One of the most fascinating aspects of spending time with Jeff Coutelou these last four years has been learning about different grape varieties. The Languedoc has always been a region of many varieties in comparison with the more specialist Burgundy, Beaujolais or Bordeaux. During the 1970s and 80s many Languedoc producers grubbed up traditional varieties and planted others which would meet the commercial demand for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay etc. Some of these grapes even found themselves entering bottles labelled ‘Bordeaux’, allegedly.
As well as the rapid growth of organic production in the region one of the more agreeable trends of recent years has been the interest of producers in some of the older, traditional grapes. Jeff Coutelou has certainly been in the vanguard. Four years ago I wrote about Castets a variety grown, at the time, only by him and Chateau Ste. Anne in Bandol. I also described a visit by Jeff and many other natural producers to Domaine Vassal in Marseillan Plage. This was France’s repository for grapes, vines from all over the world grown and recorded there. Even they, however, had never heard of some of the varieties making up the Coutelou vines.
Since that time I have recorded the planting of yet more varieties, different varieties of Aramon, Clairette, Piquepoul, Terret and some even without a name. Many of these are planted together, for example Flower Power’s Font D’Oulette has umpteen grapes planted and the aim is to make a wine from all those varieties assembled together, a wine of one parcel but many grapes.
This year Jeff sought out more varieties, his passion for grape varieties relentless. I recall him spotting some vines from the car one day and not recognising them, he stopped the car to find out more.
I intend to describe some of these unusual grapes in the next couple of posts.