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

Into the red – Vendanges 17


After the white grapes picked last week it was time to tackle the red, which form the main part (just under 90%) of Mas Coutelou’s production.

Monday was hot, very hot – Jeff’s car measured 42°C at one point in the vineyard of Le Colombié where we were picking Merlot grapes. This small (0.5 ha) parcel was planted with Merlot back in 1999 and, though not Jeff’s favourite cépage, the grapes provide a useful backup and the vines are in particularly good health. I spent a couple of hours picking and the heat made it very hard work, believe me. The quality was very good though the grapes lacked juice due to the lack of any rain in two months. Jeff said that they provided around 50% of last year’s juice which in turn was 20% below average.

Back in the cellar after lunch I sorted the remaining Merlot and some Syrah from Segrairals, the biggest of the Coutelou vineyards with 4ha under vine. These were juicier and were added to the Merlot in tank in order to bolster the quantity. The alcohol level was good at around 14% for both.

Today, Tuesday, it was off to Sainte Suzanne where Jeff thinks some of the best grapes of the year are to be found. The vineyard is planted with Syrah and Grenache and these are usually the grapes which make up Le Vin Des Amis, one of the more famous wines of the domaine. Jeff was proved correct, not that I would have doubted him of course! The bunches which came in were full, firm and in excellent condition. There was hardly any sorting to do other than removing leaves and snails. This will certainly make good wine. By the end of the day a few rows of Grenache from the parcel were added to the mix.

The grapes were all put into tank in whole bunches, grappes entières, rather than being separated from the stalks as the bunches were so healthy Jeff wanted to let them express themselves. In tank the grapes will begin to ferment within their skins under the weight and heat, though some will ferment as they burst. It was good to see Jeff happy with the results of the day’s harvest, long may it continue.

In the photos above Vincent is preparing the cuve for the whole bunches which will enter through the trapdoor at the top. In the second he adds CO2 to the tank which is part of the carbonic maceration process to help the berries ferment inside their skin.

Author: amarch34

I'm a recently retired (early!) teacher from County Durham in North east England. I am going to be spending most of the next year in the Languedoc leaarning about wines, vineyards and the people who care for both.

4 thoughts on “Into the red – Vendanges 17

  1. Hello Alan, we met three years ago at Romain’s home during the feria period; It’s a real pleasure for me to get information about the harvest and the wines making process at Mas Coutelou vineyard and cellar. I would rather be with all of you but I’m not retired and I’ve to go back to school tomorrow morning!
    Hope Jeff is satisfied with the the vintage of 2017 ; He deserves it so much after a period of trouble.
    Wish you all the best for the last days of harvest.



    • Hello Christophe, yes I remember you well, indeed I was asking Jeff how you were just the other day. I wish you bonne rentrée, I remember only too well what that is like. Hope you can come down again soon and we meet up again and thank you for the kind words.
      Best wishes


  2. Great stuff Alan. Interesting to see the use of more whole bunches this harvest. Alcohols seem high but no rain for 2 months and those hot dry days are pretty hard to negotiate. Maybe cinsault will come in to play later perhaps? Its so hard to nail the picking date its the balance between physiological ripeness and sugar. If anyone knows the vines its Master Jeff! I feel I was a bit quick to jump the gun for the Australian 2017 harvest but in saying that I kept the alcohols down and did not use to many bunches and have negated any “greeness” in the wine and attained some natural acid which seems to lack a lot in Australian wine. I would be interested to hear yours and Jeffs thought in this regard.

    How was the crop levels for the white this harvest?

    Missing you all dont work too hard.

    Remember the Gin and Tonics!


    • I shall pass on your comments to the patron for his answer.
      Quantities are way down due to that dry spell, it’s been a killer as the winter, spring and early summer were so good – everything was set fair for a great vintage. The quality is very high (see the post on the La Garrigue Syrah), hardly any sorting to do unlike last year – the sorting table has not even made an appearance yet. But some yields down 50%.
      I think it is essential to have good acidity provided the grapes are ripe to offer fruit, so I’m sure you made the right call. I can;t tell you how excited I am to be able to come and taste them and meet your family, not to mention yourself. You have certainly been missed this year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s