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


All dressed up


Happily the wines have plenty of places to go, from France to Australia, the United States, Japan and all around the world. As Christmas approaches the demand for wines reaches a peak and bottles from 2015 are prepared for sending off to those places. The process of putting on labels, capsules etc is known as habillage (dressing).

On Wednesday October 19th we dressed magnums of Classe and Sauvé De La Citerne as well as bottles of 5SO Simple, all from 2015. 5SO was first released in the Spring but  a second wave is now ready. All of these wines are sold out already, demand outstrips supply.

The bottles which were filled back in Spring are checked first to ensure there is no leakage from the corks, a handful do where a cork was not up to scratch. These bottles are known as couleuses. Every effort is made to ensure that the bottle should reach the consumer in premium condition.


Michel puts on the capsule which is tightened by the machine which then sticks on the labels

The labelling is done by means of a machine which seals the capsule and pastes the label and back label onto the bottle. For the magnums the seal was actually made with wax which requires more work and time. The wax also needs time to dry off before being packed in boxes.

After the single bottles have their capsules and labels added they are placed in their box with protective cardboard to keep them in good condition during transport. This is a fiddly job, it has taken me two years of trying to do it quickly but I have finally got there.

This is the sort of day which I never really considered when I arrived at Mas Coutelou. The vines yes, bottling yes but, as a typical wine drinker, I never really considered the 101 jobs which go into preparing the bottles for market. Meanwhile, Jeff is sorting through his orders and, unfortunately, having to turn down some orders as there simply is not enough wine to meet the requests which he receives. The wines are justifiably in demand, and if you are fortunate to be drinking one, have a thought for the work which goes into preparing the bottle and raise your glass to Jeff, Michel, Julien and everyone else who has helped to make it so good.


Get Back


En français

Whilst having a rather disappointing lunch in Marseillan the other day I ordered a 50cl of Faugères rosé from Sylva Plana and it was quite nice, pale pink, fresh with a little red fruit on the finish. I went to check the back label to see if my guess of Cinsault was correct and… nothing. There was no back label, nothing to inform me about the wine at all. I found this frustrating, Sylva Plana are normally very modern in their approach, have a good restaurant to promote their wines, they’re organic etc. However, they are far from alone. Lots of producers don’t add back labels.

I think this is a wasted opportunity. Most wine drinkers these days have some interest in the wine they are drinking and by supplying information the domaine (I speak generally now) is surely creating a connection to their customer which might be followed up with further sales.


Jonathan and Rachel Hesford at Domaine Treloar provide information in French and English about the grapes in the wine, information about vines and vinification as well as advice on food pairing and when the wine will be at its best. This latter is followed up on their website where more detailed information is available on each wine. I think this is very good practice, the consumer can find out much more about the wine they drink if they choose.

The label from California producer Ridge on the left gives a lot of detail about vinification and what is actually in the wine. Rather surprised at the amount of added water I must say. Perhaps even more informative is this smart back label from Burgundy (right).

Even little things can help to explain the wine and advise the potential buyer about the wine in the bottle. Alsace wines are often criticised and misunderstood because they can range from dry to sweet from producer to producer even when the label says pretty much the same thing. I like the way this producer shows a scale to describe the level of dry – sweet.


Some producers like to show a humorous side to their work and don’t take themselves too seriously. At least you get to know the grape variety at the bottom.


And finally, I do like this back label from a producer keen to emphasise their organic, even natural, credentials. Note also the QR code so that the buyer can link to the website to get more information. Extra points from me there.


So, come on producers. Don’t leave us in the dark about your wines. We want to know about them, to find out the story which makes a wine special and more personal. At least give us the grape varieties.

Happily, for once I was right. The rosé was Cinsault dominated but please don’t leave us in the dark. And if you want something to really inspire you have a look at this, which is something I have already stared at for ages and makes me want to try the wine.