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Archive from September 2015

The 2015 harvest nears the end in Alsace


The penultimate weekend of Harvest Experience Days saw us travel to Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace. With the very hot summer that the region endured, the harvest has been uncharacteristically early this year, and is almost over. The winery had kept back a plot of pinot noir vines for us to pick that will be used to make the winery's "Ambre" white wine, something that they only do every couple of years when the quality of the grapes allows them to do so.

Vineyard experience, Alsace, France

The day started with us heading out into the vineyard. We followed the tractor and the materiel we needed for the harvest until we reached the plot of pinot noir vines that we were to pick. Céline and Jean-Jacques gave us our instructions and equipped us with a bucket and a pair of secateurs each. We then set about harvesting the grapes, being careful to only pick the ripe bunches!

Adop a vine, Alsace, France

We emptied the buckets into the trailer, and some of us also had a go at being porter, collecting the harvested grapes in a big basket worn on the back.

Wine lover git, Alsace, France

Once the basket was full, the porter then had to climb a ladder and tip the grapes over the shoulder into the trailer.

Wine experience, Alsace, France

After we had finished harvesting the plot, we proceeded to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are located. We took a few minutes to visit our vines and to take some pictures for the "My Vine" photo competition.

Rent a vine in France, Alsace

We then followed the grapes back to the winery and met up with Stéphane, who had been busy working in the cellar during the morning. We emptied the grapes into the press by tipping the trailer up, and helping the grapes slide down using a fork.

Unique wine gifts, France, Alsace 

Down below in the cellar, Stéphane explained how the press works to extract the juice from the grapes, and how it is then transferred to the vats.

Wine making experience in Alsace, France

Céline then gave us a wine tasting session of a range of the organic wines produced by the winery. We started with an unusual wine for Alsace, a 2012 blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling, called "Who Am I?". We the tasted a Riesling Ortel 2012, before tasting three different Grand Cru wines; a Riesling Steingrubler 2008 Grand Cru, a Pinot Gris Hengst 2006 Grand Cru, and a Gewurztraminer Hengst 2008 Grand Cru.

We then continued the tasting over lunch with a Pinot Blanc 2014, a Pinot Noir 2011, and Sylvaner Vielles Vignes 2011.

Wine gift packs in Alsace, France

After lunch, we headed back down into the cellar, where Stéphane explained how the work at harvest time isn't finished once the grapes are picked. We had a go at "pigeage", a job that involves punching down the cap of grape skins and pips into the juice, using a big plunger. This helps extract the tannins and colour from the grape skins during the maceration period.

Original wine gift, Alsace, France

In the fermentation hall, we learnt all about the process to turn the grape juice into wine as we listened to the gurgling of the vats that had already started to ferment.

Personalised wine gifts, France, Alsace

We finished the day with a final tasting of a couple of grape musts, at different stages of fermentation. We'll pick up from here next year during the Vinification Experience Days where we'll learn about the decisions that the winemaker takes during the rest of the fermentation and ageing periods.

Wine tasting gift, Alsace, France

A final stop in the room where the older wines are stored, and then it was time to say our farewells. Many thanks to all of the family at Domaine Stentz-Buecher for welcoming us, and letting us in behind the scenes during harvest time!

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A sunny harvest in Bordeaux


Last weekend, we were welcomed for the harvest by all of the team at Château Beau Rivage. Christine, the winemaker and owner of the winery, David the vineyard manager, Sandrine the cellar manager, Guillaume the sales manager, and two new recruits to the winery, JR and Thomas. They were all there to help guide us as we picked the grapes and followed their journey during the Harvest Experience Days.

The two days started under the Bordeaux sun, and after a short introduction from Gourmet Odyssey and an overview of the day's agenda, Christine presented her team and the winery. All booted up, we then headed out into the vineyard. First stop, a quick meeting with our adopted vines to take some pictures for the "My Vine" photo competition.

Adopt a vine, Bordeaux, France

A few minutes later, armed with a pair of secateurs, we got down to the serious business of harvesting. The group on Saturday picked the grapes in one of the Merlot plots, whilst Sunday's group picked the young Malbec vines that were planted 3 years ago. Guided by David and Christine, we cut, carried, cut, carried... tasted and re-tasted the grapes!

Vineyard experience, Bordeaux, France

 

Wine experience gift, Bordeaux, France

Once we had finished harvesting, we headed back to the winery. With the sun being at its strongest, we de-stemmed the grapes and put them directly into the vat before they got too hot. We all got involved with the task at hand. We formed a human chain to transport the grapes to the vat, where the merlot grapes will be used to make red wine. On Sunday, we crushed the grapes by foot in an old traditional wine press. As the Malbec grapes that we had harvested were very young, they will be used to make rosé wine.

Adopt a vine in france, Bordeaux

 

Original wine gift, Bordeaux, France

Around 1pm, we stopped for a well earned rest. Guillaume uncorked a few bottles and started the wine tasting! We continued to taste different wines from the winery during the course of lunch.

Personalised bottles of wine, Bordeaux, France

After lunch, Christine led us back into the fermentation hall and the barrel room. She explained how the grapes that we had harvested will slowly transform into wine. Sandrine, the cellar manager, told us how the tannins and colour are extracted from the must as the wine is pumped over and filters through the cap of marc that rises to the top of the vat. We then had a quick tour of the barrel room to see where the wine will be moved to next. The rest of the process will be covered in more detail during the Vinification Experience Days!

Unique wine gifts, Bordeaux, France

Many thanks to Christine and her team for their warm welcome as always! And many thanks to those who picked, listened, and tasted!

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Another great Harvest Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


We returned to Domaine la Cabotte on Saturday for the 2nd of the Harvest Experience Days. The harvest, which started at the end of August at the winery, is now reaching the end, with just a couple of plots left to go, including their Châteauneuf du Pape vineyard which should be picked this week.
Harvest Experience Day as a wine gift in France

As soon as we had finished the introductions, we walked through the vineyard to the plot of Carignan vines that are located on the other side of the road. Eric & Marie-Pierre handed out the material we needed to pick the grapes and gave us our instructions.

Armed with our secateurs and buckets, we spread out among the vines and started picking. The Carignan vines are pruned using the goblet method, and so grow as free-standing plants. With no training wires to worry about, you can rotate around the plant to more easily access the bunches of grapes.

Picking experience in the vinyeard of Cotes du Rhone

As we worked our way down the rows, Eric advanced the tractor little by little, so that we had less distance to empty our buckets. With the large bunches of delicious grapes that we were picking, the buckets quickly filled up, and so too did the trailer!

The weather was perfect for harvesting, with bright blue skies and a slight breeze to keep us from getting too hot. It's a magical place to spend a morning, with just the sound of birds, and the snip of the secateurs to accompany us.

Harvest wine box gift at Domaine la Cabotte

Once we had finished cutting the rows that Eric & Marie-Pierre had left us, we made our way back up to the winery and followed the route that the harvested grapes take.

We made our way behind the winery building to see where the grapes are received. First they are emptied into a de-stemming machine to separate the berries from the stalks. The harvest was of a very good quality, and so there was no need for a sorting table.

De-stemming experience in the Rhone Valley, France

The grape berries are then transported up a conveyor belt and then fall directly into the vat below where they will start the process of being turned into wine.

Conveyor belt during French harvest experience at Domaine la Cabotte

After all the morning's effort, we were ready for the aperitif! We tasted a couple of the winery's white wines and the Côte du Rhône Colline red wine, before sitting down to lunch where we continued the wine tasting.

Wine tasting at the winery in the Rhone Valley France

In the afternoon, we first of all took a few minutes to visit our adopted vines and take a few pictures.

Vines adoption gift in the Rhone Valley France

We then headed back to the chai, where Eric talked about how the grape juice ferments, and the important work done to extract the tannins and colour during the maceration process. Eric also talked about the differences in making white wines.

Fermentation process during the harvest in France

We tasted a couple of grape musts that are already in the process of fermentation to see how the sugar level decreases as the alcoholic content increases.

Wine tasting at Domaine la Cabotte rhone Valley

Eric then answered lots of questions about wine-making, notably about the use of sulphites to preserve the wine, before the day drew to a close. We will get the opportunity to discuss the many choices of the winemaker during the vinification, blending and ageing phases in much more detail during the Vinification Experience Days.

Once again, many thanks to Eric & Marie-Pierre for welcoming us and for letting us get a taste of what it takes to be a winemaker.

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The harvest in a few words


Every year, around this time, we read or watch a number of reports that talk about the customs, quality and trends regarding the grape harvest. Sometimes the terms used can be a bit obscure, so here are a few definitions to help you decipher what actually goes on during this key moment in wine making.

The harvest banns or "ban des vendanges"

Traditionally, this was the document that gave permission to start the harvest, and also to get the harvest celebrations under way. Today, some regions in France still fix the earliest possible date to start the harvest. From the set date, the winemakers can begin to harvest the grapes, but they are also free to start harvesting later if they feel that their grapes would benefit from maturing more before being picked. In other regions, the winemakers themselves have complete autonomy over when to harvest their grapes.

Harvest period

So it's no longer just the official decree that marks the start of the harvest, but it's also the choice of the winemaker. For each grape varietal and vineyard plot, the right equilibrium has to be found between the grapes being sufficiently mature and waiting too long if there are any climatic risks such as rain, storms, or drought. The winemaker has to be able to deal with the stress of uncertainty!

Vineyard experience in France

The state of the grapes

The winemakers decisions are therefore based on the state of the grapes in each individual vine plot. As the grapes mature, the sugar level rises and the acidity decreases. If the winemaker waits too long, the sugar level will be too high and the grapes will be overripe. The water in the berries will start to evaporate and the grapes will start to dry out. For some types of wine, such as vendanges tardives, this is the stage that the winemaker will wait for before picking the grapes.

Late harvest or "vendanges tardives"

Outside of the usual harvest period, some grape varietals and wine appellations have been granted specific authorisation to enable a late harvest. In these cases, we're looking for a high concentration of sugar and so choose to harvest later. The mention of  "vendanges tardives" on a label is regulated, and in France it is allowed in Alsace, and in the Gaillac and Jurançon appellations, each having their own specific charters.

Green harvest

So you can harvest later, but you can also pick your grapes earlier with a green harvest. But note that a green harvest is never intended to pick grapes for making wine. It's simply to remove excess grapes from the vines during the ripening or véraison" period. By decreasing the yield, the winemaker can increase the quality of the remaining grapes.

Original wine gift in France

Harvesting machine

Once the grapes have ripened, it's time to pick them. To do so the winemaker can use a harvesting machine or lots of pairs of secateurs! The harvesting machine has the advantage of being quick and of being able to be used more flexibly in terms of time. The proponents of manual harvesting argue that the quality of the harvest is better by hand, as a first sort can be done of the grapes before they are transported to the chai.

Sorting table

Talking of sorting the grapes, this can be done at two stages, at the moment the grapes are picked, or on a sorting table at the chai, where the unwanted grapes and foliage are removed, and often the stems are removed at the same time for red wine grapes. The winemaker chooses one or the other method, or sometimes both for the very best quality harvest. For some appellations, you have to sort when picking the grapes, or to harvest in phases by making multiple passes, as is the case for some of the sweet wines.

Unique wine gift in France

Destemming

Once the grapes have been sorted, the winemaker might decide to separate the berries from the stems, particularly for red wines, before the grapes are pressed or left to macerate in the fermentation tanks. Removing the stalk avoids too much contact with the grape must that can give a bitter vegetal taste. If the stalk is mature enough, the winemaker might decide to leave some of the stalk to add some tannin to the wine, and make a wine that will keep longer.

Wine press

To make white wine or some rosé wines, the grapes are pressed. Pressing can be done in a number of different types of wine press; vertically, horizontally, pneumatic or hydraulic. Each has their own advantages, but the pneumatic presses are most often used nowadays because you can regulate the pressure applied to the grapes to obtain a better quality juice. For the red wines, there is no pressing done before the fermentation, but afterwards to separate the solid marc of stems, skin and pips from the wine.

Adopt a vine in France

Crushing the grapes

For many wines, the grapes aren't crushed before being pressed or macerated. They are either left to break down naturally, or can be crushed mechanically or by foot. The days of crushing grapes by foot are very rare now as it takes a lot of time and energy! So these are some of the principal steps that will keep the winemaker busy up to and during the harvest. But it doesn't stop there! Once the grapes and juice are safely in the vats, the vinification process starts. We then hear talk of fermentation, racking, chaptilisation, yeast, sulphites... but we'll talk more about that after the harvest!

Other articles relating to the harvest

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- The 2015 harvest gets under way for our partner wineries

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

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A good 2015 harvest for the Cotes du Rhone


The forecast was for a great day, with mild temperatures and lots of sun! And so the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers arrived on time for a Harvest Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte!

After some fresh croissant and a coffee, Stéphanne, Eric and Marie-Pierre announced the plan for the day. Today we were to follow the journey of the grapes from the moment they are picked, right through to when they are put into the vat.

Vineyard experience in the Rhône Valley

Without any further ado, we set off out into the vineyard, where we would spend most of the morning. Eric taught us how to pick the grapes using the secateurs. The grapes are big and magnificent, and the ones that are ripe for picking are to be found on the lower part of the vines. We each had a bucket to put the grapes in, and two to a row, we started to pick the vines treasure.

Original wine gift in Rhône Valley, France

Many of us were amazed by the large size of the grapes, and their density. We also tasted the grapes, and Eric told us how to tell if the grape has reached optimal maturity.

Adopt a vine france, Rhône Valley

The time flew by and it was already 12:30! The team of Gourmet Odyssey harvesters had done some good work. The buckets didn't cease to be filled, and a regular rhythm was maintained throughout the morning.

Wine experience gifts, Rhône Valley

It was then time to follow the grapes to the de-stemming machine, where the grapes are separated from the stems, and the berries are slightly crushed to help liberate their juice. This stage is done mechanically, and we watched with interest as Eric, Marie-Pierre and their son, Etienne, operated the machinery.

Wine gift packs in France, Rhône Valley

We had earned our wine tasting! Eric and Marie-Pierre served us their two white wines, the Colline and the Sauvageonne, both from the 2014 vintage. They are very fresh and were accompanied by some aperitif biscuits. Before sitting down to lunch, we watched the grapes being emptied into the vat by gravity.

Personalised wine gift in France, Domaine la Cabotte

As usual, Marie-Pierre had prepared us a great meal, simple, but so delicious! We continued the tasting with some of the winery's red wines, the Colline and Garance 2014, and the Châteauneuf du Pape 2013; which is produced from a plot of old vines which are more than 70 years old. After lunch, we headed back out into the vineyard to discover our adopted vines. This more relaxing moment tested the photographic skills of those who were interested in the My Vine photo competition.

Rent a vine in France, Rhône Valley

We finished the afternoon in the chai to learn more about the differences between working the grapes used for white and red wine. Eric explained the first stages of fermentation, whilst Etienne put the lid on the vat with aplomb, using a forklift truck.

Wine tasting gift in France, Rhône Valley

And by then it was already just gone 4pm. Marie-Pierre had prepared the cases of wine to be collected, and we said our goodbyes. See you again soon for a new Experience Day. The next type of day will be the Vinification Experience Day, where we will learn more about the vinification and blending processes.

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A good harvest in Chablis


Last Saturday was a busy day for Gourmet Odyssey, as we were hosting Harvest Experience Days in the Rhône Valley, the Languedoc, and also in Chablis at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard. One would normally expect to harvest a few weeks later in Burgundy than the south of France, but the exceptionally hot summer, combined with the hail storm that hit some of the vineyards in Chablis on the 31st August, meant that the harvest had been brought forward.

As soon as we had finished the introductions we headed outside to receive our equipment for the day, a pair of secateurs and a bucket each, and a couple of baskets for the porters. We met up with Emilie, from the vine management team at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, in the Sainte Claire vineyard, and listened intently as she gave us our instructions on how to harvest, and which grapes to pick and which to leave behind.

Wine experience gift in France, Burgundy

We paired off, two to a row, and set about harvesting. First we removed the leaves from the vines from around the fruit. This helped us to more easily access the grape bunches, and also made it safer in warding off any unwanted finger cuts!

Vineyard experience in Burgundy, Chablis, France

The grapes are of a very good quality this year, and we could taste the plentiful natural sugar present, thanks to the dry and sunny summer. Unfortunately for us, some rain had decided to join us too for the morning, but that didn't dampen our spirits any, and the buckets soon filled up!

A few brave volunteers took it in turns to act as porter. Their role was to walk up and down the rows, collecting the grapes from the pickers and putting them in the basket that they wore on their backs.

Adopt a vine in France, wine lovers, Chablis

Once the baskets were filled, the porters then carried their load to the waiting trailer, climbed a ladder, and emptied the load over their shoulder, trying not to fall in with it!

Wine experience gifts in France, Burgundy

At the end of the morning we headed over to the Boissonneuse vineyard to have a look at our adopted vines, giving us the opportunity to take a few more photos!

Rent a vine in France, Gourmet Odyssey recipient

On the way back to the winery, we stopped to have a look at where the grapes are then emptied into the presses, before cleaning the buckets, and cleaning ourselves up.

Wine tasting gift for wine lovers in France, Chablis

Anne-Laure, from the Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard team had prepared some wines for us to taste, which were most welcome after our mornings effort! We started with a Petit Chablis "Les Plantes" 2012 and a Chablis "Sainte Claire" 2014. We then tasted the 2012 vintage of the Chablis wine chosen for our Wine Experience, La Boisssonneuse, and then finished with a Chablis "Côte de Lechet" Premier Cru 2012, before heading upstairs for lunch, where we also tasted an Irancy red wine produced by the winery.

Unique wine gift, organic wine in France

In the afternoon, we caught up with Julien Brocard, who has taken over the running of the winery from his father. Julien showed us how the grapes are pressed, and told us about how the wine will evolve during the fermentation process and how it will be worked. It was also the opportunity to talk a little about his reasoning for working much of the winery biodynamically.

Original wine gift in Burgundy

We then visited the large fermentation hall, where the winery's top wines are worked and aged in oak casks and some in concrete eggs.

Personalised wine gift in France,Chablis

The day ended with a final tasting session. We first tasted the grape juice that had been freshly pressed from our harvest. We then compared it to some juice that had already started the fermentation process and fizzed a little. This juice is now known as bourru.

Personalised bottles of wine, unique gift in France

Many thanks to all of our apprentice harvesters for their hard work, and to the team at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for welcoming us. We look forward to seeing how the 2015 vintage has evolved during the Vinification Experience Days next year.

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Harvesting the Syrah grapes in the Languedoc


On the 12th September there was a weather warning for the Hérault region, where our partner winery, Domaine Allegria, is situated. The participants of the Harvest Experience Day arrived under a dark sky, and Ghislain and Delphine, the winemakers, were wondering of it would be possible to harvest.

Vineyard experience in France, Languedoc

After a warm coffee and an introduction to the day, we decided to head quickly out into the vineyard to start harvesting as soon as possible, and try to avoid the rain as best we could. The forecast was for the weather to deteriorate towards the end of the morning.

Adop a vine in France, Languedoc

We set about picking the grapes in the small plot of Syrah vines, situated just above the ancient volcano. The grapes were in excellent condition, and the Syrah are truly magnificent this year! In an hour and a half we picked about 350kg of grapes, and put them into small crates, each weighing about 12-13 kg.

Wine lover gift in Languedoc

Before lunch, we went to the part of the vineyard where the Carignan grapes grow. We spent some time removing the leaves which cover the grapes, in order to increase the air flow around the grapes, and decrease the chance of rot setting in after the forecast rain arrived.

Original wine gift in France, Languedoc

The lunch that Delphine had prepared was most welcome, warm lentil salad, hot quiche, and local cheese from Mas Rolland to help replenish our energy. 

Rent a vine in Languedoc, France

At the end of lunch, the downpour started. We took refuge in the cellar and put our harvest into a vat for a special type of fermentation, which consists of putting the whole grapes into the vat without crushing them at all for the whole of the fermentation process. The fermentation will take place inside each individual berry, giving the wine a greater aromatic richness.

The rain continued to pour down, so we were unfortunately not able to visit our adopted vines... Once we had finished putting the grapes into the vats, we said our goodbyes, hoping that the roads wouldn't be blocked by the rain.

So our apprentice winemakers learnt the principle rule at harvest time - it's the weather that decides and dictates the dayss programme! Many thanks to all the participants who helped get the Syrah safely into the cellar before the rain arrived, and to Ghislain and Delphine for welcoming us during the busy and stressful harvest period.

 

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A great 2015 harvest in Burgundy


The 2015 Harvest Experience Days got off to a great start last weekend, not in the south of France as is usually the case, but in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle. The harvest is early this year in all of France's wine growing regions, but it is particularly true in Burgundy after an uncharacteristically hot summer where the temperatures climbed as high as 40°C in July.

Wine experience in France, Burgundy

Fortunately, the temperatures have decreased again, and we had the perfect conditions for harvesting the grapes. Dry, not too hot, with maximum temperatures around the 20°C mark, some wind, and sunny for the most part.

After the introductions in the garden of Domaine Chapelle, we headed off to the Clos des Cornières vineyard, the plot where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located. Before getting down to the serious business of harvesting, we took a few minutes to say hello to our vines and thank them for producing such a good harvest this year! As we were to find out, the quality is potentially excellent for the 2015 vintage, even if the dry summer has meant that there is a little less quantity than Jean-François, the winemaker and owner, was hoping for!

Rent a vine in Burgundy, France

Jean-François then told us how to harvest, which grapes to pick, and which to leave behind. In pairs, we were then allocated a row of vines, and armed with pair of secateurs each, we started to pick the grapes!

Vineyard experience in France, Burgundy

The crates soon started to fill, and we brought them back to the beginning of the row to exchange them for an empty one.

Unique wine gifts in France, Burgundy

Harvesting is a relatively therapeutic activity, as you are just concentrated on the task in hand, and so it is a great way to clear the mind for a couple of hours. It is however fairly tough on the back, and we all had a thought for the team of regular harvesters at the winery who are harvesting all day, every day, for 10 days!

Our morning's work well accomplished, and having cleaned up a little, we returned to the garden for a well deserved aperitif! Whilst we enjoyed a nice fresh Santenay 2014 white wine and ate some gougères, a local savoury specialty, we took the opportunity to question Jean-François some more , and to listen to him explain a variety of topics ranging from the local geology to his reasons for converting the winery to being organic.

Wine lover gift in France, Burgundy

The wine tasting continued over lunch with some of the wineries red wines, a Clos des Cornières 2011, an Aloxe-Corton 2012, finishing with a Santenay Premier Cru "Les Commes" 2007.

In the afternoon, we followed the journey that the grapes take once they have been picked in the vineyard. The first stop was the reception hall, where the harvest is emptied onto the sorting table to remove any leaves or unripe grapes.

Wine experience gifts in Burgundy, France

We learnt how red and white grapes are treated differently, the Chardonnay being put into the press in whole bunches, whilst the Pinot Noir have the grape berries separated from the stalks in the de-stemming machine.

Wine making experience at Domaine Chapelle, France

Downstairs, we continued the journey into the fermentation hall. Here Yannick, the Technical Director, and Jean-François explained how the Chardonnay grapes are pressed and then how they are worked during the fermentation process.

Wedding present wine in France, Burgundy

We also learnt how the Pinot Noir grapes are put directly into the vats, and the work necessary to extract the colour and tannins present in the grape skins during the maceration period. The work during harvest time is far from over once the grapes have been picked!

Adopt a vine in Burgundy, France

The day finished with a final tasting of some grape juice as we discovered just how sweet it is. Over the coming couple of weeks, the sugar will be broken down and transformed into alcohol as the wine begins to take form.

Wine tasting gift at Domaine Chapelle, Burgundy

We'll then have to wait patiently as the wine continues its fermentation and ageing process over the next year or so, more of which will be covered in the Vinification Experience Days and newsletters next year.

Many thanks to Jean-François and his team at Domaine Chapelle for letting us participate in the harvest, and for sharing their time with us during this busy and stressful period! And of course, a huge thanks also to all of our apprentice harvesters for your hard work and good cheer!

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The 2015 harvest gets under way for our partner wineries


Whilst the first Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience days of 2015 got underway last weekend, all of our partner winemakers have either started the harvest or are busy with the final preparations. A quick round robin of our wineries as the first clip of secateurs get under way...

2015 is a year of early harvests

As usual, the harvest season got underway at the Allegria and Domaine la Cabotte wineries, as they are situated in the south of France, in the Languedoc and Côtes du Rhône regions respectively, where the high temperatures and long hours of sunlight have enabled the grapes to reach a good level of maturity, as explained in our review of the work in the vineyard post. Domaine Allegria started the harvest on the 20th August, 2 days earlier than 2014 and 20 days earlier than 2013!

Rent a vine in France, Languedoc

The early start to the harvest is the case for all our partner winemakers in France, such as at Domaine Chapelle where the staff returned from the summer holidays on the 24th August to be ready in time. The winemakers are quietly confident that the quality will be very good this year, but there are a few worries that the quantity will be less due to the lack of water in some regions that limited the growth of the grapes.

Vineyard experience for wine lover in France, Burgundy

In Chablis, the date of the harvest has been brought forward at the last minute. On the 31st August, a hail storm damaged some of the vineyards in Chablis, and so the grapes have to be picked as quickly as possible, as the risk of the grapes being affected by mould dramatically increases. The harvest has started one week earlier than initially planned.

Lots of work in the cellar to welcome the 2015 harvest

In the cellar, the 2014 and some of the 2013 vintages are still being pampered. However, space needs to made for the arrival of the new vintage. In some wineries, such as Château de la Bonnelière, some of the wines have therefore been bottled to free up some of the vats and barrels. The winery has also had to adapt the organisation of the chai to be able to receive the harvest of the 10 additional hectares that they have acquired this year.

Wine making experience in France

At Château Beau Rivage, the 2015 harvest will be worked in a newly renovated chai, and everywhere, such as at Domaine Allegria, all of the equipment has been cleaned and organised to best receive the grapes. At Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, all of the materiel is tested, the conveyor belts, presses, sorting table etc, before being called into action for real.

Wine gift packs in France

And the other big task is to get ready to welcome the teams of harvesters who will arrive at the wineries to pick the grapes from anywhere between 10 days and a month depending on the winery. So the pressure is mounting as the harvests get under way, but our winemakers are keeping their smiles as they think of the great wines that will hopefully result!

Like to know more or to participate in the harvest? It's not too late to join us for one of the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Days. Don't hesitate to get in touch to know more.

 

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

 

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


As the first snip of secateurs sounds the start of this year's harvest at some of our partners such as Domaine Allegria or Domaine la Cabotte, we thought we'd take a look back to the work carried out in the vineyard to prepare the vines for this promising new vintage.

All of our partner winemakers are agreed. Mother nature has been kind to the vines this year, or at least so far... Of course nothing is ever certain, and we must hope that the good weather continues, until the grapes are safely in the fermentation tanks, but for the moment, 2015 looks set for being a good year.

A cold but dry winter

Dry and cold winter in the Languedoc vineyard France

Most of the wine-growing regions benefited from a relatively cold winter from January onwards, but without excessive rainfall. Domaine Chapelle recorded half of the rain usually received in January. The cold is a good thing for the vines as long as the buds have yet to appear. It kills off many of the unwanted parasites without affecting the plant, and it makes it easier for the winemaker to drive the tractor between the rows without getting bogged down, thanks to the hard ground.

Vine growing in the Alsace vineyard France

The cold winter, combined with a milder spring enabled the winemakers to limit the number of treatments applied to the vines. This is good news for our partners, all of whom are organically or biodynamically certified, as with Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard. Organic treatments are contact treatments which don't penetrate inside the plant, so after each rainfall, they have to be treated again as the rain washes away the protective matter. Too much rainfall however, makes it impossible to use the tractor to treat the vines as the earth becomes too cloggy, whilst the wet weather favours the development of disease.

An ideal Spring for flowering

Vine flowers in the French vineyard

The flowering season happened at our partners between the beginning and mid June, the 5th June at Domaine Stentz-Buecher, and a couple of weeks later at Château de la Bonnelière. Everyone agreed that the weather was optimal for the flowering. Mild temperatures between 20 and 25 °C for the most part, and without wind. Perfect conditions for the good fecundation of the flower and a good quantity of grapes.

As a rule of thumb, we normally count 100 days between the flowering and the harvest. This year, the weather will make a mockery of this saying, as the harvest will be early throughout France.

A lovely summer and early harvest

The months of June and July were very hot and dry, but the vine is a plant that needs little water, and withstands heat very well. At some of our partner wineries such as at the biodynamic Domaine la Cabotte, the winemakers were able to help the plant a little by spraying a tisane, made from stinging nettles and yarrow, in the morning, to refresh the vines and help them better withstand the heat.

Biodynamic treatment in the Chablis vineyard France

Even in the most southerly regions, where we often hear about the lack of water, nature was relatively kind this year, Domaine Allegria reporting 100mm of rain between mid March and mid April, making the summer a little less stressful.

At all of our partner wineries, the heat helped the development of the vines, first with the leaves, then through the veraison when the grapes begin to change colour, and then whilst they ripen. The lack of water over the past few weeks has preoccupied the winemakers. Even though dry weather is always better for harvesting, the grapes find it difficult to grow, and even if they reach maturity, the quantity of juice, and therefore of wine, runs the risk of being less than initially forecast during the flowering period.

Veraison of the grapes in the Rhone Valley France

The harvest gets under way

The majority of our partner winemakers have now returned from their summer holidays, a little earlier than other years, and the harvest has already got under way at some vineyards, such as Domaine Allegria. Elsewhere, the preparations are under way to clean and get the cellars ready, as with Château Beau Rivage, where the 2015 harvest will be received in the newly renovated chai.

Grapes maturity in the French Rhone Valley vineyard

The Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days get under way next week, and run between the 5th September and the 4th October. We'll have to wait a little longer to get a first idea of what the vintage promises, once the grapes are in the vats and the fermentation process has begun. We'll then get the chance to taste the wines during the Vinification Experience Days next winter!

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