amarchinthevines

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


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Vermouth, Kina

En francais

It was interesting to see Oz Clarke* on James Martin’s Saturday morning TV show this week looking at the topic of vermouth. I wrote earlier in the year about the vermouth which Jeff Coutelou is now making and selling, Kina.


Oz

Screenshot from the TV programme

The Languedoc is associated with vermouth since one of the most famous brands, Noilly Prat, is made in the lovely port of Marseillan. Vermouth was never a drink I enjoyed but Kina is changing that.

noilly

According to specialist website The Fine Spirits Corner, “The Kina is a type of fortified wine that is made ​​from dry and sweet wines of high quality to which are added extracts of quinine. Produced mainly in Andalusia, was formerly used as a tonic, invigorating and during the appetizer to open the food.”

After mixing various herbs and spices with the base wine back in July Jeff left the kina to macerate in the cellar for a few weeks. Time for an update.

During vendanges he also prepared some more wine to be mixed with the kina. The wine was mixed with pure alcohol to stop fermentation (mutage) and retain some of the sugars from the grapes. This was then blended with the macerated wine to make Kina.

As the quote above says, supported by Clarke’s introduction, vermouth should be a drink with plenty of flavour and sweetness from the herbs and spices but with a bitter finish to cleanse the palate. I have tried other examples of kina drinks from the commercial, e.g. Lillet or Martini as well as another artisan vermouth from Carcassonne. I liked the latter though it was certainly sweeter than Coutelou Kina. I like the bitter twang of Kina though Jeff is also making a sweeter version if that is your preference.

With Christmas and New Year celebrations on the horizon Kina will definitely be featuring as my aperitif of choice. Vermouth may be the new gin (also made in Puimisson!) and, to my surprise, I welcome its return to the spotlight.

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Taking its place in the Coutelou range

*Oz Clarke is an English wine writer and broadcaster who certainly did a lot to spark my passion for wine

 

 

 

 

 


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Kina than ever

 

Version francaise

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According to the very good website Punch there is a vermouth renaissance at present, headed by demand in Spain. Coincidentally Jeff Coutelou has marketed his version of vermouth, Kina, this year. Good timing it would seem.

On July 17th Jeff prepared the next batch of Kina. Demijohns were given generous quantities of herbs and spices such as bitter orange peel, sweet orange, gentian and many others. Top secret recipe of course! White wine was added to top up the container and this will form the concentrate. In a few weeks when the wine has macerated with the flavourings they will be removed. The flavoured wine will then be diluted with more wine to produce the Kina.

It is a very refreshing aperitif, dry and flavoursome. Certainly we were not the only ones to appreciate the morning’s work a Icare found it a source of great interest.

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Coutelou renewed

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En Francais

You may recall that for French bureaucratic reasons the Coutelou domaine name had to change this year. Mas Coutelou was a combination of the surnames of Jeff’s parents, Mas being his mother’s family name. However, Mas also means a homestead or farm and only wines under Appellation or IGP labels are allowed to have that name. So, family name or not, Jeff’s Vin De France wines, Mas Coutelou for many years, had to have new branding.

Since he was already planning to release new products such as a fine (eau de vie), a kina (like a vermouth) and other spirits Jeff chose ‘Vins et Spiritueux Coutelou’. I have tried the Kina and like it, even though it’s not really my thing. Made from wine and organic herbs from the vineyards it is a very enjoyable aperitif.

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It seems that renewal is the signature of the year. There has been much updating of the cellar in recent times; roof, insulation, a form of air conditioning, division of cuves to make it possible to vinify smaller parcels and quantities, resin flooring, better drainage, amphorae, temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. A new management space means that it is easier to see at a glance what is where and adds a tidiness to what was a more chaotic central space of the cellar.

Upstairs the new office space has been fitted out beautifully. Jeff commissioned a couple of local carpenters to make furniture. Using old barrels and a foudre of more than 130 years old they made a cupboard, with themed shelves and a stunning chair for the desk. They are real works of art, true craftsmanship. A table from the Coutelou family home has been skilfully renewed to add a feature to the space.

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The empty parcel next to Ste Suzanne

And, in the vineyards more renewal. The small parcel at Sainte Suzanne which has been fallow for many years was supposed to be planted last year, in 2017. A very wet spell then and another this Spring has meant that those plans had to be shelved as the parcel was too wet. However, the vines were already ordered so Jeff has planted them in Segrairals where he had grubbed up some Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead of that extraneous variety Jeff has planted Aramon Noir and Aramon Gris (Aramon being the original grape in the parcel next to Ste Suzanne), Terret, Clairette Blanche, Clairette Rose, Picardan, Olivette, Servan (related to Syrah) and Grand Noir De La Calmette. I must admit to never having heard of some of these. Time to consult my copy of Galet’s wonderful Encycolpedia of Grapes. The Coutelou vineyards are fast becoming a treasure store of rare grapes, there are now several dozen varieties planted.

The very hot and dry month combined with the widespread mildew outbreak have meant that Jeff has spent many hours tending this new plantation, spraying and watering to help the new plants to survive. Happily, all is well.

2018 will always be remembered by Languedoc vignerons as a year of headaches and heartaches, months spent on tractors fighting disease, easy to become disheartened. The Coutelou renewals help to remind us that such problems are temporary.