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

To drink or to vote? (A Coutelou update)

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It is a tradition of Jeff to begin every year with a ‘carte des voeux’ or greetings card which contains humorous topical references and also a review of the previous year and the wines which it produced. With Jeff’s permission I can share some of those updates here.

Previous cards with this year’s top left

It is a Presidential election year in France so the card offers the voters a helping hand. Far be it from an Englishman to make any reference to voting and politics given the appalling state of affairs here. So let me move on to the information about the wines and vineyards.

Jeff recounts the story of 2021 beginning with a wistful comment on how the vintages unravel but are becoming less and less similar to each other with climate producing a seemingly endless rota of problems. Autumn and winter were mild but with little rainfall (unfortunately one feature which is repeating itself this year Jeff tells me). A very warm March was quickly followed by the disastrous frost of April 7th-8th which I described here and was seen across the whole of France. It was the timing of that frost which was the hammer blow, the heat of March had brought forward budding of the vines and so this young growth was laid waste by the frost. As Jeff puts it, “It was necessary to find courage within yourself to face up to getting back to caring for the vines.” With losses of whole vineyards, that seems an understatement.

More cold weather followed which put the vine growth behind schedule even with warmer weather in June. Summer was unusually cool and cloudy though storms did bring needed irrigation. Vendanges began on August 30th, a week behind the average of recent years. The grapes were healthy and of good quality but at only 50% of the normal quantity.

I was there for vendanges and recall a very enjoyable, friendly time with a good crew but there was always a tinge of regret and sympathy for Jeff who had lost so much of his annual income as well as seeing his beloved vineyards ravaged that Spring. Fermentations were straightforward when I was there and that continued through the autumn, including in the new amphorae and concrete egg.

Jeff told me last week that he had carried out the assemblages on January 27th after tasting through the various wines a few weeks earlier. Obviously there will be fewer final wines and less wine altogether. There is a new wine with grapes bought from Clos Des Jarres in the Minervois which I described at the time. Classe, Matubu and a Tradition (with grapes such as Castets, Morastel and Terret Noir) reappear as does Flower Power for the first time in 7 years and there’s a new wine, Ploutelou which sounds intriguing. Let’s not forget the whites, Clairette Blanche from a young vineyard, OW returns as does the amphora white and a Macabeu which includes the grapes raised in the egg.

As for the vineyards. A lot of work will have to be done to repair damages caused by the frost, a third of the Aramon planted in 2020 will have to be replaced for example. Most exciting for me is the planting of a new parcel of Xarello, the Catalan white grape which makes some of my favourite white wines there. I love that grape and can’t wait for the results of this development. Meanwhile the work on Peilhan continues with the large new vineyard and its reservoir which has begun to fill with water (though more would be welcome). Moreover, after the destruction of olive and fruit trees there by an arson attack, a hundred new trees will be planted.

As Jeff concludes, COVID, lockdowns, arson – 2022 has to be better surely?

Meanwhile Steeve and Matteo, central to that team at vendanges, remain in Puimisson and are working their way through the vineyards to carry out pruning which, after the frost damage, is particularly demanding of care and precision. Steeve has sent me some photos of the vineyards as he works through them. It whets my appetite for a visit there soon and for the wines to come.

Let us all hope that fortune does favour Jeff more kindly this year.

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.

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