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

Leave a comment

Wine in a time of corona

It was in the first few months of writing this blog that I used the quotation of Louis Pasteur, “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages”. It’s a saying which has sprung frequently to mind in recent days as we enter a period unprecedented in my lifetime. The COVID19 pandemic has closed down the world in a way few of us could possibly have foreseen when we celebrated New Year just 12 weeks ago, hoping that this year would be better than the last!

Icare enjoying the Spring

Jeff Coutelou has been in touch to report that he is trying to do all he can in his vineyards, the problem being that in a time of lockdown he is on his own and with 11ha of vines to tend facing a heavy workload. First priorities have been a light ploughing and time spent amongst the newly planted vines to ensure they start life in Puimisson healthily. He reported that being in the vines was a pleasure because of the sheer peace and quiet with traffic virtually non existent. As he prunes the vines later than many budding is in its very earliest stage.

Budding on March 25th 2016

Others in the region have reported an early budding and, frost forecasts bring nervous times. I saw photos of Burgundy lighting their braziers amongst the vines to try and ward off frost damage. Fortunately Jeff’s vine management means that is not a concern at present though the ‘Saints de Glace’* are still almost two months away.

Meanwhile here in the UK there has been a huge demand for alcohol, part of the panic buying we have unfortunately seen as lockdown approached. Bigger merchants such as The Wine Society have shut down, Majestic’s website could not cope and supermarket shelves have been cleared regularly. To be fair the supermarkets have restocked quickly. Smaller merchants face a precarious time, needing turnover to stay in business. I ordered a case from Buonvino based in Settle who I have used before and wanted to support again. I debated whether I was being fair on delivery drivers expected to put themselves at risk but I decided to go ahead. As I unpacked the bottles and washed them down I had to admit to not having noticed the names of some bottles from South African producer Testalonga. Stay Brave, Keep On Punching and I Wish I Was A Ninja were three bottles, maybe I was sending an unconscious message!

Jancis Robinson has published a list of merchants around the world prepared to deliver. The Three Wine Men have done the same thing for the UK here. I buy regularly, almost exclusively in fact, from independent merchants and I hope that many of you will give them a browse at least.

Whatever you are doing in the next few weeks, wherever you are please stay healthy, stay at home and stay safe.

* Saints De Glace refers to a period in mid May which is traditionally the final days where frost is a risk for plants. It was named after the three saints of the days, which in 2020 are May 11-13, Mamert, Pancrace and Servais.


Hard work continues

It has been a busy time in the cellars over the last few weeks despite my lack of updates. The reason is that the work has been mainly putting together orders of wine to be sent around the world. This is partly due to orders building up over the vendange period but also, no doubt, to merchants wanting stocks ahead of the Christmas and New Year period.

Adding labels and capsules

Adding labels and capsules

Orders have gone to Germany, Sweden, UK, various regions of France and these pictures show bottles being prepared for export to New York importer Camille Riviere who has an excellent range of French producers on his list. No doubt I have omitted other markets too.

Magnums of Classe ready for the Big Apple

Magnums of Classe ready for the Big Apple

Jeff and Michel packing cases with the help of high technology

Jeff and Michel packing cases with the help of some…er…. high technology

Palettes coming together for New York

Palettes coming together for New York

This is not glamorous but it is essential work. Meanwhile Jeff’s phone keeps ringing with requests for wine which are becoming more difficult to meet as stocks are running dry, some cuvées are already sold out. Other visitors arrive at the cave to taste and to buy a case or two and to be entertained by Icare’s antics.

Playing with a ball of wool

Playing with a ball of wool

Meanwhile Jeff still goes into the vineyards every day to check what is happening there and to ensure that all is well. The real work there will begin in January with pruning of the wood (taillage) which will last until March and I shall report then. But if you think Jeff is having an easy time, please think again. Long, long days of vineyard, cellar and admin work as well as sorting orders, dealing with everyday problems. So spare a thought for your winemaker, s/he works hard with their vocation.

Meanwhile I have been visiting a number of other winemakers and a wine fair and I shall report back soon. Thanks for reading.