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The 2017 harvest in Chablis


Last weekend saw us travel to Chablis to participate in the Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.  We weren’t there just to pick grapes, but to also learn about all of the work in the cellar at harvest time to press the grapes, put them into the vats, and to follow their progress through the first stages of fermentation.

Original wine lover gift. Adopt vines in Chablis and make your own personalised bottles of wine

After a welcome coffee and brief introduction, we made our way through the rolling vineyards to the Butteaux vineyard, a Premier Cru plot where the winery’s team of harvesters were already hard at work.  Emilie and Cécile distributed the secateurs and buckets, and we had a few volunteers to be porters.

Emilie and Cécile explained which grapes to cut and which to leave behind.  To make the job easier, the first task is to remove the leaves from in front of the grape bunches so that you can see them and get to the stalk more easily with the secateurs.   In twos we spread out among the rows and started to harvest the grapes.

Participate in the harvest and learn about the art of winemaking

Once the buckets were full we called out to the porters to come.  We then emptied the buckets into the hops carried on their backs.  Their role was to then carry the grapes to the truck, climb a ladder and then tip the grapes out.  It’s not as easy as you would think to throw the grapes over your shoulder whilst at the top of a ladder, but after the first couple of attempts, the porters soon found their individual styles!  We rotated roles, so that all of those who wanted to have a go being porter could see what it was like to carry a load of grapes on their back.

Biodynamic wine gift in France to get involved in the grape harvest

Time flies when you’re concentrated on harvesting, and before we knew it, we met up with the team of professional harvesters.  Emilie and Cécile walked through the rows to see how we had got on, and announced that we had done a great job, leaving behind very few of the precious grapes.

We then followed the grapes journey through the delightful scenery back to the winery.  Here the grapes were weighed, and then wait for a press to become free.  When we arrived, Julien Brocard was busy emptying the marc of skins, pips and stalks that had been left behind from the previous load.  He explained what he was doing and how he had been battling with a blown fuse that had slowed progress down during the morning.

Wine-making experience gift in Chablis

Our harvest was then emptied into the press and we watched as it started working to extract the juice from the grapes.  We learnt about how the juice is held in a vat until the solid particles that manage to get through the press filters have settled in the bottom of the vat, a process known as débourbage.  The clear juice is then drawn off and put into another vat or wooden cask to begin the fermentation process, transforming the sugar into alcohol.

Adopt a vine and get involved in making your own personalised bottles of biodynamic wine

It had been a busy morning, and our aperitif well deserved!  On the terrace overlooking the Sainte Claire vineyard, we tasted a Petit Chablis, Chablis Sainte Claire and Chablis Premier Cru, all from the 2015 vintage to see how the wine differs between the three appellations.  We then sat down to lunch and continued the wine tasting with some older vintages.

Wine tasting gift at the winery in Chablis

In the afternoon, we walked out into the Sainte Claire vineyard to find our adopted vines.  Having taken a few souvenir photos, we learnt more about the challenges of planning for the harvest and the differences between harvesting grapes manually and by machine.

Rent-a-vine in a French biodynamic vineyard

We then made our way back to the winery for a final tasting of the day.  We first tasted the grape juice from our harvest.  It was very sweet, a good sign of the maturity of the grapes.  We then tasted some juice from grapes that had been harvested five days previously.  The fermentation had already begun, and we could taste that it was less sweet and could feel the fizz in our mouths of the carbon dioxide that is released during the fermentation process.

Original wine gift for wine lovers

We look forward to coming back early next year for the Vinification Experience Days to see how our wine has developed and to learn about the work that remains between now and the wine being ready to be bottled.  Many thanks to all who participated for a great day!

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The 2017 harvest gets underway in Burgundy


Last weekend saw the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients give the first snips of the secateurs to get the 2017 harvest underway at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy.  We were there to participate in the harvest, and to follow the grapes journey into the fermentation tanks.  As were to learn, there is much more to the harvest than just picking grapes!

Wine lover gift experience in Burgundy.  Rent-a-Vine and get involved in the harvest of your grapes

After the introductions in the garden of the château and some coffee and croissants to give us strength, secateurs in hand, we made our way to the Clos des Cornières vineyard.  This is where our adopted vines are located, and so before getting down to the serious business of harvesting, we took a few minutes to locate our vines and take a few pictures of them laden with grapes.  For those that had already joined us for a Discovery Experience Day, we could see the fruit of our labour in helping the vines produce the best possible grapes!

Adopt-a-Vine gift in an organic vineyard in France

Jean-François explained how to harvest the grapes, which ones to cut and which to leave behind.  In pairs, we were assigned a row and given a crate to put the picked grapes in.  To make it easier to see the grapes (and to lower the risk of cutting our fingers!), we started by removing the leaves in front of the grapes, and then snip snip, we started picking!

Weekend break in France to get involved in the grape harvest

This year there are many more grapes than the very meagre 2016, and the grapes were in very good condition, so the crates soon filled up with our harvest. Once we had filled a crate, we brought it back to the beginning of the row, and took a new one.

Great wine gift idea. Harvest your own vines in a French organic vineyard

We then followed the grapes back to the winery to see how they are received.  First we emptied the grapes onto the sorting table to remove any unripe ones or leaves that might have made their way into the crates.

Wine-making experience weekend in Burgundy, France

The sorted grapes then slide down a shoot into the cuverie below.  The grapes that we had picked were not separated from their stems, and so the whole bunches were put into the vats.  The stems contain tannins and help add structure to the wine.  Over the past couple of years, part of the harvest is left with the stems and part of it goes through the destemming machine so that just the berries go into the vats.  This is yet another decision that the winemaker takes depending on the year and the wine that he or she is trying to make.

Rent-a-Vine and make your own personalised organic French wine

Down below, the grapes fall into a trolley, which is then wheeled to the vat and emptied onto a conveyor belt that carries the grapes up and into the vat.  The aim is to get as many whole grapes as possible into the vat to help preserve the fruitiness and aromatic qualities of the wine.

Learning about the work in the cellar at harvest time.  A unique wine lover gift.

By this time, we had earned our aperitif!  In the garden overlooking the vines, we enjoyed a glass of Santenay Saint Jean 2015 white wine and a few gougères, the local delicacy!

Wine tasting gift experience with the winemaker in Burgundy

We then sat down to lunch in the harvesters’ refectory, prepared by the excellent local caterer, Olivier Huez in Meursault.  During the meal we tasted some of the winery’s red wines; the Santenay Clos des Cornières 2013, the Santenay “Les Gravières” Premier Cru 2012 and the Santenay “Comme” Premier Cru 2006.

After lunch, we returned to the cuverie, where Jean-François explained how the grapes will ferment over the coming couple of weeks, and the work that will be necessary before the wine is ready to be racked and put into barrels to start the long process of malo-lactic fermentation and ageing.  He also told us about the different process used to make white wine.

Original wine gift to learn about all about wine-making

At the end of the day, hopefully we had all learned a little more about all of the effort, care and dedication that goes into making wine.  We look forward to coming back next year to see how our harvest is developing during the Vinification Experience Days, and to learn more about the remaining work until the wine is ready for bottling.

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Wine Experience day in Saint-Emilion at Château Coutet


We spent a fantastic week-end learning what it’s like to be a winemaker in Saint-Emilion during the Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Days at Château Coutet.  The vines are growing at a frantic pace at the moment, and as we were to find out, there is much to be done in the vineyard to try and produce the best possible grapes for the harvest.

Original goft for wine lovers in organic Saint-Emilion vineyard

On Saturday, we were accompanied by Alain and Juliette, and by Adrien on Sunday.  All three of them are incredibly passionate about their work and the winery, and the days started with a brief introduction to the winery’s 400 year history, during which time the winery has always been organic.

We then headed into the vineyard to be brought up to speed on the work carried out in the vineyard since last year’s harvest to prune, de-bud and attach the vines to the training wires, as well as the way the soil is worked.

Vineyard experience gift in France

As we made our way up towards the Saint-Emilion plateau, we saw the change in the soil, and the identified the different grape varietals by the different shaped leaves.  We passed a plot that had been planted with sunflowers and has now been left fallow to regenerate the nutrients in the soil before it will be planted with vines.  As with everything, the winery looks to nature to maintain the equilibrium of the biodiversity.

We stopped at a terrace of cabernet franc vines just below the plateau.  The grapes have now formed on the vines and will reach their full size in the next couple of weeks.  The flowering went particularly well this year, so the vines are well laden with fruit.  The grapes will mature over the next couple of months as the sugar levels increase.  One of the risks that the vines face is rot, especially so if the conditions are hot and humid.  To help protect the vines, some of the leaves are removed from around the grapes to improve the air flow around them, making it quicker for the air to dry them after any rainfall.

Wine experience gift in an organic French vineyard

To get a better idea of just what is involved in removing the leaves, after receiving our instructions, we had a go ourselves.  The vines we were working on were planted North to South.  We removed the leaves just from the East facing side of the rows, keeping the leaves on the West facing side in place to protect the grapes from being burnt by the stronger afternoon sun.

On the plateau we passed the plot of vines that are worked by horse and used in the making of the winery’s famous Emeri and Les Desmoiselles wines, before arriving at the Peycocut vineyard where our adopted vines are to be found.

As we admired the wonderful views across to Saint-Emilion and the neighbouring Grand Cru Classé vineyards, we took a few minutes to visit our adopted vines and immortalise the moment with a few photos!

Rent-a-vine gift in Saint-Emilion

After this full morning, we returned to the garden in front of the château for a well-earned aperitif.  A nicely chilled clairet rosé wine was awaiting us before we sat down to a lunch that was prepared in the château by a local caterer.  During the different courses, we tasted 4 different vintages of the winery’s Saint Emilion Grand Cru wine, learning about the four different years, and seeing how the wine changes over time.

Wine tasting gift experience of organic Saint-Emilion wines

We started the afternoon with a look at the Vitirover robot that has been developed at the winery.  This solar powered buggy linked to GPS and equipped with cutters roams in a pre-defined area of vines, cutting the difficult to reach grass and weeds that grow around the vine trunks!

Vineyard robot

The harvest is fast approaching, and so we learnt about what is left to do in the vineyard and how the winemakers will choose the moment of the harvest.

We then entered the fermentation hall where the grapes will be received at harvest time, and where they will then macerate and ferment in the vats.

Winery tour gift experience in Saint-Emilion

We marvelled at the cellar containing the old vintage bottles, everyone trying to see if there were any bottles left from their birth year or other notable vintages.

Wine experience gift with personalised bottles of Saint-Emilion GRand Cru wine

The day then finished in the barrel room where the wines are aged for around 18 months before being ready for bottling.  We’ll be spending more time in here during the Vinification Experience Days at the start of next year.  Before then we’ll be back in September to participate in the harvest and see how our grapes have matured over the summer!

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Supporting the vines in the Rhone Valley


We welcomed some of the 2017 vintage adopt-a-vine parents of the 2017 vintage last Saturday at Domaine la Cabotte in the Rhone Valley.  There was a little wind and a few clouds, which we were all pleased to see following the heatwave that the region had endured in the preceding days with the temperature in the high 30s.

Great gift for a wine lover.  Rent some vines in France in the Rhone Valley

Eric Plumet, the winemaker, led us down through the vineyard to a plot that we were to work in.  The vines have been growing lots recently and our task was to raise the training wires and clip them together ensuring that the vine branches were held between them.
On the way, Eric showed us the different grape varietals grown in the vineyard.  We passed plots of syrah and clairette, and in a plot of Grenache, branch in hand, he showed us some shot berry which was the result of the late frost in spring.  Some of the flowers had been harmed, and so the number of grapes produced will be less.

Wine-making experience gift in a biodynamic vineyard

After a few technical explanations, we got down to work to place the vine branches between the training wires.  Eric explained the important role of the very tip of the vine branches which forms a Y shape, and absorbs the nutritive elements from the air to feed the plant.

Organic gift idea.  Adopt a vine in France, and participate in making your own wine

As the winery is worked biodynamically, Eric only starts to trim the tops of the vines when the apex dries.  The vine then stops growing to concentrate on ripening the grapes.

Marie-Pierre arrived to quench our thirst.  Water at first, but she had also brought a rosé wine produced at the winery, a fresh and very aromatic wine that gave us a glimpse of the tasting to come.

We returned to the winery at lunchtime and sat down at the wooden tables under the shade of the trees.  With the light breeze, it was the perfect place to relax.

Organic wine-tasting experience gift

We compared a clairette aged in oak barrels with a clairette aged in an amphora.  Same grape varietal but very different wines!  We each had our own preference for one or the other.

Over lunch, we tasted the Côtes du Rhône, Massif d’Uchaux and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines which paired perfectly with the tourte, pâtés, quail and fruit tart, all home-made by Marie-Pierre.  Our palates revelled in the different tastes and we in the good company!

After coffee, we went on a hunt to find our adopted vines, to say hello to them, and take a few photos.  With all that we had learnt during the day, we were more appreciative of all the effort that our bottles of wine will contain once our grapes have reached maturity!

Rent-a-Vine gift and personalised bottles of wine

The day finished in the chai to see the vats and take in the smells of the wines that are finishing ageing.  We’ll be back again in September to participate in the Harvest Experience Days.

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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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The art of wine-making in Alsace


The varied terroir of Alsace and the different grape varietals that are grown in the region ensure that the winemaker is kept busy.  When the work in the vineyard finishes the winemaker turns his attention to the work in the cellar.  And as each grape varietal from each vineyard plot is vinified separately, there is lots to do as we were to discover during the Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.

Original wine gift for wine enthusiasts. Adopt a vine and follow the making of your own organic white wine

To remind us that wine is first and foremost the product of the work carried out in the vineyard, we started the day with a quick visit to the Rosenberg vineyard to see our adopted vines.  No matter how good the winemaker is, if the grapes aren’t of a good quality, it’s very difficult to make a good wine.  Having taken a few pictures of our vines to mark the occasion, we then headed back to the winery for the main purpose of the day, to find out what happens to the wine, and the decisions that the winemaker must take between harvesting the grapes, and the wine being ready for bottling.

Rent-a-vine gift in a French organic vineyard

We taste many wines during the day, and to help us better prepare for the wine tasting to come, we put our sense of smell to the test with a fun, yet testing exercise to identify different aromas that can be found in wine.

Wine tasting workshop to develop wine tasting skills

In the cellar, Stéphane took us on the journey that the wine takes.  First stop was the press room, where the grapes are pressed and the juice separated from the solid particles during the “débourbage”.  We saw how the winery had designed the layout to use gravity as much as possible, and limit the use of pumps, which can adversely affect the wine.

Winery tour gift with the winemaker in Alsace, France

The red wines are aged in oak barrels, and Stéphane explained the role of the oak and shared his passion for pinot noir, one of his fetish grape varietals.

Fermenting and ageing pinot noir red wine in oak barrels

We then moved through to the cellar room where the white wines ferment.  Accompanied by the gentle gurgling of the wines that had yet to terminate the fermentation process, Stéphane explained how the wines ferment, and how he monitors their progress as the sugar in the wine is transformed into alcohol.  But the best way to understand the different stages is to taste the wines, and so we tasted some of the wines directly from the vat to better appreciate their evolution.

Make your own wine gift experience in Alsace, France

The sun was shining, so we then headed outside to make the most of it, and to taste some of the winery’s different finished wines, starting with a Pinot Blanc.  During the aperitif and lunch we tasted wines from different grape varietals and terroir including Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer.

Wine tasting with the winemaker in Alsace

In the afternoon we returned to the cellar to learn about how the wine is prepared for bottling, and saw the machines used to bottle and label the wines.  Stéphane also showed us how the Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wines are worked.

Learning how sparkling wine is made

Throughout the day, the questions flowed, and we covered many different topics including the material used to close the bottles, when and whether sugar is allowed to be used, the amount of sulphites added to wine…  Much to learn and to take in, but hopefully some of it will stick, and that the next bottle of wine that is opened will be looked at in a slightly different light.

And so the day drew to a close and we left our Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2016 in the cellar to continues its ageing process.  We can’t wait to taste the finished product at the end of the year!

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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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Noël de la French Tech – Gourmet Odyssey Wine Gift Experiences Selected


Once again the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience was picked among the best Christmas gift ideas by Le Noël de la French Tech!  The aim of this organisation is to support start-up companies with the most innovative Christmas gift ideas.  The adopt-a-vine experience from Gourmet Odyssey was selected for inclusion in their list of the best 200 Christmas gifts.

Innovative Christmas Gift.  Adopt some vines in France and make your own organic wine

Le Noël de la French Tech chose the Wine Experience for the second year running for its originality.  This wine-making experience gift enables you to adopt some vines in an organic French vineyard and follow the making of your own personalised bottles of wine.

More than just a simple winery tour or wine-tasting class, adopting some vines is a unique way to discover the passionate world of wine by getting involved in the key stages of making organic wine.  It also gives you a privileged contact with the winemakers to learn more about their fascinating profession.

 

Wine Experience gift presented at the Champs-Elysées launch event

 

Once the recipient has received their personalised adopt-a-vine certificate, they will continue to enjoy their gift through newsletters and photos from the winemaker.  And you can also choose to include one or more wine experience days at the winery.

The Gourmet Odyssey packages are available from €159.  To learn more about adopting vines, please visit www.GourmetOdyssey.com.

And to browse the list of 2016 Christmas gift ideas, visit the Noël de la French Tech Christmas gift list.

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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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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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De-budding the vines in the Loire Valley


Last weekend, Marc Plouzeau, the owner and winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, welcomed some of the 2016 vintage Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine owners to the winery in the Loire Valley for a Discovery Experience day.
Discovery Experience Day to learn about winemaking at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley

Over a coffee and some croissants, Marc gave us a quick overview of the Loire Valley and Chinon winemaking regions, and he introduced us to his family history and their involvement with the winery up to when he took over the running of it in 1999. It was then time to head out into the vineyard.

Before getting to meet the adopted vines, we discussed the frost that hit the Loire valley hard at the end of April. The Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard got off lightly, thanks to the protection that Marc and his team had put in place using anti-frost candles.

Marc explains how he tried to protect his vines from the recent frosts

The anti-frost candles are 5 litre cans of paraffin that are placed 400 per hectare throughout the vineyard, and then lit when needed. They help raise the temperature of the air by a few crucial degrees and by doing so, help reduce the risk of the frost developing. The lighting of these candles enabled Marc to save the harvest of the vines in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard.

After the traditional photo shoot of the adopted vines for the "My Vine" photo competition, the main programme for the morning was de-budding.

The adopt-a-vine owners get to meet their vines.

The vines are flourishing at the moment, and the shoots and leaves are rapidly growing. Some of these shoots will not produce any grapes, and will just serve to take energy away from the vines if they are not removed. So our mission was to help Marc get rid of the excess growth.

Wine Experience gift to help the winemaker work in the vineyard

Despite some hesitation and at first being worried about removing the wrong shoots, we got stuck in and followed Marc's guidelines. We had a very motivated group, and we de-budded a couple of rows which will help the team at the winery finish the task more quickly!

Gift experience to learn how to de-bud vines

Having finished the work, it was time to sit down, and continue the discussion over lunch whilst tasting various wines from Château de la Bonnelière. We were lucky enough to taste the latest of Marc's creations, the Vindoux wine which is a Chinon red from the 2014 vintage. It's the first integral vinification wine from the winery that had been fermented and aged completely in new oak barrels. The wine was much appreciated!

Wine tasting and vineyard experience gift in the Loire Valley at Château de la Bonnelière

The afternoon continued with a visit to the tool shed to learn about the array of tools that are used to work the vines and soil in the vineyard. We also visited the chai to get a taster for what the Vinification Experience Day holds in store.

It was another rich day, full of interesting discussions between the participants and the winemaker. Many thanks to Marc and to all you came!

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The finalists of the My Vine photo competition


Once again, this year we have spent many great moments at our partner wineries with all of the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Day participants. We've learnt lots more about wine thanks to our winemakers, we've had fun working in the vineyards, have loved tasting the wines from the cellar, and we've received many great photos throughout the year. Thank you!

We've selected 20 photos for the My Vine 2015 final, and it was a very difficult job to do! There will be two winners: The Facebook prize for the one that receives the most likes (get clicking), and the Gourmet Odyssey Jury prize for the most original photo.

Take a look at our selected finalists and vote for your favourite photo on Facebook between now and the 7th December at 9:00am! Take care to "like" the individual photo that you prefer and not the whole album.

The two winners will each receive a magnum of wine from their Wine Experience partner winery. We'll announce the winners on our Facebook page and on our blog on the 7th December!

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Training the vines at Château de la Bonnelière


Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, welcomed us to his winery during this very warm weekend, introducing us to our adopted vines, the life of a winemaker, and the beginnings of the 2015 vintage.

 

Rent-a-vine wine experience, Loire Valley, France

Our Discovery Experience Day started with a coffee and Marc recounting the long history of the winery and the region.  Marc took over the reins from his father in 1999, and started working organically straight away.  Today the winery covers 35 hectares of vines situated on Chinon's left bank.

In the vineyard, we took a few minutes to meet our adopted vines.  Thanks to the great weather we have been having since June and the warm temperatures, the vines are further advanced than is usual.

Adopt-a-vine gift experience at an organic French vineyard

The vine branches have grown quickly, and our task for the morning was to train them.  The vine is a creeper plant, and grows up from the ground producing big branches.  To cultivate it, you have to help support it, and that is why between each post in the vineyard, run three sets of training wires, with the middle one doubled up.

We had to raise the middle two wires and by doing so, trap the vegetation between them, and then attach the wires together using a clip.  This will help support the weight of the foliage and grapes, and will allow the tractor to more easily pass between the rows.

Vineyard experience working on the vines in the Loire Valley, France

The temperature rose during the morning, and Saturday's group welcomed the shade of the hanger whilst Marc explained the work in the vineyard to come between now and the harvest.  It was a little cooler on Sunday, and the group were able to finish training the remaining vine rows, before listening to Marc.

Organic winery tour in the Loire Valley

The 2015 vintage is shaping up very nicely so far, and we could be in for a great year.  The harvest should happen around the beginning of October.

It was then time for the aperitif!  We started our wine tasting with the "Perle Sauvage" sparkling rosé, and we appreciated the fine bubbles.  We then sat down to eat lunch, lovingly prepared by Madame Plouzeau, and tasted five different wines during the different courses.

Wine tasting gift at the winery in the Loire Valley, France

Despite the calls for a siesta, we continued our learning in the afternoon with a visit to the fermentation hall.  Luckily, this is the coolest place to be as it is air conditioned!  Marc quickly described how he vinifies his wine, something that we will go into much more detail about during the Vinification Experience Day.

Original gift for wine lovers. Visit an organic winery in Chinon, France.

The day then came to a close and it was time to thank our host and participants, many of who we'll have the pleasure of seeing again during one of the Harvest Experience Days.

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

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

A great 2015 harvest in the Loire

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Training the vines at Domaine Chapelle


Last week-end couldn't have been better. The sun, warm weather and good cheer were all in attendance for the last two Discovery Experience Days of 2015 at Domaine Chapelle. We spent most of the day in the vineyard under the glorious Burgundy sun. These two days allowed us to discover the winery and to learn about the different work of the winemaker throughout the year.

Wine experience in Burgundy

To start the day, Jean-François Chapelle (Saturday) and Yannick Jacrot (Sunday), introduced us to the geology and geography of Burgundy, as well as the history of the winery. It's now over 100 years that this Burgundy winery has been in the hands of the Chapelle family! They also explained why they chose to make their wines organically, to respect the soil and the people who work it, as much as the pleasure of drinking a wine free from toxic products that can harm the health of the consumers! We then headed for the "Clos des Cornières" vineyard, which is located in front of the manor house. For most of us, it was the first contact with the Burgundy terroir and our adopted vines.

Rent a vine in Burgundy, France

Thanks to the good weather of the past few weeks, the vines are coming along famously. The grapes are already of a good size, and the bunches are plenty and in good health. If the summer passes without any hiccups, then the 2015 harvest should be of an excellent quality!

Original wine gift in Burgundy, France

Time to get down to some work... The work at the moment is to raise the training wires for the second time. Having finished the de-budding, which involved removing excess branches that the plant would otherwise have to nourish, we now have to air and give the vines as much space as possible to limit the spread of any potential disease, and to help the grapes mature. We trained a few rows of vines, being careful to separate the branches between each vine without breaking them. This is another of the manual tasks that has to be done throughout the winery's 18 hectares of vines.

Vineyard experience in Burgundy, France

Back at the winery, we made the most of the sunshine and took the aperitif outside. We tasted the Santenay Saint Jean 2013 white wine, accompanied by some gougères, a Burgundy savoury speciality. We continued the tasting of the Santenay red wines over lunch, finishing with a "Les Gravières" 2011 Premier Cru with the cheese.

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy, biodynamic, France

The afternoon started with a walk to the "Beaurepaire" vineyard, a Premier Cru plot of vines. This gave us the opportunity to discover a little more about the southern Côte de Beaune landscape and the local geology. This particular vineyard was replanted in spring, and the young vines are doing great. We learnt about the life cycle of a vine and were told that the vines won't give a full harvest for 5-7 years from now.

Wine gift packs at Domaine Chapelle, Burgundy

When we returned from the walk, a glass of water was greatly appreciated before continuing the day with a visit of the fermentation halls and the cellar. The fermentation hall is where the grapes are received at harvest time, and where we also bottle the wines. The building has been added to over the generations. In the oldest part, the old wooden casks that hold some of the Premier Cru wines are to be found.

Original wine gift in Burgundy
The second part is a little more modern, and was built by the father of Jean-François who furnished it with concrete vats. The most recent part houses stainless steel vats, with a cooling system to regulate the temperature of each vat. We quickly learnt how the grapes will be worked during the harvest, and how the alcoholic fermentation will occur.
Personalised bottles of wine in Burgundy, France

We finished the day with a tour of the vaulted Burgundy cellar. The 2014 wines are still ageing there in the oak barrels, and it is also where the majority of the bottles are stored.

Wine lover gift at Domaine Chapelle

Many thanks to Jean-François Yannick and Yvette for their availability and passionate explanations. And thanks also to all of the participants for a very enjoyable week-end at Domaine Chapelle. See you again soon for the harvest!

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

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

A great 2015 harvest in Burgundy

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Pruning the vines in Chinon


Last weekend, we welcomed the first clients of the 2015 vintage to Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon for a Discovery Experience Day. This sunny and fresh day enabled us to learn about the winery and the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard. We met our adopted vines and learnt how to prune the vines, an essential step in the development of the vines.

Our host, Marc Plouzeau, introduced us to the winery and explained his long family connection to the estate. The winery's vineyards stretch across the left bank of the Vienne river, and include different terroir of gravel, clay and flint soils.

Having presented how the work is approached in the different vineyards, Marc gave us a sneak preview of his new range of labels which graphically represent this philosophy.

We then headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard to meet our adopted vines for the first time!

Wine Experience in Loire Valley, Chinon

After a few photos for the "My Vine" photo competition, it was time to get down to some more serious work!

To warm us up, we started by pulling away some of the pruned branches. The vineyard had been pruned by Marc's team, but he had left us the task of stripping away the old wood to leave a clean space around the branches left to produce this year's harvest.

Adopt a vine in Loire Valley

Marc also taught us how to prune using the "Guyot Simple" technique which is anything but simple!

Each vine is unique, so each needs a moment of reflection before the secateurs start snipping. We started by removing the branch that had produced last year's grapes. Then we needed to choose the new branch for this year, which is usually on the other side of the vine from last year's. We then cleaned up the branch to leave just 8 eyes, so as to reduce the number of grapes, and increase their sugar levels. To finish we left a shorter branch or  "spur", which will then become next years fruit bearing branch.

Rent a vine in Loire Valley, Chinon

To end the morning's activities, Marc explained the next stages of working the vines until they are ready to be harvested, from de-budding, trimming and green harvesting. Each of these steps will help to control the future yield and produce better quality grapes.

We were then rewarded with a tasting of the wines from the château and a meal in the barn. We tasted a Touraine Sauvignon 2014 white wine with the fish terrine, a Chinon Rive Gauche 2014 and a Clos de la Bonnelière 2012 with the blanquette de veau. To finish in style we enjoyed a Chapelle 2012 with some local goat?s cheese, and the little treasure of the winery, the "Ante Phylloxéra" wine, which is made from a micro plot of vines that haven?t been grafted, and can be traced back for more than 200 years!

Wine tasting eperience in Loire Valley

Despite some requests for a siesta after lunch, we continued the day by visiting the tool shed and learning about the machines and equipment which help Marc and his team work the vines organically.

Vineyard unique experience in Loire Valley

As the day drew to a close, we visited the fermentation hall, where Marc answered some of the last questions from our apprentice winemakers.

Many thanks to Marc and to all of the participants for a great day!

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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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