette, Classe and Flambadou) with Jeff, Michel and Lucas hard at work.

Then, Julien and Carole returned from pruning as the rain had started again They set to work preparing sample bottles for the salons which will dominate the next two weekends, in Montpellier and Saumur. The 2016 wines are still some time from going into bottle and so samples are taken to give clients a chance to taste how the wines are coming along. So, golden opportunity to taste 2-3 wines from cuve, with the Carignan (Flambadou) and one of the Syrahs really shining. With Michel, Carole, Julien and Vincent all there it really was a gathering of the Coutelou clan. And more friends will arrive this next two days as people gather for the salons. Of which, more next time.