The start of June and the start of another period visiting Jeff Coutelou in Puimisson and updating myself with changes to the vineyards and how the vines are faring in this vintage. I also tasted through a number of the 2021 wines which are in a good place including one of the best I have ever had from Jeff but I’ll leave those notes until next time. A tasting teaser if you will.
The main work done over the winter has been in developing the large new parcel of land which extends the Peilhan vineyard. Peilhan used to have around 2.5 hectares of vines when I first began to work with Jeff in 2014 a red parcel of Carignan, Grenache and Castets alongside the white parcel of Muscat, Carignan Blanc, Maccabeu and Grenache Gris. In 2016 we planted the plot on higher ground (shaded blue on the satellite image (bottom left corner) with Terret Blanc, Piquepoul Gris, Riveyrenc Gris, Riveyrenc Noir, Terret Noir and Morastel. That parcel is producing good grapes already as we saw last autumn.
I reported then how Jeff had bought the adjacent parcel which adds another 2-2.5ha of land, of which only a tiny part has been planted so far though excitingly with the Catalan white grape Xarel-lo featuring there. This is an example of how Jeff is responding to climate change, planting to grapes which welcome heat whilst also producing very good wines. The main area is enjoying a period of fallow whilst in the top corner a reservoir was dug for wildlife to use and a roost and nesting box for birds of prey or owls. It will be fascinating to see how this develops. The vineyard was alive with birds singing when I visited on Thursday June 2nd.
Planting around the reservoir has begun and the replanting of the long stretch of Peilhan which was burned by a vandal as I reported last year. It is an exciting project and when the vines are planted this will help to consolidate the domaine in one area making work more efficient.
Elsewhere the vines are at the end of flowering with the development of little pea-like grapes, some with the brown caps still attached from when they emerged from flower. This is a fascinating period in the vines’ annual cycle, a time of year with all the year’s potential ahead.
The period of frosts is gone and though there has been a little evidence of oidium for the most part everything has gone well and Jeff was optimistic enough to predict a big harvest, much needed after the 50% cut last year due to frosts. Other regions have been less fortunate, mostly in the Loire, Savoie, Auvergne and Northern Italy, where hail storms damaged vineyards and buildings at the end of last week. A reminder of how delicate the balance is between a promising vintage and a disastrous one. And sure enough Thursday brought a marin, a wind from the sea with humidity, which can instigate an outbreak of mildew or oidium so vignerons across the area were to be found spraying to prevent damage where possible.
It was good to catch up with Jeff of course, as well as Matteo and Gilles who continue to work with him as they did last year too. Let’s hope that good fortune here continues.