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First tasting of the 2011 vintage during the Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle


Last weekend we were at Domaine Chapelle in the pretty Burgundy village of Santenay for the first of the 2011 vintage Vinification Experience Days at the winery. This wine course enables our clients to discover all that happens in making and ageing their wine between the harvest and the moment when it will be bottled.

The Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle

We started in the winery building where the grapes are received during the harvest. Yannick, the Technical Director at Domaine Chapelle,  showed us how the grapes are put into the tanks, and then explained how the sugar is then transformed into alcohol during fermentation.

Visit of the fermentation hall 

Then down into the cellar we headed to learn all about the malo-lactic fermentation and how the wine is aged in oak barrels. The cellar is also the place where the bottles are stored once the wine has been bottled.

Visit of the cellar

Following the discussions and questions, it was time to return upstairs and start putting to work the senses that we use in wine tasting.  The first exercise was for the nose. We passed around small flasks containing aromas that can be found in red wine, starting with the fruity and floral smells. Our task was to try and name what each one was. We then repeated the exercise, but this time with the aromas that result from wine that has been aged in barrels to understand the impact that oak has.

Wine aromas

When we compare wines, it's also useful to talk about the difference in levels of acidity, sugar, bitterness and salt. We had created 4 water solutions to see not just the difference in taste, but also how they each feel on different parts of the tongue.

Wine tasting

But enough of exercises, it was time to get down to the real wine tasting! First, a comparison of two white wines, the Santenay and Meursault from Domaine Chapelle. During the traditional Burgundy meal, we compared different vintages of the Santenay Clos des Cornières, the red wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and we also contrasted them to a Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire.

Wine tasting at Domaine Chapelle Vinification Experience Day

To keep the afternoon nap at bay, we braved the cold and took a tour in the vineyard so that each client could see their adopted vines and snap a photo or two! Yannick then explained the difference in the surrounding vineyard plots and the ages of the vines, and showed us how to prune the vines.

Meeting with the adopted vines Gourmet Odyssey

Back at the winery, the warmth from the log fire was most welcome! Two final exercises awaited us. The first was to compare three wines from the same Clos des Cornières vineyard, but from different ages of vines. We had seen in the vineyard the three distinct areas where the vines had been planted in the 60s, 70s and 90s, and it was really interesting to taste the differences. The wines that we tasted were the 2011s that are still ageing, and so were from the grapes that we had harvested back in September.

Wine tasting of the 2011 wines

The last wine tasting exercise also involved two 2011 wines from the Clos des Cornières, but each ageing in a barrels of differing wood.  The first was from an old French oak barrel, and the second from a new French oak barrel. 
So in summary, a day packed with information, but also with a very practical side to understand firsthand the choices that the winemaker faces, from the vines and terroir used, through the vinification methods selected and even down to the choice of barrels used.
Many thanks to Yannick and to everyone who came to share this fun and fascinating day.

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