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Tagged articles : Cellar

The work in the cellar during harvest time


Last Saturday we welcomed the Gourmet Odyssey adoptive parents of our Syrah vines to learn all about the work during harvest time.  However there were no grapes to harvest as 2017 has been a highly unusual year, and we had had to start the harvest on the 16th August, some two weeks ahead of normal. The hot and dry summer, with no rain since the 15th April meant that the grapes had ripened much quicker than usual.

And on top of that, our harvest lasted just three weeks as opposed to a month and a half, because we had to pick the grapes before what juice there was had dried up in order to have enough juice to make wine.

But don’t worry, there was still lots to do.  As we were to learn, the harvest isn’t just about picking grapes. There is also much to be done in the cellar at this time too, and so with the participants, we learnt all about the first stages of fermentation and the work in the fermentation hall at this crucial time of the year.

We started the day with a délestage and a remontage, or pumping over, of our two vats of mourvèdre. We measured the density of the must (grape juice that is fermenting and in the process of becoming wine) to track the rate of fermentation. Both vats were losing between 10-15 points a day. As the sugar is transformed into alcohol during the fermentation period, so the density of the must decreases.  It’s best when this happens regularly. During the fermentation, carbon dioxide is released and pushes the solid matter of pips and skins to the top of the vat.

Harvest Experience Day in the Laanguedoc wine area South of France

This solid matter contain the molecules that give the colour and tannins necessary for the wine. Therefore the wine that is at the bottom of the vat needs to be in contact with the solid matter that forms the cap of the vat. One technique used is known as pumping over whereby the juice from the bottom of the vat is pumped back into the top, where it will extract the colour and tannins from the cap as it filters through it. Délestage is another technique used whereby the juice is pumped into a second vat, and the cap allowed to settle on the bottom of the first vat.  The weight of all of the solid matter presses itself for a couple of hours before the juice is then returned to the original vat. We pass the majority of the morning performing these two tasks to ensure a good extraction of colour and tannins.

We then headed to the barrel room where the large 600 litre demi-muid barrel of roussanne were in full fermentation mode. Ghislain explained why he chose to ferment this wine in the barrels as opposed to the stainless steel vats for the mourvèdre, and the different impact they each have on the wine.

Winery tour and harvester meaal in Languedoc, France

With all of the nice wine aromas, our appetites were whetted. Delphine had prepared an explosion of tastes with a fresh tomato soup from the old varieties grown in the garden, then a colourful Crimée, Green Zebra and Marmande tomato salad, Puy lentil salad, cured meats, and local goats cheese from the Mas Roland. We finished the meal with coffee and home-made chocolate fondant.

The meal was accompanied by a range of wines from Allegria, starting with the Dolce Vita 2016, followed by the Cinsault Abuelo 2016, Carignan Gourmand 2015, Tribu d’A 2015 red, and finishing with the Poivre de Mourvèdre 2014 and our La Belle Histoire 2015.

Adopt-a-vine-experience at Domaine Allegria in Languedoc, France

After the full lunch, a walk was most welcome, and we headed out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines. We took a few souvenir photos, and saw how they had grown since the Discovery Experience Days. Ghislain explained the work that had been done in the vineyard and talked about the peculiarities of this 2017 vintage.

Vine adoption and harvest experience day in the South of France

The day drew to a close under the hot sun, and we’re looking forward to coming back for the Vinification Experience Days to see how the wines are shaping up and to learn what happens between now and the time when the wine is ready to be bottled.

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The art of wine-making in Alsace


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

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

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

Rent-a-vine gift in a French organic vineyard

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

Wine tasting workshop to develop wine tasting skills

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

Winery tour gift with the winemaker in Alsace, France

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

Fermenting and ageing pinot noir red wine in oak barrels

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

Make your own wine gift experience in Alsace, France

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

Wine tasting with the winemaker in Alsace

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

Learning how sparkling wine is made

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

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

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The 2017 wine guides reward our partner winemakers


With the recent launch of the 2017 wine guides, Gourmet Odyssey's partner winemakers have once again been selected by France's most renowned wine critics and rewarded for the quality of their wines. Here is an overview of the mentions that our partner winemakers received.

Château de la Bonnelière

Château de la Bonnelière, near Chinon in the Loire Valley, received a rating of 15.5/20 in the Bettane + Desseauve wine guide for the 2014 vintage of the Clos de la Bonnelière.  This is the red wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey for the adopt-a-vine Wine Experience.

And many more of their wines were also mentioned in the guide, such as the Clos des Roches Saint-Paul 2014, the Chapelle 2014, and the Rive Gauche 2015.

 

Domaine Chapelle

Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay had two of their wines selected for the 2017 Guide Hachette; Les Petites Lolières 2013 Aloxe Corton Premier Cru red wine and the Saint-Jean 2014 Santenay white wine who has “an intense nose of white flowers and yellow fruits, and a smooth, buttery finish on the palate with a good mineral freshness.”

 

Domaine la Cabotte

In the Rhone Valley, Domaine la Cabotte was also honoured.  Their Garance wine, the organic red wine also chosen by Gourmet Odyssey for the Wine Experience, was chosen by the Bettane+Desseauve wine guide, receiving a rating of 12.5/20 for the 2014 vintage. 

The wine was also selected for the Guide Hachette in which they described it as having “a harmonious nose with lovely black fruit, violet and spice aromas.  It is well balanced on the palate, at first smooth, but then becoming stronger with a lengthy finish.  Good potential.”

 

Domaine Stentz-Buecher

Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Wettolsheim, Alsace also had a number of their wines chosen for the Bettane + Desseauve 2017 wine guide.  The Who Am I? 2014 was rated 16/20, the Riesling Tannenbuehl Flavien 2014 received 13/20 and the Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2014 scored 16/20.

 

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard

In Chablis, the wines from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard were chosen multiple times in the different guides.  The Bettane + Desseauve 2017 wine guide included the Chablis Côte de Lechet Premier Cru 2014 and the Chablis Montmains Premier Cru  2015 wines among their top picks.

In the Meilleurs Vins de France wine guide, the Chablis Sainte-Claire, which was recently selected by Gourmet Odyssey, was the star.  It was rated 14.5/20 and described as being “fine and distinctive with a nice freshness.”  

So another nice spread of awards this year to recognise the hard work and talent of our partner winemakers.  Well done!

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Congratulations to our medal winning winemakers at Challenge Millésime Bio
Our partner winemakers selected for the 2016 wine guides

 

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Tasting wine…


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

A short history on wine tasting

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

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

Wine tasting at the winery during a oenology stage in France 

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

How do you develop technical tasting?

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

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

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

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

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

Appreciating wine

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

Adopt-a-vine wine gift box including wine tasting 

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

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

Related article 

Wine defects. How to identify faults when tasting wines

 

 

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Start your retirement by learning to be a winemaker


Retirement is a big milestone, and some embrace it better than others! We received this message from Daniel, a client who received a Wine Experience at Château de la Bonnelière. His colleagues gave it to him for his retirement present, and we’re delighted to see that this original gift pleased him. Here is what Daniel told us:

No chance of me sitting in a chair, twiddling my thumbs for my retirement. That’s what I told my former colleagues, and they held me to my word. With the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience gift they gave me, I became an apprentice winemaker and had to roll up my sleeves to help make my personalised bottles of wine!

When they gave me the retirement gift, they told me that I would follow the making of my wine from the year that I retired at Château de la Bonnelière in France’s Loire Valley, from the work in the vineyard through to the bottling, which of course they hope to share with me! What they didn’t say straight away is that I would get to go to the winery and spend a day working alongside the winemaker in the vineyard.

I participated in the Discovery Experience Day last year in the spring, where I met Marc Plouzeau, the owner and winemaker. He showed us the vineyard where my adopted vines grow and produce the grapes used in the making of my wine, and also put us to work to de-bud the vines and lower the training wires. We also had a very nice lunch and of course got to taste the different wines that the winery produces.

It was a great day and very hands-on, so when I got the chance to come back, this time to learn more about the work in the cellar, I signed up straight away. I’ll participate in this day this winter, and I’m looking forward to seeing, and most of all tasting how my wine is coming along!

Many thanks to my colleagues for this great idea for a retirement present. It’s been almost a year since our paths separated, but I’m not missing them too much! We’ve agreed to meet up once I’ve collected by wine so that we can share a glass or two!

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The art of vinifying white wines in Alsace


We were talking about all things vinification and what goes on in the cellar last Saturday at Domaine Stentz-Buecher as we met up with some of the adoptive parents of the 2015 vintage to see how their wine is coming along during fermentation and ageing process.

Céline, who runs the winery with her brother Stéphane, kicked the day off with an introduction into the family history and the production of Alsace wines. And then we made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are to be found. On the way we talked about the surrounding terroir and the different soil, vegetation and methods used from one plot to another, notably the differences between organic and conventional farming.

Adopt a vine, Alsace, France

Jean-Jacques, Céline and Stéphane’s father, briefly explained what had happened since the last harvest to prepare the vines for this year’s campaign. Then, back at the winery we picked up where we had left off at harvest time. We saw where the harvested grapes had been put into the press, and where the first fermentation had taken place. Stéphane told us about the work during the fermentation process and the decisions that the winemaker must take. We had a pre-tasting of the 2015 vintage of our Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine, which is still in the ageing process. We compared this to a wine that has yet to finish fermenting to better understand the changes that the wine goes through as it slowly matures.

Wine experience, Alsace, France

In parallel, we put our noses to the test during a workshop to help us develop our wine tasting skills. We had to identify different aromas found in wine that result from the grape varietals or the way that the wine has been worked. A few of them sparked some lively debate about what they evoked!

Unique wine gift, Alsace, France

We then descended into the cellar to visit the “oénothèque”, where the oldest wines at the winery are stored. Here, we tasted a series of different wines, accompanied by a traditional savoury Kouglof. The first wine to be tasted was the Who Am I blended wine, followed by the Riesling Tradition, the Pinot Gris Flavien 2010, the Pinot Gris Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2004, and the Pinot Noir Old Oak 2011 red wine.

Wine lover gift, Alsace, France

Lunch was a very local affair of choucroute, local cheeses and blackforest gateau, accompanied by some more of the domaine’s wines, finishing with a Crémant d’Alsace. There was some very animated discussion as to whether the base of traditional Alsace tartes flambées is made of bread or not, and what topping to put on it!

Vineyard experience, Alsace, France

In the afternoon, we finished the cycle of work in the cellar, learning how the wine is bottled, and the choice of the winemaker in the different quality grades of cork used. The 2015 vintage will continue ageing until at least August in the cellar, so we need to patiently wait a little longer until it is ready!

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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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The 2015 harvest. What happens next in the cellar?


Each year, our partner winemakers work flat out for several weeks during the harvest. It's the most stressful time of the year for them, and as the participants of the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days have learned, their work is far from over once the grapes have been picked. Their skill, knowledge and experience are immediately called upon in the cellar to ensure that the juice from the grapes produces a good wine!

So what are the secrets of the cellar once the harvest has been sorted and put into the vats? It depends on the type of wine being produced. At our partner winemakers, they produce mainly white and red wines.

Rent a vine, France

White or red wine?

As we saw in the article describing the harvest, many of the harvested bunches of grapes for making red wine are sorted and de-stemmed to separate the grapes from the stalks. Sometimes the winemakers will then decide to lightly crush the berries. In the olden days this was done by foot or by hand, but these techniques are now much rarer because the machines that de-stem the grapes can also be used for this purpose. The aim of this step is to break the grape skins and to help diffuse the tannins and colour during the maceration period to follow. For the white wines, the grape bunches are generally put in whole, directly into the press.

Wine experience, France

The next steps differ depending on whether red or white wine is being made. For red wine, we put the must, containing all of the matter that makes up a grape (the skin, flesh, juice and pips), into a vat or cask to start fermenting. The contact between the juice and other components of the berry during the maceration period will help to develop the colour and taste of the wine. To make white wine, the grapes are pressed as soon as they have been harvested so as to extract the juice from the elements which could colour or make the wine tannic.

Original wine gift, France

Pressing is a very important but delicate step for making white wine, as the winemaker needs to find the right balance between pressing the grapes sufficiently hard to extract as much juice as possible, and not over pressing them which can give grassy and acidic tastes. Once the juice has run off, the must is left alone so that the tiny solid particles that have been carried into the vat settle at the bottom. This is known as clarification or débourbage.

The alcoholic fermentation

Whether it's the juice to make red wine that is macerating in the vat, or the juice to make white wine that has been pressed, the moment will come when the sugar that it contains will start to turn into alcohol. This is known as the first or alcoholic fermentation. It usually starts all by itself thanks to the yeast found naturally in the must. It can also be set in motion by adding selected yeast or some must from another vat that has already started to ferment.

The temperature during the fermentation period is crucial and differs between white and red wine. In both cases, the yeast stops working below 10°C and the cells die above 35°C. The winemakers can control the temperature of the vats by pumping hot or cold water into an immersion heater or around the jacket of the vat. For red wines, fermentation generally takes place between 25 and 30°C to keep the maximum aromatic properties whilst extracting the tannins and colour. For white wines, the temperatures can be kept lower, between 15 and 20°C because no extraction is needed, allowing more aromas to be kept. The alcoholic fermentation usually lasts anywhere between a couple of days and a month.

Wine making experience, France

There is another peculiarity for the red wines. As the fermentation takes place, carbon dioxide is released, which pushes the pips, skin and any other solid matter to the top of the vat, causing a cap to form. The colour and tannins necessary for the wine are contained within this solid matter, but the juice stays below the cap. It?s therefore necessary to keep the juice in contact with it by punching the cap down into the juice (pigeage), or by drawing off the juice from the bottom of the vat, pumping it to the top and letting it filter down through the cap (remontage). Depending on the style of wine that the winemaker is hoping to achieve, this will be done for each vat anywhere between a couple of times a day to once every few days.

Vineyard experience, France

The malo-lactic fermentation

Once the juice has been transformed into wine, more patience and work is needed whilst it ages. Generally, once the first fermentation has finished, the winemaker will rack the wines to separate them from the larger lee particles and put the wine into a clean vat or into barrels.

For red wines, when the wine from the fermentation tank is drawn off, we get what is called free-run wine (vin de goutte). The remaining marc of solid² matter is then pressed to extract the rest of the wine, which is known as press wine. These two wines are then either blended together during the ageing period or are aged separately, leaving the winemaker the choice to blend them or not at a later stage.

Original wine gift

Shortly after alcoholic fermentation, a second fermentation starts, the malo-lactic fermentation, which transforms the malic acid into lactic acid. This decreases the acidity and softens the wines, so is also an important step in making good quality wine.

Then comes the magic of the winemaker in ageing the wine. Each has their own methods and preferences concerning the container used (concrete or stainless steel vat, wooden cask, old or new barrels etc), the length of time needed for ageing, the blend, and so on. As our partner winemakers often remind us, it's as much about personal taste as anything else, and so they task themselves with the onerous job of regularly tasting all of their wines throughout the ageing process!

To learn more about the vinfication, ageing and blending of wine, why not join us for a Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day!

Other articles relating to the 2015 vintage

The 2015 harvest gets under way for our partner wineries

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A great 2015 harvest in the Loire


We returned for the first time since the summer to Château de la Bonnelière for a very important weekend - the harvest! The summer months have been perfect for the vines, allowing us to hope for an exceptional vintage this year.

Under a sunny sky on Saturday, and some mist on Sunday, the participants for the Harvest Experience Days were welcomed by Marc, the owner and winemaker. Time for a quick coffee to gain our strength for the work to come!

Rent a vine, Loire Valley, France

The day started with a quick visit of our adopted vines in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard and the chance to take a few pictures, before we headed off along the bumpy vineyard tracks (motorways according to Marc!) to the Roche Saint-Paul vineyard, which was the plot set aside for us to harvest.

The Cabernet Franc vines were starting to be tinted with the first of the autumnal colours, but most importantly, they were loaded with lovely ripe grapes.

Adopt a vin france, Loire Valley

We were accompanied by Noémie and Stéphane, who both work with Marc, who helped guide us in choosing the right bunches to pick. Once the buckets and secateurs had been distributed, we spread out in pairs amongst the rows, and started to pick the fruit of this year's work!

Unique wne gifts, Loire Valley, France

Marc's new secateurs caused a couple of minor cuts, but nothing to lessen the enthusiasm and concentration of our harvesters! Once we had reached our objective, 70 ares on Saturday and 10 (long) rows on the Sunday, we returned to the winery for a well earned lunch and a tasting of some of the wines produced by Château de la Bonnelière.

Wine experience gift, Loire Valley, France

In the afternoon, we still had some work to do. We headed to the chai to put our harvested grapes into the vat. The first stage was to unload the crates of grapes from the van and to empty them into the hopper, which then carried the grapes up the conveyor belt and into the de-stemming machine that separates the grapes from the stalks.

Vineyard experience, Loire Valley, France

Once the awaiting trolleys were full of grapes, Marc showed us his unique way of transporting them to the vats using a fork-lift truck. As no pumps are used, his method ensures that the grapes are handled in the gentlest manner possible.

Wine experience gifts,Loire Valley, France

To check that we had done a good job, we had a few tests to do. We used a mustimetre to measure the sugar density in the juice, and we recorded the level of acidity to check that the grapes were ripe enough.

Wine gift packs, Loire Valley, France

The results were very good, so we'll now have to wait very patiently before the bottles will eventually be ready at Château de la Bonnelière! We'll be back early next year for the first tasting of the wine during the Vinificiation Expeirence Days!

Other articles relating to the 2015 harvest

The 2015 harvest gets under way for our partner wineries

The 2015 harvest. What happens next in the cellar?

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Training the vines at Domaine Chapelle


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

Wine experience in Burgundy

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

Rent a vine in Burgundy, France

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

Original wine gift in Burgundy, France

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

Vineyard experience in Burgundy, France

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

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy, biodynamic, France

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

Wine gift packs at Domaine Chapelle, Burgundy

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

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

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

Wine lover gift at Domaine Chapelle

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

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A sunny weekend at Château Beau-Rivage


Accompanied by David, the Technical Director at Château Beau Rivage, on the Saturday, and Christine, the owner of the winery on the Sunday, we enjoyed two Discovery Experience Days in Bordeaux last weekend. The two days were dedicated to learning about the work of the winemaker in the vineyard, and so we headed straight out amongst the vines to get started.

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux, France

The winery cultivates 5 grape varietals in the vineyard, and we learnt how to tell each of them apart from the merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot. We saw how different pruning methods, guyot double and cordon, had been used, and we discovered the range of work such as de-budding, thinning the leaves, and working the soil, necessary to produce the best quality grapes at harvest time.

Wine making experience, biodynamic, Bordeaux

After the theory, time to get stuck in! We split into pairs and spread out among the rows. To help the vines grow and to facilitate the trimming, we ensured that each of the vine branches were supported between the training wires.

Wine lover gift at Bordeaux, unique experience, France

We then took a few minutes to relax and visited our adopted vines. The opportunity for some photos to be taken for the "My Vine" photo competition.

Rent a vine in France, Bordeaux

Good work is always rewarded, and at Château Beau Rivage, it comes in the form of wine! We tasted the Château Beau Rivage, Clos la Bohème, Benjamin, Clémentine, and Le Phare rosé and red wines over lunch. On Saturday, the rainshower didn't dampen the spirits, and the sun on Sunday made the rosé that much more enjoyable!

Wine experience gifts in France, Bordeaux

In the afternoon, we returned to the vineyard on Saturday and to the chai on Sunday, to learn about the key steps from now until the harvest, and to understand the reasons for working organically at the winery. We talked about the environment, the quality of the wines, production methods, and answered the varied questions.

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux, France

Both days drew to a close around 4pm. Time to take a few last minute photos and to load the cars with wine as souvenirs of the weekend.

Thanks to all, and see you soon for the harvest!

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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 course in Alsace to learn about making and ageing wines


Once the harvest has finished, the winemaker's job is not over. Before the wine is ready to be bottled, there is still much that needs to be done, and the winemaker needs to closely monitor the wine throughout the fermentation and ageing process. Last Sunday, we were at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace for a Vinification Experience Day to learn more about the work of the winemaker in the cellar.

It should never be forgotten that winemaking begins in the vineyard, and indeed, without good grapes, it's not possible to make a quality wine. Our day therefore started with a quick visit to the vineyard, which also allowed us to see our adopted vines!

Rent a vine in Alsace, France

The Vinification Experience Day is the day where we taste the most wines. To help us find the words to describe our impressions when tasting wines, we participated in a workshop on the aromas found in wine. With the help of some small bottles of essence, we tried to identify the fruity and floral aromas that are typical of the white wines from Alsace. An exercise that isn't as simple as you might think!

wine tasting experience in France

With our noses now finely tuned, we went down into the cellar to see the oak casks and stainless steel vats that are used to hold the wine during the fermentation and ageing periods. Each plot of vines and grape varietal is vinified separately, and Stéphane explained how the wines change during the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentations, and the work needed to prepare the wines before being bottled.

White wine experience gift in France

We tasted a couple of wines that are still in the process of ageing. The first was the Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2014, which has yet to finish its malo-lactic fermentation. We could see that the wine was still cloudy and fizzed a little, both of which are entirely at this stage.

Wine maki,ng experience in Alsace, France

The second wine was a Riesling Ortel which was still in its alcoholic fermentation phase, showing that we can't always control everything, and the profession of being a winemaker calls for lots of patience.

We then tasted some of the finished wines to appreciate the range and complexity of the wines made at Domaine Stentz-Buecher. We started with a very floral Pinot Blanc 2013, followed by the Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2013. We then tasted a Riesling Steingrübler Grand Cru 2008, a Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg Grand Cru 2008 and a Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru 2008. We continued to taste other wines with one of the local specialties, choucroute.

Vineyard experience in Alsace, France

After lunch, we returned to the cellar to see the machines used for bottling and labelling the wine bottles. We also had a long discussion on the choice of corks versus screw tops.

Personalised your own bottles of wine in Alsace, France

The winery also produces Crémant d'Alsace sparkling white wine. Stéphane showed us how the bottles are turned to collect the sediment in the neck of the bottle, and we learnt about the specific work needed to make sparkling wine.

Unique wine gifts in alsace, France

Then a last little tour of the cellar to see the red wines that are resting in oak barrels, before finishing in the wine library, where a selection of the winery's wines dating back to 1995 are stored.

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A great Experience Day in the vineyard at Château Beau-Rivage


The sun and a warm welcome helped ensure that we spent two very enjoyable Discovery Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux. After breakfast, we gathered together to learn the programme for the day, which was to be spent mainly in the vineyard to learn about the work on the vines to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time.

The team at Château Beau Rivage introduced us to the winery, the Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut-Médoc appellations, as well as the different clay and gravel terroir that the different vineyards enjoy.

Wine experience gift in Bordeaux

In the 8ha plot of vines behind the château, we learnt how to identify the different grape varietals by the form of their leaves, and saw the difference in the two pruning techniques used in the vineyard, Guyot Double and Cordon.

Before getting stuck in with some work, we stopped for a few minutes in the plot of vines where our adopted vines are to be found, the time to take a few pictures of our vines.

Rent a vine in France, Bordeaux

It was the time to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in with two missions. Firstly to lower the training wires, and then to remove any unwanted shoots from the trunk of the vines. Under the watchful eye of Christine on Sunday, the owner of Château Beau Rivage, and of Sandrine on Saturday, the chai manager, we learnt about the importance of this work to help improve the quality of the future harvest, and hence the wine that will result from it. So, armed with a pair of secateurs and lots of good cheer, we each took a row in pairs, and lowered the training wires so that the weight of the foliage and grapes will then be better supported, and we removed the shoots that will not produce fruit, but will sap the energy and nutrients from the plant.

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

After the effort comes the reward! Back at the winery we tasted the Clairet rosé wine before moving onto the reds. We tasted the Benjamin, Château Beau Rivage, Clos la Bohème and Clementine/Le Phare wines over lunch. Honey tomatoes, melon and ham with the aperitif, followed by a salmon duo, tomato and mozzarella salad. For the main course we had some succulent chicken cooked at low temperature with a cep sauce, and potato and shallot fondant. We finished the meal with some basque cheese and strawberry and orange tartlets.

Wine lover gift in Bordeaux

Fully revitalised, we then headed back out into the vineyard.

In the afternoon, we picked up where we had left off, and learnt about the work that remains to be done in the vineyard from now until the harvest. We talked about working organically, and what that means for the winemaker in the work in the vineyard and chai.

In the fermentation hall, we had a quick introduction into the vinification and wine-making side of the profession. How the grapes are received during the harvest, how the wine ferments, is racked and the aged in oak barrels up until they are ready for bottling.

Original wne gift in France

A couple of days full of information. As well as leaving with a few bottles of wine, we hope that each of the participants learnt a little bit more about the work that goes on behind the scenes in making wine.

Many thanks to the team at Château Beau Rivage for sharing their devotion to their profession with us, and to all of our participants for a couple of thoroughly enjoyable days.

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Training the vines in Bordeaux


We were at Château Beau Rivage near Bordeaux last weekend for a wine Discovery Experience Day. With the winemaker, Christine Nadalié, by our sides the aim of the day was to learn more about all the work carried out in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time.

 

Adopt a vine gift in Bordeaux to learn how to be a winemaker

 

The day started with a little walk in the vineyard, during which we made several stops so that Christine could explain the characteristics of the different grape varieties and the terroir. She brought us up to speed on the work already accomplished in the vineyard since last winter, and she showed us a plot that has recently been replanted with vines.

Since our last visit in May, the vines have grown lots and the flowering period has been and gone. This is a very important stage in determining the potential yield of the harvest to com, and generally it went well, with just a little bit of millerandage when the flowers didn't pollinate properly. Millerandage causes some of the grape berries to not develop to the normal size, and so smaller grapes are interspersed with normal sized grapes.

rent a vine gift in France

 

At the far end of the vineyard, we arrived at the plot of Merlot where the adopted vines are located, and so we took a few minutes to snap some photos. The vegetation continues to grow rampantly, and so it has to be managed and kept under control with the help of training wires. Christine showed us how to raise the wires, and then to place any falling branches in between them. We then split up into pairs to have a go ourselves. As we moved down the rows, we also removed any unwanted shoots and growth from the trunks of the vines, which otherwise waste some of the plant's energy.

 

vineyard experience in France

Back at the winery, we tasted some of the different wines and vintages and enjoyed the winemaker's meal. We continued the day in the chai where Christine explained how the grapes will be received during the harvest, and how the sugar is transformed into alcohol during fermentation.

 

Original wine gift

We then went through to the barrel room to see where the wines rest during the ageing period. Here, Christine explained the influence that the oak barrels have on the wine, and answered our questions on many topics ranging from blending to biodynamic wine-making. Many thanks to all of our participants and to Christine for having shared the day with us.

See you soon for the harvest!

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De-budding at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace


The yield at Domaine Stentz-Buecher is voluntarily kept well below the maximum authorised levels, something that the adoptive vine owners at the winery learnt more about last Saturday by getting stuck into some serious de-budding.

 

Vineyard experience

 

The Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience days teach you about all the work carried out in the vineyard from pruning right up until the grapes are ripe enough to be harvested.  Following the introductions from the winemakers, Céline and Stéphane, we headed off to the "Rosenberg" vineyard, where we paid a visit to our adopted vines.

 

 

unique wine gifts

 

Jean-Jacques, Céline and Stéphane's Dad, explained in detail all of the various stages in working the vines.

 

Original wine gift in france

 

He particularly showed us how to de-bud the vines, which involves removing the double buds and excess shoots that grow on the trunks of the vines.  If left, these take away some of the plants energy which can be better used to produce nice ripe grapes.

 

wine experience in Alsace

 

With extra care as it is the plot of vines which will be used to make our wine, we got stuck into the de-budding!

 

Wine making experience in Alsace

 

We then walked through the vineyard a little to admire the fantastic views of the Alsace landscape and we could even see as far as the Alps.  Back at the winery, we tasted some of the wineries wines over lunch.

 

Rent a vine in Alsace

 

In the afternoon, Stéphane explained his philosophy of making wines, and took us on a tour of the fermentation halls to introduce us to the principal stages of vinification.

 

Wine gift packs in France

 

A full day, and very instructive thanks to the many questions and enthusiasm of our participants, and not forgetting our passionate winemakers of course!   

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

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