Jean-François Coutelou (or ‘Jeff’ as he prefers to be known) comes from a long line of proud peasants in the Languedoc village of Puimisson, where the family have been growing grapes and making wine for hundreds of years. For a long, long time, this meant working for the landholding families that had large estates in the area, but that all changed for the Coutelous when Jeff’s grandfather was born with a gammy leg that would prevent him from joining his father in surrounding vineyards. As a result, he worked extra hard at school and became an accountant, a much more lucrative career that enabled him to buy his father’s favourite vineyards from the estate the family had been working on for all those years. The Coutelou family have continued to work the same ten hectares ever since, with Jeff gradually taking control from his father during the 1990s. Jeff is a wonderful cook and in his younger days he was a lecturer at the local culinary school in Beziers, although throughout that time he was very much a part of what was going on at the winery. When organic certification became an officially accredited system in the 1980s, Mas Coutelou was among the very first domaines to be given the distinction as their vineyards had never been treated with a single synthetic product. Jeff continues this proud tradition today, incorporating many biodynamic principles into the way he farms and working tirelessly to improve the local ecosystem.
It is this commitment to conscientious viticulture that made Jeff one of the first people we contacted when sourcing fruit for London Cru. A few years ago, Jeff decided only to make wines from indigenous Southern French varieties for the Mas Coutelou range of wines, despite having a beautiful vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon that was planted by his father. Rather than rip out the vines, Jeff had been selling the pristine fruit to the local co-operative, but was more than happy to let us take it from him when he heard about the project.
Mas Coutelou is renowned for making some of France’s finest natural wines and Jeff is widely regarded as one of the leading winemakers in the Languedoc, but he is the first to stress that great wine can only come from perfect grapes. The love and care that Jeff applies to all of his vineyards manifests itself in amazing fruit, and we are incredibly excited to be working with his Cabernet Sauvignon.