Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

Visit www.gourmetodyssey.com for more information

Under the Bordeaux Sun


We've just got back from a very hot and sunny Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience weekend at Château Beau Rivage in Macau-en-Médoc, Bordeaux.

Wine course in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage

After the initial introductions, we headed straight out into the vineyard, accompanied by Christine Nadalié, the owner and winemaker. 

Chrsitine Nadalié

Christine explained the differences between the 5 grape varieties that are grown in the vineyard; cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and petit verdot, and talked us through each of the key stages in cultivating the grapes from pruning through to harvest.

Bunch of grapes

The grapes are already well developed on the vines, and like elsewhere in France, are a couple of weeks ahead of where they would normally be.  This is a direct result of the very warm spring that we have experienced.

As is the custom with a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Day, we learn by doing, so there is always some work to do!  Christine had three tasks that she had been saving up for us; épamprage, effeuillage and relevage.

Epamprage

Firstly, épamprage is the removing of the unwanted shoots that sometimes grow from the foot of the vines.  These shoots can grow as tall as the whole plant and don't produce any grapes, so if not managed, they take away nutrients and energy from the fruit bearing branches.  The smaller shoots can easily be pulled off by hand, but some of the thicker and more established shoots need the help of a small knife or pair of secateurs.

Effeuillage

The next job that Christine explained was effeuillage, which involves removing some of the leaves that cover the grapes.  There are two primary reasons for this.  One is to increase the amount of sun that the grapes receive to help them mature, and the other is to increase the flow of air around the grapes.  This is particularly important to combat mildew that can damage the grapes following a wet period.  The leaves are removed from the side facing the rising sun only.  This is because the morning sun is weaker, and in the afternoon the sun is stronger, so the shade from the leaves is welcome to protect the grapes.

Relevage

And finally we learnt about relevage.  As the vines grow taller, so the training wires for each row need to be raised to continue supporting the vines.  The wires on each side of the row are raised to the next peg up on the posts, and the wires then clipped together using a small clip.  All of the branches are placed between the wires to tidy the row up, and make sure that the vines aren't damaged when the tractor passes.

We each dispersed among the rows to put into action what Christine had taught us.  Cultivating vines if often a more manual process than you might think!

Adopt-a-vine Bordeaux

A small name board was to be found in front of the adopted vines for each client, so having perfected the tasks of the day, we each had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the vines, take some pictures and ensure that everything was in order concerning the effeuillage, épamprage and relevage!

Wine Tasting

By now it was getting seriously hot in the vineyard, so back to the château it was to find some shade and start the wine tasting session! Fittingly, the first wine to be tasted was the rosé 2010, which had been chilling in the fridge!

During the meal of locally prepared charcuterie, we tasted a large range of wine from Château Beau Rivage including the 2007 and 2006 vintages of the wine selected for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience,  Raphaël 2007, Clementine 2004, le Phare 2001 and Christine's Haut-Médoc wine, Clos la Bohème 2007 and 2006.

The Chai

The cool of the chai was welcome after lunch.  Christine showed us the fermentation tanks used to ferment the wine, and explained how the sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol.

cellar tour

We finished the day in the cellar, where we saw the impressive collection of oak barrels that are used to mature the wines.  This part of the day, gave us an insight into one of Christine's other passions, the art of barrel making, which she has grown up with, coming from a family of coopers.

Many thanks to Christine, Guillaume and Aurélie for letting us get behind the scenes to discover a small part of the fascinating world of wine making.

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