amarchinthevines

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


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The first Coutelou of Spring

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It’s a while since I wrote about the happenings at Mas Coutelou, so time for an update. I am thankful to Jeff, Vincent and Julien for keeping me up to date in my absence.

The first few months of 2017 have been damp in the Languedoc, a contrast to the arid 2016. The photos by Julien above show water standing a week after rain and his feet sinking into the soil as he pruned. Jeff had planned to plant a vineyard of different types of Aramon at Théresette next to La Garrigue which has lain fallow for the last few years. However, the soil remains very damp and planting has not been possible, unless things change quickly the project will be postponed until next year. For the same reason, the first ploughing would have begun by now in most years, but is on hold for drier conditions.

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Pruning the last vines (photo and work by Julien)

Julien completed pruning (taille) around March 10th. He photographed the first budding (débourrement) amongst precocious varieties such as the Muscat. However, Jeff told me this week that, generally, budding is later this year, the damper, cooler weather again responsible. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember that frost can cause great damage to vines, especially buds, and the Saints De Glace (date when traditionally frost risk is over) is May 11-13. I recall visiting the Loire last April and seeing frost damage, whole vineyards with no production for the year.

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Julien photographed some early buds

The weather conditions are favourable for something, sadly not good news either. Snails, which ravaged large numbers of buds and leaves in Flower Power and Peilhan last year, have found the damp much to their advantage. They are a real pest, a flock of birds would be very welcome or we’ll see more scenes like these from 2016. Of course, one of the reasons why birds and hedgehogs are lacking is the use of pesticides by most vignerons in the region.

In the cellar the new office and tasting room is complete. Our friend Jill completed a montage of Mas Coutelou labels which we gave to Jeff as a gift. Hopefully that may decorate the walls of the new rooms.

The floor which was half covered in resin last year has been finished all over and another new inox (stainless steel) cuve has arrived. (photos by Vincent).

On March 22nd the assemblages of the 2016 wines took place. Or at least most of them. One or two cuves still have active fermentation with residual sugar remaining but otherwise the wines were ready and the conditions were favourable. I won’t reveal what cuvées are now blended, that is for Jeff to unveil. However, I can say that the reduced harvest of 2016 means fewer wines are available and fewer cuvées made. In the next article I shall be giving my thoughts on the 2016 wines from tastings in October and February.

Finally, there was an award for Jeff himself. On March 30th he was made an official ambassador for the Hérault by the Chamber of Commerce of the département. This was an honour for Jeff himself and the generations of the Mas and Coutelou families who made the domaine what it is. Founded in the 1870s at 7, Rue De La Pompe by Joseph Étienne Mas who planted vines and kept cows after he had fought in the Franco – Prussian War of 1870-1. Five generations later Jeff is an ambassador for Puimisson, vignerons and the Hérault and with his wines he is really spoiling us.

 


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New life at Easter

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Easter is about new life. No bunnies or chicks in the vines this Good Friday, though there were some partridges at Peilhan, but plenty of signs of the vines coming back to life. Some vines are further advanced than others so I want to show how the buds and leaves emerge.

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Bud emerging (débourrement)

The buds are covered in a cotton like substance to protect them at first.

 

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Buds on a Terret Blanc vine planted March 6th 2015

 The leaves begin to unfold.

 

All of these photos were taken on Friday, showing how the vines develop at different speeds. Indeed most vines are still dormant as can be seen in Sainte Suzanne vineyard below.

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And it’s not just vines, the final photo shows a quince tree planted over the winter at Peilhan vineyard with the first wild irises just a few metres away.

Happy Easter!

 

 


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Mas Coutelou 2014

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‘Proof’ that drinking Mas Coutelou wines is good for you

en francais

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The assemblage for the 2014 wines is well under way, the wines are settling in tank for some of the well known cuvées such as Classe and Vin Des Amis. (Above are glasses of richly coloured Vin Des Amis). Both are delicious already and in the few days since I first tasted them they have shown development as they marry together. The fruit and freshness which characterise Mas Coutelou wines are evident and there is a marked concentration which shows that the wines will mature well.

Jeff has published his vintage report for 2014. Winter, spring and early summer were exceptionally dry (less than 150mm or 6 inches of rain in the 9 months to the end of June) and at that moment Jeff was far from sure that he would be able to harvest any grapes. Some relief came from a summer which was not too hot and peppered by storms. However, the vines had to dig deep into their reserves of energy in order to produce grapes. Troubles continued with some storms towards the end of harvest time and then the Marin wind with their warmth and high pressure meant that through the autumn and into December the wines in tank were not able to truly rest. It was a difficult year in short, a reminder that nature rules the life of the vigneron. Indeed some local producers have seen their crops virtually wiped out by hail and mildew so the wines that Jeff has produced are to be even more cherished.

Nevertheless there are some drawbacks. The harvest was smaller especially for Syrah, (down by 40%), Carignan and Mourvedre. Syrah is a major part of many Coutelou wines so Jeff has had to improvise and make the most of what he has. The lack of Mourvedre may mean that one of his popular wines ‘Sauvé De La Citerne’ will not be made. In addition the effort made by the vines means that they would benefit from a rest and yet this winter (thus far) has been so mild that they are starting to show signs of producing buds even in January (débourrement) Instead of resting they are starting to work hard already.

The wines I tasted from tank are marked by concentration and minerality. The vines had to push deep into the soil for water in the arid early part of 2014 so they have drawn up minerals from the soil’s depths. The mineral flavours are evident when drinking. A difficult vintage has produced some highly promising wines but in smaller quantity, so guard what you already have and appreciate the quality of the new wines.

Two wines to note.

PM, the rosé,  is already gorgeous, full of fruit and perfume yet dry and absolutely delicious. At only 11% alcohol it is a wine to drink and enjoy.

A new wine made from old Cinsault, Aramon, Oeillade and Muscate. Tasted from tank this was already sensational, a red wine with grapey, perfumed scents and deep, concentrated red fruits. Can’t wait to see how this develops.

Jeff will be showing some of these new wines at a couple of tastings in the next 10 days, in Montpellier and the Loire. Today Jeff put the bottles together for those tastings, including some corking by hand. Nothing was easy about 2014!!

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Taking Classe from tank

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Bottles prepared