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

Vendanges Coutelou 22 – #1

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The harvest was early, I was late. Family matters meant that I was always going to miss the start of harvest 2022 but the long, hot summer advanced the ripening of the grapes so that Jeff Coutelou started early, August 19th. My ninth vintage and start times have crept forward even in that time. When I was in the area in June Jeff told me that it had been a good year with decent rainfall in Spring and then dry, clear weather meaning that disease was very limited. Though the summer months have been extremely hot and dry the grapes grew well, there was sufficient moisture in the ground to allow them to swell to a good size. All was set fair and Jeff told me after the first week that they had picked more in the six days to that point than in the whole of either 2020 or 2021. Another good week followed before I arrived at the very end of August.

Cellar is full of these little blackboards showing what is the tank and its progress in fermenting

As well as being a late arrival I also brought some bad weather, we have had a few days of stormy weather and humidity, the good harvest tarnished by me turning up! Fortunately, nothing too serious though and I have joined the team for the last few days of vendanges. I’ll report back on the events of my harvest experience next time but some thoughts on what I found first of all.

Floating caps near the top of tanks, a good sign

It was good to see Jeff looking happy about the harvest even though he is stressed and tired by now. At least he knows that he has good quantities at last as well as good quality from healthy grapes. There was a late attack of oidium in places and vers de la grappe in others (more on the latter in a future post too). However, careful sorting, as always, means that the grapes in tank should produce some very good wines and with enough to supply demand at last. It was good to see from the gantry in the cellar that the floating caps which sit in the tank above the level of the grapes are high in those tanks meaning they are full. Jeff was doing a remontage (pumping over) when I arrived to work on Monday 5th September and the aromas coming from the wine were beautiful. All augurs well.


I have been fortunate to work with some excellent people over the various vintages, Jeff seems to attract them to work with him. This year the core team of Matteo, Gilles and Flora are joined by three more Italians. Benvenuto Manu (who was also here last year of course), Marco and Tony. As with all the teams over those nine vintages they work hard, are welcoming, friendly and good fun. It is a bit odd to hear Italian spoken as the main language in the cellar, Matteo making four native speakers. Last year Jeff made a wine inspired by the Plousard wines of the Jura, Ploutelou, perhaps this year we will have a wine inspired by Italy.

Flora at work

If you want to find some superb photos of the vendanges in those first two weeks I urge you to seek out the Facebook page of Flora Rey, she has a real talent and eye. I have included some here below, with Flora’s permission, but it is well worth looking at others there. Next time, my first couple of days of work.

And of course, vendanges with Jeff would not be the same without the star of the show:

Icare, the star

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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