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Tagged articles : Experience

Wine Experience day in Saint-Emilion at Château Coutet


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

Original goft for wine lovers in organic Saint-Emilion vineyard

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

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

Vineyard experience gift in France

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

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

Wine experience gift in an organic French vineyard

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

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

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

Rent-a-vine gift in Saint-Emilion

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

Wine tasting gift experience of organic Saint-Emilion wines

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

Vineyard robot

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

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

Winery tour gift experience in Saint-Emilion

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

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

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

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The perfect wine gift for Father’s Day


If you’re looking for a Father’s Day gift that goes further than a bottle of wine or a wine-tasting course, we have a great gift idea for you.  Original, completely personalised, and fun, the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is the ideal Father’s Day gift. Adopt some vines for your wine-loving Dad, and turn him into a wine-maker!

For a wine-making year, by adopting some vines for your Dad, he’ll follow the making of his own organic wine from the vine to the bottle at one of our partner wineries in France.

Personalised bottles of wine for the Fathers'Day


Through our Wine Experience gift box, he’ll keep up to date with the progress of his wine via the newsletters and photos. At the end of the wine-making year, he’ll receive a bottle of wine for each adopted vine. He can even choose the name of his wine and we’ll personalise his wine labels!

Oenology course in a French Vineyard for the Fathers' Day

And to make the experience even more memorable, include one or more wine experience days at the winery to meet his adopted vines, and to work alongside the wine-maker in the vineyard, harvest the grapes or discover what goes on in the cellar.

Vineyard tour and wine tasting as a wine gift box
Each day with the wine-maker lasts from 09:30 to 16:00 and includes lunch and wine tasting. The day is valid for two people, so is also a gift that can be shared with another wine lover!

All of our partner wineries have been chosen for the enthusiasm and passion of the wine-makers. They are all organically or biodynamically certified and produce excellent wines that are often acclaimed in the major wine competitions and in the wine press.
Wine gift box for the Fathers'Day

And to have a gift box to give on Father’s Day, the Wine Experience welcome gift pack includes a wine cooler bag, a re-usable glass wine stopper, a DropStop and a vine adoption certificate. Standard delivery is two working days for mainland France, and between 3 and 6 days for the rest of Europe. And for last minute Father’s Day gifts, we can send the certificate by email, and send the welcome pack by express delivery.

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


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

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

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

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

 

Wine Experience gift presented at the Champs-Elysées launch event

 

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

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

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

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Just a few weeks left to find the perfect gift for Father’s Day


An original gift that is personalised, fun, organic and participative... If these are your criteria for an ideal Father's Day gift and your dad is a wine lover, then Gourmet Odyssey has the perfect wine present for you. Adopt some organic vines in France and give an unforgettable Wine Experience gift.

More than just a wine course or wine tasting gift. By adopting some vines, your dad will become an apprentice winemaker and follow the making of his own organic wine at one of our partner wineries in France.

Learning how to prune vines during a day at the winery

Our Wine Experience gift pack will allow your dad to keep up to date with the news and work at his winery, and keep track of what his happening to his adopted vines via the newsletters and photos. At the end of the wine-making year, your father will receive a bottle of wine for each adopted vine. He can even choose the name of his wine and personalise the wine labels!

Wine gift box to harvest one's own vines

And for an even more participative experience, include one or more of the days at the winery to meet the winemakers, see the adopted vines, and get involved in working in the vineyard, the harvest, or one of the wine-making workshops.

Adopt-a-vine gift for Fathers' Day

Each day is a full day, lasting between 09:30 and 16:00, and includes lunch and a tasting of the wines from the winery. They are each valid for two people, so your dad will get to share a good moment over a glass or two of wine!

All of our partner wineries are chosen for the quality of their wine, the passion of the winemakers in sharing and talking about the art of winemaking, and they are all organically or biodynamically certified.

To have something for your Dad to open on Father's day, each gift pack contains a sommelier's apron, a DropStop, and vine adoption certificate. Standard delivery takes two working days in France, and between 3 and 6 days for the rest of Europe. For last minute Father's Day gifts, we can also send a copy of the adoption certificate by email .

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Learning about the work in the vineyard in Alsace


Much of a wine’s quality is the direct result of the work that is carried out in the vineyard to manage and nurture the vines, and as we were to learn during the Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher, there is much more to do than you would at first think!

Original wine experience gift.  Adopt vines in Alsace and make your own personalised bottles of wine

After the introductions to the Alsace wine growing region and a brief history of the Stentz-Buecher family, we made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found.  We took a few minutes to introduce ourselves to our vines and to encourage them to work hard in producing a good harvest for this year’s vintage!

Adopt-a-vine gift in france for wine lovers.

But then time to get down to the serious business of the day and to learn about the key stages involved in preparing the vines for the harvest.  To do so, we were joined by Jean-Jacques, who passionately explained the different aspects of this complex, demanding, and, often, highly manual profession.

Organic wine gift.  Work in the vineyard alongside the winemaker

Pruning, de-budding, trellising, planting new vines, fighting against diseases and so on, the questions and topics covered were varied and numerous.  We also talked about the differences between organic and conventional farming methods used to weed the vineyards and treat the vines, and how the life of a winemaker and the local community has changed over time.  Jean-Jacques is extremely passionate about his profession and given the chance would have kept us in the vineyard forever!

We then headed back to the winery, making a quick stop at a plot of vines lower down on the plain that had recently been damaged by frost and which will have a severely reduced yield as a result.  Difficult to believe given the glorious sunshine and blue skies of the day, but a reminder that however good and dedicated the winemaker may be, Mother Nature can have other plans.

Wine tasting gift in Alsace at an organic winery

We tasted a range of the different wines produced by Domaine Stentz-Buecher, starting with an unusual wine, called Who Am I? that is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.  We then moved onto a more classic Riesling Tradition 2014, followed by the 2014 vintage of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the Pinot Gris Rosenberg.  We then tasted a more complex Riesling, the Tannenbuehl 2011, and an unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011.

We tasted a Crémant d’Alsace “brut de nature”, made from 100% Chardonnay grapes with no added liqueur before sitting down to lunch which had been prepared by a local caterer.

In the afternoon, we visited the cellar to get a brief overview and appreciation of the wine-making side of things.  Stéphane showed us the wine press, and the vats and barrels that contain the wine during the fermentation and ageing processes.  We finished the day in the “vinothèque”, an impressive room used to showcase some of the older vintages.

Winery tour gift in Alsace, France

We’ll get to see the press in action during the Harvest Experience Day and will spend more time in the cellar during the Vinification Experience Days, but until then, there is still much to do in the vineyard, as the day hopefully taught us!

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Original Mother’s Day Gift. Adopt some organic vines in France.


The annual quest to find an original Mother’s Day present is once again upon us.  If your mum is a wine lover, we might have the perfect gift for her.  Adopt some vines in France in an organic French vineyard, and she’ll get to follow the making of her own organic wine from the work in the vineyard to the bottling of her own personalised bottles of wine.

Original Mother’s Day Gift. Adopt some organic vines in France. 
The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is a great Mother’s Day gift idea that will let her in behind the scenes to learn all about the art of winemaking.  She’ll receive an adopt-a-vine welcome gift pack to have something to open straight away, and then thanks to the newsletters and photos from the winemaker, she’ll follow all the key stages in the vineyard and cellar, and will be able to personalise the labels for her bottles of wine.

And if you think she’ll enjoy a short break in France to explore one of France’s wine growing regions, and actually get involved in helping to make her wine, you can include, or she can add at a later date, a Discovery, Harvest or Vinification Experience Day at her chosen winery.  Each Experience Day is valid for two people, with a winemaker’s lunch of regional delicacies and wine tasting included.

All of our partner wineries are organically certified, and are selected for the quality of their wine and the enthusiasm of the winemakers to share their passion for wine and how it is made.  One thing is for sure.  At the end of her Wine Experience gift, your Mum will appreciate wine in a whole new light, once she has learnt about all of the hard work, skill, love and effort that has gone into making her personalised bottles of wine.

Our welcome gift packs are delivered within two working days in France and 2-5 days for the rest of Europe depending on the country and delivery option selected.  For those last minute Mother’s Day gifts, a personalised adopt-a-vine certificate can be emailed.

So go on, and spoil your Mum this year with her own mini plot of vines in France.  It’s sure to be a Mother’s Day gift that she won’t be expecting!

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The finalists of the My Vine photo competition


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

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

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

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

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Find the perfect Christmas gift for a wine lover


In your search for the ideal Christmas present this year you're looking for an idea that is original, personalised, useful, practical to take with you, and wouldn't it be great if the gift was also organic and high-tech... Either Father Christmas is going to have fun trying to meet all of those criteria in the hunt for your Christmas present, or just maybe you are already on the Gourmet Odyssey blog, and you're almost there!

Wine gift packs, France

Our Wine Experiences make very original Christmas gift ideas. You can adopt some organic vines and give a personalised gift box containing the adoption certificate and access to the Client Portal to follow the progress of the making of your wine from the vine to the bottle.

Choose one of our organic partner winemakers from one of the seven major wine growing areas in France, decide how many vines you would like to adopt in your gift box, and set in motion a unique experience to discover the world of winemaking. Your recipient will follow the work of the winemaker in the vineyard and the cellar through the newsletters, photos and blog articles related to his wine and life at the selected winery. In no time at all, your recipient will be transformed into an environmentally friendly web wine-maker!

Unique wine gift, France

You can also make the Christmas gift more interactive by adding one or more of the three Wine Experience days at the winery during the wine-making year. It could be in the vineyard during the Discovery Experience Day to get involved in pruning, de-budding or training the vines, or picking the grapes during the Harvest Experience Day. Or else during the Vinification Experience Day, your recipient will learn about the work in the cellar and taste the wines during the ageing process to understand the choices the winemaker must take after the harvest period is over.

Wine making experience, France

All of the visits to the winery last at least 6 hours, the time necessary to go into enough detail to start to understand what it's really like to be a winemaker. The Wine Experience Days are participative, so we'll ask you to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. Each day includes wine tasting and lunch, and puts you in direct contact with the passionate winemakers.

Rent a vine, France

At the end of the experience, the winery will bottle your recipient's organic wine, complete with personalised wine labels. Something to savour for a long time to come, and remember your original Christmas gift by sharing a glass of wine among friends or family.

Personalised bottles of wine

The gift package you choose is flexible in terms of the vintage, number of vines, the selected winery, and whether you want to include one or more of the Wine Experience Days. The welcome gift pack can be delivered within a couple of days, and easily fits in a suitcase, or else can be delivered directly to your recipient, or even to an alternative address. The Christmas gift box includes a brochure explaining how to activate the Wine Experience online, a sommelier's apron and a DropStop so that your recipient has something to open straight away.

Wine lover gift

So how's that for the perfect Christmas gift idea? And if you are the one offering the present, maybe you'll get to enjoy some of the organic wine or get away on a weekend break to a French vineyard next year too!

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Meet our partner winemakers at the end of year wine fairs and wine tastings.

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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!

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The 2015 harvest nears the end in Alsace


The penultimate weekend of Harvest Experience Days saw us travel to Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace. With the very hot summer that the region endured, the harvest has been uncharacteristically early this year, and is almost over. The winery had kept back a plot of pinot noir vines for us to pick that will be used to make the winery's "Ambre" white wine, something that they only do every couple of years when the quality of the grapes allows them to do so.

Vineyard experience, Alsace, France

The day started with us heading out into the vineyard. We followed the tractor and the materiel we needed for the harvest until we reached the plot of pinot noir vines that we were to pick. Céline and Jean-Jacques gave us our instructions and equipped us with a bucket and a pair of secateurs each. We then set about harvesting the grapes, being careful to only pick the ripe bunches!

Adop a vine, Alsace, France

We emptied the buckets into the trailer, and some of us also had a go at being porter, collecting the harvested grapes in a big basket worn on the back.

Wine lover git, Alsace, France

Once the basket was full, the porter then had to climb a ladder and tip the grapes over the shoulder into the trailer.

Wine experience, Alsace, France

After we had finished harvesting the plot, we proceeded to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are located. We took a few minutes to visit our vines and to take some pictures for the "My Vine" photo competition.

Rent a vine in France, Alsace

We then followed the grapes back to the winery and met up with Stéphane, who had been busy working in the cellar during the morning. We emptied the grapes into the press by tipping the trailer up, and helping the grapes slide down using a fork.

Unique wine gifts, France, Alsace 

Down below in the cellar, Stéphane explained how the press works to extract the juice from the grapes, and how it is then transferred to the vats.

Wine making experience in Alsace, France

Céline then gave us a wine tasting session of a range of the organic wines produced by the winery. We started with an unusual wine for Alsace, a 2012 blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling, called "Who Am I?". We the tasted a Riesling Ortel 2012, before tasting three different Grand Cru wines; a Riesling Steingrubler 2008 Grand Cru, a Pinot Gris Hengst 2006 Grand Cru, and a Gewurztraminer Hengst 2008 Grand Cru.

We then continued the tasting over lunch with a Pinot Blanc 2014, a Pinot Noir 2011, and Sylvaner Vielles Vignes 2011.

Wine gift packs in Alsace, France

After lunch, we headed back down into the cellar, where Stéphane explained how the work at harvest time isn't finished once the grapes are picked. We had a go at "pigeage", a job that involves punching down the cap of grape skins and pips into the juice, using a big plunger. This helps extract the tannins and colour from the grape skins during the maceration period.

Original wine gift, Alsace, France

In the fermentation hall, we learnt all about the process to turn the grape juice into wine as we listened to the gurgling of the vats that had already started to ferment.

Personalised wine gifts, France, Alsace

We finished the day with a final tasting of a couple of grape musts, at different stages of fermentation. We'll pick up from here next year during the Vinification Experience Days where we'll learn about the decisions that the winemaker takes during the rest of the fermentation and ageing periods.

Wine tasting gift, Alsace, France

A final stop in the room where the older wines are stored, and then it was time to say our farewells. Many thanks to all of the family at Domaine Stentz-Buecher for welcoming us, and letting us in behind the scenes during harvest time!

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Another great Harvest Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


We returned to Domaine la Cabotte on Saturday for the 2nd of the Harvest Experience Days. The harvest, which started at the end of August at the winery, is now reaching the end, with just a couple of plots left to go, including their Châteauneuf du Pape vineyard which should be picked this week.
Harvest Experience Day as a wine gift in France

As soon as we had finished the introductions, we walked through the vineyard to the plot of Carignan vines that are located on the other side of the road. Eric & Marie-Pierre handed out the material we needed to pick the grapes and gave us our instructions.

Armed with our secateurs and buckets, we spread out among the vines and started picking. The Carignan vines are pruned using the goblet method, and so grow as free-standing plants. With no training wires to worry about, you can rotate around the plant to more easily access the bunches of grapes.

Picking experience in the vinyeard of Cotes du Rhone

As we worked our way down the rows, Eric advanced the tractor little by little, so that we had less distance to empty our buckets. With the large bunches of delicious grapes that we were picking, the buckets quickly filled up, and so too did the trailer!

The weather was perfect for harvesting, with bright blue skies and a slight breeze to keep us from getting too hot. It's a magical place to spend a morning, with just the sound of birds, and the snip of the secateurs to accompany us.

Harvest wine box gift at Domaine la Cabotte

Once we had finished cutting the rows that Eric & Marie-Pierre had left us, we made our way back up to the winery and followed the route that the harvested grapes take.

We made our way behind the winery building to see where the grapes are received. First they are emptied into a de-stemming machine to separate the berries from the stalks. The harvest was of a very good quality, and so there was no need for a sorting table.

De-stemming experience in the Rhone Valley, France

The grape berries are then transported up a conveyor belt and then fall directly into the vat below where they will start the process of being turned into wine.

Conveyor belt during French harvest experience at Domaine la Cabotte

After all the morning's effort, we were ready for the aperitif! We tasted a couple of the winery's white wines and the Côte du Rhône Colline red wine, before sitting down to lunch where we continued the wine tasting.

Wine tasting at the winery in the Rhone Valley France

In the afternoon, we first of all took a few minutes to visit our adopted vines and take a few pictures.

Vines adoption gift in the Rhone Valley France

We then headed back to the chai, where Eric talked about how the grape juice ferments, and the important work done to extract the tannins and colour during the maceration process. Eric also talked about the differences in making white wines.

Fermentation process during the harvest in France

We tasted a couple of grape musts that are already in the process of fermentation to see how the sugar level decreases as the alcoholic content increases.

Wine tasting at Domaine la Cabotte rhone Valley

Eric then answered lots of questions about wine-making, notably about the use of sulphites to preserve the wine, before the day drew to a close. We will get the opportunity to discuss the many choices of the winemaker during the vinification, blending and ageing phases in much more detail during the Vinification Experience Days.

Once again, many thanks to Eric & Marie-Pierre for welcoming us and for letting us get a taste of what it takes to be a winemaker.

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Harvesting the Syrah grapes in the Languedoc


On the 12th September there was a weather warning for the Hérault region, where our partner winery, Domaine Allegria, is situated. The participants of the Harvest Experience Day arrived under a dark sky, and Ghislain and Delphine, the winemakers, were wondering of it would be possible to harvest.

Vineyard experience in France, Languedoc

After a warm coffee and an introduction to the day, we decided to head quickly out into the vineyard to start harvesting as soon as possible, and try to avoid the rain as best we could. The forecast was for the weather to deteriorate towards the end of the morning.

Adop a vine in France, Languedoc

We set about picking the grapes in the small plot of Syrah vines, situated just above the ancient volcano. The grapes were in excellent condition, and the Syrah are truly magnificent this year! In an hour and a half we picked about 350kg of grapes, and put them into small crates, each weighing about 12-13 kg.

Wine lover gift in Languedoc

Before lunch, we went to the part of the vineyard where the Carignan grapes grow. We spent some time removing the leaves which cover the grapes, in order to increase the air flow around the grapes, and decrease the chance of rot setting in after the forecast rain arrived.

Original wine gift in France, Languedoc

The lunch that Delphine had prepared was most welcome, warm lentil salad, hot quiche, and local cheese from Mas Rolland to help replenish our energy. 

Rent a vine in Languedoc, France

At the end of lunch, the downpour started. We took refuge in the cellar and put our harvest into a vat for a special type of fermentation, which consists of putting the whole grapes into the vat without crushing them at all for the whole of the fermentation process. The fermentation will take place inside each individual berry, giving the wine a greater aromatic richness.

The rain continued to pour down, so we were unfortunately not able to visit our adopted vines... Once we had finished putting the grapes into the vats, we said our goodbyes, hoping that the roads wouldn't be blocked by the rain.

So our apprentice winemakers learnt the principle rule at harvest time - it's the weather that decides and dictates the dayss programme! Many thanks to all the participants who helped get the Syrah safely into the cellar before the rain arrived, and to Ghislain and Delphine for welcoming us during the busy and stressful harvest period.

 

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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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A sunny harvest in Bordeaux

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Training the vines at Domaine Allegria


Last Saturday, we had a magnificent and very hot day for the Discovery Experience Day. When the guests arrived it was already 27°C, and the thermometer would pass the 35°C level in the afternoon! We were at Domaine Allegria in the Languedoc region of Southern France to discover the profession of being a winemaker, and in particular, the work in the vineyard to produce the best possible quality of grapes

Vineyard experience in Languedoc, France

So, off we headed into the vineyard, in the direction of our adopted vines. We stopped for a quick photo shoot of our adopted vines, and spent some time learning about the terroir of the vineyard, and the work that has been carried out so far this year, including the organic treatments.

Rent a vine in Languedoc, biodynamic, France

We then had a free sunbathing session as we trained the Syrah vines in the Mazet vineyard. Training the vines is important work at this time of year, as the vines are growing very quickly, and we need to help them support the weight of the leaves and grape bunches that are starting to form well now. It was getting very hot in the vineyard!

Unique wine gift in Languedoc, France

Luckily, lunchtime quickly arrived, and we returned to the winery to enjoy the meal prepared by Delphine. Over lunch we tasted the wines made at Domaine Allegria; Dolce Vita, Tribu d'A, Carignan Gourmand, Cousu Main and La Belle Histoire.

Wine experience gift in Languedoc, red wine, France

After lunch, we had a tour of the fermentation hall and barrel room to have an introduction into the vinification side of things, before filling the cars with a few cases of wine and leaving the winery with lots of memories.

Many thanks to all those who shared the day with us!

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Harvesting the Syrah grapes in the Languedoc

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Training the vines in Chablis


The vines are growing very fast at the moment, and there is lots of work to be done in the vineyard to keep everything in order. We spent last Saturday at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis to learn a little more about the mammoth effort needed to produce the best possible quality grapes come harvest time.

Vineyard experience in Chablis, organic white wine gift

Following the introductions to the winery and the region, we walked to the Boissonneuse vineyard, the plot where our adopted vines are located. From here, we have a great view of the rolling Chablisien countryside, and we could identify the different terroirs that make up the Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis appellations. We took a few minutes to take a couple of photos of our adopted vines, and to encourage them to produce a good harvest this year!

Adopt a vine in Chablis, France

In the vineyard, we were accompanied by Frédéric from the vine management team. He explained the work carried out in the vineyard since last year's harvest, including the long task of pruning the vines.

Wine experience gift in Chablis, France

He had brought some tools with him to show us some of the equipment used to prune and attach the vines to the training wire.

Frédéric told us about how the soil is mechanically worked in line with the way that the vineyard is cultivated organically and biodynamically. He explained the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic farming. Julien Brocard joined us to explain what convinced him to work biodynamically at the winery.

At the moment, the vines are thriving, and grow several centimetres each day. The training wires are raised in line with the vines growth to help support the weight of the foliage. You have to also ensure that the branches are placed in between the wires, and Frédéric showed us how to do so. We then spread out among the rows, and got stuck in. It's an important job that helps the tractor pass more easily between the rows, and that also helps reduce the vines exposure to disease.

Wedding present gift at Chablis, white wine, France

After a morning spent in the vineyard, we had earned our wine tasting session. Back at the winery, Sébastien introduced us to the range of biodynamic wines produced at the winery, starting with the Petit Chablis ?Les Plantes? 2012, followed by the wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey, "La Boissonneuse" Chablis, also from the 2012 vintage. We then tasted two Chablis Premier Cru wines from 2011, the "Vaudevey" and "Côte de Léchet", before a blind tasting of a magnum of the Chablis Grand Cru "Bougros" 2003. The wine tasting continued over lunch.

Unique wine gift in Chablis, France

We returned to the vineyard after lunch to see the difference in terroir around the winery buildings compared to the vineyard where we had spent the morning. We also talked about the work that will be done during the coming summer months, and how the moment is decided when the grapes will be ready to be harvested.

Personalised bottles of wine, Chablis, France

The day finished in the fermentation hall where the oak casks are to be found. Here, the wines from last year are slowly ageing. We will spend more time here during the Vinification Expeirence Days.

Many thanks to all of the participants for this most enjoyable day.

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

A good harvest in Chablis

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

A great 2015 harvest in the Loire

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

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