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Vinification Experience Day in Chinon


Last Saturday we were at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley to learn more about the vinification, ageing and blending aspects of winemaking during one of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Days. 

Vinification Experience Day in Chinon Château de la Bonnelière

 

With Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at the estate, by our sides we started the day in the chai. Here Marc showed us how the grapes are put into the vats at harvest time, and he then explained the fermentation process that has been happening since the last time we were here in late September.

Fermentation Hall
 

We then headed into the depths of the winery's cellars which are located underneath the Château de Chinon in the galleries left behind when the stone was extracted to build the fortress. It's in these ideal and calm conditions where the temperature stays a constant 12°C all year long that the wine barrels are laid down to age, and the wine that has been bottled is stocked.

 

The cellar

Back at Château de la Bonnelière, it was time to put our tasting skills to the test. The first challenge was to use our noses to identify the different smells to be found in wine. We had split the test into two parts to identify the aromas that come from the fruit and the terroir, and the second series to detect those that are caused by oak barrels. 

 

Different aromas in the wine


Now that our noses and taste buds were warmed up, we got down to the serious business of tasting the 2011 wines that are still in the process of ageing. We followed the same process as Marc conducts with his oenologist to follow the evolution of his different wines. For those that had also participated in the Harvest Experience Day, it was an eagerly awaited moment to see what had become of the fruit of their labour!

We started by comparing wines from three different vineyard plots situated on sandy and gravelly soils. These are the wines that Marc blends to create his Chinon "Rive Gauche" red wine, and so we set about making our own blend using the measuring cylinders.

 

Blend to create our wine


Next up were three wines from the chalk limestone vineyards closer to the winery. The first had been ageing in a stainless steel tank, the second in an old oak barrel, and the third in a new oak barrel, which enabled us to compare the different impact of the terroir and wood on the wine.

Over a hearty stew shared around the kitchen table, we continued the tasting with some wines from 2010, 2009 and 2008.

After lunch we took in some fresh air in the vineyard so that we could see how our adopted vines were faring. Marc also showed us how to prune the vines, which is the task that is currently being undertaken in the vineyard.

 

Adopted Vines Château de la Bonnelière

We finished the day back at the chai to see the hall where the wine is bottled and the labels are applied. We have a few more months to wait though until our vintage will be ready for bottling, but we already have a much better idea of what it will be like, and that's worth the wait!

Comments

  • This interesting and enriching day will last long in our memory. The welcome was super, the setting enchanting and the sun was even shining. We thoroughly recommend this experience.

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