amarchinthevines

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


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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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Castets II – return of the Rugbymen

In a previous post on October 1st (Fin de Vendanges a Mas Coutelou, One Day Like This) I described the hugely enjoyable day spent harvesting Grenache Noir grapes in the company of the Rugbymen of Béziers. Well, the grapes were placed in tank and left to ferment using carbonic maceration. After 3 weeks it was time to press the grapes and the Rugbymen were back.

The grapes in tank, the cage and press

The grapes in tank, the cage and press stand ready

Jeff kickstarts the pressing, with very clean boots!

Jeff kickstarts the pressing, with very clean boots!

The grapes tasted wonderful, full of fruit but with added layers of strength and alcoholic sweetness from fermenting within their skins. Then it was time for the Rugbymen to show the results of all that training.

Loading the grapes into the cage

Loading the grapes into the cage

The juice ran freely even as the cage was being loaded and then the press began its work.

First juice runs freely even before the pressing

First juice runs freely even before the pressing

Look at that stunning colour!

Look at that stunning colour!

The wine was put into bidons (bonbonnes) of glass wrapped in straw for safe keeping and to avoid light damaging the wine. Each bonbonne was carefully marked to ensure that it will be possible to taste the different stages of the wine pressing, from the first freely flowing juice to the last of the pressed wine. It was interesting to taste the wine as it appeared through these stages, there were distinct differences. Various Rugbymen, Jeff and myself all had their own,differing preferences. It will be fascinating to monitor their evolution.

Transferring wine into the bidons

Transferring wine into the bonbonnes

Once again thanks to the Rugbymen, they really are good fun, warm hearted and top men!

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Preparing the grapes for a final pressing, called a rebeche

It was also a good opportunity to taste the wine from Castets, the rare variety which is grown by Jeff as one of only two producers in the world.

WOW! This is already something special. Fruit, light at first just grows in flavour and depth as it coats the mouth and lingers there for a long time. It is amazing and with time in tank and then in bottle (magnums are the likely future) this is a wine I really want to drink when it is mature.