Mas Coutelou: The Soul of the Languedoc, Old and New
The most difficult part of tasting through Mas Coutelou’s gorgeous 2019s was deciding which were the absolute best cuvées. They were all delicious benchmarks of what every natural winemaker should be trying to emulate: soulful, terroir transparent and clean. In the end we picked two shining examples of the estate’s work and begged for enough wine to be able to offer them here.
These wines make a sort of yin and yang that tell not just the story of the domaine, but the Languedoc: one wine is a “modern” Merlot blend of 40+ year old vines, and the other is a field blend of ancient, obscure varieties, planted in 2012 and 2014.
Jean-Francois Coutelou took over his family's estate in 1987 and immediately started converting to organic farming — the first in the region to do so, long before natural wine was a thing. He just knew it was the right, if difficult, thing to do.
The soils had become so chemical-ridden he grubbed up 6 of his 19 hectares. These were mostly around the perimeter of the property, where neighbors’ intensive spraying had infected his newly converted vineyards. The property is now surrounded by a dense biosphere: thousands of trees (olive, fruit and other), bushes, scrub and grass, all host to the animals and natural predators needed for a healthy, balanced environment.
Cellar decisions at the estate are as spontaneous as the fermentations. Every vintage is different, and every year offers a new line up of singular cuveés (with the exception of the Classé, which they bottle every year). Jean-Francois blends different plots and grapes based on their quality and character that vintage. The method is less about experimentation and more about being so thoroughly in tune with his grapes that he can apply varied methods to produce the absolute best the vintage has to offer.
Details on our two favorites of the year are below and we encourage you to try them side by side. Plus, don't forget the Classe!
Mas Coutelou, La Buvette à Paulette, 2019
Merlot in the Languedoc might seem like a strange endorsement from us, but this is the exception.This small patch of 40 year old vines on deep clay over limestone fare so well that Jean-Francois can’t bear to tear them up. It is blended with Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Ribeyrenc (all destemed and short maceration) plus whole cluster Carignan for a silky, meaty, earthy, peppery wine. It bears the stamp of old vine concentration and intensity while still being lifted and lively.
Mas Coutelou, Couleurs Réunies, 2019
A fantastic, wild blend of rare, old-school, co-planted varieties on the brink of extinction. This very delicious wine is nearly black with inky tannins, yet aromatically delicate, beautifully perfumed and floral. This is a wine you struggle to take your nose out of even when vying for the next sip.
The domaine makes this wine every year, and for good reason: there's no better example of the joy and spirit of natural wine than this "gem"!