amarchinthevines

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


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Harvest 2019 – Eight Grapes A Day

En francais

Carignan Blanc, Carignan Noir, Terret Blanc, Piquepoul Gris, Muscat d’Alexandrie, Macabeu, Castets, Morrastel.

These were the eight grape varieties picked on Thursday September 12th (Day 10 of vendanges). There are some unusual ones in there. Morrastel is a Spanish grape by origin (known as Graciano there). Part of the 2015 new plantation of Peilhan, it is already giving generous fruit in big bunches. Castets, from the South West of France, was very rare but has sprung to fame in 2019 as one of the new varieties which the Bordeaux AOC is allowing to be included in its wines. Jeff planted some in Peilhan long before this in 2011, its small, concentrated berries mark it out.

Tackling the Morrastel on a hot day Castets (right)

In Decanter magazine Andrew Jefford recently described winemaking as the litmus of climate change. I think that is an excellent way of describing the situation. When Carignan, a Mediterranean grape, is badly affected by the kind of heatwave we experienced this summer then there is something wrong. Castets, along with other varieties, has been added to the Bordeaux mix to help its vignerons adapt tot he new climate situation. Morrastel and other Spanish/Italian/Greek varieties might well be part of the answer for regions such as the Languedoc.

Jeff is well aware of the problem and it is one of the reasons he has experimented so much with different grapes in recent years, trying to add nuances of flavour, variety and the best way for his terroir to express itself being other reasons.

The Carignan Blanc went straight into the press, it will form its own cuvée or be assembled, we shall see how it turns out and how it might add to other white wines of the year. The Terret Blanc and Piquepoul Gris, both from the same 2015 plantation as the Morrastel, were added to the two new amphorae. This will be an interesting wine to follow as Jeff has previously used red grapes in the older amphorae. I think the white version could well be more interesting still.

The Muscat d’Alexandrie always produces big grapes, perfumed like most Muscats but this is picked before it becomes sweet. The grapes were destemmed and put into tank. They have been used to make the OW (orange wine) in recent years, I suspect this will follow that route.

Muscat d’Alexandrie being destemmed

The Macabeu is another Spanish grape (known as Macabeo or Viura there) but it has taken well in the Puimisson vineyards, often producing its own synonymous cuvee. It was pressed immediately and put into stainless steel like the Muscat. The Carignan from Peilhan was again destemmed and will be used for blending. The Carignan from Rec D’Oulette (the Flambadou grapes) meanwhile is likely to be the last of the harvesting this year.

A fascinating day with such variety of grapes and stories. A sobering one too in reflecting on the litmus situation.

Icare and Bulles (Alain’s dog) certainly found it hot

Day 10


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New vines, old grapes – back to the future

Version francaise

Following on from the new plantation of old and rare grape varieties in Segrairals, Jeff wants to develop further this aspect of the Coutelou vineyards. He has been consulting with the nursery in the Aude which specialises in organic and old vines and has placed orders for more.

Amongst those are some known in other regions and countries. Alicante is a variety known in Spain as Grenache Tintorera, a cross between Grenache Noir and petit Bouschet. Widely grown in Portugal and Spain its red flesh which adds a deep colour to wine is becoming fashionable in the USA. Farana is a grape which was grown in Algeria mainly but after its independence from France plantings there have shrunk to very little. Spain has some and there is a little in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Beni carlo is a grape better known as Bobal, usually grown in Spain and resistant to extreme climatic conditions. Like Alicante Beni carlo is good for adding colour and tannin to wine. Lledoner Pelut, a Spanish grape by origin, is a mutation of Grenache but has the advantage of being more resistant to rot.

 

More familiar varieties such as Aramon, Morrastel, Terret Noir and Clairette Blanche, already planted elsewhere in Jeff’s vineyards, will become more widely planted.

Varieties such as Villard Blanc, Lignan and Mancin are also little known grapes which will begin to bear fruit. Villard was a cross made by a horticulturist and his father-in-law who gave their names to it (also known as 12375 Seyve-Villard). There used to be 30,000ha in the South West of France as late as the 1960s, now only a handful of hectares remain in the Ardeche and Tarn but also in Hungary. Very resistant to mildew. Lignan is unusual in being a grape which ripens before Chasselas, the benchmark for maturity. Originally Italian (known as Luglienga) Lignan Blanc is widely grown as a table grape, is vigorous and needs heavy pruning. Mancin was originally a Bordeaux grape but has disappeared there and little grown elsewhere. Another early maturing grape it adds body to wine when assembled.

 

Jeff has ordered a few vines of each of these as well as more of the Inconnue which is already planted in Font D’Oulette (unknown elsewhere), Marocain Noir, Oeillade Noir and Valenci Blanco some of which are so rare I could not find any information about them! They will be added to vineyards to replace vines which don’t take after grafting or simply die.

Why is Jeff so dedicated to planting and conserving these grapes? Partly because he simply believes it is simply the right thing to do, partly through passion for vines and their history as well as the traditions of French viticulture. It is also a question of diversity in a sea of vineyards across the region. And, in an age of climate change, it behoves viticulteurs to look at how they are going to respond to more extreme weather conditions in future. Finally, these grapes will certainly add a unique character to the Coutelou wines. Old vines but the way forward too.

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