Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

Visit www.gourmetodyssey.com for more information

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard

Raising the training wires in Chablis


The vines have also been enjoying the glorious weather that we have been having for the past few weeks and have been growing rapidly.  There’s much work to be done to keep on top as we were to discover during the Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis last Saturday.

Original wine gift for wine lovers.  Adopt a vine in Chablis, France

After the introductions we set out into the vineyard.  Here we learnt about all of the work that has been carried out in the vineyard since the last harvest.  Arnaud showed us how the vines had been pruned and de-budded, and also explained how the soil has been worked.  The winery is the largest organic and biodynamic winery in Chablis, so we also spent quite a lot of time discussing the differences between organic, biodynamic and conventional wine-growing.

Learning about winemaking and the work in the vineyard

With the recent growth spurt of the vines, there are currently two main tasks to do.  One is to trim the branches on the sides and tops of the vines.  This is done using a special cutter that is attached to the front of the tractor .  We watched a tractor in action on the adjacent vine plot, and the driver then stopped to give us a demonstration of the versatility of this tractor, which can be fitted with different tools to plough, treat the vines, or even harvest the grapes.

Vineyard Experience gift to participate in making your own personalised organic wine

The other task of the moment is more manual, and involves raising the training wires to support the weight of the foliage and future grapes, and to better space out the vines.  Arnaud had left us a plot to work on, and after receiving our instructions, we rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in!  In twos, one either side of the vine row, we unclipped the two top training wires, raised them up to the final level, and then re-clipped them together.

Rent-a-vine gift in an organic vineyard

On our way back, we made sure that each of the branches were in between the training wires.  This will prevent them from being damaged by the passing tractors and becoming entangled with the opposite vines.

We then returned to the winery for a well-earned wine tasting.  Anne-Laure served us a Petit Chablis 2015, Chablis Sainte-Claire 2015, and a Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 2014.  Over lunch, prepared on-site by Julie, a great local caterer, we enjoyed a Chablis Vielles Vignes 2015 and a Chablis Saint-Anne 2004 from a magnum to see how the Sainte Claire wine that is chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience can age over time.

In the afternoon we visited the Sainte-Claire vineyard to meet our adopted vines, and take a few pictures with them!  They too were in fine fettle, and looking great.  They have just finished flowering, and are said to be at the peppercorn stage  where the grapes are starting to take shape, and we can see the bunches forming.  The grapes will increase in size over the next few weeks, before the vines will concentrate their energy on ripening them and producing the sugar needed to ferment and create the wine.

Adopt-a-vine in France in an organic vineyard and make your personalised bottles of wine

The day ended with a visit of the fermentation hall where the wines from last year are ageing.  They have finished their fermentation and are now resting on their fine lees, until they will be ready for bottling.

Original personalised organic wine gift

And so we leave the vines to bring the grapes to maturity over the coming weeks.  We’ll next be back for the harvest, which although still too early to say when, looks like to be slightly earlier than usual.  But that depends on the weather to come.  We hope for dry, sunny weather, interspersed with a few rain showers that are followed by sun and wind.  That would be perfect! 

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Pruning the Chardonnay vines in Chablis


Much of a wine’s quality is directly linked to the effort and care taken in the vineyard to produce the best quality grapes.  For without good grapes, it is very difficult to make good wine.  We ventured to Chablis last weekend to learn about the important work in the vineyard during a Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.

Adopt-a-vine gift for wine lovers in Chablis, France

We spent the morning in the vineyard under the expert of guidance of Arnaud, one of the most experienced members of the vineyard team.  Arnaud brought us up to speed on what they have been busy doing in the vineyard during the winter.

Most of the time since November has been taken up with pruning, which is probably the most important task of all in the vineyard, as it not only helps determine the potential yield for the coming year’s harvest, but also lays the foundation for the following year.  Arnaud had kept back a small plot of vines for us to have a go at pruning ourselves.  He explained and showed us how to select the branch that will bear this year’s grapes, and how to choose the two spurs that will be used in the future.

Vineyard experience gift in organic Chablis vineyard

Listening to Arnaud, it all sounded very easy, so secateurs in hand, we set about having a go ourselves.  But wait a minute, the vine in front of us resembled nothing like the ones that Arnaud had used to demonstrate on!  We were to soon learn that each vine seems to be an exception to the rule!  Arnaud flitted between us to help us or to confirm our thinking, and little by little, we became more confident in our choices.  It’s much more complicated than you would imagine. Having a go yourself is the only way to really understand, and also to appreciate the mammouth task that the winemakers face when you look around the surrounding vineyards that spread as far as the eye can see.

Rent-a-vine birthday gift in a French vineyard

Arnaud then showed us how the branches are attached to the training wires to ensure that the growth will be spread evenly.  He answered our many questions, and we also spent quite a lot of time talking about the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic methods.  The domaine is one of the largest organic and biodynamic wineries in Burgundy, and the plot of vines that we were working in is cultivated biodynamically.

On the way back to the winery, Arnaud showed us a some vines that had been pruned using the guyot double method, which leaves two branches instead of one in the guyot simple method that we had used.

Wine enthusiast gift.  Rent-a-vine in Chablis

We had earned our aperitif, and back at the winery Jean-Louis, had prepared a tasting of Petit Chablis, Chablis and Chablis Premier Cru to whet our appetite.  We continued the tasting over lunch of other organic wines from the winery, including Les Preuses Chablis Grand Cru.

Wine tasting experience gift at the winery in Chablis

After lunch we headed back into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines and to get in some training for Easter as we each hunted for our micro-plot of vines!

Adopt-a-vine in a French organic vineyard

We then learnt about the work that remains in the vineyard between now and the harvest.  There is still lots to do, and as we enter this crucial period now that the buds are starting to burst we hope that the frosts stay away.  The vines will grow rapidly now over the next couple of months.

The day finished with a quick tour of the upper fermentation hall to see where the wines are aged in oak casks.  We’ll learn more about what happens here during the Vinification Experience Days.

Wine-making experience present in Chablis, France

And so the day came to a close, and we left our vines in the care of the winery to be nurtured and managed as they grow and bear their fruit.  We look forward to coming back for the Harvest Experience Day!

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Harvesting the Chardonnay grapes in Chablis


Gourmet Odyssey’s 2016 harvest season continued last weekend in Chablis at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.  It’s been a challenging year for Chablis winemakers, and so they are happy to finally pick the grapes and get what is left of this year’s harvest safely into the cellar.  The Gourmet Odssey Wine Experience clients put their boots on, dodged the rain clouds, and brought their good cheer to lend a helping hand on Friday and Saturday!

Harvest Experience gift in Chablis, Burgundy, France

Once everyone had arrived at the winery, we’d filled up on coffee and croissants, and the introductions had been done, we headed out into the vineyard to join the winery’s team of harvesters who were already hard at work.

We were met by Micheline, who manages the harvesting teams.  She issued us each with a bucket and pair of harvesting secateurs, and equipped a few brave volunteers with large plastic baskets to carry on their backs.  She then explained which grapes to pick, how to pick them, and which grapes to leave on the vine.

Adopt a vine gift and harvest your grapes in the vineyard

Then we dispersed in pairs among the vines to start our harvest.  Taking care not to cut our fingers, we cut the bunches of grapes and put them into the bucket.  Once full, we then called one of the porters over and emptied our bucket into the basket they were carrying on their backs.

Harvest your own grapes gift

The porters moved between the harvesters, and once the basket was full, they then headed to the trailer, climbed a ladder and tipped the grapes over their heads.  It’s not as easy as it looks the first time, but you soon find the technique that works for you!

Harvest experience gift in an organic French vineyard

During the two days, we harvested grapes in two Premier Cru vineyards, Vaulorent and Mont de Milieu, as well as picking some grapes from a young plot of Chardonnay vines.

Organic wine and harvest experience gift

As the morning ended, we returned to the winery to see where the harvest is received and put into the wine presses to separate the juice from the skin, pips and stems.  We learnt about how the presses work, the work in the cellar during the harvest and how the grape juice is turned unto wine during the fermentation process.

Wine press in action

It was then time to taste some of the wines from the winery, and we started by tasting the range of biodynamic Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru wines produced by the winery under the Julien Brocard label.  It was a great opportunity to appreciate the differences in taste and complexity of the different appellations.

Rent-a-Vine, wine tasting and harvest experience gift

We continued the wine tasting over lunch as we sat down to eat the harvesters’ meal, freshly prepared onsite by the caterers. It’s important to keep the harvesters well fed and happy!

After lunch we took some fresh air and went back into the vineyard to see our adopted vines.  As always, a good excuse to get the cameras out, and adopt all manner of poses in front of the vines!

Adopt-a-vine gift experience and harvest

We then talked a little more about the differences between manual and machine harvesting and other topics that hadn’t yet been covered before the day drew to a close.

Thank you to all at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for making us so welcome, and to all of our apprentice harvesters for your hard work and a fun day spent together.  See you soon for one of the Vinification 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!

 

Related articles

What makes French Organic Wine, Organic ?

What is biodynamic wine?

No to European Organic Wine?

 

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A lesson in pruning vines at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis


Pruning is probably the most complicated and hardest of all the work that is carried out in the vineyard. It is probably the most important too, as it helps determine not just the yield of this year’s harvest, but also lays the foundation for the following year. It might sound simple in theory, but as the participants in last Sunday’s Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard were to find out, it’s not quite as simple!
Vineyard experience, Chablis

The aim of this hands on wine course is to learn about all of the work that the winemaker has to do in the vineyard to ensure the best possible grapes at harvest time, so after the brief introductions, overview of the Chablis region and the history of the winery, we headed out into the vineyard.

We made our way to the Boissonneuse vineyard, which is where our adopted vines are located, and which was also the first of the winery’s vineyards to be organically and biodynamically certified. Here you have a great view of the rolling Chablis hills, planted with vines as far as the eye can see, and so we took a few minutes to take some photos of our vines in this wonderful setting.

Adopt a vine, Chablis, France

It was then time to get down to some serious business! We were accompanied by Fred, one of the key members of the vineyard team. He told us about what had been keeping him busy since the last harvest, most of the time which had been spent so far pruning the vines. The pruning at the winery has finished, but Fred had kept a few vines back so that we could have a go for ourselves. He showed us how to choose which branches to cut, and which to select to produce this year’s harvest. Easy!

Wine experience, Chablis, France

Secateurs in hand, we then had a go for ourselves. Hang on a minute. What did Fred say? Is this the right branch to keep? This vine doesn’t look anything like the ones he used for the demonstration... The first thing we learnt is that the theory is all well and good, but each vine has its own exceptions! However, after the first couple of vines, it starts to get a little easier, but we have a much better understanding of the complexity of what appears to be a simple task. And when you look at the hundreds of thousands of vines growing on the surrounding hills, you realise what a mammoth task pruning is.

Wine lover gift, Chablis,France

Fred then showed us how the branches are bent and attached to the training wire using a fantastic tool that ties and cuts some string at the press of a button, considerably speeding up the job.

Unique wine gifts, Chablis, France

We also had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics as varied as working the soil, grafting and planting new vines, as well as the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic farming.

We then made our way back to the winery for a well earned tasting of some of the Chablis wines produced on the estate. We tasted a Petit Chablis 2014 and Chablis Sainte Claire 2015, produced from the vineyard immediately around us. We then tried a Chablis Premier Cru “Butteaux” 2011, followed by a Chablis Grand Cru “Valmur” 2011. Over lunch we continued the tasting with a Chablis Boissonneuse 2013 and one of the few red wines produced at the winery, the Irancy “Les Mazelots” 2014.

Original wine gift, Chablis, France

After lunch and all those wines, it was good to get some fresh air! We headed out into the Sainte Claire vineyard, where we could see the notable difference in terroir from the Boissonneuse vineyard. Here we talked about the different tasks that lay ahead in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and how the winemakers will choose when the time is right to pick the grapes.

Adopt a vine france, Chablis

The day ended with a quick visit to the fermentation hall that is home to all of the wooden casks at the winery. It’s an impressive room, and is where part of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey cuvée is aged.

Personalised wine gifts, France, Chablis

We’ll go into more detail about the winemaking side of things during one of the Vinification Experience Days. For now the attention swings back to the vineyard, as the next couple of weeks will be crucial as we hope that the last of the frosts are behind us, and that the buds continue to flourish unhindered.

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Learning about winemaking in Chablis


We spent a great day last Saturday in Chablis learning about the art of winemaking during a Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.  The aim of the day was to pick up where we had left off after the Harvest Experience Day last autumn, and to get a better understanding of the work of the winemaker from the moment the grapes are received at harvest time, to the moment the wine is ready to be bottled.

Wine making experience gift in Chablis, France

After the introductions and a welcome coffee, we made our way to the main fermentation hall to see where the harvested grapes are weighed and transferred from the trailers into the presses at harvest time.

Vineyard experience gift in Chablis

Our guide for the morning was Odile, the maître du chai, who explained how the grapes are pressed to separate the juice from the skin and pips.  She then told us about the fermentation process and the steps involved.

Original wine gift to learn all about the art of winemaking in France

Odile then let us taste several different wines, direct form the stainless steel vats, so that we could better appreciate how the wine change as they finish their malo-lactic fermentation and start to go through the ageing process. Some wines were fizzier, others clearer or more cloudy.  Odile explained why it was the case for each one.  The last vat that we tasted was the wine from the Boissonneuse vineyard, where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located.  This gave us our first preview of the potential for the 2015 vintage!

Wine making experience and wine tasting gift in Chablis, France

We then saw where the wine is bottled once it has finished ageing, typically 12 to 24 months after the harvest depending on the wine.  When the bottles are filled, they are then sealed with a cork or screw top depending on the demands of the market where the wine will be sold, before being labelled, and put into cases.

Wine gift pack to follow the making of your own personalised bottles of wine

Back at the winery, we then started to prepare ourselves for the wine tasting session.  Often the most difficult thing to do when tasting wines is to find the words to describe the sensations that they give us.  To help us, we put our noses to the test, and had to identify different aromas that can be found in white wines due to either the grape varietal or the way that it has been made.  An exercise that is as fun as it is frustrating!

Wine tasting gift for wine lovers. Rent-a-vine in Chablis and follow the making of your own wine

We were now ready to taste a series of wines, where we had to guess what the difference was between each of the wines presented.  For the first series, Anne-Laure asked us to try and identify 3 different grape varietals, the second we had to say which wine was the Petit Chablis, which the Chablis and which the Chablis Premier Cru, and the third series allowed us compare a wine that had been aged in a stainless steel vat with one that had been aged in an oak cask.

Having tasted 8 different wines, we were ready for something to eat, so we sat down to a meal that had been freshly prepared onsite that morning by Julie.  During the meal we tasted the 2012 vintage our  biodynamic wine, “La Boissonneuse” , and an Irancy “Lez Mazelots” 2013, one of the red wines produced at the winery.

Adopt-a-vine-gift experience and personalised bottles of white Chablis wine

After lunch, we took a walk amongst the vines to visit the Boissonneuse vineyard, where our adopted vines are located.  From here, there is a great vantage point to see the exposition of the different terroir that are classified as Chablis, Premier Cru or Grand Cru.  After taking a few photos of our vines, we returned to the warmth of the winery.

Unique winery tour and winemaking gift in Chablis

In the cellar, the end wall has been left bare, revealing the different layers of limestone clay and shale that characterise the typicity of the kimmeridgian soil found round Chablis.  Here we learnt the importance of this soil and its impact on the Chablis wines.

Original wine lover gift to learn all about the art of wine making

The day ended with a visit to the fermentation hall where the oak casks are located.  Here some of the estate’s finer wines are aged, including part of our Boissonneuse wine.  We tasted the wine directly from the cask to see how it compared to the Boissonneuse wine that we had tasted earlier from the stainless steel vat.

These two wines will be kept separate throughout the ageing process, and will be only be blended together shortly before the wine is ready for bottling next year.  So we’ll have to be patient before we can taste the finished wine, but the early indications are promising!

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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.

More information

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Christmas and end of year celebrations. What are you serving this year?


With just a week left until Christmas, and the start of the end of year celebrations, it’s high time that we started thinking about what we’re going to put on our plates and fill our glasses with! Last year, we gave a few tips on pairing food and wine. This year, each of us in the Gourmet Odyssey office team has different plans for Christmas, so we thought we would share our menus with you!

Marie – the mountain menu

For those of you who, like me, will be spending Christmas in the mountains, it would be a shame not to include the local cheese specialties that are always so mouth watering! The problem is that the cheeses each have their own flavours and textures, so are best accompanied by a different wine. Here are a few of the pairings that I’m going to try this year.

The Swiss or Savoyarde fondue – always delicious

First of all, the famous cheese fondue. I choose the Swiss “half and half” method. I’m leaning towards a white wine, something round but strong enough to support the fat of the vacherin fribourgeois and gruyere cheeses that make up this dish. The traditional wines to go with it would be a Rousette from Savoie, a Riesling from Alsace, or a Côtes du Jura. I’m going to go all out Swiss, and serve a Fendant du Valais 2012 from Domaine Berthod Vogel, a really nice fruity wine.

A raclette, perfect for winter evenings

 

 

The Colline red wine from Domaine la Cabotte

And what to serve with a good old Savoyarde raclette? A fruity red with good acidity to compensate for the richness if the raclette, such as the local and very good Mondeuse, a Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône. Those who prefer white wine could opt for a Roussette or Riesling. I’m going to try a red Côtes du Rhône Colline 2013 from Domaine la Cabotte, a wine that I know well and have often tasted during the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Days.

The Sassenage cheese can be used in many hot dishes

I’m going to finish with the Sassenage, a blue cheese from the Vercors region near Grenoble. My first instinct is to go for a sweet wine such as a Banyuls, Barsac or a Port. I’ve also got a Macvin du Jura in the cellar which would be perfect. But I think I’ll serve this cheese with the aperitif of an organic Vercors ale that is slightly bitter and fruity, and produced locally.

Vercors beer

I haven’t really done a menu because it’s all cheese related, but it’s all local to where I’ll be and it’s all so good, and over the course of a week, I should be able to test all of the variations!

Ines – the semi-gastronomic menu

In my family, the Christmas meal is the occasion to spoil ourselves and to enjoy food that we don’t normally prepare. Here is what I’ll be serving this year.

St Jacques scallops on a bed of leak purée

 

 

La Boissoneuse from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard

For the starter, I’m going to gently fry some St Jacques scallops and serve them on a bed of puréed leaks. The perfect match is a dry white wine to bring out the best in the St Jacques, so I’m thinking a Chablis, and have chosen the Boissonneuse from our partner, Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.

Veal and cep mushrooms

Having treated our taste buds with the starter, I’ve chosen a delicious veal steak with creamy cep sauce (my mouth is watering already!). I’m hesitating between two wines to go with it, and my mind keeps changing between a wine from the Loire or a Gigondas? A light and fruity Ludovic 2013 St Nicolas de Bourgeuil from Domaine de la Chopinière du Roy that will enhance the veal, or a more full bodied Cuvée Suprème Gigondas from Domaine des Florets that will perfectly match my little creamy ceps. At least I still have a few days left to decide, but Christmas is fast approaching!

Baked Mont d’Or

After the delicious starter and the rich flavour of the main course, we’ll have to leave some room for the cheese! This year, I’ve opted for a vacherin de Mont d’Or and a roquefort. Mmmm - there’s nothing better than a runny vacherin that’s been baked in the oven! I’ll open a bottle of Jurançon, a nice sweet wine that will withstand the strong taste of the roquefort.

The millefeuille

And to end on a sweet note, we’re going for a classic. A millefeuille served with a glass of champagne! The bubbles will bring some freshness and acidity to go with the sweetness of the desert, and a light note after a good meal!

Mark – The entente-cordiale menu

My family is half French and half English, so my Christmas meal draws inspiration from both cultures.

Oysters, deliciously simple as a starter

It’s a long and festive meal for both sides of the family, so I prefer to start the meal with something light and fresh, and for that, I’ve adopted the French tradition of serving oysters. I’m going to go for some fines de claires, and I’ll try to be more careful when opening them this year, because last year I ate my Christmas lunch with my hand in a bandage, but that’s another story! And to go with the oysters, I like a nice fresh Sauvignon Blanc, and will go for a great biodynamic Menetou Salon from Domaine Philippe Gilbert. And you don’t need anything else for the starter except some good bread with a thick layer of salted butter.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the crackers

Then it’s time for an English tradition between the starter and main course. The Christmas crackers! They go bang and inside is a little gift, a paper hat that no-one likes to wear, and a cheesy joke, but it’s fun! You can buy them, or else the best are hand-made by my sister.

For the main course, I’m fairly traditional. Normally I go for a turkey or goose, but this year I’m going to do a couple of roast guinea fowl with tarragon. I’ll serve some roast potatoes, my granny’s famous stuffing, and a basket of winter vegetables, brussel sprouts, parsnips and carrots. To go with it, I’m going to serve a Santenay Beaurepaire 2005 Premier Cru from our partner, Domaine Chapelle.

Santenay Beaurepaire Premier Cru from Domaine ChapelleSantenay Beaurepaire Premier Cru from Domaine Chapelle

I prefer my cheese the French way, before the dessert. I’m going to go for a Stilton with a late bottled vintage port, and for those that don’t like blue cheese, I’ll also have a choice of goats cheese, morbier and a mature comté.

Stilton, potted or by the wedge

Dessert poses more problems. Personally, I love Christmas pudding, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea! So I’ll have a second choice too. A lemon meringue tart with pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil. And at the end of the meal I like to let everyone go free-style with the wine, and go with the flow of the moment. Perhaps a Chinon Chapelle from Château de la Bonnelière or a Pinot Gris Hengst Grand Cru from Domaine Stentz-Buecher.

The stress of lighting the Christmas pudding

So that’s what the office team has in store this Christmas. We haven’t covered every base of the French and English cuisine, and everyone will have their own twist and favourite pairings, but we hope it gives a few ideas of matching food and wine. The secret is to know the wine that you are serving beforehand to avoid any unwanted surprises. It’s time we got back to the stove!

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Meet our partner winemakers at the end of year wine fairs and wine tastings.


Now that the 2015 harvest is over, it's time for our partner winemakers to hit the road and present their latest wines at the wine events in the lead up to Christmas. Come and meet the winemakers and taste their organic wines at one of the following wine events.

Domaine Stentz-Buecher - Alsace

- 26 -30 November - Salon des Vignerons Indépendants - Paris, Porte de Versailles, Stand M9. Click here for a free invitation.

- 3-18 December, Alsace Christmas Market (marché de Noël Alsacien), Paris - in front of the Gare de l'Est train station from 9:00-20:00 except Sunday (10:00 - 19:00). Free entrance

Wine lover gift

Domaine la Cabotte - Côtes du Rhône

- 14 November - Salon de Bollène - Salle Georges Brassens, Entrance E 4.

- 5-6 December, Wine Tasting at Domaine la Cabotte of their « family wines » : champagne from Domaine Jean-Marie Massonnot, Burgundy wines from Domaine d'Ardhuy and Côtes-du-Rhône wines from Domaine la Cabotte - Domaine la Cabotte, lieu-dit Derboux, Mondragon. Free entry.

Vineyard experience, France

Domaine Chapelle - Burgundy

- 6-8 November, Salon des Vins et Produits du Terroir - Sévrier, Complexe d'Animation, Route d'Albertville.

- 18-20 November (17:00 - 22 :00), Private Tasting at the Hotel Napoléon - Paris, 40 Avenue de Friedland. To receive an invitation, please contact us.

- 28-30 November, Natura Bio - Salon des Vins Bio organic wine fair - Lille, Grand Palais Click here for a free invitation.

- 5 December, Salon du vin de Loire-sur-Rhône wine fair. Free entry.

Wine gift pack

Château Beau Rivage - Bordeaux 

- 20-23 November- Salon des Vignerons Indépendants wine fair - Lille, Grand Palais, Stand B 6.

- 26-30 November - Salon des Vignerons Indépendants wine fair - Paris, Porte de Versailles, Stand E 90.

Wedding present wine

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard - Burgundy 

- 24-25 October, Fêtes des Vins wine festival - Chablis.

- 20-23 November, Marché des Plaisirs Gourmands gourmet market - Mâcon, Parc des Expositions.

- 4-5 December - Grand Tasting wine fair - Paris, Carrousel du Louvre.

Unique wine gift

Château de la Bonnelière - Loire

- 4-5 December - Grand Tasting wine fair - Paris, Carrousel du Louvre.

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Gourmet autumn holiday breaks in France


Going away for an autumn break gives us the opportunity to catch up with some of our favourite winemakers rather than stock up at our local wine merchants. As nice as they are, they're surely fed up with seeing us continually popping in looking for new wines! So where are we off to this time? Here are a few ideas of things to do during a gourmet or wine break in the wine growing regions of France over the coming weeks.

In Alsace

Wine making experience in France

Let's start by whetting our appetite in Eguisheim for the marché du goût on the 18th October where you can meet the local producers and taste their local specialties such as tarte flambées, gingerbread, sweets from the Vosges, spices, and cheeses. If that doesn't suffice, visit the Mushroom festival on the 24-25th October. On the programme are exhibitions, animations, a market, and of course lots of menus featuring mushrooms in the local restaurants. And what to serve with your mushroom fricassee? A fresh Sylvaner should go well, and our partner, the Domaine Stentz-Buecher is just a short hop away in Wettolsheim. Give them a visit and taste their range of organic Alsace wines.

In the Bordeaux region

Vineyard experience in France

For the lovers of cruises, rendez-vous in Pauillac, where you can embark on a commented tour around the islands in the estuary, such as Patiras where you get a great panoramic view of the estuary. Try the lunch menu, and if that gives you some good ideas of pairing food and wine, when you get back you're just a stone's throw from Macau-en-Médoc, where Château Beau Rivage will be able to welcome you and introduce you to the art of barrel making.

In the Loire

Wine tasting gift, France

If you're more of the museum type, still in the gourmet theme, don't miss the exhibition dedicated to the Eat-Art movement of Daniel Spoerri and his renowned "snare pictures" in Chinon. And to make the visit even more interactive, you can follow the visit up with a cocktail dinner. If your children are accompanying you, take them to Lémeré for some pumpkin sculpting to get into the Halloween spirit, and visit the castle where the children can dress up as princesses and knights. And whilst you're in the area, don't miss out on a visit to the cellars of Caves Plouzeau, located in the cave directly underneath the Chinon Fortress, where you can taste the great Loire wines of our partner, Château de la Bonnelière!

In Burgundy

Wine lover gift, France

For the more sporty, a good bike ride is a great way to discover the vineyards and valleys of Chablis. You can hire bikes in Chablis as part of the Vélibourgogne programme at the Tourist Office. Pedal as far as Préhy, and find yourself in the middle of the vines at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, where you can taste their range of biodynamic wines.

These suggestions should keep you busy for a few days. If there isn't enough time to visit the wineries this autumn, then come and join us for a Vinification Experience Day this winter at one of our partner vineyards to discover the secrets in the cellar to blend and age the wines. Have a good holiday!

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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!

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

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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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Training the vines in Chablis


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

Vineyard experience in Chablis, organic white wine gift

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

Adopt a vine in Chablis, France

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

Wine experience gift in Chablis, France

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

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

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

Wedding present gift at Chablis, white wine, France

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

Unique wine gift in Chablis, France

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

Personalised bottles of wine, Chablis, France

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

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

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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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A great harvest in Chablis


We spent a very enjoyable weekend for the harvest  in Chablis at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard. The nice weather of the past few weeks remained in place, and had helped provide nice ripe bunches of grapes, with a good balance between sugar and acidity. Perfect conditions for harvesting!

 

Adopt a vine in Burgundy

 

After the coffee and croissants, we headed out into the vineyard to join up with the team of harvesters. Micheline, the team leader, distributed the secateurs and buckets to each of us, so we were equipped with the material necessary to harvest. She explained which grapes to pick and which to leave behind. We then spread out among the rows to get down to work.

 

Unique wine gift in Burgundy France

 

In tandem with the pickers, the other important role in the vineyard during harvest time is that of the porters. We took it in turns to carry a basket on our back, and when the harvesters had filled their buckets, they then emptied them into the basket. The basket can hold more grapes than you would think, and quickly becomes rather heavy! To empty it, the porter carries his load to a waiting trailer, climbs a ladder, and then lets the grapes fall over his shoulder.

 

adopt a vine in France and get involved in the harvest

 

With such a great harvest, the buckets and baskets filled up quickly, and the morning passed by in a flash. Back at the winery, we had earned our aperitif. We tasted a Petit Chablis « Les Plantes » 2012, a Chablis « La Boissonneuse » 2011 and a Chablis 1er Cru « Les Vaudevey » 2011 before sitting down to lunch, where we continued the wine tasting.

 

Personalised wine gifts in France

 

After lunch, we made our way to the fermentation hall to see where the harvested grapes are weighed and put into the press. Here, Pierre and Julien explained how the grapes are pressed, put into the vats and how the juice is separated from the sediment.

 

Rent a vine gift in Chablis and participate in the harvest

 

We then walked to the Boissonneuse vineyard where the adopted vines are located and to take a few pictures.

 

Wine lover gift in Chablis

 

The day finished with a tasting of two different grape juices, to compare the juice before and after settling. The juice will soon start to ferment to turn the sugar into alcohol, but we'll have to wait until next year for one of the Vinification Experience Days before we next get the chance to taste the wine!

Many thanks to Pierre, Micheline and Julien for welcoming us, and to all the participants for the work during the harvest and their good humour throughout the day.

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De-budding in Chablis


Last weekend, we spent an excellent wine Discovery Day in the vineyard at Domaine Brocard in Chablis.

The day started in the Boissonneuse vineyard, which was the first plot to be converted to organic and biodynamic farming. Here the head of one the vine teams, Arnaud, explained the differences between cultivating the vines traditionally, organically and biodynamically, and brought us up to speed on the work that has already been done in the vineyard since the harvest last year

 

unique wine gift
 

The vines are currently a couple of weeks ahead or a normal year, and the first leaves have already appeared.  This means that the work of de-budding can begin.  Arnaud showed us how to remove the double buds and the unwanted shoots.  De-budding is an important step in determining the quality of the harvest to come by concentrating the energy of the plant in the fruit-bearing branches.

 

wine making experience
It was then up to us to roll up our sleeves and to get stuck into the de-budding.  As our experience with pruning during the previous Discovery Experience day had shown us, it's more complicated than you would think!

wine making experience

 

Before heading back to the winery, we took a few minutes to find our adopted vines, giving us the opportunity to take a few photos with them, and to fuss over them a little!

Domaine Brocard makes an impressive range of Chablis wines, and we tasted several Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines before sitting down to lunch.

 

original gift

 

In the afternoon, we took some fresh air and went to visit a different vine plot before visiting the vinification hall that holds the large oak vats.  Here, Pierre introduced us to the vinification and ageing side of wine-making.
Many thanks to Pierre and Arnaud from Domaine Brocard, and to all of our participants for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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Pruning in Chablis


Last Saturday, we were in Chablis at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for a Discovery Experience Day. The aim of the day was to learn more about the work carried out in the vineyard to have the best quality grapes possible at harvest time. So after the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard to start the day.
vine pruning Chablis Burgundy

 

We met up with Arnaud from the vineyard management team in the Boissonneuse vineyard, which was the first plot of vines to be converted to organic and biodynamic farming. Arnaud talked about the work that was conducted during the winter, and showed us how the vines are pruned and then attached horizontally to the training wire.

Pruning has finished throughout the estate, but Arnaud had left us a few small rows to prune. After a few demonstrations, it was our turn to have a go. Secateurs in hand, we quickly learnt that pruning is not as simple as you would have thought. Each vine requires thinking about and it seems that there are as many exceptions as there are vines!

vine pruning Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis

Arnaud also showed us how to "pluck" the remaining branch to better concentrate the vines energy in the fruit-bearing branches.

The special vineyard tractors were also out working in the same plot, and so we were also able to see how they are used to turn the soil in between the vine stocks and the rows.

Vineyard work Burgundy Chablis

The Boissonneuse vineyard is also the plot where the adopted vines of Gourmet Odyssey's clients are located, and so we took a few minutes to find our micro-plot of vines!

vine adoption Burgundy Chablis

Our taste buds were fully awake after all the morning's fresh air, and so back at the winery, we began to taste different wines from the range of Chablis wines that are produced on the estate. We continued the tasting during the meal, which was prepared by a local Chablis caterer.

The afternoon continued with a visit of the winery building for an introduction of the work carried out in the cellar, something that we will explore in more detail during the Vinification Experience Days.

Winery visit Chablis Domaine Brocard

Many thanks to Pierre and Arnaud for having shared their passion for the professions with us, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm!

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Wine fairs. Our partner winemakers are on the road this Spring


Now that the pruning has finished for the most part, it's time to let the vines slowly awaken from their winter rest. It's also time for our partner winemakers to take to the road for different wine fairs throughout France. Why not join them, and taste their great organic wines!
The upcoming wine fairs are:

 

Château Beau Rivage

Salons des Vignerons Indépendants de Paris
Espace Champerret - Paris
28, 29 & 30 March : 10:00 - 20 :00
31 March : 10 :00 - 18:00
More information here.

Salon des Vignerons Indépendants

 

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard

Salon des Vins de Mâcon
Salle « Le Spot » - Parc des Expositions de Mâcon
25 April : 14:00 - 21:00
26 April : 10:00 - 21:00
27 April : 10:00 - 19:00
Tarif : 5 euros (1 wine tasting glass included). Tickets on sale at the entrance.

More information here.

Salon des vins de Mâcon

 

Domaine Stentz-Buecher

DiVINes & Sens 2014
7 April : 16:00 - 22:00
Hôtel Régent Petite France, 5 Rue des Moulins - Strasbourg

This unusual and fun approach enables the visitors to discover Alsace wines and other gourmet delicacies via thematic workshops which present a range of wines and gastronomic products produced by women.

Tarif: 10 euros, glass included and part of the entrance fee is given to charity.
Information and registration.

 

Rendez-vous Portes Ouvertes : Les Guinguettes
Open day and wine tasting at the winery.
30, 31 May & 1 June 2014

More information here.

 

Domaine Chapelle

The 25th edition of the Journées Gourmandes du Grand Morvan
Hall des Expositions - Saulieu
Thursday 29 & Saturday 31 May : 10:00 - 23 :00
Friday 30 May : 10:00 - 20 :00
Sunday 1 June : 10:00 - 19:00
Tarif : 2 euros. Tickets on sale at the entrance.

More information here.

Journées Gourmandes du Grand Morvan


Foire gastronomique de Mailly-Champagne
In the village streets of Mailly-Champagne
Saturday 7 & Monday 9 June : 10:00 - 19:00
Sunday 8 June : 10:00 - 20:00
Tarif : 5 euros. Tickets on sale at the entrance.

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Wine vinification in Chablis


Last weekend, we were in Chablis for a couple of Vinification Experience Days at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.  It's the third and last in the series of visits for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, with the aim to learn about the work of the winemaker from harvest time right up to bottling and labelling.

In the morning we visited the cuverie to follow the path that the grapes, juice and wine take.  First we saw the area that the grapes are received during the harvest and put into the presses.  Pierre, from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, explained how the presses work and how the juice is then put into the vats.

 

Wine gift in France. Visit an organic winery in Chablis

 

Pierre told us about the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation processes.  The 2013 wines have all finished their first fermentation, and are now starting the malo-lactic fermentation which will soften the wines.   We stopped in front of the vat containing this year's Boissonneuse wine for a first taste of the wine that the clients of the 2013 vintage will receive next year, once the ageing has finished.  At this stage, the wine is still a little cloudy, which is completely normal.  The wine is far from being finished, but we could taste a nice concentration and equilibrium.

 

Wine-making gift in Chablis.

 

Once the ageing has finished, the bottling takes place in the next door building.  Pierre showed us the line of machines that are used to clean the bottles, bottle the wine and insert the corks.  The bottles then move to the labelling machine before being boxed, ready for transit.  It's a very impressive set-up to see!

 

Wine Gift for a wine enthusiast. Visit of the wine bottling machines.

 

We also organised several workshops around wine tasting.  To hone our skills, we started with a workshop to help identify the aromas that can be found in white wines.  This can be quite frustrating when you know you know a smell, but can't put a name to it!  We then tasted some sweet, salty, acidic and bitter flavoured water to feel how these different tastes act on the tongue.

 

Wine tasting gift for wine lovers.

 

We were now better prepared to taste the wine.  We blind tasted three series of wines to try and identify the differences.  The wine tasting continued over lunch with different vintages of the Boissonneuse, the Chablis chosen for the Wine Experience.

 

Wine Tasting Gift of Chablis wines

 

After all of the wines tasted, it was good to get some fresh air!  We walked to the Boissonneuse vineyard to see the adopted vines and to take a few pictures.

 

Rent-a-vine gift in Chablis, France

 

Back at the winery, we went down into the cellar to see the exposed cut of the ground to better understand the kimmeridgian soil that gives Chablis wines their specificity. We finished the day with a tasting of the 2012 Boissonneuse wine.  This wine is almost at the end of its ageing process and will soon be bottled.

 

The cut of rock

 

Many thanks to all you participated in the day.

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