Last Friday and Saturday, June 5th and 6th, was full steam ahead at Mas Coutelou, almost literally given the high temperatures. It was time to bottle some cuvées and especially one of the largest productions, the popular Classe.
The moon was descending so Jeff thought this a propitious time to bottle as this usually brings lower air pressure.
On Friday around 2,000 bottles were filled with 2 cuvées, Blanc Frisant and Tête À Claques. The former is a white wine made from Macabeu and Grenache Gris but it’s fermentation is halted to allow some residual sugar to remain, this ferments slightly in bottle and so creates a slight spritz making the wine even more refreshing. The 2014 had around 9g of residual sugar meaning there would be spritz without creating too much pressure that a special cork would be needed.
Tête À Claques is a special cuvée made for Roberson Wines in the UK and is usually destined for restaurants such as Hawksmoor. It is made from the same grapes as Vin Des Amis with added extras and is yet another winner. When I tweeted pictures of the bottling to them Roberson and Hawksmoor were so pleased they called it Coutelou Party!
Then preparations were made for Saturday as this would be a much bigger bottling, 11,500 bottles of Classe. Work began at 7am and ended around 6.30pm, non-stop. The team worked tirelessly even as temperatures outside reached 35c. Even after all the bottling there was work still to do. Everything had to be cleaned thoroughly, the bottling line, the tank where the wine developed the pump, everything. Hygiene is essential in all winemaking but especially when using no sulphites.
The team needs some introduction. Michel is from Puimisson, has worked for Jeff for many years now and drives the team on with his knowledge of work in the vineyards and cellar. Honest, hard working and ever cheerful, Michel is a reflection of the wines he helps to produce.
Carole has featured many times in this blog with videos of her working in the vineyards, e.g. pruning and debudding. She is from the Loire and has worked in vineyards there and in other parts of France and other countries. She is a true expert, has great knowledge of wines and has great patience in talking me through the work she does. She also shared an excellent bottle of Domaine L’Ecu Muscadet Granit 2011, which was a revelation to me. In addition we shared a fantastic Cornas Brise Cailloux 2012 from Barret, fruity, long and structured beautifully.
Renaud now lives in Puimisson and has started working for Jeff regularly in the last year. He works hard, has a mischievous sense of humour and is a good man to have around. He is learning from Michel and Carole and helps me a lot too.
We also welcomed visitors to the cellar, including sommelière Sandra Martinez who brought along a very interesting wine from Domaine De Cressance in the Gard. Largely based on Chenanson, a new grape to me, apparently a cross of Grenache and Jurancon Noir. It was very good, long liquorice flavours and refreshing. Sandra and her friend Isabelle set to work with enthusiasm and became a welcome part of the team. The well known wine writer Guillaume Deschamps also called by, it was good to meet him as I have admired his writing for some time.
And of course there is the boss, Jeff himself. Passionate about his vines, his wines and nature. Tireless in working to make them healthy and top class, and doing so successfully. He knows every job, supervises his team, leads from the front. And has a great team who are loyal and willing to push themselves to help him to achieve his goals. They really are all Classe.
Meanwhile they are all very tolerant and welcoming of this Englishman doing his best to learn and to help. I do some of the jobs around the cellar, stepping in when breaks were taken for example. Hopefully I do actually contribute! It is certainly a huge pleasure for me to be a part time member of the team.
Plus there is one other member of the team who keeps us all entertained and smiling. Icare.
June 10, 2015 at 7:41 am
Interesting that the air pressure was actually quite constant until the day after the bottling when it started falling a bit. Presume the idea of bottling in low pressure is to minimise the amount of dissolved CO2 in the wine?
June 10, 2015 at 8:22 am
That would be one reason plus if you can time it just as the descending moon starts air pressure will have kept the sediments at the bottom in the tank so the wine may be clearer. Jeff isn’t a biodynamic producer as such but uses some of its ideas and certainly the idea of its calendar to plan some vineyard and cellar activities. He also looks at wind direction, a northerly wind is better as southerlies bring hotter conditions and usually higher pressure. However he is also practical. He’d called the date for these big bottling days a couple of weeks ago using the calendar. He also needs to take into account the development of the wine, is it ready, is it at its best for bottling? Classe is a key cuvée for the domaine, a top seller, he wants it to be right. And he needs to empty the tanks so that the cellar is cleaned and prepared for the harvest to come. So the date was announced so the team could be ready, it doesn’t usually work Saturdays, though Jeff does. This Saturday was hotter than ideal for sure but having got the team together and the wine being ready it was time to go.
That’s a long winded way of saying yes it’s technical, practical and a touch of the mysterious too. I can say that having tasted all 3 cuvées which were bottled a few days later they have all come through the process well, the wines are trademark delicious, yes I’m biased. Bottling is a shock to the wine, it needs time to recover and pull itself round afterwards but the signs are promising.
Finally there are still wines in cellar but small bottlings, these will be done when atmospheric conditions are deemed correct so one or two have been postponed a few days. Then there is work to do to get the cellar pristine and actually some physical changes which I shall describe in July after completion.
Thanks for your interest, hope I’ve answered your question or raised more 🙂
June 11, 2015 at 8:26 am
I’m interested in your mate Jeff’s wine for the shop. Is he already distributed in Pézenas do you know? If not, is a sample bottle available of what you think is his more “commercial” stuff if that makes sense.
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