Viewing entries tagged
Coutelou

A Flying Visit

A Flying Visit

At the beginning of what proved to be an absolutely scorching week in the UK, Gavin and I headed down to the South West corner of France on a mission; drink as much wine talk to our network of growers and confirm grapes for the 2015 vintage.

After touching down in Toulouse (an hour later than scheduled owing to a very busy Gatwick airport) we picked up the hire car and headed straight to the small town of Puimisson, Languedoc to visit Jeff Coutelou. Jeff is an exceptionally talented viticulturist and vigneron, choosing to follow the practices of biodynamic and organic vineyard management alongside natural vinification.

Besides a few processes such as tilling the soil, every vineyard process is carried out by hand. This fastidious approach ensures that the soil does not become compacted, as you might find in a commercial, chemically treated vineyard, but also any issues that may arise are quickly identified and mitigated.

The purpose of our visit to this small village, just outside of Béziers, was to assess the Cabernet Sauvignon plots that Jeff has once again agreed to let us work with. The grapes have overcome challenging conditions during flowering, with high winds causing some isolated patches of coulure (when the grape bunches develop unevenly during fruit set). The fruit looks wonderfully healthy and we’re expecting low yields with deep concentration of flavour. Skilled management of vine vigour ensures the grapes enjoy a balance of shade and airflow through the canopy.

This was also a chance for us to see other plots of Jeff’s vineyards as well as the winery itself. On the fringes of his bush vine Grenache vineyards, a group of fig trees illustrates the contrasting effects of organic management versus the use of chemical sprays. The side of the tree facing Jeff’s Grenache bore plump, ripe and luscious figs (albeit a little warm after sitting in the 40oC afternoon sun) whereas the tree facing his neighbour’s chemically treated vineyard had been stripped off all fruit and flowers.

Nice spot for a swim
Nice spot for a swim

After a chilled glass (a revelation by all accounts) of our 2013 Cabernet, an evening swim in the River L’Orb and dinner we made tracks for our overnight stop in Carcassonne, feeling satisfied with the day’s outcome.

Our focus for day two was Chardonnay. Research and intuition indicates that Limoux is a growing haven for the grape responsible for our most popular wine. High altitudes, moderating air currents and free-draining soil all work together to aid the development of Chardonnay with classic varietal character and fresh acidity. We were fortunate enough to have a contact in the area; James Kinglake owner of the highly successful Domaine Begude, who not only showed us round his estate and cellars but also set up a meeting with a local grower; Maurice.

We met Maurice on his farm-come-workshop and briefly outlined our project before being taken to the potential sites. In similar fashion to Jeff’s vineyards, the first thing that struck us was the healthy appearance of the fruit bunches and immaculate condition of the vines owing to Biodynamic and Organic (certified) management. After a couple of hours walking through the vineyards and assessing each potential parcel, we shook hands on a deal and retreated to the shade.

We're very fortunate to be able to work with such dedicated and passionate people and believe our line-up this year, from the Southwest corner of France, is our strongest to date.

Next stop Slovenia and Galicia, watch this space.....

Among the vines in Limoux
Among the vines in Limoux

Mas Coutelou

Mas Coutelou

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.

Harvesting at Mas Coutelou

Harvesting at Mas Coutelou

Last Sunday a few of the London Cru team travelled to Puimisson in the Languedoc-Roussillon to visit Jeff Coutelou. We were there for the harvest of the beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he had agreed to sell us for our first vintage. If you know Roberson Wine you will have heard of Jeff and Mas Coutelou. To say we are fans would be an almighty understatement. He is without a doubt one of the purest, most genuine and gifted winemakers we have ever worked with. We were jumping for joy when he said he was interested in our project and would sell us some of his amazingly well-cared for fruit.

The reason we were lucky enough to get our hands on it is because a few years ago Jeff made the decision to only work with indigenous varieties like Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache. His grandfather had planted the Cabernet vines and he can’t bring himself to pull them up, so he’s been selling the grapes to a local co-op, but he treats them exactly the same as his other ‘children’, with an incredible amount of love and attention.

Jeff and Gavin at Mas Coutelou
Jeff and Gavin at Mas Coutelou

The thing I find most inspiring about Jeff is that he feels his purpose on this earth is to care for his land and vines, leave the earth in a better state than he found it and spread love and joy through his wines. He is so sure and content about his reason for being here that he only sleeps 4 hours a night (“my mind is always on my grapes”) and sees no point in taking holidays (“I get so much love and joy from my vines, my grapes and the people who drink my wines, why would I need holidays?”)

The fruit was pristine, incredible for an organic, biodynamic grower who uses purely natural methods in the vineyard, and after a long day picking with Jeff’s team (who all seem to idolise him) the refrigerated truck was packed up ready to set off for London. We’re please to say it arrived this morning in perfect condition and is being processed downstairs in the winery as I write this. Now we just need Gavin to make wines as good as Jeff’s. No pressure Gav!