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Archive from June 2015

Training the vines at Domaine Allegria


Last Saturday, we had a magnificent and very hot day for the Discovery Experience Day. When the guests arrived it was already 27°C, and the thermometer would pass the 35°C level in the afternoon! We were at Domaine Allegria in the Languedoc region of Southern France to discover the profession of being a winemaker, and in particular, the work in the vineyard to produce the best possible quality of grapes

Vineyard experience in Languedoc, France

So, off we headed into the vineyard, in the direction of our adopted vines. We stopped for a quick photo shoot of our adopted vines, and spent some time learning about the terroir of the vineyard, and the work that has been carried out so far this year, including the organic treatments.

Rent a vine in Languedoc, biodynamic, France

We then had a free sunbathing session as we trained the Syrah vines in the Mazet vineyard. Training the vines is important work at this time of year, as the vines are growing very quickly, and we need to help them support the weight of the leaves and grape bunches that are starting to form well now. It was getting very hot in the vineyard!

Unique wine gift in Languedoc, France

Luckily, lunchtime quickly arrived, and we returned to the winery to enjoy the meal prepared by Delphine. Over lunch we tasted the wines made at Domaine Allegria; Dolce Vita, Tribu d'A, Carignan Gourmand, Cousu Main and La Belle Histoire.

Wine experience gift in Languedoc, red wine, France

After lunch, we had a tour of the fermentation hall and barrel room to have an introduction into the vinification side of things, before filling the cars with a few cases of wine and leaving the winery with lots of memories.

Many thanks to all those who shared the day with us!

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

A review of the work in the vineyard for the 2015 vintage

Harvesting the Syrah grapes in the Languedoc

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Biodynamic winemaking at Domaine la Cabotte


Last Saturday saw us visit the Domaine la Cabotte winery in the southern part of the Côtes du Rhône region for a Discovery Experience Day. The programme for the day was to better understand the work of the winemaker in the vineyard.

Vineyard experience in Rhône Valley, France

At 9:00 am, the first guests started to pass through the large iron gates at the entrance of the winery, and we were blessed with a very pure light and crisp colours. The winemakers, Eric and Marie-Pierre, welcomed us with a cup of coffee and some croissants, whilst we waited for everyone to arrive.

Marie-Pierre told us the history of the winery before passing over to her husband, Eric, who took us out to spend the morning in the vineyard, and help him train the vines, which is the work of the moment.

Unique wine gifts in Rhône Valley, France

As we walked through the different vine plots, Eric took care to explain the differences of each grape varietal, and the work that has already been carried out in the vineyard this year. We learnt about the growth of the vines, their strength, how they create the grapes, and how grafting is used when replanting the vines.

Adopt a vine in Rhône Valley, France

To best understand the work of a winemaker, it's always best to roll up your sleeves and get involved, so we each found ourselves in front of a row of vines. We started by:

1- taking off the clips that were already keeping the training wires together,

2- raising the two wires and making sure that the vine branches were supported between them,

3- tightening the two wires together again by replacing the clips...

Original wine gift in Rhône Valley, France

There was lots of wind blowing from the Mistral, but everyone got stuck in and enjoyed this physical activity.

Once we had finished, Marie-Pierre replenished us with some chilled water, and we headed back to the chai to taste some of the rosé and white wines produced at the winery, accompanied by some freshly picked radish and a goats cheese cake.

We tasted the delicious fruity red wines with the meal, which we enjoyed inside the chai to keep us sheltered from the wind blowing outside.

Wine lover gift in Rhône Valley, France 

A coffee to end lunch, and then back out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines.

Rent a vine in France, Rhône Valley

Once we had immortalised the moment with our cameras, we grouped around Eric who recounted passionately the local geology and how the Massif d'Uchaux appellation came to be.

We finished the day with a demonstration of how to prepare a biodynamic tisane. Eric explained the differences between organic and biodynamic methods, and talked in depth about sulphites. We made an tisane from stinging nettles, horsetail, and carpenter's weed, which we then tasted!

Personnalised bottles of red wine in Rhône Valley, France

Our winemakers showed us how to dynamise the preparation using the dynamiser, and then we realised that it was already 4pm. How the time had flown!

Wine gift packs, biodynamic, Rhône Valley, France

We thanked Eric and Marie-Pierre for the time that they had shared with us, and for their dedication to their profession.

And then we headed back through the gates, a few cases of wine safely stored in the boot of the car. Safe trip and see you again soon for the "Harvest Experience Day".

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

A review of the work in the vineyard for the 2015 vintage

A good 2015 harvest for the Cotes du Rhone

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Training the vines in Chablis


The vines are growing very fast at the moment, and there is lots of work to be done in the vineyard to keep everything in order. We spent last Saturday at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis to learn a little more about the mammoth effort needed to produce the best possible quality grapes come harvest time.

Vineyard experience in Chablis, organic white wine gift

Following the introductions to the winery and the region, we walked to the Boissonneuse vineyard, the plot where our adopted vines are located. From here, we have a great view of the rolling Chablisien countryside, and we could identify the different terroirs that make up the Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis appellations. We took a few minutes to take a couple of photos of our adopted vines, and to encourage them to produce a good harvest this year!

Adopt a vine in Chablis, France

In the vineyard, we were accompanied by Frédéric from the vine management team. He explained the work carried out in the vineyard since last year's harvest, including the long task of pruning the vines.

Wine experience gift in Chablis, France

He had brought some tools with him to show us some of the equipment used to prune and attach the vines to the training wire.

Frédéric told us about how the soil is mechanically worked in line with the way that the vineyard is cultivated organically and biodynamically. He explained the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic farming. Julien Brocard joined us to explain what convinced him to work biodynamically at the winery.

At the moment, the vines are thriving, and grow several centimetres each day. The training wires are raised in line with the vines growth to help support the weight of the foliage. You have to also ensure that the branches are placed in between the wires, and Frédéric showed us how to do so. We then spread out among the rows, and got stuck in. It's an important job that helps the tractor pass more easily between the rows, and that also helps reduce the vines exposure to disease.

Wedding present gift at Chablis, white wine, France

After a morning spent in the vineyard, we had earned our wine tasting session. Back at the winery, Sébastien introduced us to the range of biodynamic wines produced at the winery, starting with the Petit Chablis ?Les Plantes? 2012, followed by the wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey, "La Boissonneuse" Chablis, also from the 2012 vintage. We then tasted two Chablis Premier Cru wines from 2011, the "Vaudevey" and "Côte de Léchet", before a blind tasting of a magnum of the Chablis Grand Cru "Bougros" 2003. The wine tasting continued over lunch.

Unique wine gift in Chablis, France

We returned to the vineyard after lunch to see the difference in terroir around the winery buildings compared to the vineyard where we had spent the morning. We also talked about the work that will be done during the coming summer months, and how the moment is decided when the grapes will be ready to be harvested.

Personalised bottles of wine, Chablis, France

The day finished in the fermentation hall where the oak casks are to be found. Here, the wines from last year are slowly ageing. We will spend more time here during the Vinification Expeirence Days.

Many thanks to all of the participants for this most enjoyable day.

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

A review of the work in the vineyard for the 2015 vintage

A good harvest in Chablis

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Wine tasting workshop in Chinon


A nice sunny day welcomed the participants of the Vinification Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière on Sunday 7th June.

Over a coffee and croissant, Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker, told us about the family history at the winery. The estate has around 40 hectares of vines, stretching along the left bank of the Vienne river, producing organic red and white wines of the Chinon appellation.

A busy day awaited us to learn about the technical methods used to vinify the wines, an aroma workshop, a visit of the underground cellar, and a tour of the bottling and labelling station.

We started the day by dividing into two groups. The first went to the chai with Marc, and the second worked on our sense of smell, before we swapped activities.

To better recognise the subtle differences of the wines from the estate, we put our noses to the test to try and identify some of the aromas found in the wine. We learnt that some of the aromas are due to the grape varietal, others to the way the wine is made, and others are linked to the ageing process.

Wine making experience in France, Chinon

We were then better placed to understand the explanations that Marc gave us in the chai. He told us about the work carried out on the wine during the fermentation period. All of the wines are made and aged separately according to the vineyard that the grapes come from, and Marc also explained the different choices to age the wine in oak barrels or vats.

We then headed to the cellar, which is located underneath the Chinon castle. This cellar is the perfect place to store the wines as they age at a constant temperature and level of humidity.

Wine experience gifts in Loire Valley, Chinon

There, we had the privilege of tasting some of the 2014 wines that are still in the process of ageing. One of the vines is being aged in a vat, another in an old oak barrel, another in new oak, and the final wine was a press wine.

Wine tasting gift at Château de la Bonnelière, France

Back at the winery, we sat down to eat lunch outside. To accompany our meal we tasted a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc white wine, and five Chinon red wines from Château de la Bonnelière and Marc's new winery, the Croix Marie.

We resisted the temptation of a siesta in the sun to pay our adopted vines a visit, and take a few pictures for the "My Vine" photo competition.

Adop a vines in Loire Valley, France

We finished the day in the cool of the chai to see the machinery that is used to bottle and label the wines. We also talked about the different corks that are used and their pros and cons compared with other materials used to close the bottles.

Many thanks to Marc for sharing his knowledge and good humour with us!

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De-budding the vines in Chinon


After the roasting day on Friday, we greeted the new apprentice winemakers of the 2015 vintage to Chinon with a more timid sun on the Saturday.

The welcome coffee gave us a chance to get to know the winery and its owner, Marc Plouzeau. The Château de la Bonnelière is a family run winery and Marc took over the running of it from his father in 1998.

To get the day started, Marc introduced us to the Chinon appellation of wines, and to the location of his vineyards which are spread across the left bank of the Vienne river. He also told us how he works organically and bio-dynamically at the winery.

We then headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, the plot where the adopted vines are located!

Vineyard Experience in Loire Valley, France

The aim of the day was to learn about the different work that is carried out in the vineyard. Marc explained the work that he and his team have been doing since the last harvest, and notably the complex task of pruning.

Marc then showed us what we would be doing today; de-budding the vines. This important task serves to manage the growth of the vine. The vine is a creeper plant that needs to be kept in check to produce more concentrated grapes, and thus make a better quality vine.

wine experience gift in France, Loire Valley

We needed to remove each of the small branches that had grown, but which will not produce any grapes.

The job is quite difficult, because the vines are fairly old, and so each one needs a moment of reflection before getting stuck in. We didn't want to make any mistakes, but fortunately Marc was there to guide us!

After we had worked well, we made the most of the sun's arrival, to take a few pictures of our adopted vines.

rent a vine in France, Loire Valley

The morning finished with an al fresco lunch, served outside in the shade of the hanger, overlooking the vineyard. A great place to eat! We tasted the wines produced by Marc, including those from his newly acquired winery, the Domaine de la Croix Marie, which he took the reins of for the 2014 harvest.

Wine experience in Loire Valley, France

This relaxed moment allowed us to talk with Marc some more and to bombard him with questions! But our day wasn't yet over, and so we headed off to the chai.

Marc introduced us to the wine-making side of things, something that will covered in much more detail during one of the Vinification Experience Days. He showed us how he ferments and ages his wines, keeping the wine from each vine plot separate.

The day then drew to a close. Many thanks to Marc, and we look forward to coming back again soon!

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

A review of the work in the vineyard for the 2015 vintage

A great 2015 harvest in the Loire

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Wine Experience Day in Alsace


We spent a great day in the vineyard last Saturday at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace. We were there for a Discovery Experience Day to learn about the work carried out in the vineyard, so after the introductions we headed straight out into the middle of the vines.

Adopt a vine in France, Alsace

We stopped at the Rosenberg vineyard to meet our adopted vines. The grapes from our vines will be used to make the wine chosen for us by Gourmet Odyssey, and we immortalised the moment with a few photos!

Rent a vine in France, Alsace

It was then time to get down to some more serious business! Jean-Jacques Stentz explained to us the work that has already been conducted in the vineyard during the winter months, such as how the earth was heaped around the vines to protect them from the frosts, the long task to prune the vines to control the future yield, and how the soil is tilled to keep the grass and weeds in check.

Wine experience in Alsace, France

The vines grow very quickly at this time of year, and you have to be vigilant in ensuring that the plant focuses its efforts in the production of grapes. De-budding is essential to remove the unwanted branches which sprout from the vines. If left, they will drain energy from the vines and decrease the quality of the future harvest.

Jean-Jacques showed us how to de-bud, and then we spread out between the rows to have a go at de-budding ourselves.

Vineyard experience in Alsace, France

We then visited another vineyard to see a plot of vines that had recently been replanted. Jean-Jacques explained how this is done, and the patience that is then needed before grapes of a good enough quality for making wine can be harvested.

Adopt a vine in Alsace, France

Back at the winery, we had earned our aperitif. The first wine to taste was the Who am I 2012, the only blended wine produced at the winery. We then tasted the Riesling Ortel 2012, Gewurztraminer Steingrübler Grand Cru 2008 and the Pinot Noir 2011. We continued the tasting over lunch of some local smoked ham and traditional roïgebrageldi, cheese, and blueberry tart.

wine experience gift in Alsace, France

After lunch, we returned to the vineyard to learn more about the work that will be done between now and the harvest, and how the winemaker chooses when to pick the grapes. Stéphane Stentz, also told us his reasons for working organically.

Original wine gift in Alsace, France

At the end of the day, we went down into the cellar for a brief introduction to the vinification side of things, following the journey that the grapes will take from the press to the vats, and to see where the wine will ferment next autumn.

Wine tasting gift in Alsace, France

Many thanks to Stéphane, Céline, Jean-Jacques and Simone for their hospitality, and to all of the participants for a most enjoyable day.

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

A review of the work in the vineyard for the 2015 vintage

The 2015 harvest nears the end in Alsace

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Wine course in Alsace to learn about making and ageing wines


Once the harvest has finished, the winemaker's job is not over. Before the wine is ready to be bottled, there is still much that needs to be done, and the winemaker needs to closely monitor the wine throughout the fermentation and ageing process. Last Sunday, we were at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace for a Vinification Experience Day to learn more about the work of the winemaker in the cellar.

It should never be forgotten that winemaking begins in the vineyard, and indeed, without good grapes, it's not possible to make a quality wine. Our day therefore started with a quick visit to the vineyard, which also allowed us to see our adopted vines!

Rent a vine in Alsace, France

The Vinification Experience Day is the day where we taste the most wines. To help us find the words to describe our impressions when tasting wines, we participated in a workshop on the aromas found in wine. With the help of some small bottles of essence, we tried to identify the fruity and floral aromas that are typical of the white wines from Alsace. An exercise that isn't as simple as you might think!

wine tasting experience in France

With our noses now finely tuned, we went down into the cellar to see the oak casks and stainless steel vats that are used to hold the wine during the fermentation and ageing periods. Each plot of vines and grape varietal is vinified separately, and Stéphane explained how the wines change during the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentations, and the work needed to prepare the wines before being bottled.

White wine experience gift in France

We tasted a couple of wines that are still in the process of ageing. The first was the Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2014, which has yet to finish its malo-lactic fermentation. We could see that the wine was still cloudy and fizzed a little, both of which are entirely at this stage.

Wine maki,ng experience in Alsace, France

The second wine was a Riesling Ortel which was still in its alcoholic fermentation phase, showing that we can't always control everything, and the profession of being a winemaker calls for lots of patience.

We then tasted some of the finished wines to appreciate the range and complexity of the wines made at Domaine Stentz-Buecher. We started with a very floral Pinot Blanc 2013, followed by the Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2013. We then tasted a Riesling Steingrübler Grand Cru 2008, a Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg Grand Cru 2008 and a Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru 2008. We continued to taste other wines with one of the local specialties, choucroute.

Vineyard experience in Alsace, France

After lunch, we returned to the cellar to see the machines used for bottling and labelling the wine bottles. We also had a long discussion on the choice of corks versus screw tops.

Personalised your own bottles of wine in Alsace, France

The winery also produces Crémant d'Alsace sparkling white wine. Stéphane showed us how the bottles are turned to collect the sediment in the neck of the bottle, and we learnt about the specific work needed to make sparkling wine.

Unique wine gifts in alsace, France

Then a last little tour of the cellar to see the red wines that are resting in oak barrels, before finishing in the wine library, where a selection of the winery's wines dating back to 1995 are stored.

Other articles relating to wine tasting

The fundamentals of wine tasting

Wine defects. How to identify faults when tasting wines

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