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Tagged articles : Blending

Learning how to blend wine in Bordeaux


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

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

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

Learning how wine ferments

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

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

Learning about the interaction between wine and oak barrels

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

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

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

Workshop to develop the wine tasting senses

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

Tasting wines that are still in the process of ageing

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

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

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

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

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

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Wine-making and blending experience day in the Rhone Valley


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

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

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

Original wine enthusiast gift to learn about wine-making

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

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

Tasting the wines that are still ageing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Blending wine in Bordeaux


We spent last weekend in Bordeaux for a couple of Vinification Experience Days to learn all about the winemakers work in the cellar to age and blend wine. On Saturday we were accompanied by David, the Winery Manager, and Pauline who is in charge of wine tourism, and on Sunday the owner of the winery, Christine, led the way.
Vineyard experience, Bordeaux, France

After coffee and croissants, the two wine experience days started with a visit of the fermentation hall. Here, David and Christine, explained the vinification process since the harvest. How the grapes were sorted and put into the vats, how the fermentation period transformed the sugar into alcohol, pumping over the wine, the malo-lactic fermentation phase...

Wine gift packs, Bordeaux, France

We then headed into the barrel room to talk more about how the wine is aged and the role of the wooden barrels in maturing the wine. We also covered a whole host of topics as varied as sulphites and organic wine-making, and saw the barrels where our 2015 wine is slowly going through the ageing process. Christine’s family also run a cooperage, and it is there that we went for our first wine tasting workshop. Before sampling the wines, we tried to familiarise ourselves with the aromas found in wines by identifying different smells.

Wine tasting gift, Bordeaux, France

We then tasted two Merlot wines which had each been aged in barrels, but one was made of French oak, and the other American oak. The difference between the two wines was really quite surprising!

Wne lover gift, Bordeaux, France

A glass of rosé followed, and then à table! We continued tasting the finished red wines of the winery over lunch.

Personalised wine gift, Bordeaux, France

Then back to work in the afternoon for the blending workshop. First we tasted each of the wines from different grape varietals separately, and then we tried our hand at blending. Measuring the wine, blending, tasting, and then re-blending! True budding winemakers with results that were more or less promising. We learnt that blending wines is a true art form!

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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 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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Wine blending in the Languedoc


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

Wine experience gifts in Languedoc

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

Rent a vine in Languedoc

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

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

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

Unique wine gift in Languedoc

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

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

Personalised wine gift in Languedoc

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

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

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

Wine tasting gift in Languedoc

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

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

wine making experience in Languedoc

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

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

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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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Wine blending workshop in Bordeaux


Last weekend saw us travel to Bordeaux for a couple of Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage. During these oenology courses, we learnt more about the work of the winemaker in the chai during the fermentation and ageing stages of wine-making. We also got the chance have a go at blending some wines, giving us a better appreciation of the complexity of this wonderful profession. 

Wine experience gifts in Bordeaux

The days began at the château, and after a coffee and the introductions, we headed over to the chai. Christine Nadalié, the winemaker and owner, started by explaining how the wine is worked in the vats during the weeks following the harvest.

Wine gift packs in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage

Once the fermentation has finished, the wine is transferred into barrels. Christine told us how the wine interacts with the oak, and of the different tasks that are performed in the barrel room such as topping up the barrels to replace the angels share and in stirring the wines to keep the lees in suspension. As Christine comes from a well-known family of coopers, she talks about her barrels with as much passion as she does her wines!

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

The Vinification Experience Day is the day when we taste the most wines. When tasting wines, often the most difficult thing is to find the words to accurately describe what we think of it. So before getting down to the serious business of tasting, we took a few minutes to put our senses to the test in identifying some of the aromas that can be found in wines due to their grape varietal or due to being aged in wood. It's not always as simple as you would think!

Unique wine gifts in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage

Then to our first tasting. Two identical wines but each aged in different types of barrel to better appreciate the influence of the barrel on the nose and structure of the wine.

Personalised bottles of wine in Bordaux at Château Beau Rivage

During the meal, prepared by the chef of the 1902 restaurant, we tasted some of the different Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut Médoc wines that are made by Christine.

Wine making Experience in Bordeaux, France

The afternoon was devoted to blending the wines. We started by tasting 4 different grape varietals separately, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvingnon and Petit Verdot, each of which are still being aged. By tasting them in turn, we were better able to identify the distinct characteristics that each holds. We then blended several different wines to try and create the blend that is best suited to each of our tastes.

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux, France

Blending wine is a real art, and it's amazing to see the impact that a small change in the percentage of the grape varietal used can have on the wine. There are so many things to think of, to learn and to try and project into the future, that it's impossible to learn everything in one day. But fortunately, we have an expert winemaker to look after our wine! Many thanks to all of our participant for two excellent days spent in Bordeaux.

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Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte


A beautiful sunny day welcomed the clients of the 2013 vintage to Domaine la Cabotte for the Vinification Experience Day last Saturday! No working in the vineyard this time, as that is now the work of the next vintage, but instead a series of workshops to understand what has happened to the grapes since the harvest.

 

Vineyard visit Rhone Valley Domaine la Cabotte

To get us started, Marie-Pierre, the owner of the winery, explained to us how she arrived in the Massif d'Uchaux from her native Burgundy, and how she has planted and developed the lion's share of the vineyard with her husband, Eric, over the past 20 years. We spent a few minutes visiting our adopted vines, which have now been pruned during the winter months ready for the next campaign.

Vine adoption in the Rhone Valley

Back in the chai, we got down to the serious matters of the day. Marie-Pierre told us all about the vinification of red and white wines, both of which are made on the estate. She told us how the wines are then aged. Marie-Pierre showed us the different tools that are used in the chai, such as the plungers used to push the cap of grape skins and pips down into the wine, and the metal flags that are lowered into the vats to control the temperature. We then tasted some white wine from the 2013 vintage, directly from the barrel.

Wine tasting at the Domaine Rhone Valley

In the wine boutique Marie-Pierre showed us that to make a good wine, you must have good grapes, perfectly ripened, to obtain the most aromatic wine. She showed us how to estimate the alcoholic potential of the wine and how to measure the density of the wine to know if the fermentation has finished.

Wine tasting masterclass Domaine la Cabotte France

We then participated in a workshop to help us identify the different aromas that we can find in wine, whether from the fruit itself, or the choices made by the winemaker in ageing the wine. Next, we tasted the three red grape varietals grown on the estate, and then had a go making our own blends. Marie-Pierre prepared a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache used to typically make the "Garance" wine which the Gourmet Odyssey clients receive.

Wine blending masterclass France Rhone Valley

We tasted some of the finished wines from the estate over the lunch that Marie-Pierre had prepared, starting with the Colline and Sauvageonne white wines. We then tasted the Colline, Garance, Gabriel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape red wines.

After lunch, we headed back out into the vineyard, where Marie-Pierre explained what makes the Massif d'Uchaux terroir special, and how the soil has been worked since the last harvest to prepare the next one.

Vineyard tour at Domaine la Cabotte France

The day ended back in the chai for a few explanations of biodynamic winemaking, and Marie-Pierre also told us how the wines are bottled and labelled before being ready to be poured into our glasses!

Many thanks to all the participants for their good humour and curiosity

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Vinification Experience Day in the Languedoc


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

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

 

Winemaking gift at the winery in Pezenas, France

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Wine tasting gift in Pezenas, Languedoc France.

 

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

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Cellar work in Chinon


We spent last Saturday in the Loire Valley for a Vinification Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière.   The aim of this day spent at the winery is to learn more about the work that is done in the cellar to age the wine and bring out the best of its potential.

In the chai, Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, explained how the grapes are handled during the harvest, and how the grape juice is then turned into wine.  Marc told us all about malo-lactic fermentation and the differences between ageing wine in vats and barrels.

 

Winemaking Gift in France. Blend your own wines during the Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day

 

Once the ageing has finished, which can take up to 18 months after the harvest depending on the year and the type of wine, the wine is then bottled in-situ at the winery.  Marc showed us the machines used to bottle and label the wine.

 

Adopt-a-vine in the Loire Valley and visit the winery with the winemaker.

 

We then sat down to a workshop to help us identify the aromas found in wine, something that is not as easy as it seems!

 

Wine tasting gift in France. Identify the aromas found in wines.
Before settling down to lunch, we tasted one of the sparkling wines produced by Marc, the Perles Fines.  During the meal, we continued the wine tasting with a Chenin white wine and two of the winery's red Chinon wines, the Clos de la Bonnelière and the Chapelle.

 

The cellar used to age the wines produced by Château de la Bonnelière is located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress, in one of the galleries formed from where the rock was extracted to build the castle above.  In this magical place, we saw where the barrels of wine will be brought to continue the wines maturing.

 

Wine blending gift in France. Blend wines in the cellar at Chinon
We tasted 4 wines from the 2013 vintage that are currently in the ageing process.  The first 3 were each from the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, home to the vines of the Gourmet Odyssey clients, but are ageing in either a stainless steel vat, old oak or new oak barrels.  To compare these wines with a different terroir, we also tasted a Chapelle wine that is ageing in oak.

 

The day finished with us each having a go at blending these four wines.  Using measuring cylinders, we blended several different wines to better understand firsthand the different characteristics that each can bring to a finished wine.

Many thanks to all of the participants and to Marc for sharing his passion of winemaking with us.

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Blending wines in Bordeaux


We spent the first weekend of February on the banks of the Garonne river for a couple of Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage.  After working in the vineyard and the harvest, this third day of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience picks up where we left off after the harvest and takes us through to the bottling of the wine, with particular attention paid to the art of blending.

Wine Making Gift in Bordeaux France.

We started the day in the chai with Christine Nadalié, the château's winemaker.  She explained how the grapes were received during the harvest and how the grape juice was transformed into alcohol during the fermentation process.

Vineyard Tour in Bordeaux, France.

Next door, in the barrel room, Chrsitine told us about the work done whilst the wine is ageing such as stirring the lees and topping up the barrels.  Christine comes from a family of coopers, and so she let us in on the fascinating world of barrels and the harmony between oak and wine.

Wine lover gift. Adopt-a-vine and get involved in making your own wine

Once we had visited the chai, the plan was to visit our adopted vines.  However on the Saturday it started to pour down with rain at that point so we changed the plan.  On Sunday, we got booted up and braved the mud to take a look at our vines!

Rent-a-vine gift in France.

The Vinification Experience Day is where we taste the most wine.  To help us describe what we are tasting, we organised a workshop to help us identify the aromas that we can find in the wine.  It's not as easy as you would think!

Original wine enthusiast gift.

We then tasted three wines that are still in the process of ageing.  Each wine was from the same grape varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, picked on the same day from the same plot of vines, but each had been aged in a different type of barrel.  It's amazing to smell and taste the marked differences between the three wines.

Hands-on wine tasting course in Bordeaux, France

To accompany the lunch, we tasted several of the Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut-Médoc wines produced at the winery.

Lunch and wine tasting at the winery in Bordeaux

 

The afternoon was dedicated to blending, using the four principle grape varietals grown at Château Beau Rivage; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec.  First of all we tasted each grape varietal separately to appreciate the individual characteristics that each brings to a blended wine.

 

Wine blending gift, Bordeaux, France.

In small groups, we then made several different blends to understand for ourselves how we can make completely different styles of wine.

At the end of the afternoon, each group chose their best blend to present to Christine and the rest of the group.

All in all a day rich in information, aromas and tastes!

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Vinification and Ageing of wines in Burgundy


Last Saturday and Sunday we were at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay to learn more about the vinification and ageing of wines during the Vinification Experience Day.

 

Wine Course Domaine Chapelle Burgundy

 

Following an introduction to the winery and the Chapelle family, we started with a workshop to hone our senses in preparation for the different wine tasting sessions to come. With the help of some small sample bottles, we had to try and identify the aromas that can be found in wine, either naturally from the fruit and terroir, or those that are introduced during the ageing of the wine in oak barrels. It's not always very easy to do!

 

Wine course aromas tasting

We then worked on our palate to recognise the different feeling that sugary, salty, acidic and bitter flavours have on our tongue when we taste wines.

 

Wine tasting Domaine Chapelle Burgundy

After the workshops, we went into the cuverie and cellar to learn more about the fermentation of the wine after the harvest, and their subsequent ageing. We tasted some wines straight from both new and old barrels to learn firsthand the different impact that they have on the wine.

 

Winemakers meal Burgundy Domaine Chapelle

During lunchtime we tasted a range of wines from the winery before heading back down into the cuverie for a last exercise in blending wine. Even if Burgundy is a region of single grape varietals, the wines are sometimes blended if different parts of the same vineyard plot are harvested and vinified separately. At Domaine Chapelle, this is the case with the Clos des Cornières vineyard where the adopted vines of Gourmet Odyssey clients are located. There are three distinct areas, with three different ages of vines. We tasted each of the wines separately, and then had a go at trying different blends to try and find the perfect mix!

 

Wine blending Burgundy Chapelle

We finished the day with a visit to the Clos des Cornières vineyard to meet the adopted vines, and to take a few pictures for the "My Vine" photo competition.

 

Vine adoption Burgundy Domaine Chapelle

Many thanks to all the participants for their good humour and to Jean-François and Yvette for the passionate explanations!

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Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte


Last Saturday we had our first Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte under a beautiful sunny sky and a little bit of wind from the mistral. The aim of the day was to learn about the work in the cellar to ferment and age the 2013 vintage until it will be ready for bottling next year.

 

Domaine La Cabotte

 

We were welcomed by Eric & Marie-Pierre, the winemakers at Domaine la Cabotte, who started the day by showing us around the chai. Here we saw the vats full of wine, and Eric explained to us the first stages of fermentation. We quickly got down to the practical side of things with a tasting direct from the vats of some of the 2013 white and red wines that are still in the process of ageing. We compared them to the 2012 vintage to give an idea of how they will develop over time. We also learnt how to spit out the wine, so as not to saturate our taste buds with all the wine to be tasted!

 

Tasting Wine La Cabotte

 

Back in the warmth of the tasting room, we put our senses of smell to the test with a workshop to identify the aromas present in the wines at Domaine la Cabotte. It's not always as easy as it would seem...

 

Tasting blending wine

 

We then tasted wines from the three different grape varietials, grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre that will be used to make the Garance 2013, which is the wine selected for the Gourmet Odyssey clients. Following Eric's instructions we each then had a go at making several blends to see how the taste of the blended wine varies according to the grape varietials and percentages of each used.

 

Vine varietals blending Cotes du Rhone

 

After all this wine tasting, we were ready to sit down to eat a delicious home-made meal prepared by Marie-Pierre with other local specialities such as the winery's own olive oil and some truffles that their dog had found the day before! During the meal, we tasted some of the estate's finished wines, the Sauvageonne white wine, followed by the Garance and Gabriel red wines. Eric also explained to us the fundamentals and his passion for biodynamic wine-making.

In the afternoon we headed out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines. Eric took us on a little tour of the estate to show us the different vines and terroir.

 

Vineyard La Cabotte

 

We ended the day back in the chai, where Eric showed us the different preparations and tools used in biodynamic wine-making, and how the wine is bottled and labelled once it is finally ready to be sent out to the clients.

 

Bottling winery La Cabotte

 

We can't wait to see how the 2013 will age and mature over the coming months. Thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre for having welcomed us so warmly, and to all of the participants for their good humour.

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Vinification Experience Day in Chinon


Last weekend, we were welcomed by Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, for two Wine Experience Days covering the vinification, ageing and blending aspects of wine making.

Wine Making Gift Experience in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The day started at the winery with a hot drink and some croissants to get to know each other.  Marc Plouzeau then introduced us to the winery and its history, the different terroirs of the region and his vision of organic wine.  It was then time to start the practical side of proceedings!

Adopt your own vines in Chinon, France

The first workshop concentrated on our senses.  One of the most difficult things to do when tasting wine is to find the words to describe it and to explain why we like it or don't like it.   To help us, we had to identify the aromas contained in small flasks.  Some were easy to name, whilst other proved more subtle and difficult to pinpoint.  We identified the aromas in wine that are the result of the fruit and terroir, and those that are obtained when the wine is aged in oak barrels.

Gift for making your own wine in France, Loire Valley

We then headed to the chai to see the vats and some of the barrels.  Marc explained the choices he takes to produce the wine to the high standards he expects, and we learnt that it's a very detailed process where a small error can have a large impact on the quality of the wine.  He talked us through the fermentation process, when the sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol, and the malo lactic fermentation, when the wine becomes rounder by decreasing some of the acidity.  He also explained the difference between a wine aged in the vats and that which is aged in oak barrels.

Rent-a-vine Gift in France.

Then off to the vineyard to get some fresh air.  We stopped off to say hello to our adopted vines and to take some photos!

Wine tasting gift, red wine in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The morning now finished, we set off for the cellar to begin the wine tasting and to enjoy our meal.  The cellar, located under the Fortress of Chinon, is a very special place and was dug out by hand a couple of hundred years ago.  We started the tasting with a sparkling wine that has no added sulphur, the 'Perles Sauvages' 2011, and is perfect for an aperitif.  We then sat down to eat amongst the barrels in the cellar.  During the meal we tasted some of the different red wines, including the 'Clos de la Bonnelière 2011', which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients.

Oenology course in France with Gourmet Odyssey

A short tour of the cellar to digest the meal and wines, and then it was time to start the final workshop of the day to learn how to blend wine.
We split into groups and tasted 5 different wines from the 2012 vintage that are still in the process of ageing.  The wines were chosen to show the specificity between different Chinon terroirs and the choice of ageing in a barrel or vat.  There was also a press wine to bring more structure.  We then started to blend our own wines.  The aim was to find the best harmony by mixing different wines together.  Not as easy as it sounds, but when done right, the blend can make something much more interesting than any one of the wines on its own.

Many thanks to Marc Plouzeau for letting us in on his fascinating profession, one that is rich, varied and very interesting.  Thanks also to our apprentice winemakers for getting stuck in and we hope that you has as enjoyable day as we did!

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

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