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Vinification Experience Day in Chinon


Last weekend, we were welcomed by Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, for two Wine Experience Days covering the vinification, ageing and blending aspects of wine making.

Wine Making Gift Experience in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The day started at the winery with a hot drink and some croissants to get to know each other.  Marc Plouzeau then introduced us to the winery and its history, the different terroirs of the region and his vision of organic wine.  It was then time to start the practical side of proceedings!

Adopt your own vines in Chinon, France

The first workshop concentrated on our senses.  One of the most difficult things to do when tasting wine is to find the words to describe it and to explain why we like it or don't like it.   To help us, we had to identify the aromas contained in small flasks.  Some were easy to name, whilst other proved more subtle and difficult to pinpoint.  We identified the aromas in wine that are the result of the fruit and terroir, and those that are obtained when the wine is aged in oak barrels.

Gift for making your own wine in France, Loire Valley

We then headed to the chai to see the vats and some of the barrels.  Marc explained the choices he takes to produce the wine to the high standards he expects, and we learnt that it's a very detailed process where a small error can have a large impact on the quality of the wine.  He talked us through the fermentation process, when the sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol, and the malo lactic fermentation, when the wine becomes rounder by decreasing some of the acidity.  He also explained the difference between a wine aged in the vats and that which is aged in oak barrels.

Rent-a-vine Gift in France.

Then off to the vineyard to get some fresh air.  We stopped off to say hello to our adopted vines and to take some photos!

Wine tasting gift, red wine in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The morning now finished, we set off for the cellar to begin the wine tasting and to enjoy our meal.  The cellar, located under the Fortress of Chinon, is a very special place and was dug out by hand a couple of hundred years ago.  We started the tasting with a sparkling wine that has no added sulphur, the 'Perles Sauvages' 2011, and is perfect for an aperitif.  We then sat down to eat amongst the barrels in the cellar.  During the meal we tasted some of the different red wines, including the 'Clos de la Bonnelière 2011', which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients.

Oenology course in France with Gourmet Odyssey

A short tour of the cellar to digest the meal and wines, and then it was time to start the final workshop of the day to learn how to blend wine.
We split into groups and tasted 5 different wines from the 2012 vintage that are still in the process of ageing.  The wines were chosen to show the specificity between different Chinon terroirs and the choice of ageing in a barrel or vat.  There was also a press wine to bring more structure.  We then started to blend our own wines.  The aim was to find the best harmony by mixing different wines together.  Not as easy as it sounds, but when done right, the blend can make something much more interesting than any one of the wines on its own.

Many thanks to Marc Plouzeau for letting us in on his fascinating profession, one that is rich, varied and very interesting.  Thanks also to our apprentice winemakers for getting stuck in and we hope that you has as enjoyable day as we did!

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