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Tagged articles : Pruning

Pruning the Chardonnay vines in Chablis


Much of a wine’s quality is directly linked to the effort and care taken in the vineyard to produce the best quality grapes.  For without good grapes, it is very difficult to make good wine.  We ventured to Chablis last weekend to learn about the important work in the vineyard during a Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.

Adopt-a-vine gift for wine lovers in Chablis, France

We spent the morning in the vineyard under the expert of guidance of Arnaud, one of the most experienced members of the vineyard team.  Arnaud brought us up to speed on what they have been busy doing in the vineyard during the winter.

Most of the time since November has been taken up with pruning, which is probably the most important task of all in the vineyard, as it not only helps determine the potential yield for the coming year’s harvest, but also lays the foundation for the following year.  Arnaud had kept back a small plot of vines for us to have a go at pruning ourselves.  He explained and showed us how to select the branch that will bear this year’s grapes, and how to choose the two spurs that will be used in the future.

Vineyard experience gift in organic Chablis vineyard

Listening to Arnaud, it all sounded very easy, so secateurs in hand, we set about having a go ourselves.  But wait a minute, the vine in front of us resembled nothing like the ones that Arnaud had used to demonstrate on!  We were to soon learn that each vine seems to be an exception to the rule!  Arnaud flitted between us to help us or to confirm our thinking, and little by little, we became more confident in our choices.  It’s much more complicated than you would imagine. Having a go yourself is the only way to really understand, and also to appreciate the mammouth task that the winemakers face when you look around the surrounding vineyards that spread as far as the eye can see.

Rent-a-vine birthday gift in a French vineyard

Arnaud then showed us how the branches are attached to the training wires to ensure that the growth will be spread evenly.  He answered our many questions, and we also spent quite a lot of time talking about the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic methods.  The domaine is one of the largest organic and biodynamic wineries in Burgundy, and the plot of vines that we were working in is cultivated biodynamically.

On the way back to the winery, Arnaud showed us a some vines that had been pruned using the guyot double method, which leaves two branches instead of one in the guyot simple method that we had used.

Wine enthusiast gift.  Rent-a-vine in Chablis

We had earned our aperitif, and back at the winery Jean-Louis, had prepared a tasting of Petit Chablis, Chablis and Chablis Premier Cru to whet our appetite.  We continued the tasting over lunch of other organic wines from the winery, including Les Preuses Chablis Grand Cru.

Wine tasting experience gift at the winery in Chablis

After lunch we headed back into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines and to get in some training for Easter as we each hunted for our micro-plot of vines!

Adopt-a-vine in a French organic vineyard

We then learnt about the work that remains in the vineyard between now and the harvest.  There is still lots to do, and as we enter this crucial period now that the buds are starting to burst we hope that the frosts stay away.  The vines will grow rapidly now over the next couple of months.

The day finished with a quick tour of the upper fermentation hall to see where the wines are aged in oak casks.  We’ll learn more about what happens here during the Vinification Experience Days.

Wine-making experience present in Chablis, France

And so the day came to a close, and we left our vines in the care of the winery to be nurtured and managed as they grow and bear their fruit.  We look forward to coming back for the Harvest Experience Day!

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Pruning and folding the vines in Alsace


The sun was shining for the first of the 2017 Discovery Experience Days in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  The aim of this day is to learn about all of the work in the vineyard to obtain the best possible grapes at harvest time, and so naturally the day started in the vineyard, not just any vineyard, but the prestigious Hengst grand cru vineyard, where the winery has a plot of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer vines.

Original birthday gift idea for wine lovers.  Rent-a-vine in an an organic French vineyard

We were accompanied by Jean-Jacques and Céline, who explained to us how the vines are pruned to control their growth and limit the quantity of grapes that they produce.  When pruning you have to think not only of the year’s harvest, but also leave a spur that will produce the branches used to bear the following year’s fruit.  We soon got stuck in, and quickly warmed up with the effort of pulling away the cut branches.

Wine gift experience to learn the work of a winemaker

We put the cut branches in the middle of the rows, where they will later be crushed to return some of the nutrients to the soil.

Vineyard tour gift that gets you involved in the winemaker's work

Once the vines have been pruned, the remaining branches are then folded in an arc, and attached to the lowest training wires. This helps to slow the flow of sap, and better space the future growth of the plant, helping the grapes to ripen and the vines to dry after any rain, which in turn helps reduce the risk or rot.

Vineyard experience gift in Alsace, France

We then made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are located.  The plot is planted with Pinot Gris vines, and we admired the view of the surrounding vineyards and castles that dot the hills behind.

Organic rent-a-vine gift in Alsace, France

Jean-Jacques then talked more about other aspects of working in the vineyard, and showed us a plot that they had replanted last year.
By this time, our appetite and taste buds had opened up, and we were rewarded upon our return to the winery with a nice glass of wine.  We tasted a range of the estate’s wines including the Pinot Gris Rosenberg, chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and Riesling, Muscat, Sylvaner, and Pinot Noir wines, as well as a glass of Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine.

Organic wine tasting gift experience in Alsace, France

After lunch, Stéphane explained the work that remains to be done in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and how the winemaker chooses when the grapes are ready to be harvested.  We also learnt what is involved in being an organic winemaker.

Winery tour and wine cellar visit in Alsace, France

The day finished with a visit to the cellar to see where the wine will be made once the grapes have been picked, something that will be covered in much greater detail during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

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Learning to prune the vines in Burgundy


The Spring sun was out to welcome us for a Discovery Experience Day on the 12th March at Domaine Chapelle, in the Burgundy village of Santenay. This hands-on wine course at the winery was dedicated to the work in the vineyard, and at this time of year, the principal task is pruning the vines.

    Learn about the Burgundy vineyards in Stanenay, France

After a welcome coffee, Jean-François introduced us to the winery and winemaking in Santenay. He took us out into the garden to explain the local geology and its role in defining the classification of the surrounding vineyards.

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

We then headed to the Clos des Cornières vineyard, where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located. It gave us the chance to meet our vines and to take a few pictures for the “My Vine” photo competition!

Learn how to prune the vine in a winery in Burgundy, France

Yannick, the technical director, then started to explain the work in the vineyard to get the vines ready for harvest. It’s the end of the pruning season at the moment, so he showed us which branches to cut, and which to keep. He also explained how the number of buds that are left on each vine will help determine the quantity of fruit produced. The questions flowed, and we also had a long discussion on organic winemaking and the philosophy in implementing it at the winery.

Oenology course at Domaine Chapelle, a winery in Santenay, France

But enough talking - it was then time to put the theory into practice!  We quickly learnt that when it was our turn to prune, it wasn’t as easy as the explanations. The vines all grow slightly differently and there seemed to be an exception to every rule!  But it was a fun time, and everyone obtained their pruning diploma!

Wine and course tasting in a French winery, Santenay, Burgundy

Back at the winery, we enjoyed a typical Bourguignon aperitif in the sun. To accompany the Santenay Saint Jean white wine, we enjoyed some gougères, which are a local specialty. And we continued the wine tasting over lunch of beef bourguignon with three of the winery’s excellent red wines.

Learn how to tend a vineyard in Santenay, Burgundy

After lunch, we took a stroll in the vineyard to visit the Beuarepaire premier cru plot of vines. On the way, Yannick explained the different terroir that we could see.  We learnt about the work involved to replant a vineyard, the costs involved and its impact on the production.

The grapes are green harvested for the first two years which means picking them, but not using them. This helps the vines to develop their root system. The grapes will be picked and used from the 3rd year, but the wine that will be made will be classed a level down until the vines are about 10 year’s old and the grapes start to express the quality of the terroir.

We then returned to the winery for a quick tour of the cellar before finishing this informative and interesting day. The vineyard is where the hard work begins, and we look forward to coming back to learn more from Jean-François and Yannick during the Harvest and Vinification Experience days.

Many thanks to our hosts who once again welcomed us warmly! 

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Pruning the vines in the Rhone Valley


The first Discovery Experience Days for the 2017 vintage got underway recently at Domaine la Cabotte.  Marie-Pierre and Eric, the winemakers, were waiting for us with a nice warm coffee, and we admired the view over the vines and Massif d’Uchaux terroir as we waited for everyone to arrive.

We were at the winery to learn about the work of the winemaker in the vineyard to grow and nurture the best possible grapes come harvest time.  And as we were to learn, there’s a lot of work involved between now and the harvest!

Eric explains how to prune the vines

Eric and Marie-Pierre explained their philosophy of working the soil and the wines.  Why do you need to prune?  Why at this time of year?  Having been shown how to prune, we each had a go for ourselves under the guidance of Eric & Marie-Pierre.

The participants have a go at pruning under the guidance of Marie-Pierre

At the end of the morning, we visited the plot of Grenache where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located, and took some photos of the plants that will hopefully give us the fruit to make an excellent wine this year.

We then enjoyed a home-made lunch prepared by Marie-Pierre of endive salad, provençal stew, and raspberry tiramisu, paired with the Garance, Gabriel and Colline Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.

Enjoying lunch in the caveau overlooking the vineyard

After lunch we returned to the vineyard to finish the pruning and to perfect our cutting.  It’s not always easy to choose which branches to keep and which to cut!

Pruning is not as easy as it looks

In the chai, we talked about how biodynamics impacts the work and the environment at the winery.   We learnt about how it helps to improve the biodiversity in the vineyard, and how prevalent it is in the Massif d’Uchaux appellation, respecting the soil and nature’s rhythm.

And so the day drew to a close, a day full of information and the clip clip of the secateurs.  We’ll soon be able to see if our pruning bears any fruit as Eric and Marie-Pierre update us on how the buds develop.  Many thanks to our hosts for welcoming us and for being as authentic as ever.

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A lesson in pruning vines at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis


Pruning is probably the most complicated and hardest of all the work that is carried out in the vineyard. It is probably the most important too, as it helps determine not just the yield of this year’s harvest, but also lays the foundation for the following year. It might sound simple in theory, but as the participants in last Sunday’s Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard were to find out, it’s not quite as simple!
Vineyard experience, Chablis

The aim of this hands on wine course is to learn about all of the work that the winemaker has to do in the vineyard to ensure the best possible grapes at harvest time, so after the brief introductions, overview of the Chablis region and the history of the winery, we headed out into the vineyard.

We made our way to the Boissonneuse vineyard, which is where our adopted vines are located, and which was also the first of the winery’s vineyards to be organically and biodynamically certified. Here you have a great view of the rolling Chablis hills, planted with vines as far as the eye can see, and so we took a few minutes to take some photos of our vines in this wonderful setting.

Adopt a vine, Chablis, France

It was then time to get down to some serious business! We were accompanied by Fred, one of the key members of the vineyard team. He told us about what had been keeping him busy since the last harvest, most of the time which had been spent so far pruning the vines. The pruning at the winery has finished, but Fred had kept a few vines back so that we could have a go for ourselves. He showed us how to choose which branches to cut, and which to select to produce this year’s harvest. Easy!

Wine experience, Chablis, France

Secateurs in hand, we then had a go for ourselves. Hang on a minute. What did Fred say? Is this the right branch to keep? This vine doesn’t look anything like the ones he used for the demonstration... The first thing we learnt is that the theory is all well and good, but each vine has its own exceptions! However, after the first couple of vines, it starts to get a little easier, but we have a much better understanding of the complexity of what appears to be a simple task. And when you look at the hundreds of thousands of vines growing on the surrounding hills, you realise what a mammoth task pruning is.

Wine lover gift, Chablis,France

Fred then showed us how the branches are bent and attached to the training wire using a fantastic tool that ties and cuts some string at the press of a button, considerably speeding up the job.

Unique wine gifts, Chablis, France

We also had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics as varied as working the soil, grafting and planting new vines, as well as the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic farming.

We then made our way back to the winery for a well earned tasting of some of the Chablis wines produced on the estate. We tasted a Petit Chablis 2014 and Chablis Sainte Claire 2015, produced from the vineyard immediately around us. We then tried a Chablis Premier Cru “Butteaux” 2011, followed by a Chablis Grand Cru “Valmur” 2011. Over lunch we continued the tasting with a Chablis Boissonneuse 2013 and one of the few red wines produced at the winery, the Irancy “Les Mazelots” 2014.

Original wine gift, Chablis, France

After lunch and all those wines, it was good to get some fresh air! We headed out into the Sainte Claire vineyard, where we could see the notable difference in terroir from the Boissonneuse vineyard. Here we talked about the different tasks that lay ahead in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and how the winemakers will choose when the time is right to pick the grapes.

Adopt a vine france, Chablis

The day ended with a quick visit to the fermentation hall that is home to all of the wooden casks at the winery. It’s an impressive room, and is where part of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey cuvée is aged.

Personalised wine gifts, France, Chablis

We’ll go into more detail about the winemaking side of things during one of the Vinification Experience Days. For now the attention swings back to the vineyard, as the next couple of weeks will be crucial as we hope that the last of the frosts are behind us, and that the buds continue to flourish unhindered.

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Learning how to prune and attach the vines at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace


Our first Discovery Experience Day of the 2016 vintage got under way last Sunday at Domaine Stentz-Buecher. The aim was to learn all about the work necessary in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time.

After a welcome coffee, the day started with a visit to the Rosenberg vineyard where our adopted pinot gris vines are to be found. Rosenberg means pink hill, perhaps due to the rose bushes planted in front of the vine rows which used to serve as a warning of the risk of disease affecting the vines, roses being more sensitive than vines.

Adopt a vine france, Alsace

Having said hello to our vines and taken a few shots for the annual My Vine photo competition, we made our way to a second plot of vines, the Steingrubler Grand Cru vineyard. Here Jean-Jacques started to talk about the different steps taken to care for the vines, and showed us how to prune them using the Guyot method, leaving two branches and a spur that will be used to produce next year’s growth. Then, secateurs in hand, we had a go for ourselves. It’s not as easy as it seems to decide which branches to cut, and which to leave behind!

Vineyard experience, Alsace, France

Thanks to Jean-Jacques’ guidance, the result wasn’t too bad! Once the unwanted branches had been cut, we then had to pull them away from the vines to leave the two chosen branches unhindered. The cut branches were then placed in the middle of the rows to be crushed, enabling some of the nutrients to be returned to the soil.

Original wine gift, Alsace, France

We then had a go at bending the remaining branches and attaching them to the lower training wire. Naturally they point straight upwards, but bending the branches helps to reduce the yield and increase the aromatic concentration in the grapes. To attach the bent branches to the training wire, we used a funny little tool that ties and cuts the string in one motion. For beginners, a knot that is too tight or too loose will cause the branch to flex like a spring, so watch out for your nose!

Rent a vine, Alsace, France

It was then time to return to the winery to taste some of the wines, accompanied by some savoury Kougloff. We continued the wine tasting over lunch of traditional Roïgebrageldi, cheese and blueberry tart.

Wine tasting gift, Alsace, France

In the afternoon, we descended into the cellar for a quick tour of the press, barrel room and fermentation hall. We’ll spend more time here during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days. Many thanks to the Stentz-Buecher family for welcoming us to the winery, and to all the participants for their good cheer and stream of questions!

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Learning to prune vines in the Loire Valley


A spring sun came out in force to welcome our first participants for the Discovery Experience Day of the 2016 vintage at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley. A small, but very motivated group set about a vigorous morning’s work in the vineyard after a quick coffee and introduction to the winery and winemaker, Marc Plouzeau.

Marc explained the history of the Chinon wine region, of which we have very precise information thanks to Rabelais’ hero, Gargantua, and he then told us about his own history at the winery which started in 1999 when he took over the running of the estate from his father.

Today, Marc manages some 34 hectares of vines, all of which are located on the left bank of the River Vienne, with its own particular micro-climate. The majority of his vineyards are planted with cabernet franc, the king of the Chinon grape varietals, but he also has some chenin blanc, enabling the winery to produce Chinon white wines.

Rent a vine, Loire Valley, France

After wrapping up, our apprentice winemakers started off by meeting their adopted vines. It was the occasion to participate in the “My Vine” photo competition for the most original photo of their vines. One of last year’s winners came from Château de la Bonnelière and given the creativity of those present, the winery could also produce a winner for 2016!

It was then high time to get down to the serious business of the morning. Marc taught us all about the intricacies of pruning using the Guyot method. You have to not only choose which branch to leave to produce this year’s harvest, but you also have to prepare for next year by leaving a spur.

Vineyard experience, Chinon, France

Pruning is a difficult task to understand at first, but with a little practice, the techniques were quickly assimilated and some of the group seemed to have found a new vocation! Others preferred to pull the cut branches from the vines and round them up in the middle of the rows. By the end of the morning we had a very efficient production line in place!

Adopt a vine france, Loire Valley

We then returned to the warmth of the château for an aperitif and wholesome meal prepared by Mme Plouzeau who, as usual, had pulled out all of the stops to welcome us. We also tasted a wide range of the wines during the meal.

Wine experience gifts, Chinon, France

In the afternoon, we visited the tool shed, which enabled us to get a much better understanding of the different work carried out in the vineyard during the different seasons between two harvests.

Unique wine gifts, Loire Valley, France

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and fun day. Thanks to all of those who came to share it with us, and of course to our winemaker Marc for sharing his passion for his work with us.

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Pruning the vines in a Burgundy vineyard


Last Sunday, we welcomed some Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers to Domaine Chapelle in the Burgundy village of Santenay for a Discovery Experience Day, dedicated to learning more about the work in the vineyard.
Vineyard experience, France, Burgundy

Following the introductions to the day, Jean-François, the owner and winemaker at Domaine Chapelle, took the lead, presenting the winery and its place amongst the Burgundy vineyards. We then all got booted up to immerse ourselves in the vineyard! We formed two groups, the first under the guidance of Simon, Jean-François’ son, started by learning how to prune the vines using the cordon de royat method.

Adopt a vine, Burgundy, France

The second group started with Jean-François, learning how to fold the branch left from pruning using the guyot method, and attach it to the training wire. Jean-François also started to talk about the intricacies of working organically in the vineyard.

Original wine gift, France, Burgundy

We had a great moment in the vineyard. Everyone got stuck in and we all succeeded in becoming certified pruners!

The warmth of the winery beckoned, as did the time for a typical Burgundy aperitif. Jean-François served a Santenay white wine that went down very well, accompanied by some gougères, the traditional cheese shoe pastry appetiser. During the course of the meal, including a hearty beef bourguignon, we tasted three different wines, a Burgundy red, a Santenay “Clos des Cornières”, and a Santenay “Beaurepaire” Premier Cru.

At 14:30, we returned to the vineyard to introduce ourselves to our adopted vines. After a few quick photos, we climbed the track to the Beaurepaire vineyard, which was to be our next centre of attention.

Rent a vine, Burgundy, France

After a nice little stroll, punctuated by Jean-François’ commentary on the different soils and ways of working to till and weed them, we arrived in front of this little vine.

Wine lover gift, France, Burgundy

We learnt all about the work necessary to get the vine to this stage, and of the consequences replanting a vineyard has on the production. The vines are green harvested for the first two years, so that the plant focuses on its structure and root development. The first harvest is not until the 3rd year, but the wine it produces will be demoted to a lower class appellation. It’s only after about 10 years that this young vine will start to express the potential of the terroir. It’s a reminder that a winemaker has to have vision to lay down the groundwork for the future generation and so maintain the quality of the estate.

Personalised wine gift, Burgundy, France

Back at the winery, Jean-François took us on a quick tour of the cellar and fermentation hall. We could see the different marks that each generation had made in the fermentation hall. Wooden casks introduced by the grandfather, concrete vats during Jean-François’ father’s time, and a host of new stainless steel vats designed to work with gravity that Jean-François had introduced in a quest to further improve the quality of his wines.

At the end of this great day, we had learnt much about the work of the winemaker and the care that must be taken in the vineyard to nurture the vines. Many thanks to all who participated

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Pruning vines in the Rhone Valley


When we arrived at 8:00 on Saturday to get everything ready, there was a little worrying drizzle in the air. We were getting ready to prune during the Discovery Experience day, and it’s a little difficult to do whilst holding an umbrella!
Vineyard experience, Rhone Valley, France

But at 9:00, the clouds rolled away, and the Mont Ventoux showed off its flanks in the sunshine. Phew! Everyone arrived, and got to know each other over a cup of coffee or tea. From Lyon, the Ardèche, and even from London, we had lots of ground to cover!

Jacqueline from Gourmet Odyssey presented the programme for the day, and our winemakers, Marie-Pierre and Eric, introduced us to the winery, its history and the different grape varietals that they cultivate.

We then put on our boots and equipped ourselves with a pair of croppers, before heading to the plot of vines that had been set aside for us to prune. We’re in March, and as the old saying goes, “prune early or prune late, the best pruning is that of March”.

And so we found ourselves amongst the vines, which also happened to be the vines that we had adopted.

Adopt a vine france, Rhone Valley

Eric explained the essentials of pruning and how it helps control the quantity and quality of fruit that the vines will produce. Our Grenache vines are pruned using the goblet method. We have to leave a maximum of 5 branches, each with two eyes. We then place the cut branches in between the rows of vines. In this windy environment, we’re best to choose the branches that will be strong enough to withstand the force of the mistral. And the final advice that Eric gave, follow your instinct!

Rent a vine, France, Rhone Valley

We had 4 rows, each of about 150 vines, and so it took us until noon to get the job done, thanks to our team of ace apprentice winemakers. And noon signals the time for the aperitif!

The nice weather meant that we could enjoy the sun in front of the caveau. The sun’s rays played with the white and rosé wines in our glasses.

During the wine tasting, we learnt about the differences between conventional, organic, and biodynamic wine making.

Wine lover gift, France, Rhone Valley

Lunch had been prepared by Marie-Pierre, and was accompanied by the red wines of Domaine la Cabotte.

The Colline wine is a lovely blend of the great southern grape varietals, Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Carignan. The Garance wine, chosen for our Gourmet Odyssey wine, is a blend in equal measures of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, whilst the Gabriel wine is made up of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. The final wine is the estate’s Châteauneuf du Pape which blends 8 of the 13 different authorised grape varietals.

After lunch, we took a walk in the vineyard to see where the biodynamic preparations are buried. Here Eric and Jacqueline explained how different substances such as cow manure are dynamised and spread amongst the vines in Autumn and Spring. These treatments help to enrich the soil and invigorate the vines.

Eric showed us the specificity of the porous rocks that make up the local terroir, and their ability to keep the soil damp in periods of high temperatures.

Unique wine gift, France, Rhone Valley

The day finished with a quick visit of the chai as the end of the day was already fast approaching. Eric & Marie-Pierre will continue the work in the vineyard over the coming months before some of us will come back to help them with the harvest. And then there still remains the work in the chai to vinify the wines, but that is the subject of another wine experience day!

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Training the vines in Chablis


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

Vineyard experience in Chablis, organic white wine gift

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

Adopt a vine in Chablis, France

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

Wine experience gift in Chablis, France

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

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

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

Wedding present gift at Chablis, white wine, France

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

Unique wine gift in Chablis, France

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

Personalised bottles of wine, Chablis, France

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

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

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

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

A good harvest in Chablis

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De-budding in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle


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

Adopt-a-Vine wine experience gift in Burgundy France

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

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

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

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

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

Original vineyard tour gift in Burgundy, France.

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

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

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

Organic winery tour near Beaune, France

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

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

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

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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!

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A lovely day in the Burgundy vineyard


It was a beautiful sunny day last Sunday in Burgundy, and we had the good fortune to be at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay for a Discovery Experience Day. This hands-on wine day introduces us to the winery, and teaches us about all of the work carried out by the winemaker in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time.

Wine experience in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

After an introduction to the winery and the region by Jean-François Chapelle, the owner of the estate, we walked to the Clos des Cornières vineyard where our adopted vines are located.

Adopt a vine in Burgundy, France

Jean-François showed us the vineyard and pointed out the different geological strata that can be found around the winery and in the Côte de Beaune. This helps us to better understand the appellation system in the region of Burgundy generic, Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines. We then took a few minutes to meet our adopted vines for the first time, a very emotional moment for the new parents!

Vineyard experience in Burgundy, France

It was then time to get down to some work. We're nearing the end of the pruning season, which is one of the most important phases in the development of the vines. You have to prune well to reduce the quantity of grapes produced by each vine, and so improve the concentration of sugar in each grape bunch. We learnt how to prune using the Cordon de Royat method and had a go on some vines which had been pre-pruned by a tractor to cut down some of the wood.

Wine experience gift in Burgundy, France

The vineyard on the other side of the road is planted with Chardonnay, and the Guyot Simple method is used to prune. Here there is no pre-pruning done, so once we had cut the branches, you need to pull them from the training wires as the tendrils have wound around them.

Personalised bottles of wine in Burgundy

Back at the winery, we made the most of the sunshine and started the wine tasting in the courtyard with a Santenay 2013 white wine, accompanied by some gougères. The tasting continued during lunch with a Burgundy Pinot Noir 2011, a Santenay "Clos des Cornières" 2011 and a Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot 2010.

Original wine gift in France, Santenay

After lunch, we went for a walk to one of the Santenay Premier Cru vineyards, the Beaurepaire. This gave us the chance to discover some of the different views of the Côte de Beaune and to learn more about the local geology.

Wine taqsting gift in Burgundy

The day ended with a quick tour of the vaulted cellar to see where the wines are ageing in barrels and where the bottles are stocked until ready for labelling. Many thanks to Jean-François for his passionate explanations, and to all of our dear clients.

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Working in the vineyard at Domaine la Cabotte


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

 

wine gift packs

 

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

 

wine making experience

 

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

 

unique wine gift

 

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

 

personalised wine gifts

 

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

 

wine tasting gift

 

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

 

personalised wine gift

 


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

 

wine tasting gift

 

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

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Pruning in Chablis


Last Saturday, we were in Chablis at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for a Discovery Experience Day. The aim of the day was to learn more about the work carried out in the vineyard to have the best quality grapes possible at harvest time. So after the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard to start the day.
vine pruning Chablis Burgundy

 

We met up with Arnaud from the vineyard management team in the Boissonneuse vineyard, which was the first plot of vines to be converted to organic and biodynamic farming. Arnaud talked about the work that was conducted during the winter, and showed us how the vines are pruned and then attached horizontally to the training wire.

Pruning has finished throughout the estate, but Arnaud had left us a few small rows to prune. After a few demonstrations, it was our turn to have a go. Secateurs in hand, we quickly learnt that pruning is not as simple as you would have thought. Each vine requires thinking about and it seems that there are as many exceptions as there are vines!

vine pruning Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis

Arnaud also showed us how to "pluck" the remaining branch to better concentrate the vines energy in the fruit-bearing branches.

The special vineyard tractors were also out working in the same plot, and so we were also able to see how they are used to turn the soil in between the vine stocks and the rows.

Vineyard work Burgundy Chablis

The Boissonneuse vineyard is also the plot where the adopted vines of Gourmet Odyssey's clients are located, and so we took a few minutes to find our micro-plot of vines!

vine adoption Burgundy Chablis

Our taste buds were fully awake after all the morning's fresh air, and so back at the winery, we began to taste different wines from the range of Chablis wines that are produced on the estate. We continued the tasting during the meal, which was prepared by a local Chablis caterer.

The afternoon continued with a visit of the winery building for an introduction of the work carried out in the cellar, something that we will explore in more detail during the Vinification Experience Days.

Winery visit Chablis Domaine Brocard

Many thanks to Pierre and Arnaud for having shared their passion for the professions with us, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm!

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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!

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