Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Enjoying Wine

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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De-budding the vines in Saint-Emilion


After much excited anticipation, the first Discovery Experience Days got underway last week-end at Château Coutet, our new partner wine-maker in Saint-Emilion.  The warm welcome and passion of the winemakers lived up to expectation and we had a fantastic time learning about the work in the vineyard and the fascinating history of the winery.

Original wine-making gift in Saint Emilion.

The day started in the vineyard, where we learnt about how the vines had been pruned during the winter months to control their growth and ensure that they produce less grapes, but of a higher quality come harvest time.

Vineyard experience gift for wine lovers

We slowly made our way up the hill as we learnt about the different grape varietals and the geology of the Saint-Emilion region.  Château Coutet is one of the few wineries that has vines planted in each of the three different types of soil to be found in Saint-Emilion.

Just before we reached the plateau, we stopped in front of a plot of vines that had been left for us to work on.  With the rain that had fallen in the past few days, and the rising temperatures, the vines are growing rapidly at the moment.  Our first task was to de-bud the vines by removing any branches that had sprouted from the trunk of the vines, and any double shoots growing from the same node.

Rent-a-vine-gift-experience-saint-emilion-france

Simple enough you would think, but a little more complicated when you have to decide for yourself which shoots to remove.  This is especially so for the shoots around the head of the vine, that might be useful to leave to help rejuvenate the vine next year or the following year.

The next job was to raise the training wires to help support the weight of the growth, and to ensure that the branches grow upwards, and don’t fall into the middle of the rows, where they could get damaged by the tractor or transport unwanted fungi up from the ground.   In pairs, we walked down the rows, first to detach the training wires, and then back a second time raising the wires and clipping them together at each stake.

Original vineyard visit to participate in working on the vines

We then continued our journey up onto the plateau where the most renowned Saint-Emilion vineyards are located, including our adopted vines!   Here we had a wonderful view of the surrounding Grand Cru Classé vineyards and the church spire of Saint-Emilion.
Château Coutet have their oldest vines on the plateau, the oldest being between 80 and 95 years old.  The vines from this plot are cultivated organically as with the rest of the estate’s vineyards, but here horses are used to work the soil, no electrical tools are used, so pruning is done by traditional secatuers, and the organic treatments are administered by hand.  The grapes that are produced are used for the wineries prestigious Emeri and Les Demoiselles wines.

The neighbouring plot of vines are home to our adopted vines.  We took a few minutes to meet them and take a few photos to immortalise the moment!

Rent-a-vine gift experience in an organic Saint Emilion vineyard

We returned to the winery via the old Roman path that linked Libourne to Saint-Emilion, passing a plot of vines that had been replanted a couple of years ago.  The vines have taken root nicely and work had begun to put in place the training wire structure.

Back at the winery, we enjoyed an aperitif of Chateau Coutet’s clairet, a deep pink rosé wine that is traditional to the Bordeaux region.   We then tasted the Saint Emilion 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 vintages over lunch, learning about the different characteristics of each of these years, enabling us to see how the wine develops over time.

Tasting the estate's wines in front of the château

In the afternoon, we returned to the vineyard next to the winery buildings to learn about the work that remains in the vineyard between now and the harvest.  Removing some of the leaves, raising the training wires, trimming the branches, treating the vines against mildew and black rot as necessary.  There is still much to do before the grapes will be fully ripe and ready to be harvested.

Guided tour of the vineyards to learn the different work

We then had a quick tour of the fermentation hall and visited the cellar where the old vintages are stored. A real treasure trove!

Cellar tour in Saint-Emilion to see the old bottles of wine

The day finished with a visit of the barrel room to see where the wines slowly age before being ready to be bottled.  We’ll learn more about this stage of wine-making during the Vinification Experience Days next year.

Visiting the oak wine barrels

So much to learn about wine-making and the fascinating history of the winery.  Our first week-end at the winery was all that we could have hoped for, and we can’t wait to return, as there is so much more to discover! Many thanks to our fantastic hosts, and to all of our participants for making it so memorable!

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De-budding the vines in Alsace


We had a full and very enjoyable weekend at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace.  On Saturday we welcomed some of the 2017 vintage clients for a Discovery Experience Day to learn about the work in the vineyard to ensure the best possible grapes are produced for this year’s harvest.

Original white wine gift.  Make your own organic wine in Alsace.

After the introductions, the day started in the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted Pinot Gris vines are located. We took a few minutes to visit our adopted vines and pose for some photos before getting down to the more serious business of the day!

Rent-a-vine gift in Alsace, France and participate in making your own personalised bottles of wine

The rest of the morning of the Discovery Experience Day was spent learning about the work that has been carried out in the vineyard during the winter.  Stéphane explained how the vines have been pruned using the guyot double method, and the remaining branches attached to the training wires.

The first leaves have already appeared on the vines, enabling us to see the differences between the different grape varietals.  The initial bud burst was almost a month earlier than last year, but the cooler weather of the past couple of weeks had slowed the growth down again.  Some unwanted shoots are beginning to form on some of the vines, and the next job will be to remove these and any double shoots, so as to concentrate the plants energy on the fruit bearing branches.

Vineyard experience gift in Alsace.

Stéphane then showed us a plot of vines that had recently been replanted.  We learnt about how the vines are grafted onto a phylloxera resistant root stock, and the special way in which the vines are cared for during the first couple of years when they are very fragile.

Adopt-a-vine gift and meet the winemaker in Alsace

As with much of France this year, the region had been hit by frost during the cold spell a few weeks ago. Stéphane took us to one of their vineyard plots lower down on the plain that had been affected.  We could see the buds and leaves that had been burnt by the frost.

Learning about the work in the vineyard

The flower buds have now formed and will open during the flowering season next month.  This is the next tricky period to negotiate as if it is too wet, the flowers won’t be able to self-pollinate as effectively, which can reduce the potential yield.

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

Back at the winery, Céline took us through a tasting session of a cross section of the winery’s wines, including their 2015 Muscat, 2015 Pinot Gris Rosenberg, 2012 Steingrubler Riesling Grand Cru, and 2015 Hengst Gewürztraminer Grand Cru, explaining the differences between each wine as we went.  We continued the tasting with the 2015 Pinot Blanc, 2014 Pinot Noir, and 2015 Gewürztraminer Rosenberg wines over a typical Alsacian lunch.

Organic wine tasting gift box in Alsace

In the afternoon, Stéphane talked to us about the work in the vineyard that is still to be done this summer, and how he will decide when the grapes are ready for harvesting.  With so many different grape varietals and plots of vines that all ripen at different speeds, it’s quite a difficult thing to do to coordinate and plan for the harvest.

We also took some time to talk more about what is involved in being an organic winemaker, and the differences between conventional methods.

Make your own wine gift

We finished the day with a brief tour of the cellar to see where the grapes will be pressed at harvest time and where the wines ferment and age. We look forward to learning more about each of these steps during the Harvest Experience and Vinification Experience Days.

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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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Wine-making in Chablis


Last weekend we were in Chablis to learn all about how the grapes that we harvested last autumn have been transformed into wine.  This wine-making experience day spent at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard enabled us to get behind the scenes to visit the fermentation halls and follow the process right up to bottling.

Oragnic wine-making gift experience in Chablis, France

We started the day by following the journey that the harvested grapes take, and saw where they are weighed before being emptied into the wine presses.  Raphaël explained how the presses work to separate the juice from the skins and pips.

Follow the making of your own organic Chablis wine

The juice is then held in a vat to allow the sediment to fall to the bottom, before the clearer juice is then drawn off and put into another vat.  Here the sugar in the wine will be transformed into alcohol during the fermentation process.  We learnt that the fermentation is closely monitored, and that the temperature is regulated to ensure that the fermentation gets started but doesn’t happen too quickly.  We covered a whole host of topics from yeast, to chaptalisation, and the adding of sulphites.

Guided tour of the fermentation hall at the winery

After the alcoholic fermentation, comes the malo-lactic fermentation, which decreases the acidity of the wine and makes it smoother.  The malo-lactic fermentation has happened earlier than usual this year, and all of the vats had already finished, including the Chablis Sainte-Claire that the 2016 vintage clients will have at the end of the experience.  We had brought some glasses with us, and Raphaël gave us a taste of the wine, directly from the vat.  It was slightly cloudy, as it has not yet been filtered and although it shows promise, we all agreed that it needs time to age further before being ready for bottling!

Tasting the different stages of fermentation

We then moved onto the area where the wine is bottled and the corks or screw tops are applied depending on the country that the wine will be consumed.  Raphaël also showed us the machine that is used for labelling the bottles and where the bottles are boxed up before be sent to the four corners of the world.

The machine that will label the personalised bottles of wine

Back at the winery, we started to put our senses to the test to prepare us for the series of wine tasting to come.  First of all we made our noses work by trying to name different aromas that can be found in white wine.  We then had to identify different sweet, saline, acidic and bitter solutions, an exercise that also taught us that we have different captors in our mouths depending on the taste.

Wine tasting lesson at the winery to develop the senses

But enough of the theory.  To better understand the differences between wines, there’s no better way than tasting them!  We blind tasted three series of wines, which helped us to better appreciate the characteristics of different grape varietals, appellations, terroir and the way in which the wine is aged.  We continued the wine tasting over lunch, which had been prepared by a local caterer.

In the afternoon, we started by descending into the cellar to see the geological dissection of the kimmeridgian soil.  This enabled us to better understand the soil that gives the Chablis wines their distinctive minerality.

The vineyard terroir

We then visited the hall where some of the premier cru and grand cru wines are aged in oak casks.  Jean-Louis explained the role that the wood plays in developing the structure of the wine.  We had one last tasting in store, that of the Montmains premier cru, directly from the oak cask.

Ageing the wine in oak casks

A few brave clients then headed out into the wind to visit their adopted vines, and take a few souvenir photos!  A great way to end the day.

Adopt-a-vine gift and make your own personalised bottles of wine

Many thanks to all you participated and made it such a fun day.  We’ll keep you posted how your wine progresses over the coming months!

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Learning how to blend wine in Bordeaux


Blending wine is a fine art as we were to learn during the Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage last weekend.  The winemaker chooses not only which grape varietals to use and in what percentages, but also chooses between different lots of the same wine, and notably at Château Beau Rivage, between the same wine aged in different types of oak barrel.  The possibilities are endless!

Adopt a vine gift.  Learn all about making and blending wines with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

After the introductions, we headed into the cuvier, or fermentation hall, to see where the grapes end their journey at harvest time.  Here we learnt all about the fermentation process to transform the sugar contained in the grapes into alcohol, and the work carried out to extract the tannins from the marc of grape skins and pips during maceration.  The first weeks after the harvest is a very busy time for the winemaker as the wines need to be constantly monitored to track the temperature, sugar content, and evolution of the wines.

Learning how wine ferments

Once the fermentation has finished, the wines are racked to separate the wine from the larger lee particles that are formed by the skin, pips, stems and other solid matter.  If it was left in contact with the wine, this would make the wine unstable and give undesirable aromas.  The wine that is drawn off is known as the “vin de goutte”.  The marc that remains in the bottom of the vat is then pressed to obtain the “vin de presse”, which is then aged separately to have another possibility during blending.  The vin de presse is much more tannic and concentrated than the vin de goutte.

At Château Beau Rivage, the wines remain in the vats until the malo-lactic fermentation has finished, a process which reduces the acidity and results in a softening of the wines.  The wines are then moved into the barrel room.

Learning about the interaction between wine and oak barrels

The barrel room at Château Beau Rivage is very impressive.  Chrsitine, the owner and winemaker comes from a family of coopers, and the family cooperage is just the other side of the village.  Here we were introduced to the influence that oak barrels play in ageing wine, and learnt about the different effects they have on the wine depending on the provenance of the oak and the way in which the barrels are made.  Barrel making is an art form in itself!

For the most part the wines are left alone in the barrel to age.  This takes time as the wines at Château Beau Rivage are made for lasting.  Each barrel is regularly tasted to check on its progression, and any wine that has evaporated is replaced to keep the barrels full, protecting the wine from the oxygen in the air.  After tasting, the winemaker will decide whether the finer lees that are present in the barrels need stirring in a process known as “battonage”.

It was then time to put our senses to the test.  At the cooperage, a series of workshops had been set up, the first of which was to identify some of the aromas that can be found in wine due to the grape varietal or from the ageing process in oak barrels.  A fun exercise that’s not as easy as you would imagine!

Workshop to develop the wine tasting senses

Now that we had the vocabulary in place, we started the first wine tasting session of the day.  We were served two different wines, and had to try and guess the singular difference between them.  Were they from different grape varietals, different years, or had they been aged in different types of container?  The difference aromatically and on the palate was striking, and tasting in this manner is the best way to understand the variables that a winemaker has at his or her disposal.

Tasting wines that are still in the process of ageing

Lunchtime was approaching and so we tasted some of the winery’s wines during lunch at the restaurant of the cooperage.  After the rosé wine, we tasted the Phare 2002 red wine with the foie gras and fig chutney starter.  We then tasted the Benjamin Bordeaux Supérieur 2010 red wine with the main course, and the Clos la Bohème Haut-Médoc 2010 with cheese, followed by the Château Beau Rivage 2007 with the chocolate mousse. This last wine is the cuvée chosen at the winery for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience gift pack.

After lunch, we had lots more wine tasting in store during the blending workshop.  At our disposal were samples of four different grape varietals from the 2016 vintage that are currently still in the ageing process.  To understand the different qualities of each, we started by tasting them individually.  We noted that the merlot was full of fruit but not so long on the palate, the malbec brought a touch of spice, the cabernet sauvignon had a long finish, and the petit verdot had more acidity than the others.

Wine lover gift to learn how to blend wines, Bordeaux, France

Then it was time to have a go at blending the wines together.  We tried several different blends to see how the wine changes with the different grape varietals and percentages used.   Even small differences can considerably change a wine, and some of the blends were more pleasing than others!  One thing that we were unanimous about was that it takes real skill to choose the blend, and to be able to project into the future about how the wine will be.

Many thanks to all who participated in this very enjoyable weekend and to Château Beau Rivage for giving us a great insight into the art of winemaking.  We now have to wait patiently as the 2016 vintage slowly matures and is ready in the winter of 2018/19.  The 2015 vintage will be ready at the end of this year, or beginning of next depending on its evolution over the next few months, and the timing of this year’s harvest.

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Learning about the winemaker’s work in the cellar


The 2017 Wine Experience Days got underway last weekend in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle with a couple of great Vinification Experience Days with the clients of the 2016 vintage.  The aim of this wine course spent at the winery is to learn all about the work in the cellar and the choices that the winemaker takes to make the wine between the harvest and the time that it is ready for bottling.  As we were to learn, the winemaker’s job is far from finished once the grapes have been harvested.

Organic wine-making experience gift in Burgundy France

The days were split into different workshops.  After the introductions, one group followed Jean-François Chapelle into the fermentation hall.  Here he explained how the grapes are received during the harvest and then put into the vats.  We learnt about the fermentation process and how the winemakers closely monitor and control it to ensure that it takes place in the optimal conditions.  Jean-François explained the difference between the “vin de goutte” and the “vin de presse”, and the differences in making white and red wine.

Original wine gift for a birthday, retirement or wedding.  Follow the making of your own organic French wine

After the first fermentation has finished and the wine has been racked, the majority of the red wines at Domaine Chapelle, including the Clos des Cornières red wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, are moved to the underground cellar to continue their ageing in the oak barrels.

Winery and cellar tour gift in Burgundy, France

Amongst the barrels, Jean-François explained how the wine loses some of its acidity during the malo-lactic fermentation and let us in on the choices that he makes regarding the different types of barrel used.  To better understand the role that the barrels play in making wine, we tasted some wines directly from the barrel to compare the difference between new and old barrels. The same wine had been put into the barrels, so the only difference was the barrel.  It’s amazing to see how the aromas and taste vary.  The questions abounded, and we covered many topics from chaptalisation, the levels of sulphites added, and the different methods used to close the bottles.

Wine-tasting experience gift in a French organic winery

Upstairs, another workshop run by Yvette Chapelle prepared us to better taste wine by putting or senses to the test.  Using small bottles containing different aromas found in red wine, we had a go at trying to identify the individual smells.  Not as easy as you would at first think!

Oenology gift for wine lovers.  Learn how to taste wines from the winemakers themselves

We then tasted four different cups containing a saline, sweet, acidic and bitter solution to appreciate how they feel differently in the mouth.

After the morning’s full programme, we made the most of the glorious sunshine and enjoyed a glass of Santenay St Jean 2015 white wine in the courtyard whilst Jean-François answered more of our questions.

Wine enthusiast gift

Over lunch, we continued the wine tasting with some of the red Burgundy wines, starting with the Santenay Clos des Cornières 2012, followed by the Santenay La Comme premier cru 2014, and finishing with the Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot premier cru red wine.
We started the afternoon in the Clos des Cornières vineyard to visit our adopted vines.  They were revelling in the sunshine and were only too happy to have their photo taken with their adoptive owners!

Rent-a-vine gift in an organic French vineyard

Jean-François then explained the different geology of the surrounding vineyards and how that determines the AOC classification system of Burgundy and Santenay wines.  He pointed out the three distinct areas of our Clos des Cornières vineyard, knowledge we needed for the final wine tasting of the day.

Back in the courtyard, we tasted the three different wines from the Clos de Cornières vineyard that are vinified separately and are only blended together shortly before bottling.  This enabled us to see the difference that the age of a vine plays, and to get a sneak preview of the potential of the 2016 vintage.  The wines were at different stages of the malo-lactic fermentation process, so also enabled us to see how they change.

Wine-making experience present in Burgundy, France

And so the day drew to a close.  Many thanks to Jean-François and Yvette for sharing their passion for winemaking with us, and to all of the participants for making it such a great weekend!

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Wine-making and blending experience day in the Rhone Valley


Last Saturday, we were welcomed by Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet at Domaine la Cabotte in the Rhone Valley to learn more about the vinification process of the 2016 vintage.  For some of the participants it was their third wine experience day at the winery, having already participated in pruning the vines and harvesting the grapes last year.

Wine-making experience gift at the winery in France beside the wine-maker

The programme of the day was to talk about how the wine progresses through the fermentation and ageing stages once the harvested grapes arrive in the chai, and for this, we were in the expert hands of Eric.

Original wine enthusiast gift to learn about wine-making

At Domaine la Cabotte, whenever possible they blend the different grape varietals together to make each of their different wines.  Marie-Pierre and Eric prefer that the juice from the grenache, mourvèdre, carignan and cinsault mix and ferment together.  It’s not something that is easy to do, and sometimes they opt to vinify the grape varietals separately.  It’s all a question of the vintage.

They regularly taste the wines to determine the best moment to rack them and separate the wine from the solid matter of skin, pips, and stems that is deposited at the bottom of the vats.  The fermented juice becomes “vin de goutte”, and continues to be closely monitored to check that nothing untoward is happening.

Tasting the wines that are still ageing

Four to ten months after the harvest for the most part, the wine is then racked again, bottled, labelled and then enjoyed by wine lovers all over the world, including the adoptive parents, who have followed the birth of the vintage from first bud to the bottle.

We then returned to the caveau for a workshop that put our noses to the test.  We had to try to name a series of different aromas that can be found in wine.  Honey, lemon, pear… for the whites.  Raspberry, blackcurrant, liquorice… for the reds.

A couple of the participants were very good at this game, but all were agreed to step out into the sunshine to smell some real aromas from some real wine!

We tasted the Garance and Gabriel red wines and the Clairette white wine that had been aged in Italian amphorae.  A real treat.
To accompany the wines over lunch, we enjoyed a home-made salad, lamb tagine, and fruit cake.  And Jacqueline, the sommelier, recited ‘L’Ame du vin”, Beaudelaire’s tribute to the divine nectar.

Rent-a-vine gift in the rhone valley in a biodynamic vineyard

We spent the afternoon in the vineyard, amongst the plot of grenache vines that have been adopted by the Gourmet Odyssey clients.  Here, Eric recounted the geological history of the Massif d’Uchaux terroir, and explained the influence it has on the aroma and structure of the wine.

We finished the day in front of the chai, where we learnt a little more about the biodynamic philosophy, and the importance of respecting nature’s rhythm which help to create the balance in the wines at Domaine la Cabotte.

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A unique wine gift to charm your Valentine


For an original St Valentine’s gift that’s sure to surprise, adopt some vines for your valentine and make your own organic wine together, complete with personalised wine labels.  You’ll get behind the scenes and learn the secrets of being a winemaker as you follow the making of your special vintage.

 

Adopt-a-vine experience to follow the making of your organic wine

Adopt-a-vine in one of our 8 organic partner wineries and give the perfect Saint Valentine’s present for a wine lover.  You’ll get to follow the evolution of your adopted vines by newsletters and photos, or by visiting the winery to get involved in the different stages of wine making.  At the end of the experience, you’ll end up with your own personalised bottles of organic wine to enjoy together!

Oenology course in a French winery for making your personnalised wine
You can also spend one or more days at the winery together to share a special day with the winemaker.  There are three different types of wine experience day. The Discovery Experience Day teaches you about and gets you involved in the work in the vineyard to learn about nurturing the vines to produce the best grapes come harvest time. The Harvest Experience Day sees you roll up your sleeves and participate in the harvest and follow your grapes to the fermentation tanks. And the Vinification Experience Day lets you in on all that happens in the cellar from fermentation, through the ageing and blending process, right up until the time when your wine is bottled.

Each of these hands-on wine courses are an immersion with the winemaker and their teams from 9:30 to 16:00, giving you the time to learn about and help them with their work, to share a winemakers lunch, and of course taste their wines!
Wine gift box to meet the winemaker and visit the winery in France
All of our partner winemakers are carefully selected for the quality of their wine and their desire to share the passion they have for their job.  They are all organically certified and will welcome you with open arms for a very enjoyable day spent learning about wine.  This Valentine’s present gives you the perfect excuse to get away for a romantic weekend wine break!

If your other half enjoys wine, then this personalised wine gift experience is a great St Valentine’s gift idea.  The welcome gift pack includes a wine cooler bag, a re-usable glass wine stopper, DropStop, personalised vine adoption certificate, and all of the details needed regarding the Wine Experience.

More information about the Wine Experience.

 

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Last minute Christmas gifts for wine lovers


For your Christmas gifts, there are now just two weeks left to go.  If you are looking for an original Christmas gift for a wine lover, the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Christmas gift packs can be delivered for orders received up to the 20th December for deliveries outside of France and the 21st December for mainland France.  For the really last minute gifts, an email version of the certificate can be sent for orders received up to 12:30 on the 24th December, and the welcome pack will follow after Christmas.

Last minute Christmas gift for wine lovers.  Adopt-a-vine in France.

To surprise a wine lover this Christmas, adopt some vines for their Christmas present.  You can choose from our 8 partner wineries, all of which are organically certified.   For a wine-making year, they will follow the making of their organic wine, right up until the bottling of their personalised wine bottles at the end of the experience.

Wine Experience Christmas Gift.  Rent a vine in France and make your personalised bottles of wine

And to make the wine gift more hands on, you can add a Discovery Experience Day in the vineyard with the winemaker to learn all about the work on the vines to prepare them for harvest.  Or you can include a Harvest Experience Day to pick the grapes and follow their journey into the fermentation tanks or a Vinification Experience Day to learn about what happens to the wine once it is in the cellar.  All of the days take place from 09:30 to 16:00, and allow a total immersion into the life of a winemaker by getting involved in the work and by sharing a meal and tasting the wines.

Last minute Christmas gift for wine lovers.  Make your own-labeled bottles of wine

All of our partner vineyards are organically or biodynamically certified, and all of our winemakers are selected for being passionate about their profession.  They will welcome you with open arms to share their knowledge and passion!

Wine experience gift in a French organic vineyard.

Our personalised Christmas wine gift boxes are sure to delight, and the welcome gift pack includes some presents to use straight away, a wine cooler bag, a re-usable glass wine stopper, a DropStop to make sure you don’t spill any of your precious wine, and a personalised vine adoption certificate.

 

More information on 2016 Christmas deliveries
More information on the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Congratualtions to the winners of the 2016 My Vine photo competition


Many thanks to all of the participants in the 2016 “My Vine” photo competition, and also thanks to all of those who liked, commented or shared the photos taken during the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Days at our partner vineyards.
Voting closed at 17:00 yesterday and we have two winners.  The first winner was chosen by the Gourmet Odyssey jury, and the second winner was for the photo that received the most likes on our Facebook page.

The choice for the jury prize was long debated, and it proved very difficult to single out just one photo from all of the finalists!

Congratulations go to Maxime Baudry, who has been awarded the Gourmet Odyssey jury prize, and to Benoit Gaultier, the winner of the public vote on our Facebook page:

Adopt-vine experience in Burgundy, France

Wine gift box for Christmas, Birthday


Each winner will receive a magnum of wine from the winery where their adopted vines are located!

See you next year as the 2017 competition gets under way in February with the first Vinification and Discovery Experience Days!

 

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What wines will you drink during the end of year festivities?


The wine, food and cooking magazines are full of ideas for dishes to enjoy over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, and our taste buds are already getting excited as we start planning the meals that we will share with our friends and family this year.  And of course, which wines we will be opening?  We asked members of the Gourmet odyssey team to share a few ideas.

When it comes to pairing food and wine, we each have our own individual tastes, desires and convictions, even if there are a few basic rules to guide us.  The fun is being inspired by browsing the shelves of the wine merchants, meeting the winemakers at wine fairs or at the winery, or by researching in the magazines and blogs.  Here are a few suggestions that we will be trying out!


Myriam, our wine guide for Burgundy


Myriam, our wine guide in Burgundy


I love: A Saint Romain 2015 white wine from Domaine Franck Lamargue
To accompany: A pumpkin and foie gras velouté with gingerbread.  A great party dish.

I love: A Chambolle Musigny 2015 from Domaine Patrick Clémencet
To accompany: A dark chocolate and blackcurrant dessert!


Louise, our wine guide for the Loire Valley


Louise, our wine guide in the Loire Valley


I love: A Saumur red, Empreinte, from Domaine des Garennes, in Montreuil.
To accompany: Some game in a nice sauce, the perfect match for this powerful wine.


I love: A Touraine Sauvignon Les Devants de la Bonnelière white wine from Château de la Bonnelière, in Chinon.
To accompany: A lemon and cream chicken between friends.


Jacqueline, our wine guide for the Rhône Valley


Jacqueline, our wine guide in the Rhone Valley


I love: An Orto di Venezia 2011 from Michel Thoulouse, produced on the San Erasmo island in the Venice lagoon.  
To accompany: Some simple large Italian breadsticks, ideally as the sun sets revealing the wonderful winter twilight.
Comments: A very elegant wine with a nice amber colour.  The wine has a slightly smokey taste.

I love: A Beaujolais Nouveau 2016 from Château Cambon
To accompany: a vegetable and goat’s cheese quiche shared with friends.
Comments: This wine is a torrent of fruit and tastes that explode with joy on your palate.


Mark, the boss and our wine guide for Alsace, Burgundy and Bordeaux


Mark, our wine guide in the Alsace, Burgundy and Bordeaux


I love: A vin jaune L’Etoile from Domaine Joly, in Rotalier.
To accompany: A chicken marinated and slowly cooked in a vin jaune sauce.  A great winter dish after a good family walk.

I love: the Ante Phylloxera Chinon red from Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley.
To accompany: A capon stuffed with morille mushrooms.  
Comments: This very rare wine heralds from a tiny walled plot of vines that survived the outbreak of phylloxera in 1860.


Marie, the editor


Marie, our editor

I love: A Saint-Joseph red wine from Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne, in Mauve.
To accompany: Stuffed quails with the family during the holidays.

I love: A Petit Chablis from Domaine Laventureux, à Lignorelles.
To accompany: A cheese evening with friends.

I love: A Pinot Gris Rosenberg white wine from Domaine Stentz-Buecher, in Wettolsheim.
To accompany: Some asparagus verrines to have something a little lighter!


And there you have a quick tour de France (and Italy!) for a few food and wine pairing suggestions.  At the moment there are lots of food and wine fairs, so stop by one local to you and treat your taste buds!  Practice makes perfect


Other related articles

How to go about pairing food and wine?

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

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The perfect Christmas gift for wine lovers. Adopt some vines and make your own organic wine.


Finding an original Christmas wine gift for the enthusiast who already has everything - the wine fridge, the carafe, more corkscrews than could ever be used, the vintage bottles and other wine accessories etc. - can be a real challenge! But do they have their own organic vines in an award winning French winery? If not, adopt-a-vine with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience and it just might be the ideal gift to put under the Christmas tree this year!

What does the adopt-a-vine experience consist of?

Giving some vines in an organic vineyard in France for a Christmas present is sure to please any wine lover. For a wine-making year (2-3 years depending on the winery selected), the lucky recipient of your gift will follow the evolution of the vines, the harvest of the grapes, and then the making of the wine via newsletters and photos. At the end of the Wine Experience, your recipient will have as many personalised bottles of wine as the number of adopted vines, and your recipient will get to choose the name of the wine that will appear on the personalised labels.

 

Adopt-a-vin experience in a Franch organic vineyard


It is also possible to include 1 to 3 days at the winery with the Wine Experience gift. The recipient will get to spend the day with the winemaker for a total immersion into the world of wine-making. Each of these oenology courses, valid for two people, includes lunch and wine tasting.

All of the experience days are designed to be participative. The Discovery Experience Days are more oriented towards the work in the vineyard, so your recipient can have a go at pruning, de-budding or training the vines. The Harvest Experience Days will be busy with picking the grapes and learning about the first stages of fermentation, and the Vinification Experience Days will cover how to taste wines and the work in the cellar to age and blend the wine.

 

How do you get started with the Wine Experience Christmas gift?

The gift you select is completely flexible in terms of the number of vines you adopt, the winery chosen, and whether one or more days at the winery are included.

Once you have chosen your gift, the welcome pack is delivered to the address of your choice, so that your recipient has a gift box to open on Christmas day.

 

Wine gift box for making your own organice French wine


The welcome gift includes a DropStop, a re-usable glass wine stopper, a wine cooler bag, personalised adoption certificate and all the information needed to learn about the winery, winemakers and wine that the recipient will follow for the duration of the Wine Experience.

 

Will my gift please?

We’ll let our customers speak for us. You can read some of the feedback that they have sent us. And they’re not the only ones to give their opinion; the media are also talking about us.

 

Oenology courses in a French vineyard and winery tour


Adopting some vines is a very enlightening Christmas present. As well as producing your own personalised vintage, it also allows your recipient to discover the world of wine-making from a different angle, and to learn about all the hard work that goes into making a good bottle of wine.

All of our partner wineries are selected for the quality of their wines and they are organically or biodynamically certified. Passionate about winemaking, they love to share their knowledge and experience with the adoptive vine owners. Your recipient is sure to enjoy an unforgettable Christmas gift this year!

 

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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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Harvest Experience Day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher


The final weekend of the Harvest Experience Days for the 2016 vintage saw us head to Alsace with some of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients to participate in the harvest at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  And it turned out to be a bumper harvest!

Originial wine enthusiast gift. Participate in the harvest at a French organic vineyard

After the brief introductions at the winery, we put our boots on, and made our way straight out into the vineyard.  Our first stop was the Rosenberg vineyard where our adopted vines are located.  We took a couple of minutes to pose for a few photos in front of the vines that had produced the grapes that will be used to make our personalised bottles of wine, and took in the lovely view of the sloping Alsace vineyards around us.

Adopt-a-vine gift in an organic Alsace vineyard

Céline then got us organised and equipped with a pair of secateurs and bucket each, before Jean-Jacques gave us our instructions on how to harvest.  The instructions were very simple because the vineyard we were to harvest had produced excellent grapes and hardly any rot or mould and developed.

Harvest experience gift to participate in grape harvest in France

We spaced out between the rows and then started to snip away, cutting the whole bunches at the top of the stems and using our other free hand to hold them from the bottom.  The Gewürztraminer vines we were harvesting had produced lovely, compact, juicy, sweet grapes, and our buckets filled up in no-time.

Grape picking gift in Alsace, France

Once full, we passed the buckets under the rows of vines to be emptied into the trailer, and a few brave volunteers also had a go at being a porter.  They collected the harvested grapes in a basket worn on their backs, and once full, emptied the grapes into the trailer.  And so the trailers filled up with their precious load under the watchful eye of Jean-Jacques who exclaimed that he had never known the plot to produce such good quality grapes in such abundance!  It was surely due to the skill of our harvesters!

Harvest gift box. Adopt-a-vine and get involved in the harvest of your grapes in France

We then followed the tractor back to the winery and helped empty our harvest into the wine press.  Whilst the press whirred and spun away, we headed into the courtyard to enjoy a well earned lunch and tasting of the wines, staring with a refreshing Pinot blanc and working our way through a selection of the different wines up to the Grand Cru.  It had been a very full and busy morning!

Harvest and wine making experience gift in Alsace, France

After lunch, Stéphane took us down into the cellar to explain the work that keeps him busy during the harvest season.  There’s much more to do than just picking grapes.  The grapes need to be pressed, and then the juice settled and cleared, before being put into the different vats to start the fermentation process.

Learning about pressing grapes and making wine

Stéphane also explained the difference between making white and red wine, and we had a go at breaking the cap of the pinot noir grapes that had been picked the day before and were at the beginning of the maceration phase.

Learning how to make red wine

We had a look at the barrel room before ending the day in the cellar where the white wines will spend the coming months slowly fermenting and ageing.  We finished with a tasting of some wine that had started to ferment.

Wines fermenting in the cellar

Many thanks to all who participated in this great day, and to Domaine Stentz-Buecher for making us most welcome.  See you again next year for the Vinification Experience Days!

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Tasting wine…


From the 10th to 16th October, France celebrates the "Taste Week", or "La Semaine du Gout". The idea behind it is to better know the products from the terroir, to know how to recognise them, cook them, taste them and how best to appreciate them. Wine is an integral part of the French terroir and the country's culture, and has to be one of the most passionate and complex products to understand. So what exactly does wine taste like?

A short history on wine tasting

A long time ago, when someone "tasted" a wine, they did so primarily to look for faults. For example in "Le Sommelier" guides of the 1920's you can find mentions of "a rotten taste" conveyed from insects and disease, "slightly bitter and nauseous taste" due to the use of insecticides, or "earthy tastes" caused by harvesting in wet and muddy conditions.

Until the 1950's, it's the talk and language of the wine merchants that dominates the descriptions. Whilst the winemakers would prefer us to like their wines as they are, the wine merchants wish to offer wines that "please". The narratives don't really talk about the actual taste of the wine and whether it conveys the characteristics of the type of wine. Indeed at this stage, there is no real talk about appellations.

Wine tasting at the winery during a oenology stage in France 

The notion of taste, and more generally of objectively tasting wines, was born in the 1950's with the beginnings of trying to taste in an organised manner in order to compare and appreciate the different wines as objectively as possible. In France, Jules Guyot wrote in his Sur la Viticulture book that "it will be impossible to develop tasting as long as science hasn't given us the signs to use... the science of tasting still has to be completely developed."

How do you develop technical tasting?

So has science made any progress in helping define the taste of a wine? As those who have participated in one of the Vinification Experience Days at one of our partner wineries have discovered, when it comes to describing the taste of a wine, the perceptions can be very varied...

We taste for many different reasons. Just for the pleasure, or for wine professionals to compare styles of wine, their qualities, their faults, its value, or its provenance. The tasting gets even more analytical when it comes to determining a certain quality of wine, or to define and develop a new wine. Taste is a matter of perception, that much is very simple to understand. And yet the science around sensorial evaluation which studies the human responses to physio-chemical properties in food and drink is a highly complex subject. In between the sensation left by a wine and the perception formed by our different senses, there is a whole chain of signals and receptors, each of which can be influenced by the environment within which we are tasting, the weather, and many other external factors.

Wine tasting course and adopt-a-vine experience in France 

To try and keep it simple, our brain creates a global impression of a wine using the different receptors in the skin, mucosal lining, muscles and tendons that are present in our eyes, nose and mouth. When talking just about taste, there are three different types of taste buds spread all over our tongue to allow us to detect different tastes and temperatures.

And that is where we are not all equal when it comes to tasting. The levels to which our senses can detect the different tastes aren't the same for all of us, meaning that for some, a certain taste needs to be stronger before it is detected, whilst others will notice it at a much weaker level. We each have more or less receptors in our taste buds, and produce different amounts of saliva that affect our taste.

Appreciating wine

But no need to worry! We are all capable of tasting something, and the more regularly we taste, we are able to distinguish different tastes more easily.

Adopt-a-vine wine gift box including wine tasting 

So yes, we can say whatever we like when we taste a wine! Why not say your very first thoughts that come to mind when tasting a wine? And the more we try, the easier it becomes, and it helps make sharing a good bottle even more enjoyable.

Let's end with the wise words of one of our adoptive vine owners who recently joined us for the harvest, "Good wine with nice people. I think that that is the definition of happiness!"

Related article 

Wine defects. How to identify faults when tasting wines

 

 

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A perfect Indian summer for the Harvest Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage


It was under a sunny blue sky that we gathered last weekend to participate in the Harvest Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage, near Bordeaux.

Adopt a vine in Bordeaux and get involved in the harvest of your grapes

After a nice hot coffee, Christine, the owner of the winery, accompanied by her team of Pauline, François and Guillaume, started by presenting the winery, vineyard and her path to becoming a winemaker.

We then headed out into the vineyard.  Saturday’s group started by discovering the plot of Merlot where our adopted vines are to be found.  Some of us were very creative in taking pictures for the “My Vine” photo competition.  A little bit of fun before getting down to the serious business of harvesting!

Rent-a-vine gift. Wine-making experience and harvest near Bordeaux

Having received our instructions on how to harvest and equipped with a pair of secateurs, we started to harvest the grapes.  The young Malbec and Petit Verdot vines, just 4 years old, gave us nice and sweet tasting grapes with plenty of colour.  Then, very motivated, we went to pick some Cabernet Franc grapes!

Harvest organic grapes gift for wine lovers

On Sunday, we took the road to Ludon-Médoc, a few minutes away from the winery.  Here some lovely rows of Cabernet Franc awaited us under the October sun.  These grapes will be used to make rosé wine, and are grown organically.

Grape picking experience gift in Bordeaux

We then headed back to the winery to meet our adopted vines, and once again the cameras clicked away!

Around 13 :00, we started to taste the wines.  First up, the Joly Rivage rosé wine from 2014.  We enjoyed this as we watched the harvest fall into Christine’s new wine press!  Once pressed, the juice will be left alone throughout the night to allow all of the sediment to fall to the bottom of the tank.  François’s team will then closely monitor the juice as it goes through the fermentation process to transform the sugar into alcohol.

Pressing the harvested grapes

We enjoyed lunch under the shade of the oak trees, and continued the tasting of the winery’s wines.

Wine tasting and lunch at the winery

As much as a siesta would have been welcome in the afternoon, we summoned our strength, and headed to the fermentation hall.  Christine explained what would become of our pressed juice, and how the wines are worked during the maceration period, and then in the barrel room during the long ageing process.

Both days finished around 16:30, and we hope that everyone enjoyed the days as much as we did!  We look forward to getting a first taste of the wines during the Vinification Experience Days!

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A personalised wine for the wedding couple


The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience makes for an original wedding gift because the newlyweds get to follow the making of their wine from the year of their mariage. We've had lots of feedback from wedding couples who have been thrilled with their wine experience and their personalised vintage. Julie & Richard recently left us a comment on our website that we wanted to share here:

Richard and I are both wine lovers. Ever since we got together, we've covered quite a few of the wine routes, seeking out good wines directly from the producers. But until we received the Gourmet Odyssey wine gift box, we'd never had the opportunity to dig deeper and discover the vast and varied work of a winemaker. It really is a fascinating profession.

When we got married, a group of friends clubbed together to buy us a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience for our wedding present. For the year of our wedding, we were to become the adoptive parents of 6 vines in France's Rhone Valley at Domaine la Cabotte.

We found it to be a great idea for a wedding gift. We registered our gift pack on Gourmet Odyssey's web site, and we started to follow the making of our wine. The winemakers sent us news about the vines progress, as the grapes for our future wine grew and matured.

When the winemakers starting talking about the harvest, we thought that it would be fun to get involved, so we signed up for a Harvest Experience Day at the winery. What a great day we had! We spent the morning harvesting the grapes, and in the afternoon we helped sort the grapes and put them into the vats. We spent the whole day with the winemakers, Eric & Marie -Pierre, and had the chance to ask them lots of questions, particularly during lunch and the wine-tasting session.

We continue to receive updates about how the wine is evolving in the cellar. We decided to add a few extra bottles of personalised wine to surprise our friends and open them with them for our wedding anniversary. We can't wait to taste the wine from the year of our wedding!

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Training the vines in the Rhone Valley


What a great day we had last Saturday.  A clear sky and the last wisps of the Mistral to bring a little freshness to help us in our work in the vineyard.

The adoptive vine parents at Domaine la Cabotte arrived punctually, coming from near and far.  From the Var, the other end of the Vaucluse, Paris, Geneva and Brsitol.  And yes, after the Brexit vote, four brave British clients reported present to show their support for good French wine!

After a quick coffee and croissant to give us strength, we climbed to the top of the estate to help with the work in the vineyard at this time of year.  The vines are currently growing rapidly, and need help to support the weight of the grapes and leaves by means of a trellis.  Our job was to raise the training wires and ensure that the vines pointed up towards the sky by clipping them between the wires.

Biodylanic wine experience gift in the Rhone Valley, south of France

Eric Plumet, the winemaker explained how to do it, and then we spread out between the rows, pockets full of coloured clips.

In biodynamic wine-making, we don’t trim the tops of the vines.  The extremity of each branch is left alone because it is the apex that allows all of the force of the aerial environment to penetrate the sap and enter the grapes.  The leaves will stop growing on their own accord when the time is right for the vine to concentrate its energy exclusively on the fruit.

Once we had finished our mission, we went and had a look at the part of the vineyard where our adopted Grenache vines are to be found.

Rent-a-vine gift experience to learn about the art of winemaking

Here the vines are completely different, as the Grenache are pruned using the “gobelet” technique and so do not need the support of a training wire.  We each went on the hunt for our adopted vines, and with the height of the vines, we were soon out of sight of each other as we disappeared into the forest of vines.

We then headed to a plot of Syrah vines to observe the differences between the grape varietals, the leaves, how the grapes form, and the orientation of the plot.  And from here, we had a great all round view of the estate, surrounded by the woods of the Massif d’Uchaux.
By now, it was already lunchtime.  Marie-Pierre awaited our return in the shade with some welcome cold refreshment!

Wine tasting gift experience with the Cotes du Rhone winemakers

The Colline rosé, a delightfully fresh and tasty wine opened our taste buds for the lunch and tasting prepared by Marie-Pierre and Jacqueline.

Two poultry and dried fruit terrines prepared by the winemaker and some Greek “Cabotte” stuffed vine leaves prepared by Jacqueline, were accompanied by the Garance and Gabriel red wines.

We finished the meal with a nice glass of Châteauneuf du Pape which we enjoyed with some goats cheese made at a neighbouring farm, and a homemade red fruit clafoutis.

The warmth of the southern summer threatened our energy levels, so the winemakers quickly ushered us into the coolness of the chai.  We talked some more about the vines and the wine, and noticed that in June the majority of the vats are empty, but the bottles are now full!

In front of us were cases full of freshly picked horsetail, yarrow and oak bark.  Eric explained how they are used in the different biodynamic preparations, and we also discovered the cow horns and how they are used to transform cow dung into rich natural fertiliser.

The questions flew, and Eric tried to clearly explain the answers.  The time passed all too quickly, but hopefully we all learnt a little more about the passionate but complex world of wine-making and biodynamics.  And so it was time to say our goodbyes, a bottle or two under the arm to take away as a souvenir of the day.

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Learning about the work in the vineyard in Alsace


Much of a wine’s quality is the direct result of the work that is carried out in the vineyard to manage and nurture the vines, and as we were to learn during the Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher, there is much more to do than you would at first think!

Original wine experience gift.  Adopt vines in Alsace and make your own personalised bottles of wine

After the introductions to the Alsace wine growing region and a brief history of the Stentz-Buecher family, we made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found.  We took a few minutes to introduce ourselves to our vines and to encourage them to work hard in producing a good harvest for this year’s vintage!

Adopt-a-vine gift in france for wine lovers.

But then time to get down to the serious business of the day and to learn about the key stages involved in preparing the vines for the harvest.  To do so, we were joined by Jean-Jacques, who passionately explained the different aspects of this complex, demanding, and, often, highly manual profession.

Organic wine gift.  Work in the vineyard alongside the winemaker

Pruning, de-budding, trellising, planting new vines, fighting against diseases and so on, the questions and topics covered were varied and numerous.  We also talked about the differences between organic and conventional farming methods used to weed the vineyards and treat the vines, and how the life of a winemaker and the local community has changed over time.  Jean-Jacques is extremely passionate about his profession and given the chance would have kept us in the vineyard forever!

We then headed back to the winery, making a quick stop at a plot of vines lower down on the plain that had recently been damaged by frost and which will have a severely reduced yield as a result.  Difficult to believe given the glorious sunshine and blue skies of the day, but a reminder that however good and dedicated the winemaker may be, Mother Nature can have other plans.

Wine tasting gift in Alsace at an organic winery

We tasted a range of the different wines produced by Domaine Stentz-Buecher, starting with an unusual wine, called Who Am I? that is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.  We then moved onto a more classic Riesling Tradition 2014, followed by the 2014 vintage of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the Pinot Gris Rosenberg.  We then tasted a more complex Riesling, the Tannenbuehl 2011, and an unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011.

We tasted a Crémant d’Alsace “brut de nature”, made from 100% Chardonnay grapes with no added liqueur before sitting down to lunch which had been prepared by a local caterer.

In the afternoon, we visited the cellar to get a brief overview and appreciation of the wine-making side of things.  Stéphane showed us the wine press, and the vats and barrels that contain the wine during the fermentation and ageing processes.  We finished the day in the “vinothèque”, an impressive room used to showcase some of the older vintages.

Winery tour gift in Alsace, France

We’ll get to see the press in action during the Harvest Experience Day and will spend more time in the cellar during the Vinification Experience Days, but until then, there is still much to do in the vineyard, as the day hopefully taught us!

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What to get the person that has everything ?

Adopt a Vine in France and Let Them Follow the Making of Their Own Wine !

From € 159

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