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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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A good 2015 harvest for the Cotes du Rhone


The forecast was for a great day, with mild temperatures and lots of sun! And so the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers arrived on time for a Harvest Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte!

After some fresh croissant and a coffee, Stéphanne, Eric and Marie-Pierre announced the plan for the day. Today we were to follow the journey of the grapes from the moment they are picked, right through to when they are put into the vat.

Vineyard experience in the Rhône Valley

Without any further ado, we set off out into the vineyard, where we would spend most of the morning. Eric taught us how to pick the grapes using the secateurs. The grapes are big and magnificent, and the ones that are ripe for picking are to be found on the lower part of the vines. We each had a bucket to put the grapes in, and two to a row, we started to pick the vines treasure.

Original wine gift in Rhône Valley, France

Many of us were amazed by the large size of the grapes, and their density. We also tasted the grapes, and Eric told us how to tell if the grape has reached optimal maturity.

Adopt a vine france, Rhône Valley

The time flew by and it was already 12:30! The team of Gourmet Odyssey harvesters had done some good work. The buckets didn't cease to be filled, and a regular rhythm was maintained throughout the morning.

Wine experience gifts, Rhône Valley

It was then time to follow the grapes to the de-stemming machine, where the grapes are separated from the stems, and the berries are slightly crushed to help liberate their juice. This stage is done mechanically, and we watched with interest as Eric, Marie-Pierre and their son, Etienne, operated the machinery.

Wine gift packs in France, Rhône Valley

We had earned our wine tasting! Eric and Marie-Pierre served us their two white wines, the Colline and the Sauvageonne, both from the 2014 vintage. They are very fresh and were accompanied by some aperitif biscuits. Before sitting down to lunch, we watched the grapes being emptied into the vat by gravity.

Personalised wine gift in France, Domaine la Cabotte

As usual, Marie-Pierre had prepared us a great meal, simple, but so delicious! We continued the tasting with some of the winery's red wines, the Colline and Garance 2014, and the Châteauneuf du Pape 2013; which is produced from a plot of old vines which are more than 70 years old. After lunch, we headed back out into the vineyard to discover our adopted vines. This more relaxing moment tested the photographic skills of those who were interested in the My Vine photo competition.

Rent a vine in France, Rhône Valley

We finished the afternoon in the chai to learn more about the differences between working the grapes used for white and red wine. Eric explained the first stages of fermentation, whilst Etienne put the lid on the vat with aplomb, using a forklift truck.

Wine tasting gift in France, Rhône Valley

And by then it was already just gone 4pm. Marie-Pierre had prepared the cases of wine to be collected, and we said our goodbyes. See you again soon for a new Experience Day. The next type of day will be the Vinification Experience Day, where we will learn more about the vinification and blending processes.

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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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Training the vines at Domaine Chapelle


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

Wine experience in Burgundy

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

Rent a vine in Burgundy, France

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

Original wine gift in Burgundy, France

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

Vineyard experience in Burgundy, France

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

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy, biodynamic, France

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

Wine gift packs at Domaine Chapelle, Burgundy

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

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

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

Wine lover gift at Domaine Chapelle

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

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A sunny weekend at Château Beau-Rivage


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

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux, France

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

Wine making experience, biodynamic, Bordeaux

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

Wine lover gift at Bordeaux, unique experience, France

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

Rent a vine in France, Bordeaux

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

Wine experience gifts in France, Bordeaux

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

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux, France

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

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

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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 great Experience Day in the vineyard at Château Beau-Rivage


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

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

Wine experience gift in Bordeaux

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

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

Rent a vine in France, Bordeaux

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

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

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

Wine lover gift in Bordeaux

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

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

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

Original wne gift in France

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

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

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De-budding the vines at Domaine la Cabotte


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

Vineyard experience in Rhone Valley, France

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

Original red wine gift in France, Rhone Valley

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

Weddig present wine in Rhone Valley

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

Wine experience in Rhone Valley, France

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

Wine lover gift in Rhone Valley

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

Adopt a vine in Rhone Valley, France

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

Personalised bottles of red wine in France

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

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Bud burst of the vines in Spring


After the long and in parts cold winter, it's time to crawl out from under the duvet and make the most of the sunny days that spring will hopefully bring us. The vines feel the same way!

The vines have been in hibernation mode between December and March. During this time the sap has descended down into the root system of the plants, enabling the winemakers to prune the vines. Pruning limits the growth of the plant and limits the quantity of grapes produced, whilst improving their quality.

Towards the end of the pruning season, from around mid-March, you can notice the vines starting to "cry". But not to worry, it's a normal occurrence!

Adopt a vine in France

The vine's tears appear when the sap climbs up again from the roots and starts to flow from the exposed wood on the branches that have been cut during pruning. This is the first sign of life starting again for the new season.

The brighter days and longer hours of sunshine, couple with warmer temperatures cause the vine buds to swell. The tiny buds have been protected during the colder winter months by a layer of husk. The husk splits open as the temperatures rise and head north of 10°C, to give the buds room to develop. The buds generally start to grow around the end of March and beginning of April.

A small green point and new branches begin to appear from each bud, and you have to be careful of spring frosts during this precarious stage in the vine's developments.

If you would like to learn more about this and other steps in the vine cycle, why not join us for a Discovery Experience Day at one of our organic partner vineyards, where you will learn more about the work in the vineyard to cultivate the vines.

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Wine-Making Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte


St Valentine's Day this year saw a small group of wine lovers get together in the Rhone Valley at Domaine la Cabotte for a Vinification Experience Day. This wine course is the third and last in the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the aim of which is to demystify the work of the winemaker during the vinification and ageing stages of making wine. We had the perfect hosts for such an occasion in Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet, two passionate winemakers who speak with sincerity and conviction about their profession.

Wine gift pack in Rhône Valley, Mondragon

The day began in the chai where we learnt how the wine is worked during the fermentation period. The winery is both organically and biodynamically certified, and so Eric also took the opportunity to explain the fundamentals of biodynamic farming. The winery makes red and white wines, and for the first time for many years, has added a rosé wine to the range for the 2014 vintage. Eric & Marie-Pierre told us of the different techniques required in making each of these types of wine. Stéphanne taught us how to taste wines properly, and we finished with a tasting of the Sauvageonne 2014 white wine directly from the barrel.

Wine experience in France at Mondragon

Back in the warmth of the boutique, we put our noses to the test. With the help of some small flasks, we had to identify twenty different aromas that can be found in white and red wines, a task more difficult that it seems, but always fun to try!

Vineyard experience in France, Rhône Valley

Next, we continued with the tasting of wines that are still in the process of ageing. We tasted three red wines from the 2014 vintage, the Garance, Gabriel and Châteauneuf du Pape Vielle Vignes. Eric & Marie-Pierre talked us through the different blends used for each wine, and the characteristics that each grape varietal brings to the wine.

Wine making experience in Rhône Valley

The Colline 2014 red wine had been bottled just a week before, and so before lunch, we took the opportunity to give it its first tasting. A very fruity and fresh wine which had opened up nicely despite its young age. We then tasted the Colline 2014 white wine, followed by the Garance 2013, Gabriel 2012, Châteauneuf du Pape Vielles Vignes 2012 and the new Colline 2014 rosé wine during the meal.

Rent vines at Domaine la Cabotte, in Rhône Valley

To help us digest all of that, we started the afternoon by taking some fresh air. We first visited the vineyard plot where our adopted Grenache vines are to be found. Eric then took us on a stroll around the vineyard to learn more about the geology, terroir and the biodynamic practices used.

Wine lover gift in Rhône Valley

The day finished back where we started, in the chai. Eric explained how the wine is bottled and the importance in choosing the correct corks. Marie-Pierre also showed us the labelling machine in operation.

Personnalised bottles of wine in Mondragon, France

So another very instructive day, full of interesting information. As usual, many thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre, and to all of our participants for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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Wine-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!

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Wine blending workshop in Bordeaux


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

Wine experience gifts in Bordeaux

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

Wine gift packs in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage

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

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

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

Unique wine gifts in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage

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

Personalised bottles of wine in Bordaux at Château Beau Rivage

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

Wine making Experience in Bordeaux, France

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

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux, France

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

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Wine-making Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy


The snow and wind also turned up for the Vinification Experience Days on the first weekend of February, but fortunately the programme was to spend most of the day inside. The aim of the Vinification Experience Days is to learn about the process of fermenting and ageing wine from the time of harvest up until the time when the wine is finally ready to be bottled

And so after a nice warm coffee, the day started with a workshop led by Yvette Chapelle to develop the senses used when tasting wine, notably our sense of smell in identifying the aromas that can be found in wine.

Wine experience gifts in Burgundy

We first tried to name some of the primary fruity and floral aromas that are characteristic of different grape varietals, and then we had a go at identifying some of the tertiary aromas such as grilled almonds and toast that are indications of a wine that has been aged in oak barrels. We then participated in a second test to recognise sweet, saline, bitter and acidic tastes. This also enabled us to have a look at the machinery used in the room where the bottles are cleaned and the labels stuck onto the bottles. Jean-François Chapelle and Yannick Jacrot then took us into the fermentation hall to talk about the work carried out there during and immediately following the harvest.

Unique red wine gift in Burgundy, France

We then went down into the magnificent cellar; and tasted some of the 2014 wines direct from the barrels. This enabled us to compare different wines that are still in the ageing process, and to put our new found wine tasting skills to the test!

Vineyard experience in France

Back in the fermentation hall, we started to taste some of the finished wines from the estate. To start, a Santenay 2013 village white wine, accompanied by a few gougères, a local savoury delicacy. We then continued the wine tasting with some of the red wine wines during lunch.

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy

To kick off the afternoon activities, we took a short stroll to the Clos des Cornières vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found. It also gave us the opportunity to learn learn a little more about the local geology and the different appellations of Burgundy, Regional, Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru.

Adopt a vine in Burgundy

Despite the icy wind that blew over the Côte de Beaune on this particular weekend, we braved the elements to take a look at our vines and to note that they seem to be doing fine prior to being pruned in the coming weeks.

Personalised bottles of wine in Burgundy

The day finished with a tasting of the 2014 Clos des Cornières wines that are ageing in oak barrels, quietly lying in the cellar. The Clos de Cornières vineyard is made up of three distinct areas, which are refered to as the park, young and old, and we were able to taste the difference in each of the wines before they will be blended together closer to the time of bottling. Many thanks to Domaine Chapelle for their welcome and for enabling us to discover a little more about the art of making wine in Burgundy.

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The Patron Saints and Wine


The Saint Vincent tournante in Burgundy is nearly upon us once more, and will take place on the 24th and 25th January 2015. This year we'll be celebrating 900 years of the Cistercian monks' presence in the Burgundy vineyards! Over the course of history, wine and religion have often been closely linked. Did you know that there are more than 30 Saints, other than Vincent, who watch over the vines and the winemakers? Vernier, Martin and the others ... who are?
Saint Morand de Cluny

Throughout the year, different Saints are called upon and feted at critical moments in the vine's growth cycle. For example, Saint Morand de Cluny, celebrated on the 3rd June, notably in Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace, protects the vines from late frosts, and helps ensure a good flowering season. It became legend when his priory was short of wine one day for his guests, and so he made the sign of a cross on a barrel which immediately filled up with wine! The Saint Vincent marks the end of the winter rest of the vines, even if nowadays, the whims of the weather cause us to sometimes question the tradition.

The great diversity of the Patron Saints hails from the religious traditions and books that recount the life of martyrs, where wine is often used to signify spilt blood. But in the more down to earth cases, the Saints can often be traced back to the origins of winemaking in certain regions. It was Saint Martin, for example, that is said to have introduced vines in the Loire Valley in the 4th century, and that his donkey discovered the benefits of pruning. At the Marmoutier Abbey near Tours, the brave beast munched upon a few vine branches. The following harvest, the monks noted that despite being fewer, the grapes were much fatter, and of a much better quality on the vines that had nourished the donkey.

Saint Verny

Another well known figure to winemakers is Saint Vernier, the French adaptation of the German Saint Werner. He was assassinated in 1287 and his body found on Good Friday. He was considered a martyr, and his cult appeared in the 16th century in Lorraine and the Franche-Comté regions of France as part of the German Saint Empire. In Auvergne, he is known as the Saint Verny and he was honoured until the 19th century. But he was unable to do anything to protect the vines from the phylloxera, and the angry winemakers threw statues of him in the Allier forest or in the village fountains. It's not always easy being a Saint!

In the 20th century, the Saint Vincent following has become the most widespread. Saint Vincent, the Deacon and Bishop of Saragossa, died under torture in 542. His story says that during the 542 siege of Saragossa, Childebert, the King of France, and Clotaire, the King of Soissons, were touched with pity towards the inhabitants who had formed a procession behind the relics of Saint Vincent. They exchanged the relics for a lifting of the siege. The relics were moved to Paris and laid in the Sainte-Croix-Saint-Vincent Abbey, which has now become Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where the monks cultivated vines. And a patron Saint is born! Since 1938, he is honoured once a year by the knights of the Tastevin in Burgundy.

The 2003 Saint Viencent Tournante in Burgundy

Many other traditions remain to this day. For example on the 15th August, Assumption Day, the first fruit from the vines are offered to the Virgin Mary. Vine, wine and the Saints are intimately linked, but is not the only example of gastronomic patronage. To name but a few, Saint André the Patron Saint of fishermen and fish, Saint Antoine du Désert, the Patron of charcuterie and pig farmers, and Saint Honoré, the Patron of bakers, pastry cooks and confectioners.

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Adopt a vine for an original St Valentine’s gift


Christmas only just seems to have finished, and already it's time to try and find another imaginative gift idea for St Valentine's day for your loved one! But not to worry. We have a couple of great suggestions for Saint Valentine's that will amaze and put a twinkle in the eye of your Valentine! If you are looking for a personalised wine gift that stands the test of time, adopt some organic vines in France.
Offer an original wine experience gift for St Valentines' day

Our Wine Experience will immerse your partner in the life of a French organic vineyard. Through the newsletters and photos, your other half will discover the work carried out by the winemaker from the vine to the bottle, and follow the key stages in making their own personalised bottles of wine.

And if your beloved is the type of person who likes to get involved in the heart of the action, you can include a Discovery, Harvest or Vinification Experience Day, so they can visit their vines and participate in the work. Depending on the type of day chosen and the time of the year, they'll prune, de-bud or harvest the vines, or discover the fermentation, ageing, and blending processes.

The winemaker is present at each day to explain his or her work, to share their passion, and to present their wines for tasting during a winemaker's meal of local produce. Each wine experience day is valid for two people, giving a great excuse for a romantic weekend break in France.

Offer a wine tasting and personnalised bottled for St Valentine's day

All of our partner wineries are organically certified, and are selected for the quality of their wines and the enthusiasm of our winemakers in talking about their profession. It all makes for an unforgettable experience for any couple to get away, open a few nice bottles of wine, and to be able to explain how the wine was made.

A lasting and original Saint Valentine's gift for any gourmet or wine enthusiast who is curious to learn what it takes to make a simple bottle of wine. A wine experience that you'll remember for a long time to come!

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Last minute Christmas gifts for wine lovers


There's just two weeks of shopping to go until Christmas, but luckily if you haven't yet finished (or even started !) buying your Christmas presents, the Gourmet Odyssey gift packs are available to be sent up to 12:30 Paris time on the 22nd December, depending on the destination country. For the very last minute gifts, we can also send a certificate by email for all orders received by 12:30 on the 24th December, and we'll post the welcome pack to arrive shortly after Christmas. Here are a few Christmas gift ideas for wine lovers.

Adopt some vines this Christmas for someone close in one of our 7 organic partner vineyards in France. For a winemaking year, they'll follow the evolution of their wine and will end up with their own personalised bottles of wine.

Participate in the harvest in a French vineyard

To complete this gift idea, you can also include one or more of the 3 Wine Experience Days at the winery. Participate in the work in the vineyard to help produce the best quality grapes during a Discovery Experience Day, or join the Harvest Experience Day to pick the grapes and follow their journey into the vat. The third option is the Vinification Experience Day to learn about the work in the cellar to ferment, age and blend the wines. Each day allows you to get involved in the work of the winemaker, to share a meal and taste wines from the winery.

The winemakers' lunch and wine tasting during the Experience Days

All of our partner winemakers are organically certified and are passionate about their profession. They'll welcome you with pleasure and will let you in behind the scenes to learn more about the fascinating world of wine.

This unique and authentic approach to wine makes a great personalised Christmas gift. To have something to put underneath the Christmas tree and open on Christmas day, the welcome pack contains a sommelier's apron, a DropStop, personalised certificate and more information about the chosen experience.

 

More information on Christmas delivery times

More information on the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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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

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