amarchinthevines

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


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Vendanges Coutelou 21, Curtain Call

En francais

Steeve with the last case of 2021 grapes

Wednesday September 15th was a day of further meticulous sorting grapes for an amphora. Piquepoul Gris and Terret Blanc from Peilhan vineyard arrived first and the early cases went directly to press ready for use in blending some of the white wines of 2021. Peilhan is becoming a real hub of the domaine, the original lower level of red and white grapes added to by a terrace in 2016 with a range of grapes. In a future post I shall explain how Peilhan is to be developed further.

After an hour or so the pickers moved from the terrace of Peilhan to the white grape plot and the Muscat d’Alexandrie, some of Jeff’s personal favourites. Amphorae wines are, perhaps, most associated with the country of Georgia where whole bunches of grapes go into the vessels often buried in the ground. Jeff takes a more cautious approach to his amphorae and, as last week, the Muscat would go through a series of sorting to ensure all stalks and stems are removed. Stalks can add astringency and, in a complicated year such as this, he was taking no chances.

The grapes were sorted at the vine, then at the égrappoir and then a bunch (sorry!) of us went through the destemmed grapes to pick out every little bit of remaining stalk. Cathérine, Jeff’s sister, joined us in the task as we sat on cagettes and chatted. Also, part of the group was Jofre a young man studying hotel and catering. Jeff used to teach this course himself many years ago and always takes a student to do a placement. Jofre wants to become a sommelier, has a good deal of experience in restaurants and has worked hard during his three weeks with us.

Saturday 18th was to be the final day of picking for vendanges 21. Like the Wednesday it began with white grapes going directly to press. This time there were a range of varieties, Olivette, Servant, Terret Blanc and Clairette Rose amongst others. There are now a good number of small stainless steel tanks with small amounts of wine, a palette from which Jeff will produce the final picture of 2021 white wines.

We then moved on to the terrace at Peilhan again and picked the Riveyrenc Noir, Riveyrenc Gris and Morastell Noir (not to be confused with Monastrell, the Spanish name for Mourvèdre). The Riveyrencs were large grapes in big bunches whereas the Morastell was mainly small grapes in small, tight bunches. The latter was much easier to sort, the smaller grapes tend to be less prone to disease. As the day progressed the final section to be picked was the Castets. I wrote about this variety a few years ago when it was still unknown and rare, Jeff having some of the very few vines. Fast forward to 2021 and Castets is now an officially permitted grape in Bordeaux and its fame is growing. More small grapes in healthy bunches, a good way to complete the vendanges.

It has been a somewhat stop start harvest due to the weather, the inconsistent ripening caused by frost and drought. Through it all this has proved to be one of the best teams to work with, hard working, fun and supportive of each other. I thank them for welcoming me in as part of the team. It was a joy to be back.

My final bunch of the year


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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.