It has been a stormy week in the Languedoc and the weather has certainly disrupted the plans of vignerons in the region. Tragically five people were killed in a flood in Lamalou Les Bains and that event puts winemaking into perspective. However, the fortunes of wine growers and makers have also been hit by such extreme weather. Driving past Pézenas up the A75 on Thursday swathes of vineyards were under water on the low lying plains. The humidity also means that where grapes are left to pick there is a real risk of disease and even rot. I was talking to the excellent winemaker Emmanuel Pageot this morning as we visited Gabian for the jour patrimoine and he was explaining how complicated such problems have made the harvest. I was invited to join Emmanuel for a tasting soon and I will definitely report here on his latest wines. They are amongst my favourite wines of the region but I shall try to be objective.
In Margon Wednesday saw thunder and lightning and sheets of rain non stop through the day. Yet, in Puimisson, where Jeff lives and has his vineyards there was only a small rainfall, a reflection of the dry year there which has caused the smaller harvest. Normally Jeff would harvest 200-250 hectolitres from his 4 hectares of Syrah grapes, this year that production is down to 145 hectolitres. This means less wine, of course, and also a lot more thinking on his feet as smaller quantities mean that he has to decide which of his wines he uses the grapes for. Therefore it seems unlikely that there will a cuvée of 7, Rue De la Pompe this year as the grapes are needed for other cuvées. The quality of grapes is high though, for example the Syrah which is going into the Paf cuvée is concentrated and finer, partly due to a miserly production of only 25 hl per hectare.
Other grapes have been small in size and so because there is a lot of skin and pips compared to juice the wine needs to be blended with other fuller grapes. Jeff is also thinking of introducing new cuvées to use what he has. Cinsault, for example, has done well this year so offers new possibilities and there is also the possibility of producing a cuvée which Jeff’s father used to make. I will write more about that as the year develops and decisions are finalised.
As picking was on hold at some points due to the weather Tuesday lunch was more leisurely and Jeff had more time to relax and talk. He recounted a French fairy story The Chaud Doudou. Basically it is about sharing and how everyone feels better for having done so.
Jeff went on to share an Occitan proverb which translated means “What you give flourishes, what you keep to yourself perishes” and I think this sums up Jeff Coutelou’s wines, he shares his skills and his passion for the land and for nature. The title of this post are the words he uses to describe his winemaking philosophy; grapes, work and love. To produce such high quality wines he needs the best grapes, he works tirelessly and he instills endless love into the wines he produces. If you think that sounds far fetched then try some, he is telling the truth.
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