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Tagged articles : Ageing

Wine-making gift experience in the Loire Valley


Last weekend, we participated in the first Vinification Experience Days of the year at Château de la Bonnelière.  The programme for the day was to learn about the work involved to vinify and age the wine after the harvest and up until the wine is ready for bottling.  As we were to discover, there is much to do, and there are many decisions to be taken by Marc Plouzeau, the owner and winemaker!

The day started with a welcome coffee or cup of tea, whilst Marc recounted the history of the winery and brought us up to speed on the work in the vineyard since the last harvest.

Visiting our adopted vines

We ventured out into the vineyard to pay a visit to our adopted vines.  They had been pruned at the start of the winter, but the cut branches hadn’t yet been pulled clear of the training wires, giving some the occasion to have a go at this fairly physical activity!

We then divided into two groups, one going with Marc to the chai, and the other heading to a workshop to train our senses to help us better taste wines.

Marc explains the vinification process in the chai

In the chai, Marc gave us an insight into the world of vinification and his chosen way for making wine.  He uses gravity to put the grapes into the vats to best avoid any damage to the grapes.  He then closely monitors the wines to control the fermentation process, and then chooses how to age the wines, either in vats or in different types of oak barrels.

Putting our noses to the test in the aroma workshop

In the caveau, we put our noses to work!  Wine gives off lots of different aromas that we can put into three categories.  The primary aromas are linked to the grape varietal, the secondary aromas to the way in which the wine is vinified, and the tertiary aromas from the way that the wine is aged.  We tried to identify different aromas to help us prepare for the wine tasting to follow.

Lunch prepared by Mme Plouzeau

After this full morning, it was the time for lunch.  A lovely meal, prepared by Mme Plouzeau, was accompanied by wines from the winery, including an avant-première tasting of Marc’s latest wine, “Silice”, a Chinon white which paired perfectly with the starter.

We continued the day with a visit to the cellar underneath the Chinon fortress where the wines are aged.

This magical place is a large cave, forming one of many underground galleries beneath the streets of Chinon.  It was from here that the stone was extracted to build the castle above.  The cellar has been in the family for 3 generations and Marc uses it to age his wines in oak barrels.

In the cellar beneath the Chinon fortress to taste the wines that are still ageing

We had the good fortune to taste a number of different wines that are still in the ageing process.  This is an unconventional way to taste wines as they have yet to reach their maturity and so you have to try and imagine what they might become in a few months or even years time!  As we were to find out, some of the wines still have many months to go before their tannic structure softens.

And so the day drew to a close after this wine tasting full of potential and promise.  We now have to wait patiently until the Clos de la Bonnelière will be ready for bottling!

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The role of vats, barrels and other types of container in making wine


With all of the different Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Days taking place at the moment in our different partner wineries, we’ve been struck by the multitude of different methods and techniques used in the cellar to make and age wine depending on the different regions and partners. In this article we wanted to take a closer look at just one of these differences, that difference being the type of container used to produce wines. Here’s a quick overview of some of the different containers used to make wines.

After the harvest, the winemakers have to make a whole raft of crucial decisions in the cellar that will directly impact the quality, taste, and characteristics of their wines. Among them is the choice of container to age the wine once the fermentation has finished. Generally speaking, once the second fermentation has finished the wines are racked, and they are transferred from their fermentation tank to another container to continue their ageing process. There are lots of different types of container, but the most popular by far are either vats or barrels.

Vats

Vats come in all shapes and sizes, and can be made from different materials. The largest capacity vats can hold up to 1 000 200 litres, which is the colossal amount that the world’s largest oak vat holds at the Caves Byrhh. Vats of this size are far from the norm as there are very few wineries that would have the space to house them!

Unique wine gift, Alsace, France

The most common materials used to make vats are stainless steel, concrete and wood. Each has its own advantages. Wood and concrete vats are more porous and allow a micro-oxygenation of the wine which can be something favourable that the winemaker is looking for to make the wines softer and rounder. Wooden vats can also bring some extra tertiary aromas to the wine, particularly when they are new, to add to those present from the fruit and terroir. Stainless steel vats don’t allow these aromas to develop, but they can have the advantage of concentrating the aromas on the primary and secondary ones found in the must. All depends on what type of wine the winemaker wants to develop!

Wine making experience, Burgundy, France

When it comes to the shape, we often imagine that they are all more or less cylindrical, and that is indeed the case in the majority of wineries, but there are also less common forms such as cubic, ovoid, pyramidal, or rectangular. Each shape has its advantages. For example, an ovoid vat allows the wine to perpetually move, keeping the lees in suspension, without having to stir the lees at all. This results in fuller, more concentrated wines.

Original wine gift, Chablis, Burgundy, France

Barrels

When you think of wine ageing at the winery, more often than not you will think of it doing so in an oak barrel. The volume that a barrel holds varies from region to region, and in French, there are also different names for them depending on the region and the size of the barrel. For example, in Bordeaux, the typical Bordelaise barrel, a “barrique,” can hold 225 litres (300 standard sized bottles of wine). A Bordelaise “tonneau” is four times bigger, containing 900 litres, and it is this size of barrel that is used for pricing the wines. In Burgundy, the standard measure for a barrel of wine is called the “pièce” and has a capacity of 228 litres (304 standard sized bottles of wine). For much larger quantities there also the “foudres”.

Wine experience gifts, Loire Valley, France

There are two main reasons why the winemaker might choose to use oak barrels. The first is the micro-oxygenation that takes place as we mentioned in the section before on vats. The second is the impact that the interaction between the wine and the oak has on the aroma and taste of the wine. The majority of tertiary aromas found in wine are developed thanks to prolonged contact with the oak. Vanilla, cinnamon, hazelnut, toast, leather, etc – different aromas depending on the type of wood, its origin, and the way in which it was toasted during the manufacture of the barrels. Choosing the right barrel that will enhance the characteristics of a wine without overpowering it can be a difficult decision for the winemaker.

Vineyard experience, Bordeaux, France

Choosing the right container

Each type of container has its qualities and its supporters, the choice resting with the winemaker to help produce the desired wine. At our partner winemakers, we often taste the same wine that has been aged in different types of container. For example at Domaine la Cabotte, they have started to test using clay amphorae like the Romans used. They are trying to benefit from the porosity of the clay jar for the micro-oxygenation that is similar to a barrel, but without the exchange of tannins and development of tertiary aromas.

Wine lover gift, Rhone Valley, France

Whatever the choice of the container to be used, its impact will diminish as the volume increases, as the surface area becomes smaller relative to the volume of wine contained. The larger the container, the slower the ageing process will be. Controlling the temperature is also important, not just during the fermentation process, but during ageing as well to regulate the ability of the oxygen to dissolve into the liquid. Yet more choices for the winemaker!

 

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


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

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

Rent a vin, Languedoc, France

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

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

Wine gift packs, Languedoc, France

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

Wine tasting gift, Languedoc, France

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

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

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Wine-making Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


The Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte got started as always with one eye turned towards the weather. We’d had lots of wind from the mistral for the previous few days in the Rhone Valley, but everything had calmed down by Saturday. The sun was shining and the vibrant green of the first vine leaves were gleaming. Everything was in place to share a great day.

Our guests arrived from as far afield as Belgium and the Reunion Island, as well as from closer to home such as Marseille, Avignon and Courthezon.

Rent a vine, Rhone Valley, France

After the introductions and a welcome croissant, we set off to greet our adopted vines. For some it was their first meeting, for others a warm reunion and the pleasure of taking a photo with the first buds peeking through.

Under the spring sunshine, Eric, the winemaker, took us to the highest vineyard plot behind the chai to start talking about the vinification process. It was a good way to remind us that everything starts in the vineyard and results from the earth under our feet. We briefly touch on topics as varied as pruning, biodynamics and the influence of the terroir on the taste of the wines.

Vineyard experience, Rhone Valley, France

The questions flow and the time flies by. We return to the wine boutique to start getting down to some practical work.

Marie-Pierre had prepared some pens and paper, and some small bottles containing the aromas to be found in red and white wines. It was a workshop designed to try and help us identify different aromas. It can be a very frustrating experience as you know you know the aroma, but you just can’t put a name to it... “I know that smell. What is it? Lemon. No, wait, grapefruit?... Ah that one I know for sure. Lime tree! I’ve got one in my garden.”

Wine making experience, Rhone Valley, France

One of our participants managed to correctly name all of the aromas!

We then hurried to the chai to put our new found nasal skills to the test, this time with real wines!

Eric spoke passionately and expertly about what happens in the vat, how the work of the yeast is measured daily, how the temperatures rise and fall as the fermentation starts and then slows down. A good wine doesn’t just happen by itself, and we had the honour of tasting some of the wines that are still in the ageing process in the chai.

Wine lover gift,Rhone Valley, France

À table ! Marie-Pierre had put a bench out in the sun for the aperitif of the delicious Colline rosé wine. Over lunch, freshly prepared by Marie-Pierre, we continued the tasting with the Colline white and red wines, and then the Massif d’Uchaux red wines.

Wine experience, Rhone Valley, France

To honour the Chateauneuf-du-Pape made at Domaine la Cabotte, Jacqueline, the sommelier, enchanted us with a little poem that had been written by a friend of Pétrarque who was familiar with the Vaucluse region:

 

« Je veux vous chanter mes amis
ce vieux Châteauneuf que j'ai mis
pour vous seuls en bouteille 
il va faire merveille... 
Il est fils des côteaux pierreux
Que Phoebus brûle de ses feux
C'est un divin dictame 
qui enchantent nos âmes ».

 

The day ended back in the chai where there still remained much to talk about. Blending wines, the different types of container to store the wines – stainless steel, wood, or amphorae. We also talked about how the chai itself had been designed to work using natural gravity as much as possible, about bottling, and the different demands of clients in different countries.

Unique wine gift, Rhone Valley, France

Having stocked up with a few bottles to take home, it was time to end the day, hoping that the wine will continue to tell its story when it is poured into a glass.

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Winemaking in the Rhone Valley


For this second Vinification Experience Day of the year at Domaine la Cabotte in the Côtes du Rhône wine making region of France, we were blessed with magnificent sunny weather all day long.
Wine making experience, Rhone Valley; France

After the initial introductions, Eric started to tell us about his work as a winemaker. He told us about the important choices that have to be taken in the vineyard, how to choose when to harvest, and about the steps taken to transform the grapes into quality wine.

The winery is both organically and biodynamically certified, and Eric explained the impact that this has had on the estate’s wines over the years. There is a big difference not just in the working techniques used, but also in the quality of the wine that is produced.

Wine lover gift, Rhone Valley, France

We then gathered outside for a workshop to awaken our senses. We had to try and identify the aromas that can be found in wine through the fruit or the way that it has been made.

Wine tasting gift, Rhone Valley, France

Eric then told us all about how to blend wine, and we tasted different wine blends from the 2015 vintage that are still in the ageing process to see for ourselves.

Unique wine gift, Rhone Valley, Mondragon

We then enjoyed an aperitif before sitting down to a meal prepared by Marie-Pierre. An endive, lentil end turmeric salad, beef stew, local goat’s cheese, and some almond cake to finish. During the lunch, we tasted several of the estate’s wines starting with the Colline rosé 2015, then proceeding with the Garance 2014 Massif d’Uchaux red wine, the Gabriel 2014 Massif d’Uchaux red, and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 red.

In the afternoon, we took a short stroll to visit our adopted vines and take some photos. Eric talked some more about the specificity of the different soil structures found in the Uchaux area, and the impact of biodynamics.

Adopt a vine france, Mondragon , Rhone Valley

We now have to wait patiently until the 2015 vintage of our Garance wine has finished ageing. Many thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre for their warm welcome, and to all of the participants for making it such a good day.

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The art of vinifiying, ageing and tasting wine


We welcomed some of our apprentice winemakers for a couple of wine experience days to discover the secrets of winemaking at Château de la Bonnelière in France’s Loire Valley.

A welcome coffee to set us on our way before we headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard to meet, or for those who had already joined us for a Discovery or Harvest Experience Day, to catch up with our adopted vines. The 2016 vintage has already begun with the pruning, and so we also gave a helping hand to pull away some of the cut branches from the vines!

Vineyard experience, Loire Valley France

After this energetic start, we were ready for the full programme of events that awaited us. A visit and wine tasting session of the 2015 wines that are still ageing in the winery’s troglodyte cellar underneath the Chinon fortress, a tour of the chai and a workshop to help us identify the aromas found in wine.

So off to the cellar first, where Marc, the winemaker and owner of Château de la Bonnelière, taught us about the differences in vinifying still and sparkling wines. Marc produces natural sparkling white and rosé wines by letting the second fermentation take place in the bottle and retaining the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast.

Wine making experience, Loire Valley, France

At the moment, the sparkling wines are being riddled, a task that Marc explained to us is necessary to collect all of the unwanted deposit of the dead yeast cells in the neck of the bottle. This deposit will then be removed from the bottles.

Before tasting the “Perles Sauvage” sparkling wine, we first had the chance to taste some of the 2015 still wines that are currently in the ageing process. We also had a fore-taste of our “Clos de la Bonnelière” 2015 wine which will remain in the barrels until next winter. Each of the wines are vinified separately according to the plot of vines they come from, and Marc explained the different choices he has made to age the wine in vats or oak barrels.

Wine gift pack, France, Loire Valley

Each explanation was accompanied by a tasting of the wine to appreciate the differences. We then returned to the winery for lunch, enabling us to taste the finished wines produced by Marc.

Wine tasting gift, Loire Valley, France

In the afternoon, we visited the fermentation hall and participated in a workshop dedicated to the aromas found in wine. In the chai, Marc, told us all about the work carried out during the fermentation period.

And so we finished with an exercise to identify the different aromas that the wines display depending on the grape varietal, terroir and the way that it has been worked.

Wine lover gift, Loire Valley, France

Another full and rich day at Château de la Bonnelière, and it’s always a little sad when we arrive at the end of the cycle of the Experience Days for a vintage! We’ll now have to wait patiently before tasting the final result of this most promising vintage!

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Wine-making Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


It was a full house for the first 2015 Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte. Eric and Marie-Pierre, the winemakers, were there as usual and this time were accompanied by their son Etienne, who joined the winery at harvest time last year. On the Gourmet Odyssey side, we also had the pleasure to welcome Jacqueline and Bertrand, both sommeliers, who will be running the next experience days.

At 9:30, once everyone had arrived and had finished their coffee and croissant, we introduced the day and Marie-Pierre presented the history of the winery, how it is named after the little “Cabotte”, a stone shelter for the workers in the vineyard, and how she and Eric became winemakers.

Vineyard experience, Rhône Valley

We then went to visit our adopted vines, and talked about the different grape varietals grown on the estate. The plot of vines where our adopted vines are located is planted with Grenache, and the Garance wine that we will end up with at the end of the experience, also contains Mourvèdre and Syrah.

Rent a vine in Rhône Valley, France

We then went to the chai to see what happens after the harvest. The grapes from the different vineyard plots are put into individual vats and go through two fermentation phases before being racked to separate the wine from the marc of solid matter such as the skin and pips. Eric explained how this part of the vinification process differs slightly for the white wines.

Throughout the vinfication period, there are many controls and decisions that the winemaker must make, but as Eric reminded us, much of the work is done in the vineyard before the harvest, especially for wineries like Domaine la Cabotte who work biodynamically.

After having answered lots of questions on organic and biodynamic wine making, and the work that they entail for the winemaker, we returned to the reception to put into practice our wine tasting skills. We started with a challenge to test our noses by identifying the primary and secondary aromas found in wine. It’s not such an easy thing to do!

And it’s a task that is even more difficult for the winemaker who must identify the aromas that are all intermingled following the blend of several wines and where tertiary aromas are also added depending on the choice of ageing the wine in oak barrels.

Wine tasting gift, Rhône Valley, France

Eric took us back to the chai to taste some of the 2015 wines that have been blended and are still in the process of ageing. Of the three wines, the first two had exactly the same age and the same proportion of different grape varietals, the only difference being that the second wine had been ageing in new oak barrels for a couple of months. We could already taste a big difference. The third wine had not completely finished its malo-lactic fermentation, and was measuring 10g of sugar per litre instead of the authorised maximum of 3g. More time is needed for this wine to finish fermenting.

Wine experience gift, Rhône Valleu, France

Once we had tasted these wines, it was time for lunch, which had been prepared by Marie-Pierre. We tasted some of the finished wines too, starting with the rosé with the starter. We then tasted the Garance and Gabriel 2014 red wines with the main course and cheese. We finished with a Château-neuf-du-Pape from a recently acquired vineyard which is worked entirely by hand and by horse.

We started the afternoon with a short walk around the vineyards whilst Eric explained the geology that makes the Massif d’Uchaux such a unique place, and gives the wine its special qualities.

Unique wine gift, Rhône Valley, France

We finished the day by learning what happens to the wine at the end of the maturing period and how it is bottled, labelled and packaged. Being biodynamic, this too is done in harmony with the lunar calendar that takes into account the position of the moon and the tidal coefficients. There are still a few months to wait until our 2015 vintage of the Garance wine will be ready, but as Eric said, you need time to become mature and wise!

Many thanks to all of the participants for your curiosity

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Wine-making Experience Day in Bordeaux


We started the Vinification Experience Days for the 2015 vintage last weekend at Château Beau Rivage in the Bordeaux region of France. We were welcomed by Christine, the owner of the winery, and Pauline and Corentin from her team. We then headed straight to the fermentation hall once we had finished our coffee and tea.

Christine explained how the grapes had been picked and put into the vats at harvest time, and then taught us all about the work during the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation processes.

Wine marking experience, Bordeaux, France

We then headed through to the cellar, where we discovered the fascinating world of barrels. They soften the tannins from the grapes, and bring smoothness and structure to the wine. This is where the 2015 wines, which our adopted vines have helped make, are currently resting and slowly maturing. We started to understand the benefit of ageing the wines in barrels and the art of blending wines in Bordeaux.

Unique wine gifts, bordeaux, France

We then made our way to the Nadalié cooperage that Chirstine’s family own and run, just a few kilometres away. After a quick visit, we settled around a table for the first practical session of the day. To help us to better describe the wines that we were to taste later on in the day, we put our noses to the test. We had to identify the aromas of different fruits, spices, leather and aromas emanating from wood, and they weren’t all easy to correctly guess!

Wine experience, Bordeaux, France

We finished the morning with the first wine tasting session. Christine and Pauline gave us two wines to taste from the same year. The two wines were of the same grape varietal, but from two different types of barrel. One was ageing in a French oak barrel and the other in an American oak barrel. The difference in taste and colour was amazing!

Personalised wine gift, Bordeaux, France

We then took a break in the restaurant of the cooperage for a cold buffet lunch of regional charcuterie, salads and cheese. Around the tables, we continued the discussion, and tasted the finished wines from the winery.

After lunch, it was back to work! We tasted samples of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot one by one. These are the principal grape varietals grown at Château Beau Rivage, and this exercise gave us the opportunity to identify the different tastes and characteristics they each have.

Wine tasting gift, Bordeaux, France

Split into small groups, we then tried our hand at being winemakers. Blending, tasting, testing, re-tasting, re-blending, re-tasting… A full afternoon creating wines, sometimes off-beat, and sometimes surprising!

We finished the days around 16:00 having had lots of fun, and having learnt a little more about the art of winemaking.

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Wine-Making Experience Day in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle


The first of the Wine Experience Days for the new year got underway last weekend at Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay. We were there with clients of the 2015 vintage for a couple of Vinification Experience Days.

Vineyard experience, Burgundy, France

The last in the series of the Gourmet Oydssey Wine Experience Days, the aim of this oenological session is to explain the important work and decisions that must be taken in the cellar to transform the grapes that were harvested last year into wine, and how to nurture the wines during the ageing process until they are ready for bottling.

Unique wine gifts, Burgundy, France

In order to explain the different aspects of the work, the day was divided into a series of workshops. To set the scene, Jean-François, the winemaker and owner of Domaine Chapelle, introduced us to the winery and gave us an overview of the Burgundy Appellation Contrôlée system by explaining the historical and geological events that led to the surrounding vineyards being classified as regional, village, premier cru or grand cru. In Burgundy, the terroir is the starting point for understanding the wines, but as Jean-François explained, the wine doesn’t make itself; it’s also the result of the climate, and the decisions that the winemaker takes in nurturing the vines and making the wine.

When tasting wines, the most difficult thing to do is to put words to the sensations that are stimulated. Yvette, Jean-François’ wife and partner in the winery, led us through a series of tests to help us better taste wine. First, we put our noses to good use to try and identify some of the aromas that can be found in the wines.

Wine gift packs, Burgundy, France

The first series contained primary and secondary aromas. Fruity or floral, these aromas were principally due to the grape varietal and terroir. The second series of tertiary aromas were more marked, introducing us to the types of aromas that can be found in wines that have been aged in oak barrels.

Yvette had also organised a tasting session for us, not of wine, but of four different water based solutions. We had to spot the sugar, salt, acid and bitter tasting waters, and to identify the different zones in the mouth that each one affects. This exercise can be very useful when tasting and describing the different structures of wines.

Wine liver gift, Burgundy, France

In the fermentation hall, Jean-François explained how the grapes are received and entered into the vats at harvest time. He then explained the work needed to monitor and control the fermentation process, plot by plot. There are lots of techniques that can be used to improve the quality of the wine, and Jean-François told us that the difficulty nowadays is deciding which ones to use and knowing when not to use one. His aim isn’t to produce wines that taste the same every year, but wines that are the best expression of the vintage in question and the potential of the terroir.

Once the first fermentation has finished, the red wines are then racked and put into barrels in the winery’s impressive underground cellar.

Wine making experience, Burgundy, France

Here, Jean-François talked about the ageing of the wine in barrels, and we tasted three different wines to better understand first-hand the different aromatic, gustative and structural characteristics that the barrels can bring to a wine.

Wine experience gifts, Burgundy, France

By the time we had finished in the cellar, it was already the end of the morning, so time for the aperitif! On Saturday, we enjoyed the sunshine and mild weather, and headed outside into the courtyard to taste the Santenay St Jean white wine, and to ask Jean-François some more questions.

Wine tasting gift, Burgundy, France

Over lunch, we continued the wine tasting with some of the winery’s red wines. To start with, the 2011 vintage of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the Clos des Cornières. We then compared it to a Santenay Premier Cru “Les Gravières” from the same year, before ending with an Aloxe Corton 2012.

After lunch, we headed out into the vineyard to meet up with our adopted vines. It’s the start of a new year for the My Vine photo competition, and a variety of interesting poses were quickly adopted!

Adopt a vine France, Burgundy

Jean-François explained the different zones of the vineyard that are made up from three different ages of vines. This was useful information because back at the winery, we had a final wine tasting session prepared for us. The wine from each of the three zones is vinified and aged separately, and we had the opportunity to taste a different 2015 wines from each zone, to see the difference that the age of the vines plays in the taste of the wine, and also between the soils in the different areas. Even though the vines are from the same vineyard, within it, there are two different types of soil structure.

Personalised bottles of wine, Burgundy, France

So as the day drew to a close, we had learnt that the winemaker’s job is far from over once the harvest is in. Through the different tasting sessions we had also learnt that there are many factors that can influence the taste and structure of the wine. Fortunately our 2015 vintage is in good hands with Jean-François, Yvette and Yannick, but we still have a few more months to wait as the wine develops and matures!

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Wine tasting workshop in Chinon


A nice sunny day welcomed the participants of the Vinification Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière on Sunday 7th June.

Over a coffee and croissant, Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker, told us about the family history at the winery. The estate has around 40 hectares of vines, stretching along the left bank of the Vienne river, producing organic red and white wines of the Chinon appellation.

A busy day awaited us to learn about the technical methods used to vinify the wines, an aroma workshop, a visit of the underground cellar, and a tour of the bottling and labelling station.

We started the day by dividing into two groups. The first went to the chai with Marc, and the second worked on our sense of smell, before we swapped activities.

To better recognise the subtle differences of the wines from the estate, we put our noses to the test to try and identify some of the aromas found in the wine. We learnt that some of the aromas are due to the grape varietal, others to the way the wine is made, and others are linked to the ageing process.

Wine making experience in France, Chinon

We were then better placed to understand the explanations that Marc gave us in the chai. He told us about the work carried out on the wine during the fermentation period. All of the wines are made and aged separately according to the vineyard that the grapes come from, and Marc also explained the different choices to age the wine in oak barrels or vats.

We then headed to the cellar, which is located underneath the Chinon castle. This cellar is the perfect place to store the wines as they age at a constant temperature and level of humidity.

Wine experience gifts in Loire Valley, Chinon

There, we had the privilege of tasting some of the 2014 wines that are still in the process of ageing. One of the vines is being aged in a vat, another in an old oak barrel, another in new oak, and the final wine was a press wine.

Wine tasting gift at Château de la Bonnelière, France

Back at the winery, we sat down to eat lunch outside. To accompany our meal we tasted a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc white wine, and five Chinon red wines from Château de la Bonnelière and Marc's new winery, the Croix Marie.

We resisted the temptation of a siesta in the sun to pay our adopted vines a visit, and take a few pictures for the "My Vine" photo competition.

Adop a vines in Loire Valley, France

We finished the day in the cool of the chai to see the machinery that is used to bottle and label the wines. We also talked about the different corks that are used and their pros and cons compared with other materials used to close the bottles.

Many thanks to Marc for sharing his knowledge and good humour with us!

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Wine making course in Bordeaux


Many thanks to all of the participants of the Vinification Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux last weekend. We spent a great time learning more about the art of blending wines and the work of the winemaker in the chai to vinify and age their wines.

The day started in the chai, where Christine Nadalié, the winemaker at Château Beau Rivage, explained how the grapes are received during harvest time and the work done during the fermentation period.

wine experience in Bordeaux

We then passed through into the barrel room. Christine comes from a family of coopers, and she spoke with passion about the role of the barrel in ageing wine.

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

Before starting the wine tasting workshops, we headed out into the vineyard to see the plot where our adopted vines are to be found. The first buds are starting to appear on the vines, and in no time at all, the first shoots will grow to mark the start of a new season.

rent a vines in Bordeaux

The first workshop concentrated on our sense of smell, which is one of the key senses used when tasting wines. We had to identify some of the aromas that can be found in wine with the help of some small bottles. It's not such an easy exercise!

Unique wine gift in Bordeaux, France

Then we blind tasted two wines to compare them. Both were from the same Cabernet Sauvignon grape varietal, from the same vine plot, and from the same year. The only difference being the barrel used to age the wine. The first was made from American oak and the second from French oak, resulting in two very different wines, aromatically and on the palate.

Personalised wine gift in Bordeaux

During lunch, we tasted a Clairet rosé wine, and five different Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut-Médoc red wines made by Christine.

The afternoon was dedicated to blending wines, starting with the tasting of the four major grape varietals cultivated at Château Beau Rivage; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. We noted the different characteristics of each.

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux

Then in small groups, we worked on different blends to better understand what each grape varietal brings to the final blend. The Merlot brings the fruitiness and roundness, the Malbec lovely aromas and colour, the Cabernet Sauvignon length in the finish, and the Petit Verdot a balancing acidity. It's amazing how just a small change in the percentage used of each grape varietal can have on the final wine.

Many thanks to Christine and Guillaume from Château Beau Rivage, and to all of the participants for this great moment spent together.

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The fundamentals of wine tasting

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Vinificiation and ageing of wine in Burgundy


We couldn't have asked for better weather for the latest Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle. The aim of the day was to learn more about the process of making and ageing wine, from harvest time until the wine is ready for bottling.
wine making experience in Burgundy, France

After a welcome coffee, the day started with a workshop in tasting wines, led by Yvette Chapelle. This session starts with an exercise to identify the different aromas that can be found in wine.

Original wine gift in Burgundy, France

We put our sense of smell to the test, first with the primary aromas of fruit and flowers, and then we tried to name a series of tertiary aromas that can be found in wines that have been aged in oak.

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy

The wine tasting session finished with a gustative test to identify the differences between sweet, saline, acidic and bitter solutions.

Personalised wine gifts in Burgundy

Jean-François Chapelle took us on a tour of the fermentation hall and the cellar. In the fermentation hall he explained how the wines ferment and worked in the period immediately following the harvest.

Wine making experience in Burgundy

In the cellar, we then learnt how the wines change when aged in different types of oak barrel. We tasted some wines direct from the barrel to see firsthand the differences in some of the 2014 wines that are currently ageing. Then it was time for the aperitif. A Santenay 2013 village white wine, accompanied by some gougères before sitting down to enjoy lunch.

Rent a vine in Burgundy

We headed out into the sunshine after lunch, and made our way to the Clos des Cornières vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found. Jean-François taught us a few more things about the local geology and the vines in general.

Wedding present wine in Burgundy

We finished the day back at the winery with a final tasting of the 2014 Clos de Cornières wine which is currently ageing in oak barrels in the cellar. The vineyard is made up of three distinct zones with three different ages of vines which are referred to as the Park, Young and Old. We tasted each of these wines separately, as the final wine will be made up of a blend of the three. Many thanks to the team at Domaine Chapelle for their warm welcome, and to our clients for their good cheer.

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Wine-Making Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte


St Valentine's Day this year saw a small group of wine lovers get together in the Rhone Valley at Domaine la Cabotte for a Vinification Experience Day. This wine course is the third and last in the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the aim of which is to demystify the work of the winemaker during the vinification and ageing stages of making wine. We had the perfect hosts for such an occasion in Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet, two passionate winemakers who speak with sincerity and conviction about their profession.

Wine gift pack in Rhône Valley, Mondragon

The day began in the chai where we learnt how the wine is worked during the fermentation period. The winery is both organically and biodynamically certified, and so Eric also took the opportunity to explain the fundamentals of biodynamic farming. The winery makes red and white wines, and for the first time for many years, has added a rosé wine to the range for the 2014 vintage. Eric & Marie-Pierre told us of the different techniques required in making each of these types of wine. Stéphanne taught us how to taste wines properly, and we finished with a tasting of the Sauvageonne 2014 white wine directly from the barrel.

Wine experience in France at Mondragon

Back in the warmth of the boutique, we put our noses to the test. With the help of some small flasks, we had to identify twenty different aromas that can be found in white and red wines, a task more difficult that it seems, but always fun to try!

Vineyard experience in France, Rhône Valley

Next, we continued with the tasting of wines that are still in the process of ageing. We tasted three red wines from the 2014 vintage, the Garance, Gabriel and Châteauneuf du Pape Vielle Vignes. Eric & Marie-Pierre talked us through the different blends used for each wine, and the characteristics that each grape varietal brings to the wine.

Wine making experience in Rhône Valley

The Colline 2014 red wine had been bottled just a week before, and so before lunch, we took the opportunity to give it its first tasting. A very fruity and fresh wine which had opened up nicely despite its young age. We then tasted the Colline 2014 white wine, followed by the Garance 2013, Gabriel 2012, Châteauneuf du Pape Vielles Vignes 2012 and the new Colline 2014 rosé wine during the meal.

Rent vines at Domaine la Cabotte, in Rhône Valley

To help us digest all of that, we started the afternoon by taking some fresh air. We first visited the vineyard plot where our adopted Grenache vines are to be found. Eric then took us on a stroll around the vineyard to learn more about the geology, terroir and the biodynamic practices used.

Wine lover gift in Rhône Valley

The day finished back where we started, in the chai. Eric explained how the wine is bottled and the importance in choosing the correct corks. Marie-Pierre also showed us the labelling machine in operation.

Personnalised bottles of wine in Mondragon, France

So another very instructive day, full of interesting information. As usual, many thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre, and to all of our participants for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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Choose your fridge to keep your wine


At Christmas time, the gift ideas for wine lovers abound, and one of the popular ideas is a wine fridge. There is a very varied range of options to choose from with differing functionalities. The price can vary from between 500 and 15 000 euros depending on the model, so how do you choose between them?

A reminder on how to best conserve wines

To best store and age your wines in the optimum conditions, it's best to have as stable a temperature as possible, between 10 and 14°C. You also need to adapt the humidity depending on the length you wish to keep the wines. The wine should also be shielded from light and protected from vibrations because these can speed up the ageing process. For more information on storing wines, please refer to our article « Storing and serving wine for the festive season ».

 

Wine fridges for different purposes

Given the range of price and the different capabilities of the wine fridges, your choice will be made according to your budget and the person for whom the gift will be made. An adept wine connoisseur with precious wines to store will likely have more precise requirements than someone who wants a machine to simply bring the wines to the desired temperature before serving.

Generally speaking there are three types of wine fridge. Those designed for keeping wines for a long period where the temperature is kept constant at about 12°C throughout the fridge. The capacity can vary between 170 and 230 bottles for the largest ones, depending on the type of bottles to be stored.

Serving fridges are designed for the opposite purpose, not for storing wines, but for stocking them anywhere between a few hours or days before opening. The idea is to bring the wine to the ideal temperature for serving. They generally have a smaller capacity, between 10 and 40 bottles. The most advanced models have several zones to set different temperatures, enabling red wines to be warmed slightly, and white wines to be chilled at the same time.

And then there are general purpose wine fridges that enable all of the above, to either store or prepare wines for serving, with zones in the fridge ranging from 7 to 20°C. Some even allow open bottles to be stored in a vacuum to keep them a few days longer. But be careful, because general purpose doesn't always mean quality and efficiency! What are the criteria to take into account when buying a wine fridge?

 

The questions to ask

The first point to check is how the fridge is to be used. Storing wines for a long time, bringing wines to the correct temperature, or for storing a small number of bottles for example. Depending on the use, you'll choose between the three different types mentioned above. Another factor to take into account is whether the humidity level needs to be controlled. This is less important if the wines are to be stored for a relatively short period of time, compared to laying bottles down for many years.

Where the fridge will be located is the next question to ask. The available space will determine the dimensions. The design will also be more or less important depending on how visible the fridge will be. For the very design conscious, be aware however of glass doors, which aren't recommended for long term storage. It's better to go for solid or anti-UV treated doors.

It's also good to check the energy rating of the fridge, which has to be legally mentioned. The rating from A to C is specific to wine fridges and is useful to consider, because they can consume lots of energy.

The last advice is to go and physically see the fridges because you can also evaluate other factors such as the amount of noise it generates if you live in a relatively confined space, or the style if it is to feature in the middle of your living room.

 

So even though, there may be a large choice available, hopefully these few pointers will help you find the type of wine fridge best suited to your budget and use. All that's left to do is get out there and do some shopping

 

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Blending wine in Bordeaux


We spent a sunny weekend in Bordeaux for the last of the 2013 vintage Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage. The aim of this wine course is to better understand the vinification, ageing and blending of wine. As we were to find out, the work of the winemaker is far from over once the grapes have entered the chai at harvest time!

To start talking about the fermentation and vinification stages, there is no better place than the chai, and it was here that Christine Nadalié, the winemaker at Château Beau Rivage, explained all about the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation.

Wine making : alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation

Christine comes from a family of coopers and as she says, she fell into a barrel at a very young age! The barrel room at the winery is very impressive, and Christine talks with as much passion about her barrels as she does her wines. She explained the importance of the source of the oak used for the barrels and the different toasts that are used to influence the structure of the wine. With the stirring of the lees, topping up the angel's share, and racking the barrels, there's more than enough to keep the maitre de chai busy!

winery visit Bordeaux Château Beau Rivage

We then took a few minutes to venture into the vineyard and enjoy the sunshine. With a week to go before Easter, instead of hunting for the Easter eggs, we searched for the adopted vines!

vine adoption Bordeaux France

The Vinification Experience Day is the course where we taste the most wine. To better prepare us for the wine tastings, we organised a workshop to identify the aromas found in wine. When tasting wines, finding the words to describe our impressions is often the most difficult thing.

wine aromas tasting Bordeaux workshop

The first tasting was blind, and we had to find the difference between two wines. They were both however identical wines, the only difference being the type of barrel that they had been aged in. The comparison showed us the aromatic and difference in taste of a wine aged in French oak and a wine aged in American oak.

wine tasting at the winery in Bordeaux

At lunchtime, we dined in the 1902 restaurant, located at the family cooperage. During the meal we tasted wines from the range made by Christine.

Blending wines is a true art form, and we set aside the afternoon to better understand it. First of all, we tasted wines from four different grape varietals separately - merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot to appreciate the characteristics of each.

wine blending in Bordeaux France

We then made several blends to see how the wine changes when different combinations of grape varietals are used. Even a small change in percentage can have a big impact on the final wine. We gradually honed our blends to try and find the best wine.

Many thanks to Christine and Guillaume from Château Beau Rivage for sharing their passion for their profession with us, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm. We now just have to wait patiently as we give the wine the time to age sufficiently before knowing the blend that Christine will choose for our cuvée!

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2013 Vintage. Vinification and ageing of wine


At this time of year, the vines are nearing the end of their winter rest. The winemakers are finishing preparing the vineyards for the 2014 vintage, and are busy attending wine fairs to showcase their 2011 and 2012 wines. But what's happening in the cellar with the 2013 vintage?
harvest chai grapes Bordeaux

 

As soon as the grapes are harvested, they start the vinification process to extract the different compounds from the grapes and to optimise the quality of the wine produced. Once the grapes are brought to the chai from the vineyard, the grape must starts to ferment to transform the sugar into alcohol with the help of yeast. The juice then becomes wine. Often a second fermentation then takes place to turn the malic acid into lactic acid, making the wine rounder and softer. The wine then enters the ageing period in vats or oak barrels.

winery tank red wine Burgundy

The general principle seems fairly straightforward, but there are different processes according to grape varietal, colour and wine producing regions. And at each step, the winemaker takes decisions that are crucial in influencing the aroma and taste of the wine. These choices are personal and so there are as many different ways of vinifying and ageing wine as there are winemakers!

Without going into specific vinification details for rosé, sparkling or sweet wines, there are two principal details for vinifying white and red wines.

wine press white wine Alsace

First the white wines. Once the grapes have been picked and sorted, and have arrived in the chai, they are put into a wine press to extract the juice from the grapes. The time that the pulp and grape skins are in contact with each other is very short for white wine, explaining why the wine is lightly coloured. Next the juice is clarified by removing the solid particles present in the must, such as skin, pip or stalk particles. This is done by letting the particles settle or by centrifuge. The juice then ferments to become wine and enters the ageing phase which can be just a few weeks or a few years for wines that are made for keeping. Ageing can be in barrels or vats.

For the red wines, the process is slightly different. Once the grapes have been picked and sorted, they are put into a vat, either whole or having been separated from the stems. Sometimes the grapes are lightly crushed to set free some of the must. In the vat the grapes are left to macerate so that the juice can extract the tannins and colour from the skin and pips.

wine bottles cellar Burgundy

The alcoholic fermentation starts at the same time and generally lasts between one and three weeks. Once it has finished we draw off the liquid. The remaining solid matter is known as marc and is then pressed to extract the wine that has been soaked into it. This is known as press wine, and the winemaker can choose whether or not to blend it with the rest of the wine. The wine is then left to finish the fermentation, alcoholic and malo-lactic, before being aged in barrels or vats.

wine ageing in cellar Loire Valley

At each step of the way, the winemaker tastes the grapes and wines, analyses them, and then makes a multitude of decisions such as how strong to press, whether to de-stem the bunches, how long to let the wine macerate, how long to age the wine, whether to use vats or barrels... As many important choices as there are different wines!

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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 !

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