amarchinthevines

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


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To drink or to vote? (A Coutelou update)

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.


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January jottings

Dry January? Well maybe in terms of the weather in North East England. Unseasonable warm temperatures and lack of rain have brought out insects, flowers and, no doubt, animals when they should still be dormant. The decline in birds in the garden has been alarming, only a visit to Durham Wildlife Trust’s Low Barns scratched my twitching itch.

If there was a month not to drink wine it would not be January, it is a long, generally dreary month. I am, though, very mindful of the health effects of wine. We may choose to believe a litle wine is beneficial for our health but the science would suggest it is far more likely to be damaging. For the last few years, I have opted not to drink alcohol on Mondays and Tuesdays to give my system time to recover and rest. If, there’s a special occasion I on those days I compensate on two other consecutive days. However, I see no need to take out a whole month especially as my wife Pat celebrates her birthday in January, of which more later.

Indeed, I have opened some exceptionally good bottles this month, to brighten it up. We started the New Year with one of my favourite champagnes, Drappier’s Brut Nature which is full of life and flavour, as well as a clean, characteristic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 20, a perky, natural 2017 Brouilly and, the now traditional La Vigne Haute, this time the 2017. It remains my favourite wine. I also opened two new wines from Jeff Coutelou. Quoi qu’il en Goutte is a blend of Syrah and Carignan from 2019 assembled with more Syrah from the 2020 vintage. The name means ‘No Matter What’, and no matter what Jeff makes it is worth trying to get a bottle. Leon Stolarski describes this wine beautifully on his website (he is the UK importer) as having sweet and sour notes and how it develops with time. I liked it a lot though might keep my other bottles a few months. Even better, to my taste, and also needing more time was Matubu. This was basically made by assembling the wines that were left over after Jeff had put together the 2020 bottlings. Leon offers more detail on how the Syrah, Carignan and Grenache were pressed etc. It is delicious, still highly coloured withbright fruit aromas and flavours but a good tannic spine which will make it age well. As a wine born out of chance rather than planning it is is exceptional, far better than the quaffing wine it was essentially made to be.

Other highlights included a beautiful Fino sherry from Equipos Navazas, exceptional quality and deserving of more space than I am giving it. Westwell Wines, from Kent in England, have provided me with some lovely bottles and their Ortega Skin Contact 18 was another exceptional wine, the skin contact adding texture to the deep yellow fruit flavours. Other good wines are shown below including an interesting first red wine from a favourite Jurancon producer Montesquiou, very promising.

Pat’s birthday brought a weekend of fine bottles, with our favourite winemaker featuring prominently. Another lovely Fino sherry, the Una Palma bottling from Tio Pepe, deserves a mention. Montesquiou’s Amistat 2017 was a delicious Jurancon, unmistakable in aroma and flavour, such a balance of sweetness and freshness. From Jeff we had Bibonade, his refreshing PetNat, Sauvé De La Citerne 19, light and drinkable, Classe 17 with its bright cherry flavours and drinkability. There was also a bottle of Petits Grains, a rare barrel aged Muscat which is so fine, the dry, Muscat flavours tamed by the old barrel but still typical, very long in the mouth. A Jura Pinot Noir 18 from Marnes Blanches was one of the highlights, a lovely example of why Pinot Noir is so special with its depth and rich flavours. Better than most Burgundy? Finally, one of the bottles I made from 2015 grapes, Amicis, the N on the label showing it was aged in new barrel and the oxygenation has aged it beautifully, I am very proud of it.

So, definitely not a dry January.

One point which did occur to me through the month repeatedly from these bottles and others which we opened but I have not described. I had, for example, a couple of Australian wines, organic, very well made and enjoyable wih good fruit and depth. However, those and other conventional wines I tasted in January, really didn’t change or develop much after the bottle was opened. By contrast, some of the natural wines were very different from one glass to another and more interesting as a result. Now, that is not always a good thing. The Beaujolais above developed a trace of the mosuiness I can’t stand, fortunately not enough to ruin the wine in this case. Others in recent months have become tired very quickly. Most though develop much finer fruit or more tertiary notes of age or barrel influence. I am not claiming by any means that conventional wines don’t develop, many do but the ones I have had recently have been good for the first glass then, well, just a little dull.

I recall Jeff telling me back in 2014 that spending so much time with him would change my taste in wine. I didn’t really believe him but it was true. The paragraph above proves how right he was.

January is also the month where my friend and I exchange lists of our favourite songs from the previous year. Janus, god of the doorway, looks forward and backward. Music plays a big part in my life and I was listening to a playlist from an English TV programme which included a performance of Debussy’s Clair De Lune. As it played I was struck again how perfect it is, how it builds naturally on the melody as it develops moods and emphases. My favourite wines travel through that same process, the Vigne Haute, Westwell Skin Contact, Equipo Navazos Bota de Florpower, Marnes Blanches Pinot Noir move from glass to glass bringing new flavours, balances and provoking thought and mood.  (The sherry showing that more conventional winemaking can achieve this.)

I had other musings too but I shall leave subjects such as glassware, wine pairing etc to another time. Thank you for reading and may 2022 bring us health, joy and good wine.


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June wines

The arrival of summer brought a taste for white wines in June, happily the quality of the wines sated that taste. I mentioned in previous posts that I had purchased a number of Chablis wines trying to establish better understanding of the region’s ‘minerality’. This month I opened Brocard’s Vieilles Vignes 2019. Definitely the fullest and most interesting of the wines so far, worth the extra cost. Two South African wines, Testalonga Keep On Punching 2020, Chenin Blanc from this excellent produces – have I ever had a poor bottle from Craig Hawkins? Badenhorst Secateurs 2020 is also Chenin and just as zingy and refreshing. The descriptor from merchant The Sourcing Table mentions it being a light orange wine with skin contact, I didn’t pick up on that but it was a good wine.

Spanish white wines featured heavily in the month. Coto do Gomariz 2017 had pleasing freshness and quite full flavours. A blend of grapes including Albarino and Godello but mainly the Galician grape Treixadura which adds the zestiness. Fedellos do Couto Conasbrancas 2019 was similar but with more depth and concentration. It too features Albarino and Treixadura amongst other grapes from a field blend but as well as the acidity there is more roundness and aroma. Very good.

Heading further south in Spain to Andalucia. Luis Perez’ El Muelle 2019 de Olaso is based on Palomino grapes, the variety used for sherry. Some of the grapes are sun dried for a few hours and aged in old oak but 80% is fermented in stainless steel and this produces a fresh wine with good flavour and length. Cota 45 Miraflores 2018 has a very similar background, Palomino grapes near the sea in the Sanlucar/Jerez area. Ramiro Ibanez ages the grapes in barrel and allows a flor of yeast to develop as in sherry but this is a straight table wine and with only 10.5% alcohol. That lower alcohol does not come at the cost of flavour or weight as the wine fills the mouth with flavour of nuts and fresh apples. The aromas of sherry are, intriguingly present but this is such a great summer wine.

To Italy and a wine from Daniele Piccinin who featured so much in Isabelle Legeron’s book ‘Natural Wine’. Based in the Veneto region Daniele has a healthy approach to farming in general. This new wine, Monte Scarvi 2019, is based on Durella and Garganega grapes and, again, brings a freshness and apple, citrus profile which is perfect for June. Enjoyable. Like Piccinin I had had been looking for some of Rudolf Trossen‘s wines, one of the pioneers of natural wine in Germany. Silbermond 2018 is classic off dry German Riesling from the Mosel Valley. Typical Riesling aromas with citrus and apples (a theme is developing!) and just 11% alcohol. German Riesling is what first attracted me to wine in general and this bottle pleased me greatly.

French reds next. Jeff Coutelou’s La Buvette A Paulette 2019 first of all. This has been a major surprise for me even though I helped to make it. The Merlot grapes planted by his father form the basis and Jeff added some Mourvedre and Syrah grapes too. (The Merlot has since been grubbed up by the way). Full, fresh red fruits, this is not a wine to simply use up grapes, it carries quality well, the 19s are very good all round. Some people have apparently noted some Volatile Acidity but I found nothing out of the ordinary myself. Jeff and I were early champions of Louis and Charlotte Pérot’s wines from the Cahors region. L’Ostal Levant Zamblé 2019 is another new cuvée from them, based on Malbec or Côt of course. Louis’ wines are very similar to Jeff’s in many ways, the profile is on the fruit and he adds a drinkability to Cahors which can be missing from many other producers. One of the other producers in the region is Simon Busser and his Polichinel 2018 was a good comparison. More austere but still with good fruit flavours from the Malbec grapes, a food wine.

Wine of the month? That would be another red (just ahead of the Cota 45) and from a producer already mentioned, Fedellos do Couto As Xaras 2019. The winery is based in the Ribeira Sacra region of Galicia, north of Portugal. They have a multitude of grape varieties, mostly on steep slopes and work them organically. This wine is 100% Mencia, the classic Galician red grape and it was all fresh, raspberry flavours and aromas, with good length. I had this on a hot summer afternoon and chilled it lightly, the 12% alcohol and freshness made it a very good choice. Lovely wine from a very good producer.


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Best of a bad year

In the last post I mentioned that I would write up my usual end of year recommendations of the best wines I have had. So, here we go.

Reds, for once, have not been my highlights. I have consumed a lot of good reds and some very good ones but they would not be the overall winner. Let’s start with Jeff Coutelou‘s wines. I wrote earlier in the year that I had bought some 2001 bottles of Sud and Ouest and they have both been a real pleasure throughout the year. Ouest is the one with which I was most familiar, based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, both now gone from the Coutelou pantheon. However, I would have to select Sud as my preferred, with a little more fruit than the Ouest bottle, based on its Syrah grapes. Flambadou 11, La Vigne Haute 13, Le Vin Des Amis 14, Classe 17, La Buvette de Paulette 19 would be other highlights from the place I have missed most of all this year.

Elsewhere, let’s start closer to home with an English wine. Westwell’s Field Blend Red 18, a light red blending Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is juicy, fresh and has a backbone which will allow it to mature nicely I think. One of last year’s highlights was a vin jaune from Michel Garnier and this year his Trousseau 17 was a definite highlight, sappy, deep and complex. Alex Foillard’s Beaujolais Villages 19 was everything you would want from a simple Beaujolais, fresh, almost sweet fruit and very easy drinking. Yet still classy. A more serious Beaujolais, and keeping it in the family, Alex’s father Jean is a regular favourite of mine and his Morgon 14 has the structure of the region’s best cru, the age adding complexity to the lingering fruit. Judith Beck’s Ink became a house wine, it’s well made, sappy and refreshing with food. Jauma’s Like Raindrops 19 is lovely fresh Adelaide Grenache. Back to the Languedoc and Clos Fantine’s Faugeres 13 showed how a few years pf ageing makes a good wine into a great wine.

To whites. Aligoté proved an unlikely favourite, examples from de Moor, the Chapuis brothers and Sabre were all proof of this grape having its day in the sun. Further south in the Burgundy region Valette is always a good source of excellent Macon wines, year in year out. The Macon Villages 19 outperforms its humble label, fresh yet round and fruity Chardonnay. Riesling is probably my favourite white grape, Schaefer’s 2007 Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese epitomised its qualities as a grape with sweet fruit, clean acidity and long lasting, mouth filling joy. More recent examples from Knauss, Arndorfer and, especially, Rieffel from Alsace have all been very good. Jeff’s Grenache Gris 17 aged in barrel is an absolute delight, a wine of terrific complexity. James Madden’s Scintilla Dayspring 19 was a treat, Chardonnay and Verdelho aged in barrel for a year and delivering creamy, white apple and pear flavours with a hint of spice. Riffault’s Sancerre wines divide opinion because of his liking for oxidation but I really enjoy them, including the 2016 Saulétas. Testalonga Chenins were a regular source of pleasure through the year, indeed Craig Hawkins is probably my producer of the year. Garnier’s Loire Chenin La Roche 19 was another example of how good Chenin can be. Let’s not forget the English wines, from Davenport Horsmonden to Westwell skin contact Ortega and Laneberg’s Bacchus, whilst Ancre Hill’s Orange Wine is just excellent. Finally Casa Pardet in NE Spain is another favourite producer and I loved the maceration Chardonnay 18, adding structure to the fruit and a lovely tanginess.

Sparkling wines have never been particular favourites of mine but I have enjoyed a few crackers this year. Hautes Terres’ Crémant de Limoux, a lovely, fresh wine with apple and pear flavours with a nuttiness from barrel ageing. An unexpected pleasure. Even more surprising was Ancre Hill’s PetNat from Triomphe red grapes, spicy and full flavoured with the sparkle cleansing the palate. A triumph (apologies). However, my favourite was Costadila’s 450 slm 2018. Made from Glera, the prosecco grape, I loved this. Just 11% alcohol, fresh with exotic fruit flavours it just fills the mouth with pleasure. Thank you Vincent for the recommendation. I have ordered more! And I make it my wine of the year.

So, may I wish you a happy new year, may it be better for everyone than 2020.


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It never rains but it pours

Version francaise

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic viticulteurs continue their labours as the 2020 vintage moves on. In France strict regulations about movement and working conditions increase the difficulty of their task. The vines continue to grow and need to be tended. The wines in tank need to be supervised, blended and, even, bottled. Delay in the latter process could lead to financial shortfalls in the short and medium terms, and even in these unique times that has to be on the minds of the winemakers.

Budding began pretty much as normal in Puimisson, there were reports of early budding elsewhere but Jeff reported that he was happy with an average date. Since then the vines have grown quite quickly and around this time Jeff would seek to plough the grass, plants and flowers into the soil to act as a natural fertiliser. Using a pioche to hoe the plants between the vines into the soil is hard physical work. With such a large area of vines Jeff needs other workers to assist and the Moroccan team from vendanges have also been doing work too. Using social distance rules and other safety measures of course.

However, the problems caused by the pandemic have been compounded in the last week by rain. Jeff told me that there was 80mm of rain in that time, a storm on Sunday 26th brought 35mm alone with another heavy period on Monday evening. The videos he sent me of Peilhan vineyard show the result.

These are vineyards with very spongy soil which absorb water very well after 33 years of organic care. My experience of heavy rains in the area showed me a remarkable difference between Jeff’s vineyards and those of neighbours whose soils have been compacted by chemical treatment and heavy machinery such as harvesting machines. Therefore if Peilhan is waterlogged surrounding vineyards are worse. This is another reason why Jeff has ditches, trees and shrubs around his vines to help protect them.

Photos show the problem of working in the vines after such rain. Even Icare found the going too heavy and after running around he was exhausted at lunchtime when he got home.

However, the real threat is not difficult working conditions, rather the threat of mildew, in this case downy mildew. The forecast for the next few days is for higher temperatures, up to 25˚C. That is the ideal combination for mildew to form.

Mildewed leaf 2016

Mildew ravaged the Languedoc and other southern regions two years ago and is a consistent threat. The spores live in the soil and fallen leaves from the last vintage. If a viticulteur was to plough or use a pioche now it would release the spores even more than nature would do.

In any case the very soft ground means that machines could not operate between the vines. Jeff is having to use spray strapped to his back in order to try and protect the vines from mildew, an old fashioned way of working but the only option at present. We can only hope that nature is kinder than looks likely and that the sprays of herbal tisanes and sulphur do work their magic.

It never rains but it pours.


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Harvest 2019 – The End

En francais

Julien loads the last case of 2019

Life is full of surprises.

I went along to the cellars on Monday 23rd September in order to take some photographs of the pressing and progress with the making of the wines. When I arrived Jeff and Julien were on their own pressing the marc from the Cinsault. The free juice had been run off already into tank but the grape skins and pulp contain a lot of juice still so they are pressed adding more tannins and colour to the finished wine.

However, shifting tons of grape skins from a tank through a small doorway and then pumping it into the press is hard work and though they were managing well enough I decided to help out and get stuck in. It’s a proper workout pitchforking all that pulp, it gets very messy (bad news for my trainers) but job done. More remontages in the afternoon but also the chance to taste through the tanks before sending samples off for analysis.

Tasting wines from tank during or immediately after fermentation is challenging. Jeff is used to it and knows how a wine will emerge. I taste a lot of wines and know his very well by now but all I seek to achieve is an idea of acidity, tannin and fruit presence, to see if these elements are balanced. Happily it is good news all round. The wines tasted good, very promising for the vintage following on from last year’s excellent quality. The analyses are also good, there have been one or two scares along the way but the wines have worked themselves out with a little help from Jeff.

A week later I was a little surprised to hear that there was to be one last pick. This has happened in previous years, often picking Muscat for the solera. However, there were a few rows of Grenache Gris unpicked and so on September 30th, a month after harvest began we started over.

I picked all morning with the Moroccan team of four, my aching back a reminder of how quickly we get out of practice and rhythm. Then back to the cellar where the grapes, with a few vines of Macabeu, were pressed.

Grenache Gris is one of my favourite grapes, its pinkish colour marks it out and many of my favourite white wines from the Languedoc, and especially Roussillon, are made with the grape. The bunches were healthy, the wine should be very good.

In the afternoon we used the marc from the Grenache Gris. It was passed back through the destemmer and the grapes placed into a container with a little bit of water. This will make a piquette wine, a light quaffing wine. I was surprised to read a couple of days later that piquette wines are the new trend in the USA. It is something of a tradition in Puimisson. On Wednesday the piquette was already fermenting when we looked in the container.

There still remains much to do in the cellar but this was definitely the end, the final cases are in. I think.


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Wine into bottle, wine out of bottle

En francais

Descending moon, favourable high air pressure, time to bottle some of the 2018 wines. This also means that the vats can be emptied and cleaned in readiness for the 2019 harvest. Yes a winemaker does have to think about that already even as the grape bunches are just forming and 3 or 4 months from being ready to pick.

Filling magnums

Two of my favourite Coutelou wines were being bottled on Friday May 24th, Classe and La Vigne Haute. As the latter is my desert island wine Jeff invited me along for the day to help out. He is fortunate to have his own bottling line so he can choose exactly when conditions are right for this crucial process. The wine must be in bottle and corked as quickly as possible to avoid any oxidation.

The bottling machine automatically:

  • fills the bottle
  • tests the level of wine in there, adding or removing accordingly
  • corks the bottle
  • sends the bottle on a 3 minute journey to let the cork seal in the neck

It is mesmerising to watch as you can see for yourselves.

The bottles are stocked on moulded plastic sheets or in a pallox which is much more difficult to do, the bottles stubbornly find ways to fit awkwardly together causing lumps and bumps in the layers.

Pallox

Julien, Nathan, Christian and myself took turns at the various tasks for a 10 hour day with each of us taking a break for food and drink. We have to check every bottle to ensure that the cork has sealed and there is no leakage of wine. Any that do are set aside for use in up and coming tastings.

Christian and Nathan storing bottles in pallox and pallet
Magnum whose cork has leaked

Jeff, took his turns too, of course, but was also busy with other tasks, tastings for a restaurateur, a radio interview.

Interview

Both wines were in good form, Classe more immediate, La Vigne Haute with more structure and tannins but lovely fruit, it will be great. As with all 2018s though there will not be very much of it.

Another wine was tried too. Jeff sent me to the solera cellar to find one of the bottles of my wine, the one I made from Rome vines in 2015 to celebrate my 100th blog post. This was one from the old barrique. I liked it, the others were generous in their comments. There’s a little residual sweetness as well as the tertiary flavours of 3 years in barrel, a drier influence with a raisiny influence. It will be interesting to compare with the wines from the newer barrique and from the glass bottle.

A long, physically tiring day but, as ever, rewarding. Bottling is such an important process in getting the wine to the customer, imperative that it should be done correctly. It doesn’t improve the wine but it could spoil it. Happily all was well this day and these bottles will be well worth seeking out.

Julien filling magnums, the vat is cleaned including the sparkling tartrate crystals


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Rethinking

At a time when my country is in desperate need of a rethink I have had a couple of wine related examples myself recently. So, here they are.

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Merlot at Coutelou

Merlot. I must admit that I have always been very ambivalent towards this grape. Early wine ventures in my life often featured Merlot blended with Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux or, more usually, Australia. However, it was always the underling, the supporting star. My attention was grabbed by the headline act. Then in recent years Merlot has been a bit of a whipping boy, scorned by me and many others. And yet. I recently noticed that Merlot has featured in a number of my favourite wines this year (of which more soon on these pages).

 

Little Things (James Madden) Joy’s Wild Fruits Field Blend which was the star of my trip Down Under this year, Basket Range Vineyard Blend, Jeff Coutelou‘s Vin De Table (and the 2018 wine in vat) and then Patrick Rols‘ Les Anciens 2016 all feature Merlot in the blends to a greater or lesser extent. The latter, from the up and coming Auvergne wine region, has Merlot as the main constituent together with Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, and it is a delicious, fresh wine. So mea culpa, I have too easily dismissed this grape, Merlot is back. At least as a grape for blending, I’d happily receive recommendations for single variety wines.

The Rols wine was part of a case I ordered recently now that I am back in the UK. Having looked through the lists of several cavistes in this country I found a bigger range of wines, cheaper by buying from France and Spain. The cases arrived quickly, intact and I can safely and wholeheartedly recommend Petites Caves based in Toulouse and Gourmet Hunters based in Barcelona. Both have websites with English translations. So think wider than your local supermarket, enjoy some natural wines, and give a thought to Merlot!

Now, can we persuade my country to think a bit more?

 


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A Tour Down Under, Adelaide

Time to see the world from a different angle. Two months on a trip to Australia and New Zealand, a lifetime ambition becoming reality. A holiday but also the opportunity to survey the wine scene Down Under. As ever with such visits I am aware that I am scratching the surface, giving an impression rather than a fully informed picture. However, I hope to share my thoughts on what I find, taste and see and that they will offer some insight.

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First stop on the tour was Adelaide, South Australia. A city of 1.2 million people but with a compact centre and excellent free tram and bus service to help get around. Wine is important to the region, the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley are close. We were going to stay in the Hills with our friend James who worked harvest with Jeff Coutelou in 2016, his partner Sam and year old daughter Flo. First though was a few days in the city itself.

Things started a little disappointingly with the National Wine Centre. There were some interesting exhibits, one on grape varieties was extensive and another contained a 150 year old Shiraz vine which had been taken up, showing the extent of the root system  and wood above ground. Otherwise though, there was little about the story of Australian wine or examples of the wines. The tasting on offer was via enomatic machines which can work out expensive.

However, better was shortly to come. Having left behind 70cm of snow and freezing conditions in the UK the 35°C of Adelaide meant that a drink was soon needed. By chance, we were close to a bar I had seen on a list of recommended places, La Buvette. Only one table was left so we took our beer to sit down and I surveyed the line of wine bottles arranged on the shelf. What a coincidence to find one of Jeff’s Sauvé De La Citerne!

I went to talk to the barman and owner, Dominique Lentz, who turned out to be from Strasbourg and knows some of my favourite producers such as Patrick Meyer and Julien Albertus. When I asked about local wines he offered by the glass none other than Little Things Shiraz, made by… James! The wine world can be a small one. Good wines, beers and food were available and I would recommend a visit to La Buvette if you are in the city.

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James’ Little Things Syrah 2017

We also visited another wine bar, The Apothecary 1878. More traditional in its choice of wines with celebrated producers from France and Australia there were still one or two natural wines. It was very pleasant and worth a visit too. One final recommendation is Luigi’s Delicatessen where we ate excellent crab pasta and there was plenty of good food to take out or eat in.

I was very taken by the cosmopolitan nature of Adelaide, very much a multicultural city which seemed to be working well. The transport system allowed us to get around easily and see the Oval with its very good statue of Sir Don Bradman, the Cathedral, Botanic Gardens and many other attractions. I was taken by the mix of old and new, especially the intricate ironwork on the older houses. It was a great way to start the tour and I was looking forward to meeting up with James and getting out into the vineyard areas.


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Votez et ….. votez encore

Version francaise

People of France and the (Dis)United Kingdom,

We live in momentous times as elections are upon us. Promises have been made by all and sundry, new facts have been sent to astound us. So let me make it clear…

There is only one choice which makes sense, only one piece of campaigning which has kept its promise since the start of the year.

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So, vote Coutelou, open that bottle and register your support for someone who always delivers on his promise. The last “vigneron de gauche*” who is always right!

Vote and vote again.

*©Vincent Pousson