amarchinthevines

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


1 Comment

Back To The Future

Version francaise

I promised two updates from Puimisson with news with Jeff Coutelou but, first of all, a follow up from last time. Jeff tells me that fine weather has held back any outbreak of mildew though more rain is forecast this weekend. He cannot touch the soils and the grass and flowers which have grown around the vines as that would certainly trigger the mildew spores which live in the soil. This growth will compete with the vines for nutrients and, if Jeff has to leave it in place all year, for fear of triggering disease, then it will lower the yields.

All is not bleak however. Jeff was enjoying the sunshine last week and the vines’ lush growth. He has also assembled an interesting team to help work in the vines, local people who can work safely without travelling. There is an ex seminarian, a teacher, a young man wanting to learn about winemaking, a scientist and others. Sadly, not me.

Fermentations finishing, 2020

Last years’ wines stalled towards the end of their fermentations at the end of 2019 but the warmer temperatures of Spring rectified that, reawakening the fermentations and the wines are now completed and settled. The various wines have been assembled into the blends which Jeff wanted for the 2019 cuvées. They will rest, be bottled in the next few months but not for sale until much later in the year.

Part of the blending record, giving nothing away!

Most exciting though, there has been a lot of looking to the future. A new plantation of mainly Aramon and Mourvedre with smaller amounts of Aramon Blanc and Servant, an old Languedoc variety which is very little planted. Yet another addition to the Coutelou catalogue, reversing the long term decline in plantings of the grape (down to just 75 hectares in 2011.)

Other work has been done to put up the stakes and wires for plantations from the last couple of years, for example in the parcel next to Sainte Suzanne which had been fallow for years and in Segrairals, shown in the photo below.

And Jeff has been looking still further into the future. When he retires Jeff intends to move to St. Chinian where part of the Coutelou family had their traditional home. The 4 hectares of vines which were there have been grubbed up and replanted with the varieties of the area (and no doubt some typical Jeff extras) as well as trees such as oak and olive, shrubs and plants too. This was a major task and timed for Jeff’s birthday too as plants and vines are what excite him.

So, the virus has undoubtedly altered the way that Jeff has had to do things but, happily, it hasn’t brought the domaine to a halt. The vines are growing well, there will be a 2020 vintage. And there is plenty to look forward to once we are past this.


4 Comments

The Forgotten art of assemblage

 

IMG_0022

One of the more interesting wines at Mas Coutelou is L’Oublié. It is also one of my favourite wines. On Thursday, June 9th Jeff called in his oenologue, Thierry Toulouse, to help to decide on the blending (assemblage) of the new version of L’Oublié.

P1010228

So what is L’Oublié? It is a blend of grapes just like the vast majority of Languedoc wines and, indeed, Mas Coutelou wines. However, it is also a blend of wines from different years. For example the Carignan is a blend of wine from 2001, 2007 and 2010 which has been stored and aged in a barrel called a demi muid. Add in a similar blend of Grenache and Syrah from different years and then other wines to add even more complexity and depth. The name means ‘the forgotten one’ referring to the original barrel of wine which had been, well, forgotten.

P1010234

This is how I described L’Oublié in my article about the Coutelou cuvées:

“It has aromas of dark fruits and leathery, spicy notes too. It is dark flavoured too, blackberries, liquorice and even coffee are just some of the many complex flavours. It benefits from decanting to allow that complexity to resolve itself a little, and it will stay fresh for days after opening. There are not many wines like this around and I honestly don’t know why. It is unusual and one of my favourite wines because of its complexity, its balance of older and more youthful flavours. Terrific.”

It is the mix of darker flavours with the hallmark Coutelou freshness which really appeals to me about this wine. So, how is it made?

Jeff had taken samples from the demi muid barrels of old Carignan, Grenache and Syrah and also samples of other wines which he had, for example Copains 2013. This is a pure Cinsault, from Rome vineyard, released in 2014 but Jeff had aged some of it in barrel too. Younger wines were on the table too, available to be used. We tasted these separately first to get a feel of the flavours which would be in the mix. Frankly, the barrel aged Copains was so good I’d have made a wine just of that!

Using the base wines of the old blends the oenologue measured out the proportions based on the quantities of each wine available for the final cuvée.

The wine was left to mix for a few minutes and then we tasted. The first was very good but, perhaps, edging a little too much towards the dark side of flavours. So, some 2015 wine was added to freshen it up and … voilà. The characteristics of previous versions of L’Oublié but made with newer wines on top of the base wines.

 

The decision on the blend made, Jeff then set about blending the components together in tank where it will sit for a while to marry together. This will be bottled at a future date, yet to be determined as it depends upon when the wine is ready. It will tell Jeff the right moment. Yet another wine to look forward to.

P1010240

The secret code of L’Oublié

If you don’t want to take my word for how good L’Oublié is then here are other reviews and tasting notes:

http://www.lsfinewines.co.uk/acatalog/Mas_Coutelou.html

http://www.leblogdolif.com/archive/2011/12/05/grain-grain-le-petit-raisin-gnan-gnan.html


2 Comments

The Falling Leaves

IMG_3133

Vine leaves which will become compost in the vineyard

Version française

Autumn is often a melancholy time as the days shorten, temperatures drop and the first signs of winter approach. And yet 2015 in the Languedoc has seen a most untypical autumn. Last week the warmest November day ever was recorded and we have enjoyed blue skies, warm sunshine and hot afternoons, 26°C has been regularly seen on our garden thermometer. The resulting sunshine has produced the most breathtaking scenery, with colours across a wide spectrum of autumn. As I wrote on the Out And About page, every time you turn a corner there is another heart stopping view.

IMG_3220 IMG_3096

The vines are now closing down, preparing for winter. Their fruit has gone except for a few overlooked grapes which the birds, wasps and insects have been enjoying. Their leaves are shedding and the skeleton of the vine stands out again for the first time since early May, their form revealed, cordon or guyot for example.

     IMG_3119   IMG_3123

IMG_3225

       First taille of autumn 2015, guyot vines

Indeed, some vignerons have actually started to prune again ready for 2016. I suspect they are working to a pre-prepared timetable as the vines have been slow to lose their leaves and still show some life. At Mas Coutelou the taille will not take place until next year and most top vignerons will leave it until then, just before the growing season. The extra wood helps to protect against frosts for example. Some vignerons are starting to cavailloner, in other words to move earth from between the rows of vines towards the plants themselves, the extra soils will again act as a blanket against the frosts.

IMG_3130

       Puimisson basks in autumn sunshine

IMG_3125

Dew on some Grenache Blanc grapes left behind in Rome

Other jobs remain to be done. After the months of busy vineyard work and harvest it is a time for sending wine to be sold. Pallets have left Puimisson to cavistes and restaurants around the world. Last Friday, November 6th, they set off to Germany, Finland and various regions of France. More have already gone to New York, London, Melbourne amongst many cities.

 IMG_0488

The season of salons has started in earnest too. This weekend I was in the Roussillon for La Bande De Latour, highlighting many of the best natural wines of the Roussillon and elsewhere.

IMG_3200

The following day I was in Autignac for a tasting of some of the best Faugères wines and also their fines or brandies. I shall post about these soon. I was talking to the excellent Hausherrs, vignerons who had driven to the Pyrenees from Alsace for La Bande, a long, long way. Hard work.

In the next few weeks Jeff will be starting to assemble the wines for the main cuvées of 2015, the likes of Classe and Vin Des Amis. Decisions to be made about what proportions of which cuves to blend for the wines. Sadly, I shall miss this process as we head back to the UK for a wedding. Into every life a little rain must fall.

It has been a beautiful autumn, the weather and the vendanges have made it a magical time. Thanks as ever to Jeff for allowing me to share the experiences and insights of the season.

IMG_3135

IMG_3115