amarchinthevines

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


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Stress and grapes – Vendanges 17

Day two and the weather remained overcast and humid, there were even a few drops of rain. Rain which has been sorely missed in the last two months, there has been no real rain since June 26th, almost two months now. Some vines have found that stressful and virtually shut down therefore not ripening the grapes as well as they ought to do. Others, with underground water supply more available, are more vigorous and channeling their energy into the grapes. Judging what to harvest and when, is therefore even more difficult and stressful for Jeff.

The picking today began in Peilhan where the Muscat À Petits Grains was golden, starting to raisin in places. The berries are a little smaller than usual, another sign of the lack of recent rain. Nonetheless they were sweet, ripe and ready, measuring 15° of potential alcohol. In the press the lack of juice means that even a decent amount of grapes will produce only one barrique this year.

Then on to Clairette Musquée, a couple of rows in Peilhan, next to the red grape vines. This cépage is so rare that an ampelography expert recently failed to identify it on a visit. Into the mix was added Grenache Blanc from La Garrigue, which has fared better than some in that vineyard with the drought. Indeed one berry seemed to have thrived as you can see in the following photo.

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Whilst Roxane, Max and myself picked the Grenache the others moved into the newer plantation of Peilhan and picked Riveyrenc Noir, Riveyrenc Gris, Piquepoul Gris and Morastel. This really was a day for ampelography fans like myself. All of these grapes with the Clairette will help to make the rosé for 2017 and the first glass, hot from the press, tasted very good indeed over lunch.

Friday lunch was leisurely, we were joined by the excellent Paco Mora of La Cave D’Ivry, and some good bottles opened including a fabulous Sauvignon Blanc 002 from Jeff, 15 years old and still in great shape. Julien opened his new cuvée (one of only 50 bottles) from Faugères (Grenache Blanc and Roussanne) which was very good too. Monday will see the start of more full on days, bigger quantities, more work and faster lunches – so allow us this convivial interlude. Meanwhile, Icare continued in his inimitable style.

 


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200

 

 

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Version française

This is the 200th blog post of amarchinthevines.org. For the 100th post I wrote about the making of a wine which Jeff Coutelou encouraged me to make in celebration. It was based on the three types of Grenache (Noir, Blanc et Gris) which grow in Rome vineyard. The wine was then put into three separate containers; a younger barrel (60l), an older barrel (30l) and a 27l glass bottle.

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I have reported on their development in previous posts and, in particular, about the influence of the three containers. The older barrel has been used many times before and is almost  airtight, so, the fruit in the barrel is still youthful. The younger barrel shows more wood influence as the staves are less sealed and, therefore, there is more contact with the air. The wine tasted slightly less fruity and has a drier flavour. The glass bottle took much longer to finish fermentation and the wine tasted much more like new grape juice, full of fresh red fruits and still sweet as the sugars remained in the wine awaiting the completion of fermentation.

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Old and new barriques showing clear difference in October 2016

Well, on February 8th it was the day before my birthday and Jeff, as so often, was very generous in making  a bouillabaisse for our dinner and a lovely bottle of Boulard Champagne ‘Les Murgiers’ (the very cuvée I wrote about in my review of Les Affranchis in blog post 199!)

He suggested that we should re-taste the wine so that I could report on its development and make each century an update. So, as the hour approached midnight we were in the solera cellar and the tasting began. The wines tasted much rounder and more complete than the last time I tasted them in October, we discussed the possibility of bottling in early summer when I return to Puimisson. The two barrels showed the same influences, more fruit from the older barrel, more complex, secondary flavours from the newer barrel. The biggest change was from the glass bottle, still very fruity but much less residual sugar as fermentation has completed. This wine is now rounder, it is real wine rather than fermenting juice.

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The glass bottle

Then, in yet another act of incredible kindness, Jeff went into the family cellar and found a bottle of wine from birth year. The 1959 was a Muscat De Frontignan which Jeff thinks was gathered by his grandfather when he worked for an agricultural company, possibly the domaine of the owners of that company.

I have never tasted a 1959 wine before and when it was opened it delivered a delicious depth of old Muscat, deep brown in colour and deep, raisiny fruits which lingered long on the tongue. Just as the memories of a special night will linger long in my memory.

 


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Update on my Grenaches wine

In September I published my 100th blog post. To celebrate Jeff gave me permission to make a special cuvée. My wife Pat, friends Martin, May, Céline and Delphine helped me to pick Grenache grapes from my favourite vineyard, Rome. An assemblage of Grenaches Noir, Gris and Blanc was made.

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Since that lovely day the wine has been gently maturing in a variety of containers. Some went into a 60l barrel, more into a 30l barrel and the rest went into a 27l glass bottle. We tasted the barrel wines in November as they were still fermenting and it was already clear that there were differences between them. Further tasting in February revealed the differences more clearly with surprising results.

I had expected that the newer oak barrel would have a more pronounced effect upon the wine than the older barrel. Take a look at the two glasses in the photo, clearly one of the wines is a darker colour than the other. So is the darker colour from the older or newer barrel? (Answer lower down the page).

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On April 7th we carried out a soutirage to remove the dead yeast cells and other material which had served its purpose in the fermentation process but might now hinder the wine. There was actually little of that material as the pressing I made in September was a small scale one using the vertical press, meaning that the wine which went into the containers was actually quite pure grape juice.

I expected the older barrel to produce the darker wine but it was actually the reverse. On reflection I should have realised. The older barrel is more seasoned and the staves of the barrel are more saturated from years of wine, creating an effective barrier to oxidation. The newer barrel certainly doesn’t leak (thankfully) but allows more oxygen into the wine, producing the darker colour.

As to flavour and aroma. Well both barrel wines are both very pleasing. The older barrel certainly had fresh raspberry aromas with other red fruits, also a sweet edge which carried into the taste. It still has residual sugar but there is lovely red fruit and great length. The newer barrel gave a rounder flavour, still some sugar but there was a hint of spice and darker fruits.

The glass bottle was actively fermenting when we opened it. Take a listen.

Naturally the wine contained a little gas when we tasted it, but had very fresh aromas and flavours of red fruit with the sugar obvious due to the fermentation.

Now they are back in their various containers, topped with a little surplus Muscat to fill them. They will continue to eat the sugar and to develop their flavours. As this is almost the 150th article I hope that it won’t be another 50 before I get to taste them again. Thanks again to Jeff for allowing me to make this wine and to learn about what influences a wine and its development.

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Centiment de Grenache

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Version française

No excuses for using a  French title and a misspelling too. This is the hundredth article on my blog and so a play on the word cent is justified. I mentioned to Jeff Coutelou that this post would be a landmark and he decided that it should be celebrated with something special. I had thought about a review of the previous ninety nine, a greatest hits if you will, but Jeff had something much more spectacular lined up; I should make a special cuvée from the Coutelou vines, and not just any parcel but my absolute favourite vineyard, Rome.

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This was such a lovely gift, in the middle of the harvest, a time of increasing pressure and stress, Jeff allowed me to take up time, grapes and equipment to make a special wine. How generous is that?

So it was decided to use the Grenache grapes from Rome a complanted vineyard of traditional, gobelet vines. The Grenaches were planted back in 1962 by Jean Claude Coutelou, Jeff’s father who told me about them at lunch on Friday, the day of the harvest and pressing. There are approximately 4 rows of Grenache Noir but mixed in there are quite a few Grenache Blanc vines and a smaller number of Grenache Gris. These would make a true assemblage of Grenache, a real feeling for Grenache, “sentiment de Grenache”.

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My wife Pat was persuaded to come along and do some picking along with our friends Martin and May Colfer, neighbours in Margon, and great people. They had expressed interest in finding out about the harvest and were to get first hand experience! I was also delighted that we were joined by Céline and Delphine, two nurses from Bordeaux who had come down to Puimisson to take part in harvest. It is a mark of how highly Jeff is valued by his friends that many come along to help out and I shall mention more in the next vendanges diaries. Céline had done some picking in the first week of harvest when she and her family were staying with Jeff and had clearly enjoyed it, returning with Delphine.

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It has to be said that none of us were the most experienced pickers and it took us around two and a half hours to harvest the four rows. One issue proved to be the complantation as mixed in with the Grenache Blanc were some Muscat vines and the Cinsault and Muscat Noir vines were easily mistaken for Grenache Noir. Fortunately my recent articles on ampelography meant that I was able to guide us into collecting the sought after Grenaches with just a few extras. It was made easier by the grapes themselves which were in excellent condition, really healthy. Mixed with Queen tunes and chatter we worked hard to pick and the first grapes were transported back to the cellar along with myself, there to start the pressing.

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As this was a small quantity of grapes they would be pressed in one of the small hydraulic presses and so I had to tread them first so that they would not burst in the press, squirting juice everywhere. Then into the cage and the juice began to flow, sweet, clear and weighing in at over 15º of potential alcohol.

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Back to the vineyards to rejoin my friends in order to complete the picking. At 11.45 we had completed all the Grenache vines. I have said before in this blog that I call the vines of Rome vineyard ‘centurions’, as they stand tall and proud. Roman centurions were older, were trained and gave everything for each other. These vines are exactly the same and making an assemblage of the different Grenaches seems appropriate, centurions stand together.

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Lunch beckoned and it was good to share together and enjoy some of the bottles of Mas Coutelou, coincidentally including a magnum of ‘Grenache, Mise De Printemps 2014’. As this is the 100th article it also made me think of a year ago when I sat around that table and Jeff told me his story of the <Chaud Doudou>, a fairytale with a moral of sharing and love, very much Jeff’s philosophy. Looking around the table with Jeff, Jean-Claude, Michel from Puimisson with visitors from the Loire, Bordeaux, UK, Ireland and Australia it was hard not to think that this was exactly what that philosophy is all about.

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In the afternoon I pressed the grapes three times in total. Between each one I carried out a rebeche, dismantling the gateau of grapes made by the press and rearranging them for the next pressing. The contrast between the black, pink and white grapes was beautiful to look at.

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The end product was only around 125 litres of wine after all that effort, this will be a true collectors item so send your bids in now! Jeff thought it would be interesting to see how the wine will develop in different containers, so some went into a 60 litre barrel, more into two, older 15 litre barrels and the rest into a big 27 litre bottle.

First pressing

First pressing

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Second pressing, slightly darker in colour

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Delphine and Karim checking my work

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During the whole process other parts of the cellar were busy as more Grenache from Sainte Suzanne were brought in. Yet Jeff gave me his time, advice and encouragement through it all. What can I say? I am a very lucky man to have been able to share my experiences with you all through this blog and I am grateful to very one of the 10,000 people who have read my words in just over a year. It has been an exciting and hugely enjoyable time and hopefully this cuvée will embody the sentiment of sharing and love and represent the beautiful Rome vineyard and the amazing generosity and talents of its owner.

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                                             Santé

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Vendanges Diaries (2)

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Version française

Aug 30th was a Sunday so no picking but Jeff was still in the cellar working. The early wines needed to be checked and moved as necessary.

Monday 31st dawned cloudy again and it was time to tackle the biggest of the vineyards at Mas Coutelou, Segrairals. The Syrah was ready to be picked and Jeff had decided to use carbonic maceration to ferment the grapes which are probably not of the same top quality as those from La Garrigue or Sainte Suzanne which were picked last week.

Grapes which are pressed like those described last week ferment in tank as yeasts react with the juice to change the sugar to ethanol, ie alcohol. The yeasts are natural from the skins of the grapes and the atmosphere of the cellar. In the case of Mas Coutelou and many artisanal winemakers this is the case though other winemakers will buy yeasts some of which are designed to add particular flavours to the wine. None of that in Puimisson, these are natural wines.

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        Carbon dioxide pumped into the tank

Carbonic maceration means that the whole bunches go into the tanks, grapes and stalks alike. The tank is filled with carbon dioxide which permeates the grape skins and starts the fermentation within the cells of the berry. Some of the berries at the bottom of the tank will be crushed by the weight of the grapes and so there will be some conventional fermentation too.

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Whole bunches in the tank

All the grapes are given a light crushing later by which time ethanol will have formed inside the skins and so the resultant juice is ready made wine. The result is often more fruity and juicy wine.

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Grapes arrive through the little back door above the cement tanks

To achieve this the tanks are filled from above so we worked in the space above the cement tank with the grapes arriving at the back door which is a level higher than the front door. The space is smaller and the heat from the grapes was high. It was hard work, believe me. Sorting still had to be done before the grapes could go into the tank, quality comes first.

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                 Some of the rejected bits

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 The pipe carries the CO2 into the tank

And after 9 hours of back breaking lifting, carrying and sifting it was, as ever, time to clean everything from top of the cellar to bottom as we see here with Jeff and Michel.

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        One visitor from the vineyard

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The boss letting us know we should get a move on

The night of the 31st brought a big storm with lots of rain, not the ideal conditions for harvest at all. Rain can cause rot and problems. However, it could have been much worse as news arrived of huge damage caused by hail in the Chablis region. For all the forecasts of how the harvest might turn out it is only when the grapes are safely in the tank that a vigneron can be assured of the quality of wine they might make. Commiserations to the Chablis producers.

September 1st was a quiet day as the rains from the storms meant the grapes were too wet to harvest. In the cellar more checking and remontage, the process of pumping the wine over the cap of skins and must. Further analysis of the wines showed that the yeasts are acting quickly and the fermentation is progressing very well.

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      Hard work!

Today, September 2nd, the remaining white grapes, Grenache Blanc, from La Garrigue. Then on to Peilhan to gather some of the white grapes there, Maccabeu, Grenache Gris, Carignan blanc and Clairette Musquée.

Grenache Gris

                                  Grenache Gris

Carignan Blanc

                                  Clairette Musquée

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      Michel

The core team of Jeff, Carole, Michel, Cameron and myself were joined by Matthieu who has worked the harvest before here. There were some lovely bunches though the wet weather has caused some rot inside some of them, Careful sorting took place in the vineyard to take only the best grapes which tasted really sweet and juicy, the Clairette was especially tasty.

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Cameron especially pleased with this bunch of Clairette

The white grapes were taken back to the cellar and placed in tank after being destemmed. It is possible that Jeff will make his first orange wine with them. An orange wine is a white wine made like a red wine, ir the wine is fermented on the skins thus extracting more colour, texture and flavour from them and giving the wine an orange tint. However, analysis and the next few days will be needed before the final decision is made.

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In tank and the future might be orange

In the afternoon, Matthieu, Jeff and myself did more remontage of the Syrah grapes harvested in the last week, which is already tasting well, with very healthy technical analysis and beautiful aromas. And, then, as ever, the cleaning.

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              Matthieu carrying out remontage

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  Remontage, the juice flows over the cap of must

Syrah from Ste Suzanne

    Beautiful colour of the Syrah from Ste Suzanne

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