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Allegria

The work in the cellar during harvest time


Last Saturday we welcomed the Gourmet Odyssey adoptive parents of our Syrah vines to learn all about the work during harvest time.  However there were no grapes to harvest as 2017 has been a highly unusual year, and we had had to start the harvest on the 16th August, some two weeks ahead of normal. The hot and dry summer, with no rain since the 15th April meant that the grapes had ripened much quicker than usual.

And on top of that, our harvest lasted just three weeks as opposed to a month and a half, because we had to pick the grapes before what juice there was had dried up in order to have enough juice to make wine.

But don’t worry, there was still lots to do.  As we were to learn, the harvest isn’t just about picking grapes. There is also much to be done in the cellar at this time too, and so with the participants, we learnt all about the first stages of fermentation and the work in the fermentation hall at this crucial time of the year.

We started the day with a délestage and a remontage, or pumping over, of our two vats of mourvèdre. We measured the density of the must (grape juice that is fermenting and in the process of becoming wine) to track the rate of fermentation. Both vats were losing between 10-15 points a day. As the sugar is transformed into alcohol during the fermentation period, so the density of the must decreases.  It’s best when this happens regularly. During the fermentation, carbon dioxide is released and pushes the solid matter of pips and skins to the top of the vat.

Harvest Experience Day in the Laanguedoc wine area South of France

This solid matter contain the molecules that give the colour and tannins necessary for the wine. Therefore the wine that is at the bottom of the vat needs to be in contact with the solid matter that forms the cap of the vat. One technique used is known as pumping over whereby the juice from the bottom of the vat is pumped back into the top, where it will extract the colour and tannins from the cap as it filters through it. Délestage is another technique used whereby the juice is pumped into a second vat, and the cap allowed to settle on the bottom of the first vat.  The weight of all of the solid matter presses itself for a couple of hours before the juice is then returned to the original vat. We pass the majority of the morning performing these two tasks to ensure a good extraction of colour and tannins.

We then headed to the barrel room where the large 600 litre demi-muid barrel of roussanne were in full fermentation mode. Ghislain explained why he chose to ferment this wine in the barrels as opposed to the stainless steel vats for the mourvèdre, and the different impact they each have on the wine.

Winery tour and harvester meaal in Languedoc, France

With all of the nice wine aromas, our appetites were whetted. Delphine had prepared an explosion of tastes with a fresh tomato soup from the old varieties grown in the garden, then a colourful Crimée, Green Zebra and Marmande tomato salad, Puy lentil salad, cured meats, and local goats cheese from the Mas Roland. We finished the meal with coffee and home-made chocolate fondant.

The meal was accompanied by a range of wines from Allegria, starting with the Dolce Vita 2016, followed by the Cinsault Abuelo 2016, Carignan Gourmand 2015, Tribu d’A 2015 red, and finishing with the Poivre de Mourvèdre 2014 and our La Belle Histoire 2015.

Adopt-a-vine-experience at Domaine Allegria in Languedoc, France

After the full lunch, a walk was most welcome, and we headed out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines. We took a few souvenir photos, and saw how they had grown since the Discovery Experience Days. Ghislain explained the work that had been done in the vineyard and talked about the peculiarities of this 2017 vintage.

Vine adoption and harvest experience day in the South of France

The day drew to a close under the hot sun, and we’re looking forward to coming back for the Vinification Experience Days to see how the wines are shaping up and to learn what happens between now and the time when the wine is ready to be bottled.

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De-budding and hoeing the vines in the Languedoc in preparation for the 2017 harvest


In the Languedoc, the heat wave has been intense, and the temperatures were already high when we welcomed the Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day participants at Domaine Allegria.  The adoptive vine owners had come to learn about what happens in the vineyard to produce the best grapes come harvest time.

We started the day by visiting the plot where the adopted vines are located, accompanied by Paco and Bella, the two faithful dogs at the winery.  We applied the sunscreen and put on hats as the sun was already high and beating down strongly, and took a few minutes to take some photos of our adopted vines.

Rent-a-vine gift experience in the south of France

Since the winter, much has already happened in the vineyard and so we were brought up to speed about the various tasks, and learnt about what remains to be done between now and the harvest, which will be a little earlier than usual this year due to the high temperatures and sun of the past few weeks.  We also discovered what being an organic vineyard entails.

The vines had been growing quickly over the previous few weeks, and so there was much to do in the vineyard.  The bravest had a go at hoeing around the vine trunks to remove the grass and weeds.  This is necessary in organic winemaking as the plough that is pulled behind the tractor can clear the weeds between the vines, but has more difficulty directly around the trunk.

Vineyard experience gift to participate in working on the vines

We also ensured that the vine branches were growing between the training wires so that they are better supported and to avoid being damaged by the passing tractor.

Organic gift experience for wine lovers

And we also got to work by removing any shoots that had sprouted on the vine trunk or from the roots.  These shoots will not produce any fruit, and so by getting rid of them, we help the vine concentrate its energy on ripening the grapes for this year’s harvest.

Organic wine experience in the Languedoc

Before lunch, we had a quick visit of the cellar for an introduction to the art of vinification.  We’ll learn more about this process during the Vinifcation and Harvest Experience Days.

Weekend break for wine lovers in the south of France

We enjoyed lunch in the shade because the sun was even stronger by now.  We tasted the Dolce Vita 2016 rosé wine in a magnum for the aperitif.  During the main course, we discovered the Cinsault Abuelo 2016, Carignan Gourmand 2015 and Poivre de Mourvèdre 2014.  With cheese from the local Mas Roland, we tasted the Tribu d’A 2015, and ended the meal with the Grande Cuvée La Belle Histoire 2015.  A great way to end a very sunny day.  We’ll see you again soon for the harvest!

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Vinification and blending of wines in the Languedoc


The sun was awaiting the participants at Domaine Allegria for the Vinification Experience Day, the last of the wine experience days for the adoptive vine parents of the 2016 vintage.  The aim of the day was to discover what happens in the cellar after the grapes have been picked at harvest time up until the wine is ready for being bottled.

  Wine gift box to adopt vines in a Languedoc vineyard, France

We started the day with a quick visit to the vineyard to see our adopted vines, where we took a few souvenir photos.  We also learnt about what has been happening in the vineyard at the moment, what work has been done since last year’s harvest, and how the vines have come back to life in the spring.

Vineyard tour at Domaine Allegria Languedoc France

We learnt how the vines had been pruned, a long task that had finished three weeks earlier. The cut branches had then been pulled from the vines and left between the rows to be crushed.

Vine-adoption as a wine gift box in France

When we returned from the vineyard, we visited the cellar from top to bottom.  The questions flowed.  What is a wine without sulphites, why do you use selected yeasts, and many more such topics.  We talked in detail about the different processes between making red and white wine.

We then tested our sense of smell with the help of 12 bottles containing different aromas.  This exercise would help us find some of the words to describe the wines that we were to taste later. 

Lunch was served in the sun on the terrace.  The winery’s rosé Dolce Vita 2016 wine was served in a jeroboam for the aperitif.  We tasted different wines, paired with local charcuterie and a lentil salad; the Cinsault Abuelo 2015, a Carignan Gourmand 2015, and the Cousu Main 2013 in a magnum.  With the goat’s cheese from the nearby Mas Roland, we tasted the Tribu d’A white 2015, which goes perfectly with cheese.  We finished the meal with the Grande Cuvée La Belle Histoire 2015, a great vintage for Languedoc wines.  With the delicious almond cake and profiteroles, we enjoyed a coffee.

Wine-tasting at the winery, Pézenas, Languedoc, France

After lunch, we returned to the cellar to taste three of the wines from the 2016 vintage that are still in the ageing process.  Each of the wines was of a different grape varietal, enabling us to learn the different characteristics of Cinsalut, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  The wines are still young, and full of carbon dioxide following the fermentation.  But they were also very soft considering the stage that they are at, and already enjoyable to drink.

Having tasted these different wines, the next exercise was to have a go at blending them together.  We learnt that blending the different grape varietals together gives a deeper and more complex final wine.
By the end of the day, we had learnt many new things about wine, and will have a few stories to recount when we open the next bottle!

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Gourmet Odyssey and our partner winemakers wish you an excellent New Year!


And so a new year starts and we’re starting to put into action our projects for 2017.  But before we get too caught up in this new vintage, we wanted to send you our best wishes for the year ahead.

Each year brings us its share of great moments and a few surprises, and 2016 was no exception.  We thank you for your loyalty and support as we gear up to accompany you for 2017.  We hope that this New Year is a great vintage and also brings you lots of gastronomic discoveries!

And to get the year started, we asked some of our partner winemakers a few questions about how they spent the Christmas period, and what their hopes and wishes are for the coming year.

 

What wine did you open during the end of year celebrations?

Domaine Chapelle - The traditional Christmas meal this year saw all of the family reunited around the table.  We talked lots about wine and in particular “organic wine”, as we tasted some Alsace and Bordeaux wines from fellow organic winemakers.  And of course we opened a few of our own bottles.  This year, we concentrated on the 1988 vintage to choose the best bottle to serve at the coming wedding of my niece, Elodie.

Domaine Allegria - We enjoyed a curry with a bottle of Chenin Blanc 2016 from Grover Vineyards, one of the top Indian wineries!  Because that is where we were for Christmas day!

Domaine la Cabotte - For Christmas, we opened a magnum of our white Sauvageonne wine.  It’s a great wine for sharing with friends or family with coquilles Saint Jacques in a creamy safran sauce, or more simply with a nicely mature piece of comté cheese.

 

What wishes would you like to share with wine lovers for 2017?

Domaine Chapelle - Remain curious.  The world of wine is becoming more and more interesting, but be demanding of the winemakers and keep them honest by ensuring that they work properly and organically!

Domaine Allegria - We wish you a 2017 full of allegria for your families and those close to you.

Domaine la Cabotte – We hope you drink wines from the terroir and that are biodynamic!

 

And what are you hoping for?

Domaine Chapelle – A great and big harvest for 2017!

Domaine Allegria – A great 2017 harvest, more generous than in 2016!

Domaine la Cabotte – A harvest as good as in 2016!

 

A very happy and tasty 2017 to you all!

 

The Gourmet Odyssey Team

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Winemaker profiles. Delphine, Ghislain d’Aboville and their tribe at Domaine Allegria


We continue our series of partner winemaker profiles, and this time we head to the Languedoc region in the south of France with our list of questions for Delphine & Ghislain d’Aboville at Domaine Allegria.  This young winemaking couple and their tribe were thrilled to share their joie de vivre and love of their work with us!

Adopt-a-vine experience in a French Languedoc vineyard

How long have you been winemakers?

We have been winemakers since 2008.  Domaine Allegria is the fruit of a Franco-Argentine friendship between the d’Aboville and de la Mota families.  Roberto de la Mota is one of the most respected Argentine oenologists, and he has accompanied us in realising our dream.

 

What is your best memory in the vineyard or cellar?

For Ghislain
A micro-vinification in 2011 of two rows of Muscat.  We harvested the grapes late and produced 50 litres of pure nectar that we never bottled because there was too little.  We keep this wine in a tiny little vat, and serve it to our friends and guests who come and visit.
For Delphine
It’s racking the vat of the last plot of red vines, which is always the mourvèdre.  Being in the vat and removing the marc of skin and pips that has been left behind with a shovel is a unique experience.  You’re in close contact with the grapes and it also signals the end of the vinification period.  I’m the one who always racks the mourvèdre, and so I am the one who marks the end of the vinfication.

 

For the 2015 vintage, what is at present your favourite wine and why?

For Ghislain
The Carignan Gourmand because since 2013 we’ve been reducing the percentage of this wine that is aged in barrels year on year.  In 2012, 100% was aged in oak and in 2015, 0%.  And I think that I’ve at last found the true style of this generous wine.  It’s got heaps of freshness, and at the same time has a magnificent length with a great potential for keeping.
For Delphine
Cinsault Abuelo because I love the roundness of this wine for the 2015 vintage, and because it is very thirst quenching!

 

What are your upcoming projects or challenges?

In 2017 we’re going to plant a lovely 1 hectare plot with Grenache. The peculiarity is that we’ll be using vines that from very old Grenache vines using massal selection.  We’ll prune the vines using the Goblet method as our ancient Languedoc ancestors did.  Our aim for this vineyard plot is to add some nice Grenache grapes to our blends from 2020!  We’ll have to be patient until then!

 

A question that our clients often ask.  What do winemakers do when they have a little time to themselves?

Our favourite way to take a break and relax is to leave the winery on foot, and wander through the scrub and garrigue until we reach our favourite restaurant, the Auberge du Presbytère, nestled in the small mountain village of Vailhan.  The food is as breath-taking as the scenery!

 

Interviews of our orther partners

Marc Plouzeau from Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley

Eric, Etienne and Marie-Pierre Plumet from Domaine la Cabotte in the Rhône Valley

Jean-François Chapelle from Domaine Chapelle in Burgudy

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A sunny harvest in the south of France at Domaine Allegria


On Saturday 3rd September we welcomed the Gourmet Odyssey adoptive vine parents to the winery to help harvest the plot of cinsault vines.

 

Harvest experience day at the winery, Domaien Allegria Languedoc

We were blessed with a beautifully sunny day to harvest this plot of vines that was planted in 1984. After explaining which grapes to pick and how to do so, the first snip of the secateurs got underway at about 10:00.

Wine gift box adopt-a-vine experience

The bunches of grapes were carefully picked and then transported in their crates to the shade of the vinification hall. The outside temperature rose quickly, and so it was important to keep the grapes as fresh as possible to help the start of the vinification process.

Harvest experience day in a French vineyard

Our harvesters were very enthusiastic, and by 11h30, the plot had been picked. It was a relatively small harvest, with a hundred or so crates picked. The dryness of the preceding weeks has meant that the grape berries that were formed were fairly small.

We then headed to another plot in the vineyard to discover where our adopted Syrah vines were to be found. The Tribu d'A red wine that we produce for the Gourmet Odyssey clients is made up of two grape varietals, syrah and mourvèdre.

Oenology course in a French winery in Languedoc

We then enjoyed a well-earned lunch in front of the winery, with home-made dishes from Delphine, accompanied by wines from the winery.

After lunch, we retreated to the cool of the cellar to put our harvest into the vat and learn about the first stages of fermentation that will start in a few days time.

We'll then pick up the next stages of the wine's evolution during the Vinification Experience Days. Many thanks to all of our apprentice harvesters!

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The 2016 harvest gets under way!


Now that September has arrived, harvest season is upon us once more. During the summer months, the grapes have been left to slowly mature, but now the activity in the vineyard and cellar is accelerating again as the harvest starts for some, and for others the preparation begins. The first of the 2016 Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days took place last weekend under the sunny blue skies in the Languedoc.

Last minute preparations

The wineries have been ramping up the work again over the last couple of weeks. The teams of harvesters are being put in place, and are now eagerly awaiting the starting orders. The harvest will generally last between 10 and 20 days according to the size of the winery, the weather, and how the grapes are harvested. Harvesting by hand takes considerably longer than by machine.

Cellar tour at the winery in the Languedoc area, France

The cellars and fermentation halls, or chais, have been cleaned and tidied to be ready for the new harvest. Many of the wineries have also been busy bottling previous vintages to free up space in the vats for the first fermentation of the new wine to come.

Oenology course in France with the winemaker at he winery

Our partner winemakers are now prowling the vineyards each day, observing and tasting the grapes to see how ripe they are. They also scrutinise the weather reports and combine these with their estimations of when the grapes will reach optimum maturity to try and predict a date to start the harvest.

The harvest dates differ from region to region

This year we are in a more usual cycle, and the first of our partner wineries to pick their grapes are Domaine Allegria and Domaine la Cabotte in the Languedoc and Côtes du Rhône wine regions, where the high summer temperatures and long hours of sunshine allow the grapes to mature faster.

Tours in the vineyard and wine-making experience in France

The wineries a little further north will then follow with our two Burgundy partners, Domaine Chapelle in Santenay, and Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis, hosting Harvest Experience Days the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October. Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux, Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace and Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley will then finish the round of Harvest Experience Days during the following two weekends.

Generally speaking, spring was cool and wet, but the beginning of summer was very warm, so the ripeness of the grapes is neither late nor early. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed for good weather right until the very last grapes have been picked! It's been a difficult year for some with hail storms, flooding, and some very hot spells in some regions, so it would be nice to avoid any further climatic challenges. And a little sun is always appreciated to welcome our adoptive vine parents to the Harvest Experience Days!

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Organic, biodynamic and natural wines


With all of Gourmet Odyssey's partner winemakers being organically certified, and some being also biodynamic, we're used to talking about what this entails during the wine experience days, and how the practices in the vineyard and cellar differ. But with the multitude of labels, and the plethora of information available, it's sometimes easy to get lost!

Wine lovers are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to the environmental impact of making wine on the vineyards and surrounding land, and in knowing what has been added to the wine before it reaches their glass. And so a number of labels and charters have been developed and applied to the world of wine, the most common of which are organic, biodynamic and natural wines.

Learning how to make an organic wine

 

The main differences

In this article we're going to set out the main characteristics of each practice, whether in the vineyard or cellar, but we it would make for far too long an article to be completely exhaustive. To dig a bit deeper, please take a look at some of our other articles on organic winemaking or biodynamic winemaking.

Conventional winemaking practices are currently being questioned because there is no longer the same importance put on forever increasing yields and the development of chemical products to enable it to happen. The use of synthetic substances to protect the vines from disease and produce more grapes per vine has seen opposition in the form of sustainable or integrated winemaking.

Whilst not organic, sustainable winemaking attempts to limit the deterioration of the soil and to better respect the environment by restricting the chemical treatments to the bare minimum, as the label for sustainable winemaking, Terra Vitis hopes to promote.

Integrated winemaking is a blend of sustainable and organic practices that also try to keep the use of chemical products to a bare minimum. The Tyflo label is used to signal this approach.

The Tyflo label for integrated winemaking

 

Organic winemaking is founded upon the suppression of chemical products that penetrate the vines, protecting them from within. As such, all chemical pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers and weed killers are banned. To receive the organic label, within the EU it's the green leaf logo made up of small stars, it takes three years to convert and receive the certification. In France, certification is controlled by independent organisations such as Ecocert or Qualité France. (See a complete list of organic certification bodies).

In organic winemaking, the winemaker uses natural products such as plants, copper or sulphur. These are all contact products and protect the vine from the outside. This is all well and good during dry weather, but has the disadvantage of being washed away when it rains, meaning that the vines need to be treated more often in wetter climates. Organic farming techniques have the advantage though of improving the quality and microbial life of the soil, and promoting a more natural environment in which insects and plants co-exist and compete.

The EU's label for organic winemaking

 

But it's not just in the vineyard that the difference can be found. Since 2012 making wine organically also means regulating what happens in the cellar, such as reducing the level of sulphites, using indigenous or organic yeast cells, and using organic sugar if chaptalising wines. That is why for vintages prior to 2012, a phrase such as "wine produced using organically certified vines" could be found on the wine lables, and it is only since 2012 in France that the words "Organic Wine" could be printed on the labels, once the whole of the production chain was controlled and certified.

Biodynamic winemaking is all about looking at the vines and wine in the context of their surrounding environment. In the vineyard, an equilibrium is sought between the plant and the soil based on the lunar calendar. It is sometimes compared to homeopathy and the treatments are created using plants, silex and animal matter.

It should also be noted that the levels of copper and sulphur used are considerably lower than with organic winemaking. To become biodynamically certified, the winery needs to first certify the vineyards concerned and wine-making process used as being organic, and then it needs to conform to the charter of a biodynamic organisation such as Demeter or Biodyvin.

Demeter's label for biodynamic winemaking

 

Natural wines have gained momentum over the past few years, and this term is used to describe wines that have been made from grapes having had the least intervention possible and where the juice has had nothing added to it. The idea is to let nature do virtually all the work and for the winemaker to act just as a facilitator. For example the grapes are harvested by hand, no yeast cells are added to start the fermentation, and no products are added to the wine to help stabilise and preserve it.

There isn't currently any official label or certification process for natural wines. Some organisations and associations who promote natural wines, recommend organic certification, but it's not an obligation, and none of their charters is bound by law.

 

How to recognise the labels?

So with the exception of natural wines, different labels exist to help the consumers of French wine to know whether a wine is certified as being organic, biodynamic, or sustainable.

But when looking for labels, you have to bear in mind that they only identify those winemakers that have taken the route to be certified. Many winemakers use organic, integrated or sustainable approaches without necessarily going through the certification process due to a lack of time, for financial reasons, or to be free from added bureaucracy and controls. Official certification however remains the best proof though that the winemaker has indeed respected the charter.

The important thing is to understand the approach used by the winemakers and to discuss this with them if possible when you taste their wines. Your beliefs and convictions will also be important when choosing a bottle, but of course the principal criteria when choosing which particular wine should always remain its taste. As with conventional wines, there will be wines that you like and don't like. Any label, whether it be organic, biodynamic or sustainable, isn't a guarantee of its perceived quality. The final step is to put faith in your senses to make the best pick!

 

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The art of vinifying and ageing wines in the Languedoc-Roussillon


Last Saturday, a beautiful Spring day awaited the participants of the Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Allegria.
Vineyard experience, Languedoc, France

To get the day started, we headed off into the vineyard with the winemaker, Ghislain to find our adopted vines. It gave us the opportunity to take a few photos of our vines and to learn a little about the vines growth cycle and the work that is carried out in the vineyard. It is after all the work here that has a big impact on the quality of the wine at the other end of the cycle!

Rent a vin, Languedoc, France

Upon our return from the vineyard, we visited the chai from top to bottom, and covered a whole host of questions regarding the fermentation and vinification of wines. We also talked about the differences in making red and white wine.

Next on the programme was an aromatic workshop. We had to try and identify 12 of the most commonly found aromas in red wine. It puts both your nose and memory to the test as you try and put a name to the smell contained in the small glass bottle. Not as easy as it would seem!

Wine gift packs, Languedoc, France

We ate lunch outside on the terrace to enjoy the spring sunshine. For the aperitif, we tasted a magnum of the Dolce Vita 2015 rosé wine that had been bottled just a few weeks previously. During the meal, we tasted several of the estate’s wines, the 2014 Cinsault Abuelo, the Carignan Gourmand from the 2013 vintage, and a Cousu Main 2011 in magnum. To accompany the goat’s cheese from the neighbouring Mas Roland, we tasted the 2014 Tribu d’A white wine which pairs perfectly. We finished the meal with La Belle Histoire 2013, a great vintage for Languedoc wines.

Wine tasting gift, Languedoc, France

After lunch, we returned to the chai to taste three different wines from the 2015 vintage that are still in the process of ageing. A great opportunity to get a sneak preview of this promising year and to talk about the different characteristics of each grape varietal. We tasted a Cinsault, a Syrah and a Mourvèdre. The wines are still very young, and fizzy from the caron dioxide released during the fermentation period, but they are also astonishingly soft and enjoyable to drink at this early stage in their evolution!

At the end of the day, we hope that everyone had learnt a little more about the art of making wine, and will have a few more wine stories to recount. Many thanks to all of the participants for sharing this day.

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Wine-making day in the south of France at Domaine Allegria


We had a great first Vinification Experience Day of the 2015 vintage last weekend, and the wet weather that was announced by the weather forecasters did nothing to dampen the spirits. The winemaker is of course happy to receive some rain from time to time, especially as the winter has been far too dry this year, and if it’s good for the vines, it’s for a good cause!
Vineyard experience, Languedoc, France

We enjoyed a coffee in the warmth of the wine boutique whilst waiting for everyone to arrive, and then we ventured out into the vineyard to get the day started.

On the way, we explained the work that has been keeping us busy in the vineyard. We finished pruning 3 weeks ago. We’ve pulled the cut branches free, and put them in bundles between the vine rows to be crushed. This will help us return some nutrients to the soil. The day before, some organic animal manure had been spread amongst the vines, again to help nourish the earth.

Rent a vine, Languedoc, France

In the vineyard plot where the adopted vines are located, we took the time to take a few photos with our vines, and to check up on the loving care that Ghislain and Delphine had given them since the last Harvest and Discovery Experience Days.

Back from the vineyard, we visited the winery and cellar from top to bottom. The questions rattled off; what is a wine without sulphites, why used selected yeast, and many others. We learnt all about the vinification process and how it differs in making white and red wine.

Wine tasting gift, Languedoc, France

We then participated in a session to put our sense of smell to the test. In the first series we had to identify the primary aromas of fruit and flowers, and the second series contained aromas that are more associated with ageing of wine in oak barrels. We had a very talented group of participants who were able to correctly identify the different fragrances.

We had lunch in the warmth of the wine boutique. We tasted the Tribu d’A 2014 white wine with some dried sausage for the aperitif, followed by some warm pumpkin soup served with the Cinsault Abuelo 2013 and Tribu d’A 2010 red wines. To accompany the homemade quiche, we tasted the Carignan Gourmand 2012, and Cousu Main 2011 red wine from a magnum. We then finished the meal with La Belle Histoire 2013, a very good vintage in the Languedoc. And then just enough space was left for some coffee and profiteroles!

Original wine gift, Languedoc, France

After the meal, we returned to the cellar to taste 3 wines from the 2015 vintage. It was the first opportunity to see what this great vintage has in store for us, and to take the time to analyse its characteristics. We tasted the Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre wines that are still in the long process of ageing. We then had a go at blending them together to see how the wines interact with one another. It’s still way too soon to know what the final blend will be as the wines are too young, and full of carbon dioxide from the fermentation.

So the end of the day arrived, and our heads were spinning from the mass of new information we had learnt about wine, and we hopefully have a thing or two more to say about how it’s made now. Many thanks to all for coming!

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Taste the wines from our partners in the 2016 wine fairs


Now that last year’s harvest is now over and the first of stages of the vinification are completed, it’s time for our partner winemakers to present their latest wines during the 2016 wine fairs. Come and meet our winemakers and taste their organic wines at one of the following events.

Château Beau Rivage - Bordeaux

 

Salon Vinidome

Salon Vinidome - Grande Halle d'Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand
5–7 February 2016

Salon des Vignerons Indépendants in Strasbourg

Salon des Vignerons Indépendants in Strasbourg – Stand A 15
19-22 February 2016

Salon des Vins de France

Salon des Vins de France – Nantes La Trocadière – Rezé – Stand 15
18-20 March 2016

 

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard – Burgundy

Salon des Vins de Mâcon – Spot, Parc des Expositions
17-19 April 2016

 

Domaine Allegria

Salons des Vignerons de Liège

Salons des Vignerons de Liège, Belgium - Caserne Fonck, Outremeuse
2-3 April 2016

Salons des Vignerons Indépendants « Nature et Vin

Salons des Vignerons Indépendants « Nature et Vin » in Paris – Espace Champerret
27-29 May 2016

 

Domaine Chapelle - Burgundy

Salon du Vin et de la Gastronomie in Neuville de Poitou - Salle des Fêtes
Saturday 13 February, 10:00-19:00 and Sunday 14 February, 10:00-18:00

Salon Vivre Autrement Bio in Paris - Parc Floral (12e)
11-14 March 2016

Salon des vins et produits régionaux de Paray-le-Monial - Centre Associatif Parodien, rue Pierre Lathuilière
Saturday 19 March, 10:00-19:30 and Sunday 20 March, 10:00-19:00

Journées Gourmandes du Grand Morvan à Saulieu - Hall des Expositions

Foire gastronomique de Mailly Champagne
13 au 15 May 2016

 

You can also meet the winemakers during one of the upcoming Gourmet Odyssey Discovery or Vinification Experience Days.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

- A brief history of grape harvesting

- 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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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.

 

Other articles relating to the 2015 harvest

The 2015 harvest gets under way for our partner wineries

The 2015 harvest. What happens next in the cellar?

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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.

 

Other articles linked to the harvest

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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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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Wine blending in the Languedoc


Last weekend we welcomed the parents of the adopted vines to Domaine Allegria for a Vinification Experience Day. And with them, a light drizzle for the first day of Spring, but that didn't dampen the good cheer and enthusiasm of our participants in any way!

Wine experience gifts in Languedoc

Once everyone had arrived and had a cup of coffee, we booted up, and headed out into the vineyard to find our adopted vines.

Rent a vine in Languedoc

On the way, Ghilsain, the winemaker at Allegria, explained the different work in progress in the vineyard. The pruning has now finished and the first tilling of the soil has started.

This allows the rain to better penetrate the earth. We then returned to the winery building, and we spent quite a while in the chai to better see and understand the different ways that the wines are worked during the vinification phase.

The questions abounded, covering topics as varied as sulphites, racking the wines and ageing them.

Unique wine gift in Languedoc

Before lunch, we participated in a workshop which the winemakers children had help to devise. We had to guess which aromas the 37 different cups contained!

These weren't synthetic aromas, but natural ones that were hidden from view with a tin foil cover over the cup with some holes in.

Personalised wine gift in Languedoc

And so we set about identifying smells as diverse as burnt cork, rosemary, blackcurrant and truffle.

To spice things up a little, we organised a competition and the winner left with a bottle of Dolce Vita 2014 rosé wine!

We then sat down for the meal and wine tasting, which Delphine had lovingly prepared.

Wine tasting gift in Languedoc

To start, a warm chickpea salad with slices of black pudding, which pairs delightfully with the Cinsaut Abuelo 2013.

We then enjoyed a home-made lasagne, and some local goats cheese from the Mas Roland.

wine making experience in Languedoc

After lunch we set about the serious business of blending wines. We blind tasted different grape varietals of Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah to learn what characteristics each brings to a blend, and then had a go at blending some wines to learn how they combine with each other!

Many thanks to all our participants and to the winemakers for a great Vinification Experience Day.

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Being an organic winemaker in 2015


At the start of a new year, all is still imaginable and possible for 2015. The biggest organic wine fair in the world, Millésime Bio, shortly takes place from the 26th to 28th January, and all of our partner winemakers will be there. We took the opportunity to ask them what their vision and expectations were for organic winemaking in 2015. Here is a synopsis of their responses:
Wishes from Domaine la Cabotte Mondragon France

Why did you convert to being organic?

For Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, organically converted since 1999, and also biodynamically certified in some of their vineyards, it's a work philosophy before anything else. "To simply best express the quality of an exceptional terroir by respecting our working and natural environment."

Jean-François Chapelle, owner of Domaine Chapelle, converted the entire estate of his vineyards in 2009, and explained that "for the vines to convey the secrets of the soil through their grapes, the winemaker must respect life; the life of the soil and the life of the vine by excluding chemical weed-killers and fertilisers, and the human lives to stop the development of professional illnesses linked to farming such as cancers, asthma, and skin diseases." Converting to organic farming methods happened naturally at the winery in the continuity of "the Chapelle family history of producing terroir wines."

At Domaine Stentz-Buecher, the arrival of Stéphane, son of the owners, to the winery in 1995 brought a different vision of balancing work and nature.  They officially started the certification process in 2007 and received organic status in 2010.

But watch out, ironises Ghislain d'Aboville, owner of Domaine Allegria, who started the journey to be organically certified in 2008. "Not all winemakers are born into a vineyard and not all of their parents reared goats in the Larzac after 1968!" In his case, there is of course a philosophical reason, "the book by Marie-Monique Robin, and the film Le Monde Selon Monsato were the catalyst." But there were also family considerations. "We're happy that our children can gorge themselves on grapes during the harvest without worrying about chemical treatments which we don't use."

Wishes from Domaine Allegria Pézenas France

What has changed for you since converting to organic winemaking ?

For some, such as Eric Plumet, who together with his wife, Marie-Pierre, own Domaine la Cabotte. They converted organically in 2002 and biodynamically in 2006, and for them the answer is "the sense of no longer working against nature but with nature. To respect the living and to put everything in place to enrich this life in our soils, our vines and our wines. We've developed our powers of observation and our ability to work naturally."

The effects are also visible in the vineyards for Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard and "the vines have regained strength, know how to better defend themselves against disease, and produce more constant yields."

At Domaine Allegria, they have gone further than just the vineyard, and introduced an organic vegetable patch in 2014 and will add an organic chicken run in 2015.

For Domaine Stentz-Buecher : "Above and beyond respecting the official organic charter, we are also seeking the best quality. We voluntarily reduce the yields, are extremely selective when sorting the grapes and vinify our wines naturally."

Wishes from Domaine Brocard Chablis France

What are the things you are looking forward to this year ?

Our partners are awash with new projects for 2015:

  • The acquisition of a new plot of vines of Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire for Domaine Chapelle.
  • Training the teams and developing the buildings at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard to welcome and share their vision of winemaking with more visitors.
  • The start of a social responsibility certification and a new rosé wine that will be fuller and even more seductive at Domaine Allegria
  • The arrival of Etienne, the son of Marie-Pierre and Eric at Domaine la Cabotte, who will start working with them, and a new very old plot of Grenache vines in Châteuneuf du Pape, which are cultivated organically and are undergoing biodynamic conversion.

What are your wishes for your winery and team in 2015?

The wishes of our partners are fairly unanimous concerning 2015, "to go even further organically to respect the environment" at Domaine Chapelle and to "help increase awareness of organic wine in France and internationally" at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.

Domaine la Cabotte reminds us that we should indeed wish for, "generous conditions to give us the best possible wines because one should never forget that we can only work with that which nature provides us weather wise."

And not forgetting the importance to our winemakers of sharing great moments with their clients. We wish you an excellent millésime, lots of Allegria, and to share this joy with those around you.

More information on our partner winemakers

 

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The 2014 harvest starts in the Languedoc


The first of the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days for the 2014 vintage took place on the 6th September at Domaine Allegria, and we were blessed with a magnificent summer?s day. This year we decided to start a little earlier so as to avoid the strong midday sun.

Vineyard experience in Languedoc

At 8:30, we headed out into the vineyard where we grow our Cinsault grapes. Cinsault is one of the oldest grape varietals found in the Languedoc, and our small plot is 35 years old. We had a half hectare of vines for our apprentice harvesters to pick.

Rent a vine in Languedoc, unique wine gift

We started relatively early because the temperature soon climbed to 30°C. For the grapes, and for the harvesters, it's better to pick when the temperatures are as low as possible. If the grapes get too hot, we then have to cool them down before putting them into the vat. It's always best to manipulate the grapes as little as possible.

wine making experience in France

The grapes are in great shape this year, but it's a smaller yield due to the very dry winter and spring. Around 11:00, we finished the harvest, and headed to the Mazet vineyard where the Syrah vines are adopted by the Gourmet Odyssey clients.

Wine tasting gift in Languedoc

Delphine had prepared lunch for us, a local recipe of mussels cooked on a plancha, called brasoucade. After lunch and a tasting of some wine, we helped put the grapes into the vats. We emptied the crates into the de-stemming machine to remove the stalks, and then we pumped the whole berries into the top of a vat.

At Domaine Allegria, we don't add any sulphur at this stage, the wines are vinified without adding any, and it is only when it comes to bottling that we add some. And finally we ended by cleaning all of the material.

It's what takes us the most time during the harvest. To make one litre of wine, it takes three litres of water to keep all of the material clean!

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Vinification Experience Day in the Languedoc


For the latest Vinification Experience Day, we were blessed with the first warm and sunny day of the year.  The first participants arrived at Domaine Allegria for a coffee taken outside around the big table.  A luxury for the month of February!

We started the day in the vineyard to see where the adopted vines are located.  On the way to the plot of Syrah vines, we saw how the pruning was progressing.  The view from the Mazet vineyard is great, and we could see all the way to the snow-capped Pyrenees.  The Canigou is beautiful with its blanket of snow.  For the participants it's a great sight.  For the winemaker, it's the indicator that bad weather will arrive within the next 48 hours!

 

Winemaking gift at the winery in Pezenas, France

 

Back from the vineyard, we visited every square inch of the chai.  The questions were varied; what's a wine without sulphites like, why do you use selected yeasts, why are the concrete vats lined with epoxy? The discussion also included bottling because the fermentation hall is currently bursting with palettes of bottles and cases.  On the 26th Februray the winery will be bottling wines all day, concentrating mainly on the 2013 rosé wines.

We then played a little game to try and identify the aromas present in wine.  The first series contained mainly floral and fruity aromas, the second series ones that are present due to the ageing in oak barrels.

 

Wine Lover Gift in France. Idetinfy the different aromas found in wine.

 

We then tasted two different Syrahs taht are still in the process of ageing, one that had been aged in a vat, and the other in oak.  The comparison helped us to better understand firsthand the influence of oak barrels on the structure and aroma of the wine.

We enjoyed lunch outside. For the aperitif, we tasted the Dolce Vita 2013 rosé, an avant premiere of the wine to be bottled the following week.  During the meal that was prepared by Delphine, we continued the wine tasting with the Cinsault Abuelo 2012, the Tribu d'A 2010 red wine, and the Cousu Main 2010 from a magnum.  We then tasted the first of the 2014 goat's cheese from our friends at the Mas Roland, with the Tribu d'A 2012 white wine.  The perfect match!  We then finished the meal with a chocolate fondant, accompanied by the Belle Histoire 2009 wine.

 

Wine tasting gift in Pezenas, Languedoc France.

 

After the meal, all the participants voted to make the most of the magnificent winter sun and to go for a walk in the vineyard.  So off we went, and continued our discussion, covering topics such as organic wine making, and different pruning methods.

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