Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

Visit www.gourmetodyssey.com for more information

Tagged articles : Loire

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.

Wine box gift vineyard visit in France

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!

Add a comment

Working in the vineyard during a Wine Experience Day in the Loire Valley


We had a sunny weekend in the Loire Valley last weekend to welcome the participants of the Discovery Experience week-end at Château de la Bonnelière.

  Vine-Adoption and winery visit in Chinon, France

It was the first visit to the winery for this new season of apprentice wine-makers, and so Marc Plouzeau, the owner and wine-maker at Château de la Bonnelière told us about the history of the winery, and introduced us to the characteristics of the Chinon wine appellation, particularly the Left Bank wines, where all of the 30 hectares of Marc’s vineyards are located.

One of the principal aims of the Discovery Experience Day is to participate in the life at the winery and to help work in the vineyard. The plan was to help out with the de-budding during the week-end to remove some of the unwanted shoots, which in turn will help control the amount of fruit produced. In Chinon, the appellation charter stipulates that there should be no more than 14 grape bunches per vine.

Oenology and wine-making course at the winery, Loire, France

Unfortunately Mother Nature hadn’t been very kind to the Loire Valley wine-makers for the second consecutive year.  The château’s vineyards had been hit by two frosts in April.

The first was a “black frost” where the temperatures fell to as low as -7°C during the night in some areas of the Chinon appellation. In Marc’s vineyards, the temperatures didn’t fall as low as in other parts, but a second frost hit the following week, this time being a “white frost”. Here the cold temperatures see frost form around the vines, creating a magnifying glass effect for the early morning sunrays that then scorch the moist buds and leaves.

Wine lover perfect gift vine-adoption in the Loire Valley, France

Despite trying to protect the vines by lighting paraffin candles in the vineyards to raise the temperature by a few degrees, the frost still impacted some of Marc’s plots of vines.  But fortunately the vines are fairly hardy plants, and there were some good surprises, notably in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard where the vines resisted well.

As the number of shoots had already been reduced from the impact of the frost, we decided to get involved in another activity, less glamorous, but essential nonetheless; hoeing! It’s a physical activity and gave us a good work out as we removed the weeds and grass growing around the vines that the plough had difficulty in reaching.

Get involved in the making of your own wine in Loire, France

Marc answered our many questions regarding the different aspects of working in the vineyard, and took us on a tour of the chai.

Wien-tasting at Château de la Bonnelière, Chinon, France

By this time, we had earned our aperitif and lunch, which was accompanied by a tasting of the different wines from the winery, including the two new Chinon white wines.

Vineyard tour and winery visit in the Loire Valley, France

In the afternoon, we took a walk in the vineyard, and visited the chenin blanc vines which are used in the Chinon white wine and which are pruned using a different technique. We also visited a plot of cabernet franc vines dating back to 1929, which are used in the “Vindoux” red wine, a name which hides the strength if this cuvée!

The day finished with the sun still shining brightly. We look forward to returning to see the ripe grapes at harvest time

Add a comment

Getting involved in the work in the vineyard


The 26th March saw the new season’s adoptive parents arrive at the winery to start work on the 2017 vintage of the Clos de la Bonnelière. And despite the change of clocks, everyone arrived on time, eager to start the day!

Over coffee, Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner, explained the history of the winery which was brought back to life by his father in 1980.  In 1989, a great vintage for the Loire Valley, the first Château de la Bonnelière wine for over 60 years was born.

Winery touring wine gift in the Loire Valley, France

Marc took over the running of the winery in 2000, and has gradually grown the winery over the years and as the opportunities arose.  Today the winery has 30 hectares of vines, all of which are situated on the left back of the Vienne river.

It was then time to get to the heart of the day’s matter, and find out what happens in the vineyard to nurture the vines. The pruning season has just finished, and it is now time to get ready for the vines future growth and to work the soil, which has been resting since the last harvest.

We had a double mission for the day.  First of all to pull away the cut branches that had been left behind after pruning, and then to attach the remaining branches to the training wires.

Adopt-a-vine gift box for wine lover in France

We worked in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, where our adopted vines are located.  So before getting stuck in, we took a few minutes to meet our vines and take a few pictures for the My Vine photo competition, some of which were very acrobatic!

Work in the vineyard course with the winemaker in France

But enough larking around, it was high time to do some work!  Pulling away the cut branches is a fairly physical task as the tendrils from last year grip tightly to the training wires, but one which we soon got to grips with, leaving the dead wood in the middle of the rows to be crushed, allowing some of the nutrients to return to the soil.

Oenology course at the winery in France as a wine gift

The next task to fold the branches and attach them to the training wires was a little more difficult.  The fruit-bearing branch which will carry this year’s grapes needs to be supported by the wire, and the branches folded without breaking them.  You need to be careful, and the sound that they make when being bent causes you to worry at first.  But you soon get the hang of it, and we made a good job of it!

By this time, we had built up a good appetite, and we enjoyed lunch, accompanied by some of Marc’s different red and white wines.

Wine tasting during a discovery day at the winery, Chinon, France

We resisted the urge for a siesta in the afternoon sun, and listened intently as Marc explained the work involved in being an organic winegrower, and how the work differs in some of his other vine plots.

The day then drew to a close, and we each headed off in our separate directions having learned more about the work that goes on behind the scenes in making quality wine.  We look forward to learning more when we come back for the Harvest and Vinification Experience days.

Add a comment

Congratualtions to the winners of the 2016 My Vine photo competition


Many thanks to all of the participants in the 2016 “My Vine” photo competition, and also thanks to all of those who liked, commented or shared the photos taken during the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Days at our partner vineyards.
Voting closed at 17:00 yesterday and we have two winners.  The first winner was chosen by the Gourmet Odyssey jury, and the second winner was for the photo that received the most likes on our Facebook page.

The choice for the jury prize was long debated, and it proved very difficult to single out just one photo from all of the finalists!

Congratulations go to Maxime Baudry, who has been awarded the Gourmet Odyssey jury prize, and to Benoit Gaultier, the winner of the public vote on our Facebook page:

Adopt-vine experience in Burgundy, France

Wine gift box for Christmas, Birthday


Each winner will receive a magnum of wine from the winery where their adopted vines are located!

See you next year as the 2017 competition gets under way in February with the first Vinification and Discovery Experience Days!

 

Add a comment

Harvest Experience in the Loire Valley at Château de la Bonnelière


The sun was shining for the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière near Chinon last weekend. We were joined at the winery by some of the apprentice winemakers who had come to participate in the harvest and to help the winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, create two of the winery’s most prestigious wines, the Vindoux I’Intégrale 1929, and the Clos de Maulévrier Antéphylloxéra.

 

Vine adoption and grapes harvest experience in France

A couple of busy days were in store, so as soon as Marc had welcomed us and given an introduction to the history of his winery, it was time to head out into the vineyard.

Despite the frost in April and a rainy spring, the two vineyard plots had resisted well, and had managed to produce some excellent quality grapes.  After a briefing on how to harvest the grapes and equipped with secateurs and buckets, we got stuck in to harvesting.

inemaker experience in the Loire Valley France

Sunday’s group had the honour to harvest the only plot of Cabernet Franc vines in the whole of the Loire Valley that date from before the phylloxera period!  This vineyard has existed since the 15th century and so shares its history with one of Chinon’s most famous people, Rabelais!  The vines were spared the phylloxera disease thanks to the sandy soil and high walls that surround the walled vineyard.  One of the vines in this plot is over 200 years old and has 9 heads – a real sight to behold!

The vines that stop producing grapes in this vineyard are replaced using grafting from healthy plants or by using the marcotting technique, whereby a vine branch is buried in the ground whilst still attached to the original plant.  The underground part of the branch will then start to develop its own roots, and once this has been done, it is then separated.

Harvest Day Experience as wine gift box

The crates quickly filled up with the harvested grapes, and we returned to the chateau for the lunch which Marc’s mum had prepared.  During lunch we tasted different wines and vintages from the winery and the plots that we had harvested in the morning.

Wine tasting and winery tour in the Loire Valley France

To help lunch digest, we headed back out into the vineyard to find our adopted vines.  A good excuse to take a few souvenir pictures and some surprising ones for the “My Vine” photo competition!

Harvester meal and experience in France as wine gift

We then made our way to the chai, to follow our grapes progress.  We first emptied the crates into the de-stemming machine to separate the Cabernet Franc grape berries from the stalks.

Oenology course at the wineray in the Loire Valley France

The grapes were then put directly into the vats where they will ferment for the next 4 weeks or so.  The marc will then be pressed, and the wine will then be transferred to barrels for the ageing process.

Our day finished with a final tasting, not of wine, but of the grape juice from the vineyard plots that we had just picked!  A nice way to thank everyone for their hard work and to give a pre-taste of how the wine will have evolved once the Vinification Experience days get under way next year.

Add a comment

De-budding the vines in the Loire Valley


Last weekend, Marc Plouzeau, the owner and winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, welcomed some of the 2016 vintage Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine owners to the winery in the Loire Valley for a Discovery Experience day.
Discovery Experience Day to learn about winemaking at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley

Over a coffee and some croissants, Marc gave us a quick overview of the Loire Valley and Chinon winemaking regions, and he introduced us to his family history and their involvement with the winery up to when he took over the running of it in 1999. It was then time to head out into the vineyard.

Before getting to meet the adopted vines, we discussed the frost that hit the Loire valley hard at the end of April. The Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard got off lightly, thanks to the protection that Marc and his team had put in place using anti-frost candles.

Marc explains how he tried to protect his vines from the recent frosts

The anti-frost candles are 5 litre cans of paraffin that are placed 400 per hectare throughout the vineyard, and then lit when needed. They help raise the temperature of the air by a few crucial degrees and by doing so, help reduce the risk of the frost developing. The lighting of these candles enabled Marc to save the harvest of the vines in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard.

After the traditional photo shoot of the adopted vines for the "My Vine" photo competition, the main programme for the morning was de-budding.

The adopt-a-vine owners get to meet their vines.

The vines are flourishing at the moment, and the shoots and leaves are rapidly growing. Some of these shoots will not produce any grapes, and will just serve to take energy away from the vines if they are not removed. So our mission was to help Marc get rid of the excess growth.

Wine Experience gift to help the winemaker work in the vineyard

Despite some hesitation and at first being worried about removing the wrong shoots, we got stuck in and followed Marc's guidelines. We had a very motivated group, and we de-budded a couple of rows which will help the team at the winery finish the task more quickly!

Gift experience to learn how to de-bud vines

Having finished the work, it was time to sit down, and continue the discussion over lunch whilst tasting various wines from Château de la Bonnelière. We were lucky enough to taste the latest of Marc's creations, the Vindoux wine which is a Chinon red from the 2014 vintage. It's the first integral vinification wine from the winery that had been fermented and aged completely in new oak barrels. The wine was much appreciated!

Wine tasting and vineyard experience gift in the Loire Valley at Château de la Bonnelière

The afternoon continued with a visit to the tool shed to learn about the array of tools that are used to work the vines and soil in the vineyard. We also visited the chai to get a taster for what the Vinification Experience Day holds in store.

It was another rich day, full of interesting discussions between the participants and the winemaker. Many thanks to Marc and to all you came!

Add a comment

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!

Add a comment

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?

Add a comment

Training the vines at Château de la Bonnelière


Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, welcomed us to his winery during this very warm weekend, introducing us to our adopted vines, the life of a winemaker, and the beginnings of the 2015 vintage.

 

Rent-a-vine wine experience, Loire Valley, France

Our Discovery Experience Day started with a coffee and Marc recounting the long history of the winery and the region.  Marc took over the reins from his father in 1999, and started working organically straight away.  Today the winery covers 35 hectares of vines situated on Chinon's left bank.

In the vineyard, we took a few minutes to meet our adopted vines.  Thanks to the great weather we have been having since June and the warm temperatures, the vines are further advanced than is usual.

Adopt-a-vine gift experience at an organic French vineyard

The vine branches have grown quickly, and our task for the morning was to train them.  The vine is a creeper plant, and grows up from the ground producing big branches.  To cultivate it, you have to help support it, and that is why between each post in the vineyard, run three sets of training wires, with the middle one doubled up.

We had to raise the middle two wires and by doing so, trap the vegetation between them, and then attach the wires together using a clip.  This will help support the weight of the foliage and grapes, and will allow the tractor to more easily pass between the rows.

Vineyard experience working on the vines in the Loire Valley, France

The temperature rose during the morning, and Saturday's group welcomed the shade of the hanger whilst Marc explained the work in the vineyard to come between now and the harvest.  It was a little cooler on Sunday, and the group were able to finish training the remaining vine rows, before listening to Marc.

Organic winery tour in the Loire Valley

The 2015 vintage is shaping up very nicely so far, and we could be in for a great year.  The harvest should happen around the beginning of October.

It was then time for the aperitif!  We started our wine tasting with the "Perle Sauvage" sparkling rosé, and we appreciated the fine bubbles.  We then sat down to eat lunch, lovingly prepared by Madame Plouzeau, and tasted five different wines during the different courses.

Wine tasting gift at the winery in the Loire Valley, France

Despite the calls for a siesta, we continued our learning in the afternoon with a visit to the fermentation hall.  Luckily, this is the coolest place to be as it is air conditioned!  Marc quickly described how he vinifies his wine, something that we will go into much more detail about during the Vinification Experience Day.

Original gift for wine lovers. Visit an organic winery in Chinon, France.

The day then came to a close and it was time to thank our host and participants, many of who we'll have the pleasure of seeing again during one of the Harvest Experience Days.

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

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

A great 2015 harvest in the Loire

Add a comment

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!

Other articles relating to wine tasting

The fundamentals of wine tasting

Wine defects. How to identify faults when tasting wines

Add a comment

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!

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

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

A great 2015 harvest in the Loire

Add a comment

Pruning the vines in Chinon


Last weekend, we welcomed the first clients of the 2015 vintage to Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon for a Discovery Experience Day. This sunny and fresh day enabled us to learn about the winery and the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard. We met our adopted vines and learnt how to prune the vines, an essential step in the development of the vines.

Our host, Marc Plouzeau, introduced us to the winery and explained his long family connection to the estate. The winery's vineyards stretch across the left bank of the Vienne river, and include different terroir of gravel, clay and flint soils.

Having presented how the work is approached in the different vineyards, Marc gave us a sneak preview of his new range of labels which graphically represent this philosophy.

We then headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard to meet our adopted vines for the first time!

Wine Experience in Loire Valley, Chinon

After a few photos for the "My Vine" photo competition, it was time to get down to some more serious work!

To warm us up, we started by pulling away some of the pruned branches. The vineyard had been pruned by Marc's team, but he had left us the task of stripping away the old wood to leave a clean space around the branches left to produce this year's harvest.

Adopt a vine in Loire Valley

Marc also taught us how to prune using the "Guyot Simple" technique which is anything but simple!

Each vine is unique, so each needs a moment of reflection before the secateurs start snipping. We started by removing the branch that had produced last year's grapes. Then we needed to choose the new branch for this year, which is usually on the other side of the vine from last year's. We then cleaned up the branch to leave just 8 eyes, so as to reduce the number of grapes, and increase their sugar levels. To finish we left a shorter branch or  "spur", which will then become next years fruit bearing branch.

Rent a vine in Loire Valley, Chinon

To end the morning's activities, Marc explained the next stages of working the vines until they are ready to be harvested, from de-budding, trimming and green harvesting. Each of these steps will help to control the future yield and produce better quality grapes.

We were then rewarded with a tasting of the wines from the château and a meal in the barn. We tasted a Touraine Sauvignon 2014 white wine with the fish terrine, a Chinon Rive Gauche 2014 and a Clos de la Bonnelière 2012 with the blanquette de veau. To finish in style we enjoyed a Chapelle 2012 with some local goat?s cheese, and the little treasure of the winery, the "Ante Phylloxéra" wine, which is made from a micro plot of vines that haven?t been grafted, and can be traced back for more than 200 years!

Wine tasting eperience in Loire Valley

Despite some requests for a siesta after lunch, we continued the day by visiting the tool shed and learning about the machines and equipment which help Marc and his team work the vines organically.

Vineyard unique experience in Loire Valley

As the day drew to a close, we visited the fermentation hall, where Marc answered some of the last questions from our apprentice winemakers.

Many thanks to Marc and to all of the participants for a great day!

Add a comment

Wine-making Experience Day in Chinon


Last weekend, we gathered in the Loire Valley for a couple of Vinification Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière. Following the days we had spent in the vineyard during last winter and spring, and then for the harvest in October, this third in the series of wine experience days, picks up where we left off at the harvest to give us an insight into the winemakers' work in the cellar up until the time when the wine is finally ready for bottling. The winemakers job is far from finished once the grapes have been picked!

Vineyard experience, red wine in France

During the morning, we participated in three different workshops. In the chai, Marc Plouzeau, the owner and winemaker at the winery, explained to us the work carried out during the fermentation period and at the start of the ageing process. All of the wines are vinified separately at the winery, and Marc enlightened us as to the differences in using vats or oak barrels to age the wine.

Wine gift packs in Loire Valley
The Vinification Experience Day is when we taste the most wine. Often, one of the most difficult things to do when tasting wines is find the words to describe them. To help us, we put our noses to the test to try and identify some of the aromas found in wine, either due to the grape varietals or by having been aged in oak barrels.
Wine tasting gift in Loire Valley

To put our new found skills to practice, we headed to the cellar where the wines are aged in barrels. The cellar is located directly underneath the Chinon fortress, and it's in this magical setting that we tasted four wines, led by Marc. Each wine was from the same grape varietal, from the same 2014 vintage and each still in the ageing process. One of the wines had been aged in a vat, another in an old oak barrel, another in new oak, and the last was a press wine. Four completely different wines in aroma and on the palate!

Wine making experience in France

Back at the château, we continued the tasting with a sparkling wine, a white wine and three Chinon red wines from the winery during lunch.

Personalised wine gift in Loire Valley

After lunch we took some fresh air and went out into the Clos de la Bonnelière, the vineyard where the vines adopted by the Gourmet Odyssey clients are to be found. After a few pictures, we headed back to the chai.

Rent a vine in Chinon, at Château de la Bonnelière

Marc showed us the machinery that is used to bottle and label the wines. An important point during this stage is the choice of cork. Marc talked about the different quality of corks available, and also explained the advantages and disadvantages of alternatives such as screw tops and plastic corks.

Personalised bottles of red wine in Chinon

And so a day full of information and tasting drew to a close. Huge thanks to Marc for having shared the day with us, and to all of the participants for their good cheer!

Add a comment

The harvest season continues in the Loire Valley


The 2014 series of Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days came to an end last weekend under a magnificent blue sky at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon. We had a great day to finish the season.

After a coffee and a croissant, Marc Plouzeau, introduced us to his winery, and told us about the "Vin Doux" plot of vines that we were to harvest. Marc bought this vineyard of magnificent old vines a couple of years ago, and it is currently being converted to organic.

Harvest experience in the Loire Valley

Once in the vineyard, Marc and Noémie, the vineyard manager, handed out the tools we needed to harvest. Each equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs, we listened attentively to the instructions before spreading out in twos among the vine rows to start picking the grapes.

Harvesters at work in Chinon Loire Valley

We also had a few volunteer porters. Once we had filled our buckets, we called a porter and emptied our grapes into the basket that they carried on their backs. They then took the grapes and emptied them into the trailer at the bottom of the vineyard.

Porter for the harvest 2014 in chinon

Once we had finished our rows, we followed our harvest back to the winery to discover the sorting table, where we removed any unripe berries or leaves that had inadvertently added themselves. But due to the high quality of the grapes and the diligent work of our harvesters, there wasn't much to sort at all! At the end of the table, a de-stemming machine separates the stalk from the grapes which fall into a trolley below.

Sorting grapes for the harvest 2014 in Chinon

We then split our harvest into two parts. The first was put into a 600 litre barrel for an integral vinification, and the second into one of the vats. Marc explained what happens to the juice during the fermentation process that will last up to 3 weeks.

Once we had finished putting the grapes into the barrel and vat, we were rewarded with a glass of « Perle Sauvage », the natural sparkling wine produced at the winery.

Wine tasting at Château de la Bonnelière Chinon France

The harvesters' meal was served in the barn, where we continued the tasting of wines, including the Chinon blanc 2013, Clos de Bonnelière 2012 and Chapelle 2011.

Harvester's lunch at Château de la Bonnelière Chinon

After lunch, we headed out into the vineyard where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are to be found.

Vine adoption in Chinon Loire Valley

We then returned to the chai to learn more about the important work carried out there during the harvest, and to learn about the differences in making white, red and rosé wines. We finished the day by tasting some grape juice that had just started to ferment. Marc also showed us how to measure the density of the juice and estimate the potential alcoholic volume using the mustimetre.

Assessing the potential alcoholic volume of the wine

Many thanks to Marc, Marie-Rose and Noémie from Château de la Bonnelière for welcoming us and accompanying us during the Harvest Experience Days, and to all of our clients for their good cheer!

See you again soon for the Vinification Experience Days!

Add a comment

End of the winter work in the vineyard in Chinon


The Discovery Experience Days for the 2014 vintage got under way last Saturday at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon.  The aim of the day was to learn more about the work needed in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time. 

Wine Experience Gift in the Loire Valley, France

 

After an introduction by the winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, we headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière, the vineyard where our adopted vines are to be found.  We took a few minutes to take some pictures and introduce ourselves to our vines!

 

Rent-a-vine in France. Original gift for a wine enthusiast

 

With the relatively mild winter, pruning has now finished across all of the winery's vineyards.  It's important to wrap up the pruning before the sap rises into the branches.  Marc explained how the vines are pruned to leave just one branch that will produce the fruit-bearing canes on one side, and a short branch on the other in preparation for the following year.

 

Pruning vines during the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

 

Once pruned, the cut branches need to be removed from the vines.  Marc had left us a few rows to do, so rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in!  The vines wrap themselves tightly around the training wires, so it's quite a physical job!

 

Removing the cut vine branches

 

We placed the branches in the middle of the rows where they will be crushed in-situ to return some nutrients to the soil when they decompose.

The next job is to bend the remaining branch on each vine until it is horizontal and then attach it to the training wire.  We worried about breaking the branches, but with a gentle touch we managed just fine!

 

Attaching the vine to the training wire

 

During the morning, Marc also explained the other work that will be carried out into the vineyard between now and harvest time, and we learnt that there is much more to be done than you would first think!

After our hard work, the aperitif was just reward!  We tasted one of the winery's sparkling wines, "Perles Fines", with some homemade goat's cheese and olive cake.  During the meal, we continued the wine tasting with some of the other white and red wines from the winery.

In the afternoon, Marc introduced us to the notion of biodynamic farming and showed us how he makes some of his biodynamic preparations.  He also showed us the range of tools and machines that he uses to work the vines and the soil.

 

The tools and machinery used to work the vines and soil

 

The day ended in the winery's cellar which is located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress.  Marc showed us where the wines are aged in oak barrels and also took the opportunity to turn his bottles of sparkling wine.

 

Turning the sparkling wine bottles in the cellar

 

Many thanks to all who participated in the day and to our passionate winemaker, Marc, for letting us in behind the scenes to discover what it's really like to be a winemaker!

Add a comment

Cellar work in Chinon


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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Add a comment

Share |
RSS

About the blog

What to get the person that has everything ?

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

From € 159

Tags

Adopt-a-Vine Biodynamic Blending Burgundy Cellar Experience Fermentation Gift Grapes Harvest Loire Making Organic Tasting Vine Vines Vineyard Wine Winemaker Winery

All Tags

Categories

Archive

Last Comments

Links