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Archive from October 2013

2013 Harvest in the Loire Valley


The tour of Harvest Experience Days for the 2013 season came to an end last weekend in Chinon, in the magnificent settings of Château de la Bonnelière.  Bright sunshine and a beautiful blue sky were also on the menu for Sunday!

Harvest Experience Gift for wine lovers. Rent-a-vine and harvest your own grapes

Marc Plouzeau, the estate's winemaker, had reserved the "Clos de la Bonnelière" vineyard for us to harvest, as it is here that the Gourmet Odyssey clients adopted vines are to be found.

Wine Experience Gift for wine lovers. Get involved in the harvest in Chinon, the Loire Valley, France

We started each day with the handing out of the essential tools needed for harvesting; a bucket and a pair of secateurs each!  After the initial instructions of how to harvest, we spread out in two among the vine rows to start the harvest.

Rent-avine gift for wine lovers. Harvest Experience Days at the winery in France

Every ten metres a crate had been placed under the row of vines.  Once the bucket was full of grapes, we emptied it into one of the crates.  The group was very enthusiastic and the grapes in abundance, so the crates started to quickly fill up!  So much so that we had to fetch some more to keep up with the efficiency of our harvesters!

Adopt-a-Vine Gift in Chinon, Loire Valley, France and get invovled in the harvest

Once we had finished the first few rows, a few brave volunteers helped to load the full crates, first onto the small tractor that went up and down the rows, and then to transfer them onto the flat bed truck.  Harvesting isn't just about picking bunches of grapes!

Original_Wine_Gift for wine lovers. Adopt vines and participate in the harvest

We then took it in turns to follow the grapes journey to the chai to get involved in the sorting.  We emptied the grapes from the crates onto the sorting table, and then removed the grapes that weren't ripe enough or those affected by mould.  Given the dampness of the preceding couple of weeks, there was remarkably little mould this year.

Wine making gift in France. Renat-a-vine and get involved in making your own wine

At the end of the sorting table, the grape bunches fell into the de-stemming machine to separate the stalks from the berries.  The berries then fell into the trolley below.

Seprating the grape berries from the stems

We put the harvest from the two days into two separate containers.   With the help of a forklift truck, the first part was put into one of the stainless steel vats, as is normal for the Clos de la Bonnelière wine.

Wine enthusiast gift. Harvest Experience in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

This year, Marc is also testing using some demi-muids, large barrels that can contain 600 litres.  We put some of the harvest into one of these barrels, the idea being to give a little more structure to the wine.  But we'll have to wait a few months before seeing the results!

Putting the grapes into one of the barrels

After these two work-filled mornings, the aperitif was just reward!  In the hanger next to the vineyard we tasted the "Perle Sauvage", a delicious natural sparkling wine made on the estate.

We took the harvesters lunch in the barn and continued the wine tasting with the "Touraine Chenin", a white wine made from Chenin Blanc, and two Chinon reds, the "Clos de la Bonnelière" 2011 and the "Chapelle" 2010.

Wine tasting at the winery during the harvest, Chinon, Loire Valley

In the afternoon we returned to the vineyard to find our adopted vines, a perfect excuse to take a few more pictures!

Harvest Experience Present

The day ended back in the chai.  Marc explained to us how the wines are worked during the fermentation period, and we finished with a tasting of some grape juices.  The first juice was before fermentation has set in, and the second one that had started to ferment, and so was slightly fizzy.

Many thanks to all of our clients for their hard work and good humour, and of course to Marc and his mother, Marie- Rose, for their warm welcome and hospitality!

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2013 Harvest Experience Days in Bordeaux


Last weekend, we were at Château Beau Rivage in Macau-en-Médoc for the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days.  They were the last two days of the 2013 harvest at the winery, so we had to make sure that we got all the grapes safely into the chai!

Wine lover gift. Adopt-a-vine in Bordeaux and get involved in harvesting your own grapes

As soon as everyone was equipped with a pair of secateurs, we ventured out into the vineyard to receive our instruction on how to harvest, which grapes to pick, and which to leave behind.

On Saturday we started with a plot of Cabernet Franc vines to be used for making rosé wine.  We picked the bunches of grapes in cases, and once filled, we loaded them onto a trailer.

Harvest Experience Gift. Picking grapes in a Bordeaux vineyard

For the rest of the morning and for our Sunday team of harvesters, we harvested some plots of Cabernet Sauvignon.  On Sunday, we used a different harvesting technique, using porters to transfer the grapes from the harvesters to the trailer.

Original Organic Wine Experience Gift in Bordeaux

Once we had finished harvesting, we followed the grapes journey to the chai.  For the rosé, we emptied the crates directly into a small press to extract the juice.

Wine making gift in Bordeaux. Harvest the grapes and follow their journey to the chai

On Sunday, for the red wine, we first put the grapes into a de-stemming machine to separate the berries from the stalks.  Then, around the sorting table, we removed any unripe berries, leaves and even a few insects, keeping only the best grapes.

Harvest Experience Gift to participate in the harvest. The sorting table.

After all that work, the rosé wine was most welcome for the aperitif!  We continued the tasting of the estate's wines during the harvesters meal which we ate in the shelter of one of the barns.

Wine Tasting Gift in Bordeaux to taste wines during the harvest

In the afternoon, we visited the chai to understand more about the fermentation process and the work in the chai during harvest time. Christine took out her mustimetre to show us how the sugar level in the grapes is measured.

Wine gift for wine enthusiasts. Measuring the sugar levels with the mustimetre

We finished the day in the barrel room to see where the wine will rest and age once the first stage of fermentation has finished.

Many thanks to Christine, Guillaume and the team at Château Beau Rivage, as well as our clients for making it such a good weekend, and also for having worked so hard despite the odd drop of rain!

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Our first Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher


Last Saturday, we harvested for the first time at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace, the last of the 7 organic wineries to have partnered with Gourmet Odyssey.

in Alsace, the last of the 7 organic wineries to have partnered with Gourmet Odyssey. The sky was grey, but that didn't dampen the spirits of our apprentice harvesters!

harvest vineyard alsace france stentz buecher 

Once the adoptive vine owners had arrived, Céline who manages the winery with her brother Stéphane, told us about history of this family estate. We then headed out to the vineyard where the adopted vines are located. For those who were returning after one of the Discovery Experience Days, they could see how their vines had been pampered, and for the others, it was the chance to meet them and take a few photos!

harvest vineyard vine adoption alsace france 

We then moved on to a vineyard lower down the village to harvest a plot of Riesling grapes. On the way we picked some Chasselas grapes to take home and eat. The goal for the day was to fill two containers, so each armed with a pair of secateurs and a bucket, we started to harvest the grapes.

harvest Grapes France Alsace harvester Stentz 

After the morning spent in the vineyard, we returned to the winery, where Stéphane explained how the grapes are put into the vats and how the juice ferments to produce wine. We tasted some grape juice which had been put into the vat 3 days beforehand, before tasting some of the wines, Rielsing Tradition 2010, Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2010, Gewurztraminer Hengst 2008 and Pinot Noir 2011.

winery tank wine fermentation alsace harvest 

We finished the day with a harvesters buffet of local charcuterie, accompanied by the domaine's wines, ending with a Crémant d'Alsace sparkling wine with the dessert.

harvest winemaker meal france stentz buecher 

We'll know leave the wine to slowly ferment before our next visit for one of the Vinification Experience Days.

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Harvest 2013 in Chablis


We spent two excellent days last weekend at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for the Harvest Experience days.  The grapes took their time to ripen this year, but with the rain at the start of October, everyone is now in the vines to gather the harvest in as quickly as possible.  Luckily we had some very motivated clients to help get stuck in!

Rent-a-vine gift wine experience in Chablis, Burgundy, France

After the introductions to the winery, we headed off to the vineyard to join Micheline, the head of the team of harvesters.  Equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs each, we spread out among the rows to start picking the grapes.

Original wine enthusiast gift. Adopt vines in Burgundy and get involved in the harvest.

As soon as we filled the buckets, we called for one of our apprentice porters to come so we could empty the grapes into the baskets they were carrying on their backs.  Our brave porters then had to empty the baskets over their heads into the awaiting trailer, something that isn't as easy as it looks!

Harvest Experience Gift

We then followed the grapes journey to the fermentation hall to look at the wine presses that receive the harvest.  Here, we listened to the explanations of how the presses work and learnt about the first stages of fermentation that will transform the grape juice into wine.

Wine lover gift in Chablis.

After all of the morning's works, the tasting of the wines produced by the winery was most welcome!  We started with a tasting of some of the biodynamic wines: the Petit Chablis "Les Plantes" and the  Chablis "La Boissonneuse", followed by the Chablis Premier Cru "Les Vaudevey" and "Vaulorent", before finishing with the Chablis Grand Cru "Les Preuses".

Once we had enjoyed the harvesters' meal, we went to see our adopted vines in the Boissonneuse vineyard.  As usual, out came the cameras to take a few souvenir pictures!

Organic rent-a-vine gift in Chablis, France.

Many thanks to all of our enthusiastic harvesters, and to Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for having welcomed us.

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Harvest Experience Days at Domaine Chapelle


We spent three excellent days last weekend at Domaine Chapelle for the Harvest Experience days.

All week, the Gourmet Odyssey team anxiously monitored the weather forecast as Jean-Franois, the winemaker at Domaine Chapelle, was predicting rain for the weekend. In the end, the wet conditions didn't dampen the spirits, and we had a great group who were fully motivated to participate in the harvest. Those lucky enough to have chosen the Monday even saw some sunshine!

Wine Experience Gift in Burgundy, France 

Each morning we welcomed the adoptive owners of vines in the "Clos des Cornires" vineyard. After a coffee and a short introduction to the winery, we set off to the vineyard. With a few explanations from Jean-Franois and plenty of good humour, we set about harvesting the grapes.

Harvest Experience Gift in Burgundy, France 

We then followed the grapes to the reception hall to sort the grapes and track their journey into the vats.

Original wine gift for wine lovers. Get involved in the harvest in Burgundy 

Whilst some got stuck in around the sorting table, secateurs in hand, under the instruction of Yannick, the Technical Director, others watched the grapes climb the conveyor belt and fall into the vat. Jean-Franois talked us through the first stages of fermentation and how the grape juice will gradually transform into wine.

Wine course gift at the winery in Burgundy. Learn about the fermentation process 

After a busy morning, it was time to taste some of the estate's wines, accompanied by one of the local specialties, gougres, before sitting down to lunch in the harvesters' refectory. The conversation, food and wine flowed, and it was difficult to get going again afterwards!

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy. 

The days finished with a visit of the cellar, an impressive labyrinth of barrels and bottles.

Wine tour of the cellar in Burgundy. Original wine gift for wine enthusiasts 

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