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Tagged articles : Debudding

Removing the unwanted vines branches in the Loire Valley vineyard


Following the few days of heatwave conditions, we were glad to have slightly cooler weather to host our new adoptive vine parents for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière.  We had perfect conditions to work in the vineyard, the main activity for the weekend being de-budding to remove the unwanted shoots that have started to grow.

Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner of Château de la Bonnelière introduced us to the winery over a coffee, outlining how the 2017 is shaping up so far, and then we headed straight out into the vineyard to get to the heart of the matter!

Wine box day at the winery in the Loire Valley

The recent good weather, interspersed with a few showers had meant that the vines had rapidly grown during the past couple of weeks. They are currently so far ahead that they are already at the stage where they would normally be in mid-July, some 3 weeks ahead of usual, and as a result the work in the vineyard is a bit behind schedule.

Marc was therefore even more excited than usual to welcome the participants to have a few extra hands to help out! But before getting down to work, we started with an introduction to the adopted vines and a few photos for the “My Vine” photo competition. Judging by some of the ideas for posing in front of the wines, Château de la Bonnelière will perhaps see one of the winners at the end of the year!

Vine adoption wine gift in the Loire Valley France

After this fun moment, it was time to get involved with the de-budding. The aim of this job is to remove the shoots and branches that have grown from the trunks of the vines. These branches won’t produce any fruit and will just sap the energy from the vine.

The Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard is particularly susceptible to the growth of these shoots, and each year the plot needs many hours of attention from Marc’s team.

Vineyard tending gift box in France

Our participants, some also armed with spades and hoes, spread out among the rows and got stuck in. The work was interspersed with conversations on how Marc organises the work, the decisions taken in the vineyard, the work carried out so far, and even what goes on in the cellar. The work progressed well, and Marc was very appreciative of our help.

Wine Experience Day in the Loire Valley France

After the effort, the reward!  Lunch was awaiting us, prepared by Mme Plouzeau, accompanied by a good range of the wines from the chateau!

Winemakers' lunch in a French castle in the Loire Valley

The programme for the afternoon was a little less sporty thankfully as the idea of having a siesta in the shade of the vines was a very appealing idea! We walked a little in the vineyard to see a young plot of vines, recently planted with Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc.

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We also saw the oldest plot of vines in Chinon that was planted in 1929, the grapes from which are used in the Vindoux wine.

The day drew to a close and we each headed our separate ways, a few bottles in the car to remember the day by, and to share with friends at a later date!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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De-budding the vines in Chinon


After the roasting day on Friday, we greeted the new apprentice winemakers of the 2015 vintage to Chinon with a more timid sun on the Saturday.

The welcome coffee gave us a chance to get to know the winery and its owner, Marc Plouzeau. The Château de la Bonnelière is a family run winery and Marc took over the running of it from his father in 1998.

To get the day started, Marc introduced us to the Chinon appellation of wines, and to the location of his vineyards which are spread across the left bank of the Vienne river. He also told us how he works organically and bio-dynamically at the winery.

We then headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, the plot where the adopted vines are located!

Vineyard Experience in Loire Valley, France

The aim of the day was to learn about the different work that is carried out in the vineyard. Marc explained the work that he and his team have been doing since the last harvest, and notably the complex task of pruning.

Marc then showed us what we would be doing today; de-budding the vines. This important task serves to manage the growth of the vine. The vine is a creeper plant that needs to be kept in check to produce more concentrated grapes, and thus make a better quality vine.

wine experience gift in France, Loire Valley

We needed to remove each of the small branches that had grown, but which will not produce any grapes.

The job is quite difficult, because the vines are fairly old, and so each one needs a moment of reflection before getting stuck in. We didn't want to make any mistakes, but fortunately Marc was there to guide us!

After we had worked well, we made the most of the sun's arrival, to take a few pictures of our adopted vines.

rent a vine in France, Loire Valley

The morning finished with an al fresco lunch, served outside in the shade of the hanger, overlooking the vineyard. A great place to eat! We tasted the wines produced by Marc, including those from his newly acquired winery, the Domaine de la Croix Marie, which he took the reins of for the 2014 harvest.

Wine experience in Loire Valley, France

This relaxed moment allowed us to talk with Marc some more and to bombard him with questions! But our day wasn't yet over, and so we headed off to the chai.

Marc introduced us to the wine-making side of things, something that will covered in much more detail during one of the Vinification Experience Days. He showed us how he ferments and ages his wines, keeping the wine from each vine plot separate.

The day then drew to a close. Many thanks to Marc, and we look forward to coming back again soon!

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Wine Experience Day in Alsace


We spent a great day in the vineyard last Saturday at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace. We were there for a Discovery Experience Day to learn about the work carried out in the vineyard, so after the introductions we headed straight out into the middle of the vines.

Adopt a vine in France, Alsace

We stopped at the Rosenberg vineyard to meet our adopted vines. The grapes from our vines will be used to make the wine chosen for us by Gourmet Odyssey, and we immortalised the moment with a few photos!

Rent a vine in France, Alsace

It was then time to get down to some more serious business! Jean-Jacques Stentz explained to us the work that has already been conducted in the vineyard during the winter months, such as how the earth was heaped around the vines to protect them from the frosts, the long task to prune the vines to control the future yield, and how the soil is tilled to keep the grass and weeds in check.

Wine experience in Alsace, France

The vines grow very quickly at this time of year, and you have to be vigilant in ensuring that the plant focuses its efforts in the production of grapes. De-budding is essential to remove the unwanted branches which sprout from the vines. If left, they will drain energy from the vines and decrease the quality of the future harvest.

Jean-Jacques showed us how to de-bud, and then we spread out between the rows to have a go at de-budding ourselves.

Vineyard experience in Alsace, France

We then visited another vineyard to see a plot of vines that had recently been replanted. Jean-Jacques explained how this is done, and the patience that is then needed before grapes of a good enough quality for making wine can be harvested.

Adopt a vine in Alsace, France

Back at the winery, we had earned our aperitif. The first wine to taste was the Who am I 2012, the only blended wine produced at the winery. We then tasted the Riesling Ortel 2012, Gewurztraminer Steingrübler Grand Cru 2008 and the Pinot Noir 2011. We continued the tasting over lunch of some local smoked ham and traditional roïgebrageldi, cheese, and blueberry tart.

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After lunch, we returned to the vineyard to learn more about the work that will be done between now and the harvest, and how the winemaker chooses when to pick the grapes. Stéphane Stentz, also told us his reasons for working organically.

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At the end of the day, we went down into the cellar for a brief introduction to the vinification side of things, following the journey that the grapes will take from the press to the vats, and to see where the wine will ferment next autumn.

Wine tasting gift in Alsace, France

Many thanks to Stéphane, Céline, Jean-Jacques and Simone for their hospitality, and to all of the participants for a most enjoyable day.

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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.

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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.

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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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De-budding the vines at Domaine la Cabotte


We were spoilt by the fantastic weather for the latest of the Discovery Experience Days at Domaine la Cabotte. After a coffee and warm welcome by the winemakers, Eric & Marie-Pierre, we gathered outside for an introduction to the day that we were to spend together in the vineyard.

Vineyard experience in Rhone Valley, France

Eric & Marie-Pierre presented the winery and enlightened us on the local red and white grape varietals, the Massif d'Uchaux appellation and their approach to winemaking, before leading us out into the vineyard. Eric showed us the different grape varietals and how to tell them apart. In the background, the birds were singing, and then suddenly, a hare jumped up onto the dry stone wall!

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Eric & Marie-Pierre led us to a plot of vines that they had earmarked us to work on. They explained the importance of de-budding to reduce the number of buds per vine, and hence the number of grapes produced. This will help the grapes to have a better balance of sugar, acidity, tannins and aroma come harvest time. They showed us how to de-bud, and then in pairs, we each took on a row!

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Once we had finished, Eric told us about the other work that has been keeping them busy in the vineyard since the last harvest, notably the pruning. After the de-budding will come the raising of the training wires as the vines grow taller and taller.

Wine experience in Rhone Valley, France

On our way back to winery, Eric showed us the enclosure where he prepares the biodynamic treatments used in the vineyard, and he introduced us to this fascinating topic. We started the wine tasting with a nice refreshing white and rosé wine, before sitting down to enjoy the lunch, that Marie-Pierre had put together specially for us.

Wine lover gift in Rhone Valley

A deliciously seasoned tomato and rocket salad to start, accompanied by the Colline Cotes du Rhone 2014 red wine. For the main course, we savoured a traditional Caillette, served with potatoes and a tomato sauce, served with the Garance red wine. We then enjoyed the winery's Chateauneuf du Pape wine with cheese, before finishing with a red fruit clafoutis for dessert.

Adopt a vine in Rhone Valley, France

We then put our boots back on and headed off to the vineyard again, this time to meet our adopted vines! Once we had taken a few photos to immortalise the occasion, Eric explained a little bit more about the terroir and characteristics of the Massif d'Uchaux region and showed us the different types of soil, some more stony than others.

Personalised bottles of red wine in France

At the end of the day, we visited the chai where Eric gave us an overview of how the wines ferment and are worked during the vinification period. Many thanks to Eric & Marie-Pierre for this great day!

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De-budding in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle


After the worry of a little rain on Friday evening, all our doubts disappeared on Saturday morning as the wind swept the last of the clouds away from the Burgundy sky.  We were at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay for a Discovery Experience Day to learn all about the work carried out in the vineyard by the winemaker to obtain the best possible grapes come harvest time.

Adopt-a-Vine wine experience gift in Burgundy France

Following a brief presentation of the winery by Jean-François, the owner and winemaker, we headed out into the garden of the family manor, where Jean-François talked about the geography and geology of Burgundy.  He also explained why he had decided to embark on the organic approach to making wine.  For him, it is as much about taking pleasure from drinking a wine that is free from harmful products as it is about respecting the soil and protecting the health of the people who work at the winery.

Jean-François then showed us the "Clos des Cornières" vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found.  He took the opportunity to explain the differences between the Burgundy regional, village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellations.  We then met our adopted vines for the first time.  A very emotional moment!

Original wine enthusiast gift. Adopt some organic vines and get involved in making your wine

We knew that sooner or later, it would be time for us to roll up our sleeves and do some work...  We're getting into the de-budding season.  After pruning, a very important stage in determining the future development of the vines and for reducing the quantity of grapes that each vine produces, de-budding is another key step.  You mustn't leave too many branches and leaves to feed, or you run the risk of not obtaining mature enough grapes.  We removed some of the buds on the vines to better appreciate the complexity and scale of this titanic job.

Back at the winery, we made the most of the lovely April sun, and enjoyed our aperitif outside.  We started the wine tasting with a Santenay 2013 white wine, accompanied by some gougères, and then continued the tasting over lunch of a Burgundy Pinot Noir 2011, a Santenay Clos de Cornières 2011 and a Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru 2010 with cheese.

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In the afternoon, we took a stroll to the Beaurepaire plot of Santenay Premier Cru vines.  The walk allowed us to appreciate the landscape of the southern côte de Beaune, and to learn a little more about the local geology.  The vineyard has just been replanted, and so we found out about a vine's life-cycle of a vine.  Yannick Jacrot, the winery's Technical Director, explained how the vines are planted and the vineyard prepared.

Organic vine gift. Adopt a vine in Burgundy and visit the winery

The day finished with a brief visit of the fermentation hall and cellar where the barrels of wine are ageing and the bottles of wine are stocked.

Organic winery tour near Beaune, France

Many thanks to Jean-François and Yannick for their passionate explanations, and to all of the Gourmet Odyssey clients for your good cheer.

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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.

 

 

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

 

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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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Last of the de-budding in the Burgundy vineyard


You need good grapes to make good wine.  That's what the participants of the Wine Discovery Experience Day learnt last weekend at Domaine Chapelle.  Jean-François, the winemaker and owner of the winery, and his Technical Director, Yannick, welcomed us for the day to share their passion for their profession.

wine gift pack

During the Discovery Experience Days, we learn all about the key stages in working in the vineyard to get the best possible grapes come harvest time.  And the best way to learn is by having a go yourself!  So, after an introduction to the winery, its wines, and the Burgundy terroir, Jean-François led us out into the vineyard.

adopt a vine

We took a few minutes to find our adopted vines before Yannick explained all of the work that has been carried out in the vineyard since pruning.  We are now finishing the de-budding phase in the pinot noir vineyard plots, which involves removing any superfluous buds or shoots.  And we have just started to train the chardonnay vines; which involves ensuring that the shoots grow between the training wires and then clipping the wires together to help the vines support the weight of the foliage and fruit.

vineyard experience

Having learnt the theory from Jean-François and Yannick, we got stuck in and had a go ourselves.  A little hesitant at first in front of the vines as we didn't want to cause them any damage, but we soon got the hang of it.
A few hours later we were back at the winery, ready to taste some wine!  We tasted a Santenay white wine, before tasting a Burgundy red, a Santenay Clos des Cornières and a Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières.

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To finish the day, Yannick and Jean-François took us down into the fermentation hall and cellar, where they introduced us to the technical side of making and ageing wine, something that we will develop further during the Vinification Experience Days.
To sum up the day in the words of Jean-François: the work in the vineyard before the harvest is essential, because even a good winemaker finds it difficult to make a good wine with poor quality grapes.

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A good winemaker is therefore a good farmer, and after their hard work and enthusiasm in the vineyard, our apprentice winemakers would wholeheartedly agree!  Many thanks to our participants for a very enjoyable weekend!

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Working in the vineyard at Domaine la Cabotte


Last Saturday, we spent a lovely sunny day in the Rhone Valley at Domaine la Cabotte.  We were there for a Wine Discovery Experience Day to learn more about the work in the vineyard up to the harvest of the grapes.

 

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Accompanied by the winerys owners, Marie-Pierre and Eric, we started the day in the vineyard.  Eric showed us the differences between the grape varietals cultivated on the estate, and explained the different methods of pruning that are used.

 

wine making experience

 

It's currently the end of the de-budding period, a key stage in controlling the growth of the vines and in improving the quality of the harvest to come.  Eric and Marie-Pierre had left us a small plot to work on, and so after we had received our instructions, we spread out among the rows to remove the unwanted buds and shoots.

 

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The leaves are already well developed on the vines.  To better protect them and to help the plant support their weight, the training wires need to be raised and the branches placed between them.  In teams of three, we set to work.

 

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The vines are just beginning to flower, a critical moment in determining the potential quantity of this years harvest.  Eric showed us a vine in flower and we took in its delicate aroma.

 

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Back at the winery, we had earned our aperitif! We tasted a white wine from the winery, followed by the "Garance" red, which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  We continued the wine tasting during the meal that we ate in the shade of the chai.

 

personalised wine gift

 


After lunch, we headed to the vineyard where the adopted vines are located.  From here we enjoyed the nice view of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail.

 

wine tasting gift

 

Domaine la Cabotte is organically and biodynamically certified.  We finished the day with Eric explaining the philosophy behind biodynamic farming, and how the work in the vineyard is managed according to the lunar calendar.  It's a topic that leaves no one indifferent!
Many thanks to Marie-Pierre and Eric for having shared their passion for their profession with us, and to all of our participants for their good cheer.

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De-budding the vines in Bordeaux


We spent last weekend in the Bordeaux vineyard for a couple of Discovery Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage.  With Christine Nadalié at our side, we headed out into the vineyard to learn more about the profession and work of a winemaker.

 

Wine Experience Gift. Adopt a vine in Bordeaux, France, and follow the making of your own wine.

 

The winery grows five different grape varietals in the vineyard, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Christine showed us the difference between the vines and talked to us about grafting.

 

Rent-a-vine gift. Learn how to make wine with the winemaker

 

Before getting down to work, we took a few minutes to visit our adopted vines, and to encourage them to produce a good harvest!  It was also a good occasion to pose for a few pictures!

 

Original gift idea for a wine lover. Adopt your own plot of vines and get involved in making your own wine.

 

Christine told us about all of the work that has been done in the vineyard during the winter, notably pruning.  The buds have already burst and the first signs of the future grape bunches are forming on the vines.  It's now time to de-bud and remove any unwanted shoots that have sprouted from the trunk or roots of the vines.  This will help the vines to concentrate their energy on the future fruit-bearing branches.  Christine showed us how to do it, and then we rolled up our sleeves to get stuck in!

During the morning, Christine also answered a flow of questions on a range of topics including organic and biodynamic farming, harvesting and the appellation system to name a few.

 

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux at the winery.

 

By lunchtime, we had earned our aperitif, and we started with a nice cold rosé before tasting a range of the winery's red wines during lunch.

 

Winery Tour gift in Bordeaux, France.

 

In the afternoon, we visited the fermentation hall and barrel room to get an introduction into the winemaking and ageing side of things.  Christine told us about the stages of fermentation and explained the influence that the barrels have on the taste and structure of the wine.

Many thanks to Christine and to Guillaume for sharing their passion for their profession, and to all our participants for their enthusiasm and good cheer.

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De-budding in Chablis


Last weekend, we spent an excellent wine Discovery Day in the vineyard at Domaine Brocard in Chablis.

The day started in the Boissonneuse vineyard, which was the first plot to be converted to organic and biodynamic farming. Here the head of one the vine teams, Arnaud, explained the differences between cultivating the vines traditionally, organically and biodynamically, and brought us up to speed on the work that has already been done in the vineyard since the harvest last year

 

unique wine gift
 

The vines are currently a couple of weeks ahead or a normal year, and the first leaves have already appeared.  This means that the work of de-budding can begin.  Arnaud showed us how to remove the double buds and the unwanted shoots.  De-budding is an important step in determining the quality of the harvest to come by concentrating the energy of the plant in the fruit-bearing branches.

 

wine making experience
It was then up to us to roll up our sleeves and to get stuck into the de-budding.  As our experience with pruning during the previous Discovery Experience day had shown us, it's more complicated than you would think!

wine making experience

 

Before heading back to the winery, we took a few minutes to find our adopted vines, giving us the opportunity to take a few photos with them, and to fuss over them a little!

Domaine Brocard makes an impressive range of Chablis wines, and we tasted several Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines before sitting down to lunch.

 

original gift

 

In the afternoon, we took some fresh air and went to visit a different vine plot before visiting the vinification hall that holds the large oak vats.  Here, Pierre introduced us to the vinification and ageing side of wine-making.
Many thanks to Pierre and Arnaud from Domaine Brocard, and to all of our participants for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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In the vineyard. De-budding and training the vines


With the arrival of Spring, the vines are emerging from their winter rest. In March we could see the tears of sap appearing on the tips of the pruned branches, and the first buds burst into life a few weeks later. These are all signs that the vines are starting their growth for the new season. And for the winemaker, it's the signal that a whole series of jobs will soon need to be done in the vineyard to ensure the best quality grapes come harvest time.
bud burst in the vineyard Burgundy France

The first of the tasks is the de-budding to remove all the excess buds and any unwanted shoots. De-budding generally takes place a few weeks after the bud burst. During pruning, a certain number of eyes are left on the branch, which represents the number of buds and branches that will form (see our post of pruning). However, sometimes more buds appear than were bargained for during pruning, which can increase the load on the vines and reduce the quality of the harvest. Studies have shown that de-budding improves the maturity of raisins at harvest time by increasing the sugar levels, and thus the potential alcoholic volume. De-budding is a purely manual task. There is no machine capable of removing the buds without harming the plant.

de-budding vines in Burgundy

We also remove the buds and shoots from the base and trunk of the vines. This is known as "epamprage" and can be done manually or mechanically using a tractor with rotating axels that brush the vines and remove the unwanted growth. Epamprage can also be conducted chemically with contact products or by using heat to burn the new shoots. Empamprage is often conducted at the same time as the soil is turned to remove grass and weeds.

training wires for vine Rhône Valley

The remaining shoots on the vines will then continue to grow, and from May to July comes the moment to raise the training wires in the vineyards. As the vines grow, the wires are raised and fixed to the posts, a task that usually requires several passes. We make sure that all of the branches grow between the two training wires so that the weight of the leaves and fruit are better supported. To help avoid the branches falling back down, the wires are clipped together. The branches are spaced apart to let the air better circulate and the sun to reach the leaves. This also helps the tractors to pass freely in the vineyard without damaging the vines and to improve the efficiency of any treatments.

At the same time as working on the vines, the winemaker also works the soil from April onwards to air the soil, let in more warmth, and to keep the growth of grass and weeds in check.

The next tasks for the winemaker in the vineyard will be to control the growth between the leaves, branches and fruit, jobs that we will explain in more detail soon.

More articles on the work in the vineyard :

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Debudding and Biodynamics in Chablis


Last weekend we were once again in Chablis for a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Discovery Day. On the agenda: working in the vineyard, the difference between organic and biodynamic farming, and an introduction to the vinification side of things. 

Chablis Vineyard Vines Wine Making

The day started in the "Boissonneuse" vineyard plot, where the adopted vines of our clients are located. Once the photos in front of the vines were taken, we were quickly able to get straight into the heart of things to better understand the key stages in cultivating the vines.

Chablis Brocard Vines Wine 

To explain to us the work carried out in the vineyard, we were accompanied by Andrew from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.  He took up from after last year's harvest, describing the steps that have already been taken before revealing the task that he had saved for us, de-budding.

De-budding is an important job at this time of year that will improve the quality of the grapes to come. It entails removing the non fruit-bearing shoots and double buds so as to better concentrate the vine's energy. Andrew showed us how it's done, and then we spread out among the rows to give it a go!  We found ourselves surrounded by vines for as far as the eye can see, which helped us appreciate the enormity of the effort that is taken in looking after the vines. 

De-budding Vines Vineyard 

The Boissonneuse vineyard is not only cultivated organically, but is also biodynamically certified by Demeter. We headed to the domaine's priory, where we were joind by Julien Brocard, son of Jean-Marc, who initiated and developed biodynamic farming on the estate.  

Biodynamic farming 

Julien explained to us what biodynamics is, and how it is different from organic farming, before talking in more detail about one of the core treatments used in biodynamic farming, the Preparation 500. For the past 6 months, several hundred cow horns, filled with cow dung have been buried in the priory's garden. During this time, the cow dung has been transformed into super concentrated humus of a high quality. At this time of year the cow horns are dug up, and the humus that is collected is then mixed with rainwater and sprayed on the vines to improve their strength and well-being.

Biodynamie 

Back at the winery, the time had finally come to taste the wines. Pierre served us a wide range of the estate's wines, starting with the Petit Chablis, before moving on to several Chablis and Chablis Premier Crus, before ending with a couple of Chablis Grand Cru. 

Wine Tasting Chablis Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard 

After lunch, we returned to the vineyard, where Andrew took us through the work that will be carried out on the vines between now and the harvest. 

Vineyard Winemaker Vines 

The day ended in the winery building where the grapes will be received during the harvest, the juice fermented, and the wine aged.

Many thanks to Julien, Pierre and Andrew for having given us an enlightening glimpse into the world of a winemaker!

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Debudding the vines in the Languedoc


Last weekend we headed to the south of France for some welcome sunshine and warmth.  We were at the Allegria winery near the Languedoc town of Pézenas for a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience Day.

Wine Experience Gift in south of France. Adopt-a-vine and get invovled in making your own wine.

Ghislain d'Aboville, Allegria's owner and winemaker, welcomed us and recounted the journey that he and his family took before finally settling in this tranquil and idyllic Mediterranean setting.

The main purpose of the Discovery Experience Day is to learn about the work undertaken in the vineyard.  We therefore started with a little tour of the vine plots where Ghislain explained and showed us the different soils, grape varieties and pruning methods used, as well as describing how he cultivates his vines organically.  Watch the short video.

Learning about the terroir and grape varieties in the organic vineyard

At the other side of the vineyard we arrived at the plot where the adopted vines of our clients are located, a small chalkboard indicating each micro-plot.  It didn't take long for the cameras to come out, especially once the opportunity to win a magnum of wine in the "My Vine" photo competition was announced!

Photo shoot of the adopt-a-vines

It's currently the time of year when the vines start to develop rapidly, and they can grow several centimetres a day.  Without any intervention, the vine will try to grow as much and as far as possible to the detriment of the quality of grapes.  It's therefore important over the coming months to keep on top of the vines to control their growth.  The work to be done at the moment is debudding.

Debudding consists of removing the excess buds and shoots which will drain the vine's energy.  And so with so many pairs of hands available, Ghislain welcomed our help with this manual task!  Most of the time, it's fairly easy to see what needs to be removed and what should stay, but there are always a few exceptions to make the job more intellectually stimulating!

Debudding in the vineyard

Working under the sun at 30°C makes you thirsty, so luckily a chilled magnum of rosé was waiting for us in the shade of the mazet.

Wine Tasting in the shade

Back at the winery, we continued the wine tasting session during the meal, trying the various white and red wines produced by Allegria, including the Tribu d'A Côteaux du Languedoc Pézenas red wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey.

Wine Tasting over lunch

In the afternoon, we visited the fermentation hall and cellar.  Here Ghislain introduced us to the vinification side of wine making, something that we will go into much more detail with during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

Tour of the fermentation hall and cellar

Many thanks to Ghislain for sharing his passion for winemaking with us!

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