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Archive from February 2013

Pruning in the vineyard


On the list of essential equipment for winemakers are a thick woolly hat, a good pair of gloves and some warm boots.  And last weekend we need all of these for the Discovery Experience day at Château de la Bonnelière!

Wine Experience Gift in France. Rent a vine and participate in wine experience days at the winery

We started the day in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, where the adopted vines are located.  Once we had taken a few minutes for everyone to find their vines and takes a few photos, we followed Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at the winery to the other side of the vineyard.

At this time of year, it's pruning season.  It's a very important step in controlling the growth of the wines and in assuring the quality of the harvest to come.  Marc showed us which branches to cut and which to keep.  In theory it's fairly simple, but you quickly understand that each vine isn't necessarily identical, and that there are many exceptions to the rule!

Pruning the vines in the vineyard

Once we had had a go at pruning ourselves, Marc then explained the rest of the work that will be done in the vineyard between now and the harvest.  We also visited the shed where he keeps all of the machinery and tools used in working the vines and the soil.

The tool shed

After a visit to the fermentation hall, we headed off to the winery's magnificent cellar, located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress.

The wine tasting had been well earnt!  The Perle Sauvage naturally sparkling wine to start with, followed by the winery's Chenin Blanc.

Wine tasting in the cellar

In the middle of the cellar and surrounded by the oak barrels, we continued the tasting of the red wines over lunch, including the Clos de la Bonnelière and the Chapelle wines that have both recently won medals at the Millésime Bio organic wine fair.

Meal in the cellar 

In the afternoon, Marc took us on a tour of the cellar, explaining its history and how the stone was extracted from the galleries to build the fortress overhead.

Tour of the cellar

Marc introduced us to the ageing side of wine making by showing us the oak casks and barrels, and also demonstrated the rotating machine used in making the sparkling wine.

Demonstrating how sparkling wine is aged

Many thanks to all who participated in this jovial and interesting day.

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Vinification Experience Day in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle


The start of the winter holiday season in France was the occasion to immerse ourselves in the world of oenology and winemaking at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay.  During this Vinification Experience day spent at the winery, we learnt about all the stages in making wine from the harvest up to bottling.

Wine Experience Gift in France. Learn how wine in made at the winery.

The day started with a workshop to put our sense of smell to the test, by trying to identify some of the aromas to be found in Burgundy wines.  Primary and secondary aromas, floral, fruity...  There are many aromas to be found in wine.  If only it wasn't so hard to put a name to them!  By using small flasks containing different aromas, the aim of the exercise was to help us express in words what we experience when tasting wine.

Wine gift idea. Smelling the aromas found in wine

After a brief stop in the labelling room, we learnt how to recognise the sensations that wine can have on our taste buds.  Acid, salty, sweet, bitter...  How do you identify these different tastes on your tongue?

The morning continued with Jean-François in the fermentation hall, then in the cellar to follow the wine's evolution since the harvest.  We learnt about the richness that the different terroir brings to the wine and how the age of the vines impacts its quality.

We learnt more about the oak barrels and how they impact the taste of the wine.  He gave us an insight into the difficult task of trying to predict how a particular year will turn out, and how to marry the right type of barrel with the wine 

Through a series of wine tastings directly from the barrel we experienced firsthand the differences in terroir and barrels used to age the wines.

Wine tasting direct from the barrel

The morning ended in the fermentation hall with a tasting of the Santenay and Meursault white wines.  Jean-François and Yvette explained how the estate had converted to become organic.

Wine Tasting

After lunch, the weather finally warmed up a little, and so we headed out into the vineyard.  The vines are in the process of being pruned at the moment, and so we learnt how this is done and how the winery is trying to encourage the vines to develop their root structure.

Before visiting our adopted vines, Jean-François showed us the different terroir of the surrounding vineyards. 

Understanding the different Burgundy terroir

Back at the winery, a few people had not just stocked up on some wine, but also filled their cars with some of the used barrels!

An early taste of the 2012 that is still ageing

The day ended back in the fermentation hall for a tasting of the Clos de Cornières wine, harvested in 2012, and which is still going through the ageing process.  Another occasion to put our new found tasting skills to test!  We were able to taste the differences that the differing ages of vines from the same vineyard have on the wine, and to get a first glimpse of how the 2012 vintage might turn out!

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Original St Valentine Gift Idea for Wine Lovers


Short of gift ideas for an original St Valentine's present?  Give an unexpected gift to the special man or woman in your life that lets them discover the fascinating world of organic wine making.

St Valentine's organic gift. Rent-a-vine in France Wine Experience.

Short of gift ideas for an original St Valentine's present?  Give an unexpected gift to the special man or woman in your life that lets them discover the fascinating world of organic wine making.

Much more than the usual wine tasting gift or oenology course, Gourmet Odyssey offers you a much more authentic idea - adopt your own organic vines in an award-winning French vineyard!

The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience enables you to rent your own micro-plot of vines in a leading winery, located in one of France's main wine producing regions (Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, the Loire and Rhone Valleys).  By following each of the key steps in making your organic wine, you will become an apprentice wine maker for the wine making year.

The Wine Experience days are a great excuse to plan a romantic weekend break in France.  These hands-on and practical wine courses create a bond with the winemakers, let you discover their great wines, share their knowledge and passion for their profession, and enable you to explore the local area and cuisine.

You will receive the welcome pack to give as a gift on St Valentine's day.  Your loved one will follow the evolution of his vines and the making of his wine by newsletter.  At the end of the Wine Experience, he can choose the name of his wine, and will receive a personalise bottle of wine for each adopted vine.

The Wine Experience is the ideal gift for St Valentine's day for any wine lover, and is a present that is sure to be remembered for many years to come.
Follow this link for more information and to order your St Valentine's Wine Experience Gift.

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Oenology Course in Chablis


Last Sunday we were at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Burgundy for a Vinification Experience Day.  During this hands-on wine course, we learnt more about the key stages in making wine that happen between harvest time and bottling.

The day started down in the cellar where one of the walls has been left bare.  Here you can clearly see the strata of kimmeridgian soil and rock that help to give Chablis wines their unique taste.

Wine Experience Gift in Chablis, Burgundy. Visit the winery and discover the terroir

We then headed outside and followed the same path as the grapes take during the harvest to arrive at the fermentation hall.  Pierre showed us the presses that are used to extract the juice from the grapes, and explained how the juice in transferred to the vats, and the sugar turned into alcohol.

Original wine gift for a wine lover. Hands-on vineyard visit in Chablie. Wine Press.

The wine that is made from the Boissonneuse vineyard, the plot chosen by Gourmet Odyssey, is vinified in 3 different vats.  We stopped at each one to taste the 2012 vintage to see how it has been getting on since we harvested the grapes in October.  It's interesting to see how each vat has evolved differently, with one being much further behind than the other two.

Wine tasting gift Chablis, France. Tasting the wine directly from the fermentation tank.

In the next door hall, Pierre showed us the machines and the line that is used to bottle the wine.  After the wine is bottled, it is then passed through the labelling machine before being put into the cases and dispatched to the four corners of the globe.

The bottling line

Back at the winery, we started the first of the workshops.  Often, one of the most difficult things when tasting wine is to find the right words to describe the sensations that you are feeling.  We set up an exercise using flasks containing different smells to help us identify the variety of aromas that can be found in white wine.

Oenology gift. Nez du Vin aroma wine course.

The tongue also helps us when tasting, and different zones are sensitive to different tastes.  During the second workshop we tasted five different types of water; a control test, and one each that had had an acidic, bitter, sweet and salty flavour added to it.

By this stage, we had earned our right to start tasting some finished wines!  Pierre had prepared a few different series of wines to help us appreciate different characteristics.  We started with a blind tasting of the three different white grape varieties used at the winery, Aligoté, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine Tasting Gift in Chablis, France. Tasting the different styles of Chablis wines.

We tasted others series of wines to identify wines aged in stainless steel vats and in wooden casks, and how to identify a corked wine.

We continued the tasting over lunch with a Boissonneuse 2010 and 2003 to get an idea of how a wine ages, and we also tasted a magnum of one of the red wines made by the winery, the Irancy "Les Mazelots".

Some fresh air was in order after lunch, so we headed over to the Boissonneuse vineyard where the adopted vines are located.

Adopt-a-vine wine gift experience Chablis, France. Adopt a row of vines.

We finished the day with a visit of the old fermentation hall where some of the more prestigious wines are aged in oak casks and barrels.  We also had one last tasting in store - that of two lots of the Boissonneuse 2011 which will very shortly be blended and bottled.  We tasted each wine separately before blending the two together in a measuring cylinder.

Wine making experience gift in Chablis. Visit the oak casks in the fermentation hall.

So lots of discussion and lots of tasting!  We hope that the day taught gave a little more insight into the life of a winemaker and the important choices to be made during the winemaking process.

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Adopt a Vine in France and Let Them Follow the Making of Their Own Wine !

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