amarchinthevines

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


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Vendanges, values and valued

still

             Photo courtesy of #QCQBM (see below)

Version française

There will be one more vendanges diary entry as the parcel of Muscat awaits, ready to make some sweet, delicious wine. However, after a month of work, the grapes are nearly all gone. Their juice lies quietly fermenting or sulkily just waiting in the tanks. So what have I learned from this month of effort? Well, reflecting on it I remembered last year’s vendanges and a video. Both are linked below. The title I used then seems, a year later, the right one so no apologies for using it again, though in French this time.

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                                           Now That’s What I Call Grapes 2015

 

The main feature has been the grapes themselves. It was not the easiest year for growing in terms of weather. Strong winds at flowering damaged some vines, a real heatwave for a month in June/July with months of dry weather too, then rain just as harvest began. There have been moments of doubt, it has been a slippery road as this Pézenas road sign suggests.

slippery road

The berries were small and perhaps lacking in some acidity as harvest approached and then the rains threatened rot and damage. At times the tri had to be severe both in the vineyard and in the cellar. And yet. I remember beautiful bunches of Syrah, of Cinsault (almost 1kg in weight some of them), Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat. In particular I remember some champion Carignan and magnificent Mourvèdre. Much needs to be done with vinification but, happily, the wines they produced are already showing the same quality, promising some great 2015s.

Syrah from Segrairals

                                      Syrah

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Even when the juice was in the cuves it misbehaved at times, like naughty students in a classroom. There were moments when volatile acidity threatened and then when acidity was low. Through it all Jeff kept his head. And I recall his words at the time, “Il faut avoir la confiance en les raisins” / “You have to trust in your grapes”. No clever tricks, no resorting to sulphur dioxide to act as a safety net – just have faith that the work that has been done in the vineyard over the last years and recent months will bring healthy grapes which will make healthy wine. The pruning (taille), ploughing (labour), careful spraying at 3 in the morning – all of this effort leads to the grapes being able to produce high quality wines. Like a winner of the Tour De France you don’t just turn up on the day, it takes months of planning, training and hard work, so too the vigneron who produces top quality wine. And that faith has been rewarded, any problems have sorted themselves out, with a guiding hand from time to time.

Getting to the heart of the vine

                            Taille (February)

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                              Labour (March)

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         Filled cuves containing the 2015 wines                                                  (September)

That means hard work and this is the second lesson I have learned. The vendanges are hard work. There is a glamour to them. As an enthusiastic wine amateur I often used to think how nice it must be to take part in the harvest. Sunshine, grapes, drinking wine – idyllic. The reality is all of those things but it is not all idyllic; it is back breaking, physically gruelling, hard work. Picking means bending over vines, insect bites, whilst trying to not cut your fingers instead of the grapes. In the cellar, long hours of standing to sort grapes, lifting and carrying heavy cases and twisting around with them, sometimes in confined spaces. The heat above a tank is tiring and sweaty. The drenching as you clean everything again and again. And I worked less than most. Add in all those hours of vineyard work, the background work in sorting the equipment, labour, paperwork and then the pressure of making the right decisions – you have to love this job to make a success of it.

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            Bent backs (Martin and Céline)

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    Standing for long hours while sorting (Karim     and Cameron)

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          Twisting to lift a cagette (Michel)

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Confined space, hot, back breaking – Thomas, Cameron

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     Soaked, Cameron, Michel and Thomas                cleaning

And love is the third and final part of my lesson. The love which Jeff has for his vines and his commitment to making them the best they can be in order to produce the wines which people around the world will love. It is no coincidence that during the harvest we welcomed many friends who arrived to spend a few days with us, to play their part in the vendanges. They do so because they love the wines and they are friends of Jeff. He makes his wines to share, the best wines are those which you share with other people. Le Vin des Amis! Copains! the names of the cuvées tell a story.

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Remember the story of the Chaud Doudou from last harvest? Well, I have been lucky to share the experience of the vendanges with a fantastic group of people over the last month. The camaraderie and friendship are part of the process of making the wine. And that spirit vanquishes any aches and pains.

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         My boots join the team (a proud moment)

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        Happy times

So, grapes, work and love. And if you don’t believe me, have a look at the video on this link to the excellent #QCQBM website. It is in French but the message is clear. Grapes. work and love.

Des raisins, du travail et de l’amour – Jeff Coutleou

 


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Vendanges Diary #7 – London Cab

Version française

This was the final big week of harvest and it centred around Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a big parcel (around 1.5ha) of the grape in Segrairals and it is not a variety which really excites Jeff for a Mas Coutelou wine. It has done especially well in 2015 though the small berries have swollen with the rains and the alcohol levels had therefore fallen a little to around 14%. They taste sweet and juicy and came in fantastic bunches, not the same size as the Cinsault and Mourvèdre from this vineyard, but small and healthy nonetheless.

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Cabernet Sauvignon on the vine in Segrairals

Cab Sauv2

                              Cabernet Sauvignon

Part of it was picked on Monday 21st September which will be used by Jeff, purpose as yet unknown though Cameron may be flexing his winemaking muscles with some. The other major work on Monday was to use the Muscat d’Alexandrie grapes from Peilhan which were also in good health.

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         Muscat d’Alexandrie

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They have very thick skins so the pressing took longer than usual to extract the juice. They were mixed with some Muscat À Petits Grains grapes. I will come back to these grapes and the juice later in this article.

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      Michel loads the Muscat into the press

Muscat pressed

               Muscat juice after pressing

Tuesday 22nd was the big day for the Cabernet Sauvignon. I have explained before that Jeff sells most of these grapes to London Cru, an English winery as the name suggests. London Cru buy grapes from around Europe, eg Chardonnay from Limoux, Albarino from Rias Baxas, Grenache from Spain. This is the third vintage of the project and the grapes were ready at last. In 2014 they had been ready on September 4th, my first day at Mas Coutelou after our move to the Languedoc. This year the rain had delayed them so Gavin and Alex flew into Béziers on Monday evening. They had been in Italy on Saturday and only just got back to London before flying here. The refrigerated wagon was in situ as I arrived on Tuesday morning, waiting to be loaded with the grapes.

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Confidence was high amongst the London Cru team after some very good reviews including one last week by Dr. Jamie Goode who gave the top mark (94/100) to the Cabernet Sauvignon using Jeff’s grapes. The fruit for 2015 should bring more high marks and good wine. We tasted the 2014 over lunch and it was very good, clear, direct fruit with ripe tannins which mean that the wine will be at its best in 2 to 3 years.

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                Alex and Gavin loading the grapes

Gavin, Alex and Jeff directed and led the picking carried out by the Moroccan team as usual but also by Cameron and myself together with two excellent new additions to the team in Fabrice and Romain. Fabrice puts on shows (spectacles) around France whilst Romain is an artist. They have picked here before and were good fun and hard working, more new friends. (Fabrice on the left, Romain to the right.

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After picking the 6 tonnes or so of grapes they were driven straight off to London under refrigerated conditions to keep them fresh. Gavin and Alex flew back to London that evening ready to receive them at their base. London Cab, fine fare.

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                  Fine bunch of Cab I picked

Lunch was excellent with the London Cru wine and a magnum of Flambadou 2014 which was excellent, still in its infancy but already drinking well. Afterwards Cameron and I did some pigeage of the Carignan grapes amongst others. It was also Cameron’s birthday, hopefully it was one he will remember with affection.

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Birthday boy Cameron looking for his present

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        Pigeage of the Carignan

Wednesday 23rd was a day for working the cellar. Jeff was keen to aerate the Syrah a little and to start to maximise the cuves by assembling some of the tanks and filling the new ones. Thursday saw similar work whilst Jeff also did some admin work.

On Friday 25th I returned to the cellar. Cameron was enjoying a well earned break and so I joined Jeff and Michel. They were continuing to fill the tanks, aerate some wine and then we moved to the muscats from Monday.

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                       Aerating some Syrah

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Muscats macerating with a little older Muscat wine

The Muscats are destined for the solera system and after a few days maceration they were showing lovely aromas, already slightly sherry-like due to being mixed with some older wine. The juice went straight into barrel whilst the marc was pressed again to extract more juice and flavour. Tasted straight from the press these included lovely apricot, plum fruits along with the slight oxidised note which adds complexity. Truly delicious, I’m afraid my description fails to do it justice.The barrel will allow the wine to age and gain contact with oxygen and the wine will develop into a luscious sweet wine. As stated previously I shall write more about the solera in the near future.

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Michel removes the skins for pressing

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     Michel then loads the press

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               Gateau de Muscat

There are one or two small parcels still to pick but the main harvest is now over. It began back on August 21st so lasted just over a month. I shall be reflecting upon it and the lessons I have learned from it in the next article. Meanwhile I look forward to picking the Muscat from Rome and went to the vineyard on Friday lunchtime to take some photos. I was met by a family of partridges, butterflies and birdsong – Rome really is a magical place. In La Garrigue the vines are starting to show their autumnal colours, their work is done for 2015. The vines have given everything to their fruit in the last month and the leaves which remain after harvest are looking tired after a long, hot summer. All, or nearly all, is safely gathered in. 

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La Garrigue, Friday. The grass across the centre marks the ridge with Grenache near side and Syrah far side.

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Grenache leaves showing that autumn approaches, harvest is over

Rome on a beautiful autumn day

                   Rome on a beautiful autumn day

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Luscious Muscat bunch

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Berries shriveling and concentrating the sugars

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    Jeff seems to approve of the London Cab


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Vendanges Diaries #6 – Mystery, Mourvedre and Flambadou

Mourvedre 17th

Version française

The storms which brought so much rain to Puimisson and the Languedoc on Saturday meant that there would be no picking on Monday or Tuesday the 14th and 15th.

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             Preparations for cellar work

Instead Jeff, Michel and Cameron were hard at work in the cellar for the two days. There is lots to do there so it was an opportunity to get everything on track. Lots of remontage, sous tirage etc. On Monday the 14th the Syrah which was to be made with carbonic maceration was pressed after its few days in tank with the fermentation inside the skins.

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                     The Syrah being pressed

The video shows Michel in the cuve moving the grapes to the front where Jeff forks them into the pump. You will see the grapes moving through the pipe into the press.

 

By Wednesday 16th the weather had turned much clearer and good winds meant that the grapes and soil were beginning to dry out nicely and so picking recommenced. The centre of attention was Rec D’Oulette known locally as Chemin De Pailhès and the Carignan grapes which grow there. These are the grapes which make the excellent cuvée «Flambadou», perhaps the outstanding wine of 2013 (and Jeff tells me of 2014 too). The bunches which arrived were excellent in quality, so fingers crossed for another great wine.

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                         Picking the Carignan

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                                    Carignan

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                         The Carignan in tank

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          Analysing the Carignan

Meanwhile cellar work continued as Cameron carried out more remontages and analyses. Today one of the wines to be moved was the Merlot which was bright, fresh and colourful.

Merlot being moved

                         Délestage of Merlot

As each wine is moved around the cellar, for example to take it off its skins, each cuve has to be cleaned thoroughly and then it will be filled with another set of grapes or fermenting wine. There is a seemingly never ending merry-go-round of wines and quite how Jeff keeps track of them all remains a mystery to me. Each move has to be planned to ensure that cuves are available, cleaned and big enough.

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                 Cleaning from the inside

As a former teacher it reminds me of planning a timetable fitting in students, teachers and classrooms into the correct combination. Add in working as a mechanic to keep all the machines ticking over and the work of a vigneron becomes more complex, the job description is long.

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              Maintenance of the égrappoir

Thursday 17th brought Grenache from Sainte Suzanne (Metaierie), again carbonic maceration was to be used so back to the top of the cement tanks. Thomas was back and he, Cameron and I shared duties up there filling the tank.

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        l-r Cameron, Michel and Thomas

Then cleaning of the cagettes ready for the next new cépage. Following the Carignan of Wednesday it was time to harvest the Mourvèdre from Segrairals. One of my favourite grapes, somewhat fickle in character but when grown by good producers it adds a complexity and depth with a hint of dark mystery. The bunches which arrived were certainly amongst the best of the whole harvest at Mas Coutelou.

Mourvedre 17th

                            Magnificent Mourvedre

 

They were clean, big bunches, the grapes with thick skins and smelling already of spice and blackcurrants. Some of the bunches were very heavy and it wouldn’t take many to produce a bottle of wine, on average you need about 1.25kg of grapes to make the 75cl of a normal wine bottle. Sorting was quick and easy, the pickers had done a good job and the fruit was in such good condition. I look forward eagerly to finding out what Jeff has in mind for these grapes, when I have asked he simply smiles mysteriously, something is afoot!

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Friday 18th brought the rest of the Mourvèdre still in tip top condition. When the pickers reached some of the lower parts of that parcel the quality did begin to dip a little so these bunches were taken away to be used separately, possibly for a rosé wine. I say possibly because final plans are a long way from being ready. Other jobs included pressing the Cinsault grapes which will make a rosé (definitely!!) and more remontages and analyses.

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                           Remontage

We were joined today by Charles, a young Frenchman who works in a restaurant in Berlin, and whose mother was a former colleague of Jeff when he was a teacher in Paris. Coincidentally his boss in Berlin was a student of Jeff! Charles added a real sense of fun and worked hard.

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                     Charles fills the press

By Saturday I was ready for a rest and so the 19th was the work of the Jeff, Michel and Cameron as they processed the last red grapes from Peilhan. Some of these will be used for blending but amongst them was the famous Castets. This you might remember is a cépage produced by only two winemakers in France, Chateau Simone in Palette and Mas Coutelou. The first harvest was in 2014 and we had watched eagerly its development. In fact we have been drinking some during harvest lunches and it is very promising, brooding with deep, dark fruit flavours and a freshness to lift it. Only 3hl was produced again this year, the same as last year.

Castets

                 Castets in tank

On Sunday 20th Jeff carried out a débourbage of the Cinsault rosé which was pressed on Friday. Débourbage means taking out the pips and skins etc to leave the juice on its own. The harvest is starting to slow down a little though much work remains to be done in the cellar. Jeff and the ‘Coutelou Gang’ will have certainly benefited from a little siesta in Sunday.

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Icare licking his lips at the great wine being made (maybe)

 

 

 


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Vendanges Diaries #5 (September 9 – 13)

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Version française

Wednesday September 9th saw further full on action. The early morning saw the only machine harvesting of Mas Coutelou grapes. This took place in La Colombié the parcel of Merlot vines. These are grapes that don’t especially interest Jeff in terms of making a domaine bottled cuvée but the quality of the fruit is good and they are used to make restaurant house wines and bag in box wines.

Merlot after picking

                        The Merlot vines after picking

After that attention turned to La Garrigue, the conical landscaped vineyard to the south of Puimisson. Much of the Syrah had already been picked the previous day and the remaining bunches were harvested. These were to be used for carbonic maceration again and so it was back to the top of the main cement tanks to work, not the easiest place.

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Thomas working with Cameron sorting Syrah

Tuesday had seen the arrival of two new faces to support the team as I described in Vendanges Diaries 4. Thomas was working with Cameron in sorting the Syrah whilst Karim assisted Michel in ferrying the cagettes to and fro. The team usually rotates these jobs so that people get the opportunity to try all aspects of vendanges as well as the chance to stretch your back and legs!

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        Karim and Michel seem happy

Then it was time to bring in the Grenache of La Garrigue. Grenache is a cépage of Spanish origins and loves the heat so it is planted on this parcel on a slope to the south to maximise the sunshine exposure. The result here was some beautiful bunches of very healthy fruit, easy to sort and giving aromas of spice and dark fruits even before it turns into wine.

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       Gorgeous Grenache in La Garrigue

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          Grenache grapes in the sunshine

Cellar work continued with Cameron carrying out analyses of the fermenting wines. It is worth noting that the natural yeasts of the grapes have been very quick to start fermentation in tank. After a couple of hours of crouching over the tanks in the morning I was happy to be stood at the égrappoir and then to help Cameron with remontages.

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         Cameron tying himself in knots

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  Me doing a remontage of Flower Power

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Cameron and I doing a manual pigeage of the macerating white cuvée

And of course….

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Thursday 11th September continued the harvesting of the Garrigue Grenache and then Cinsault from the opposite end of the village, to the north. More good quality fruit and more hard work from the whole team.

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       More gorgeous Grenache

The pressure was on however, the weather forecast was unkind with the promise of storms possibly on Friday, definitely by Saturday. Therefore the more grapes that could be harvested before the rain the better. It was full speed ahead though no let up in terms of sorting the grapes and ensuring the quality of the future wines. We were assisted by the arrival of Céline and Delphine the nurses from Bordeaux who I mentioned in ‘Centiment de Grenaches’.

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                        Cinsault being pressed

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           Must after pressing

There was a famous advert in the UK for tinned fish by a company called John West which said, “It’s the fish John West reject that makes John West the best”. Well that works for Mas Coutelou too. The Moroccan pickers by now were much more attuned to the strict quality demands of Jeff and were sorting the fruit, leaving any substandard grapes on the ground. Then the sorting in the cellar to check anything which did manage to get through that first tri. It’s the grapes Jeff Coutelou rejects that make Mas Coutelou the best.

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                            Rejected Grenache

Friday September 11th was the day of Centiment de Grenaches, the special cuvée Jeff suggested I make to celebrate the 100th blog post. Meanwhile more Grenache was being brought in for the regular cuvées, work continued apace as the clouds started to gather as predicted.

The night of Friday into Saturday brought 45mm of rain (almost 2 inches) as storms rumbled around the Languedoc. Amazingly some areas had next to nothing, Cabrières for example, whilst rain caused floods and the subsidence of the motorway a few kilometres away near Lodève. The 45mm at Puimisson meant 93mm in total since the start of the vendanges. That makes things more difficult of course as water covered grapes can’t be harvested for quality wines (though I noticed some harvesting in some other vineyards!). The ground is also muddy so picking becomes difficult and the biggest issue is the risk of disease and rot.

Work was therefore centred in the cellar with more remontages and analysis. The wines are now settling and need to be moved to take the juice off the skins and pips, to be pressed if made by carbonic maceration, to let them settle. Therefore the 12th and 13th were hard work as usual for Jeff, Cameron and Michel. Though you will see that it is Icare who is driving the team onwards.

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Vendanges Diaries (4) – Sept 6th to 8th

Carignan Blanc

                                        Carignan Blanc

Version française

This was the busiest week of the vendanges and required long hours of picking, sorting, pressing, remontage as well as lots and lots of carrying, lifting and often in confined spaces. In short it was hard work.

Why so busy? Well, Syrah which was the first of the red wine grapes to ripen makes up around a third of all the vines at Mas Coutelou and Grenache, the next to ripen, is also the next main cépage with up to 12% of the harvest. Together this meant that around half the 2015 harvest would be picked this week. Add in other smaller picking and the parcel of Merlot and this was definitely the crunch time.

Sunday September 6th was a day of rest for most but Cameron and Jeff were in the cellar working as usual, carrying out checks and analyses and remontages as necessary.

Monday 7th was a long day at work. It was around 8.45pm before we stopped. Syrah in Segrairals makes up around 2ha in total, though as with all land there are some prime areas whilst other vines, around the edges and in a few hollows where water gathers, are not of the same quality. In a typical year these would go towards cuvées such as Classe and 7, Rue De La Pompe but, as ever, plans are fluid.

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              Superb bunch of Carignan Blanc

In addition a parcel of Carignan Blanc was harvested from Peilhan vineyard. There were some wonderful grapes and they were given special treatment, carefully sorted and then pressed using the small hydraulic press. The juice ran very clear and green and then gradually took on a slightly brown colour as it developed light oxidation. This is actually good as it helps to protect the juice later in its life and prevents damaging oxidation. Moreover, the effects of the oxidation from the pressing are removed through fermentation. Around 600l were produced in total, around 750 bottles worth. This makes a very good wine, something I was to be reminded of on Tuesday night, as we shall see.

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This was a long day but much good work had been done.

Tuesday 8th brought more Syrah to the cellar, this time from La Garrigue. These are the vines I have described before which face north on a slight slope to preserve the freshness and fruit flavours, good quality grapes which are often used for my favourite cuvée, La Vigne Haute, so I was even more keen to help to sort carefully and there were some lovely bunches of healthy fruit. Here’s hoping for a good vintage of LVH, as ever Jeff will make the call.

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Cameron unloading some Grenache Gris

Yet again another smaller harvest was done, again from Peilhan, this time with Grenache Gris. The lovely pink, grey berries are flexible in their use and might produce, white or rosé wines or be added to red wine as you will remember from my special cuvée post.

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            Grenache Gris after being pressed

Meanwhile lots of analysis of the wines in tank and work to ensure that they are in good health. This even involved Jeff removing his trousers and jumping into the Flower Power tank to do some pigeage! Modesty means that I shall not share these photographs!

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Cameron getting a sample for analysis

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The after effects

And of course there was plenty of this… (I couldn’t resist adding the tune)

A bonus was to come though. We had been joined by two new additions to the team. Thomas is from Toulouse originally but has been working as a sommelier in the Languedoc and spent most of the week with us and will return next week. Karim is a fishmonger from Tours with an extensive knowledge of natural wines. He spent the week in Puimisson and brought a lovely surprise in the form of lobsters and scallops which made a wonderful dinner on Tuesday as Karim is also an excellent cook. We shared a magnum of Casa Pardet Chardonnay to accompany the shellfish as well as two Carignan Blancs, one from Mas Coutelou and the other from Jeff’s friend Cyril Fahl of Domaine Rouge Gorge in Roussillon. It was a special and hugely enjoyable meal, thanks to Karim and Jeff for the food and wine.

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Centiment de Grenache

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Version française

No excuses for using a  French title and a misspelling too. This is the hundredth article on my blog and so a play on the word cent is justified. I mentioned to Jeff Coutelou that this post would be a landmark and he decided that it should be celebrated with something special. I had thought about a review of the previous ninety nine, a greatest hits if you will, but Jeff had something much more spectacular lined up; I should make a special cuvée from the Coutelou vines, and not just any parcel but my absolute favourite vineyard, Rome.

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This was such a lovely gift, in the middle of the harvest, a time of increasing pressure and stress, Jeff allowed me to take up time, grapes and equipment to make a special wine. How generous is that?

So it was decided to use the Grenache grapes from Rome a complanted vineyard of traditional, gobelet vines. The Grenaches were planted back in 1962 by Jean Claude Coutelou, Jeff’s father who told me about them at lunch on Friday, the day of the harvest and pressing. There are approximately 4 rows of Grenache Noir but mixed in there are quite a few Grenache Blanc vines and a smaller number of Grenache Gris. These would make a true assemblage of Grenache, a real feeling for Grenache, “sentiment de Grenache”.

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My wife Pat was persuaded to come along and do some picking along with our friends Martin and May Colfer, neighbours in Margon, and great people. They had expressed interest in finding out about the harvest and were to get first hand experience! I was also delighted that we were joined by Céline and Delphine, two nurses from Bordeaux who had come down to Puimisson to take part in harvest. It is a mark of how highly Jeff is valued by his friends that many come along to help out and I shall mention more in the next vendanges diaries. Céline had done some picking in the first week of harvest when she and her family were staying with Jeff and had clearly enjoyed it, returning with Delphine.

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It has to be said that none of us were the most experienced pickers and it took us around two and a half hours to harvest the four rows. One issue proved to be the complantation as mixed in with the Grenache Blanc were some Muscat vines and the Cinsault and Muscat Noir vines were easily mistaken for Grenache Noir. Fortunately my recent articles on ampelography meant that I was able to guide us into collecting the sought after Grenaches with just a few extras. It was made easier by the grapes themselves which were in excellent condition, really healthy. Mixed with Queen tunes and chatter we worked hard to pick and the first grapes were transported back to the cellar along with myself, there to start the pressing.

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As this was a small quantity of grapes they would be pressed in one of the small hydraulic presses and so I had to tread them first so that they would not burst in the press, squirting juice everywhere. Then into the cage and the juice began to flow, sweet, clear and weighing in at over 15º of potential alcohol.

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Back to the vineyards to rejoin my friends in order to complete the picking. At 11.45 we had completed all the Grenache vines. I have said before in this blog that I call the vines of Rome vineyard ‘centurions’, as they stand tall and proud. Roman centurions were older, were trained and gave everything for each other. These vines are exactly the same and making an assemblage of the different Grenaches seems appropriate, centurions stand together.

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Lunch beckoned and it was good to share together and enjoy some of the bottles of Mas Coutelou, coincidentally including a magnum of ‘Grenache, Mise De Printemps 2014’. As this is the 100th article it also made me think of a year ago when I sat around that table and Jeff told me his story of the <Chaud Doudou>, a fairytale with a moral of sharing and love, very much Jeff’s philosophy. Looking around the table with Jeff, Jean-Claude, Michel from Puimisson with visitors from the Loire, Bordeaux, UK, Ireland and Australia it was hard not to think that this was exactly what that philosophy is all about.

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In the afternoon I pressed the grapes three times in total. Between each one I carried out a rebeche, dismantling the gateau of grapes made by the press and rearranging them for the next pressing. The contrast between the black, pink and white grapes was beautiful to look at.

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The end product was only around 125 litres of wine after all that effort, this will be a true collectors item so send your bids in now! Jeff thought it would be interesting to see how the wine will develop in different containers, so some went into a 60 litre barrel, more into two, older 15 litre barrels and the rest into a big 27 litre bottle.

First pressing

First pressing

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Second pressing, slightly darker in colour

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Delphine and Karim checking my work

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During the whole process other parts of the cellar were busy as more Grenache from Sainte Suzanne were brought in. Yet Jeff gave me his time, advice and encouragement through it all. What can I say? I am a very lucky man to have been able to share my experiences with you all through this blog and I am grateful to very one of the 10,000 people who have read my words in just over a year. It has been an exciting and hugely enjoyable time and hopefully this cuvée will embody the sentiment of sharing and love and represent the beautiful Rome vineyard and the amazing generosity and talents of its owner.

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                                             Santé

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Vendanges Diaries (3)

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Grenache Gris waiting to be collected

Version française

September 3rd began with further picking at the southern quarter of the vineyards of Mas Coutelou, Peilhan and Font D’Oulette, followed by an afternoon of picking in the northern end in Segrairals.

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Peilhan and Font D’Oulette are both complanted, ie they have lots of different grape varieties being grown and often in the same rows. However it was the Grenache Gris in Peilhan which was being picked first to provide the juice for a rosé wine. Grenache Gris is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting cépages in the Languedoc Roussillon providing many of its best white wines. It also has a grey, pink skin which can provide a little colour to the wine if the juice is allowed to stay in contact with those skins for a few hours. In this case it would provide a very pale rosé wine, I heard the style described recently as a gris de gris. How this turns out we shall see, it could yet make a white wine.

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Cameron loading the press with the Grenache Gris

When the Grenache Gris was through the press it was time to bring in the grapes from Font D’Oulette. This has a whole variety of cépages from the traditional Aramon Noir to the more unusual Oeillade Muscat, Clairette Blanche and Aramon Gris along with many others.

Clairette Blanche

          Clairette Blanche

Clairette Musquée

         Clairette Musquée

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                Aramon Gris

Oeillade Muscat

                   Oeillade Muscat

Oeillade Noir

              Oeillade Noir

This assemblage will be added to some Cinsault (perhaps from Rome vineyard, perhaps not) to make Flower Power which was made for the first time in 2014 and has proved to be a big success. Indeed we shared a magnum on Friday at lunch and it was excellent, starting to really open up.

Syrah from Segrairals

                 Syrah from Segrairals

Then onto Syrah, some lovely bunches from Segriarals and Caraillet, the biggest of the Coutelou vineyards. The rich juice provided plenty of colour as you might see!

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And then, of course….

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 Cameron and Michel are becoming a true double act

This was a long day, we finished around 7.15 pm, the day starts at 7.30am. I slept well that night.

September 4th brought a whole day of Syrah grapes from Segrairals and Caraillet again. It was also the last day we had the superb Carole with us for the harvest as she heads to Champagne for picking there. Carole is a true expert in all aspects of the vineyard and cellar and she is always willing to teach and to share, she will be a big miss.

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Boxes of Syrah waiting for destemming on Friday (Sept. 4th)

Whilst we worked on the sorting of the Syrah Jeff and Cameron set about testing and remontage (pumping over the grapes already in the tanks).

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          Remontage of Flower Power grapes

We also tasted samples from the various tanks. The Syrah shows real fruit and is already developing different characteristics. Segrairals was gaining weight and power, Sainte Suzanne much more floral and elegant. The white juice from the complanted Peilhan, still in contact with skins, is beginning to ferment quickly as the yeasts get to work, perhaps because the yeasts are on those skins.  It is a treat to watch the development of these wines from infancy as they take their first steps towards the final wine.

And of course….

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We finished around 6.15 and then went to Jeff’s for a special treat to send off Carole in some style. Oysters and mussels together with some Chardonnay from the brilliant Spanish domaine, Casa Pardet, lovely. Even the sky responded.

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Meanwhile Icare fans, your hero was guarding his favourite toy, a plastic, squeaky sandwich. And sleeping, it is fun to watch him as he dreams because his tail wags furiously.

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Saturday September 5th was a day off for me but not for the rest as they continued to process the Syrah form Segrairals, I did say it is a big parcel. The Grenache and Cinsault are still not quite ready and they will dictate when the team can start to harvest them but that will not be before Tuesday. The weather forecast is good for next week so conditions should be right.

I did call round however and the work had certainly been going on as you can see from the bacs of the stalks (rafle) .

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And of course….

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I did manage to sneak into lunch however. These are a highlight of the harvest season, with food prepared by Marie France from Puimisson and bottles opened including a terrific bottle of Castets, that rare grape I have described before. We sit at a big table int he garden of Jeff’s father, right next to the cellar.

Sunday will be a day of rest except for Jeff and Cameron who will do a round of the tanks to check on their progress and carry out more remontage. There is already a lot for Jeff to be thinking about, which wines are where, how are they progressing, have the remontages been done, are the analyses done. Plus all the options about which grapes to blend, what cuvées to make and, for example, whether the Grenache Gris will be white or rosé. Then off to the vineyards to check on the grapes and their readiness for harvest. Pressure, worries, and hard work – spare a thought for the vigneron.

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Even during lunch Jeff is up and down checking on things in the cellar