I even set my mother and sister to work picking off snails last week
Snails and vandals aside there have been plenty of positives at Mas Coutelou in recent weeks, not least in the cellar. The beams in the photograph below have been strengthened with iron as some of the wood beams were no longer in contact with the wall!
Before the changes
We saw recently the removal of the large, old press which used to dominate the top end of the cellar next to the cement tanks. Jeff has also removed a huge fibre glass tank which took up a lot of space. 145 hectolitres in size, it was now redundant as Jeff prefers to use smaller tanks for fermentation and maturation. Incidentally 145hl is almost 20,000 bottles of wine!
The large tan on the right =145hl
The photograph shows the number of doors in the cement tanks which have been divided to allow smaller amounts of wine. These two empty spaces now leave much more room in the cellar for all the machinery needed, during the vendanges for example. Jeff told me that the cellar had taken shape in 1956 so these are the first major changes in 60 years.
Michel porte la cuve! Mon héro
The floor has also been renovated with drains updated too. The surface you see in the photos from last week will be covered with resin, more practical in a wine cellar.
One of the more popular cuvées has also been the focus of work. Bibonade is a sparkling wine, white and rosé. This PetNat style is very refreshing but requires work just as any sparkling wine.
The fermentation in the bottle creates some residue which needs to be removed. The residue can be seen in the neck of the bottle as they are placed in these wooden frames known as pupitres (desks). Once the lees have gathered next to the capsule the bottle is opened so that they explode out with the force of the carbon dioxide made from fermentation. The bottle is then topped up and resealed.
Definitely a cuvée to enjoy, my wife’s favourite Coutelou wine for example.
Some of the roof work with the majestic beams
Well, cave painting is a slight exaggeration but there have been lots of changes in the main cave in recent weeks. The first took place a little while ago when one of the cement tanks, cuves, was divided into two. This will allow an additional wine to be made separately giving more flexibility to Jeff to decide what cuvées to make. As he has increased the number of parcels of different varieties, especially older cépages such as Aramon and Castets, then these have to be vinified with other grapes or separately. More cuves add more choice.
The main cellar is a marvelous place with its sheer size and history of winemaking. The roof has always been a joy to look at because of the magnificent timber work and vaulting. Sadly, after five generations of Coutelou vignerons, the roof had problems. The woodwork needed replacing in some areas and the tiles needed to be relaid or replaced. A large expense to take on board.
Holes and gaps in the damaged roof
Dismantling the roof. Photo by Jeff
Photo by Jeff
Almost closed up
Whilst the work on the roof has been going on Jeff took the opportunity to improve other features, such as new electric points and drains but also new equipment to circulate the air better in the higher parts of the cellar where heat can gather.
New electrics and air control
New drains and pumps
All this means better control, better conditions for winemaking and, I am sure, even better wines. To pay for all the work! As we are now just a matter of days from vendange the cleaning up process has begun even as the work comes to an end. Everything must be clean and ready.
Someone likes the mess and has to be cleaned!