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Tagged articles : Rhone

Wine-making and blending experience day in the Rhone Valley


Last Saturday, we were welcomed by Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet at Domaine la Cabotte in the Rhone Valley to learn more about the vinification process of the 2016 vintage.  For some of the participants it was their third wine experience day at the winery, having already participated in pruning the vines and harvesting the grapes last year.

Wine-making experience gift at the winery in France beside the wine-maker

The programme of the day was to talk about how the wine progresses through the fermentation and ageing stages once the harvested grapes arrive in the chai, and for this, we were in the expert hands of Eric.

Original wine enthusiast gift to learn about wine-making

At Domaine la Cabotte, whenever possible they blend the different grape varietals together to make each of their different wines.  Marie-Pierre and Eric prefer that the juice from the grenache, mourvèdre, carignan and cinsault mix and ferment together.  It’s not something that is easy to do, and sometimes they opt to vinify the grape varietals separately.  It’s all a question of the vintage.

They regularly taste the wines to determine the best moment to rack them and separate the wine from the solid matter of skin, pips, and stems that is deposited at the bottom of the vats.  The fermented juice becomes “vin de goutte”, and continues to be closely monitored to check that nothing untoward is happening.

Tasting the wines that are still ageing

Four to ten months after the harvest for the most part, the wine is then racked again, bottled, labelled and then enjoyed by wine lovers all over the world, including the adoptive parents, who have followed the birth of the vintage from first bud to the bottle.

We then returned to the caveau for a workshop that put our noses to the test.  We had to try to name a series of different aromas that can be found in wine.  Honey, lemon, pear… for the whites.  Raspberry, blackcurrant, liquorice… for the reds.

A couple of the participants were very good at this game, but all were agreed to step out into the sunshine to smell some real aromas from some real wine!

We tasted the Garance and Gabriel red wines and the Clairette white wine that had been aged in Italian amphorae.  A real treat.
To accompany the wines over lunch, we enjoyed a home-made salad, lamb tagine, and fruit cake.  And Jacqueline, the sommelier, recited ‘L’Ame du vin”, Beaudelaire’s tribute to the divine nectar.

Rent-a-vine gift in the rhone valley in a biodynamic vineyard

We spent the afternoon in the vineyard, amongst the plot of grenache vines that have been adopted by the Gourmet Odyssey clients.  Here, Eric recounted the geological history of the Massif d’Uchaux terroir, and explained the influence it has on the aroma and structure of the wine.

We finished the day in front of the chai, where we learnt a little more about the biodynamic philosophy, and the importance of respecting nature’s rhythm which help to create the balance in the wines at Domaine la Cabotte.

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Winemaker profiles - Marie-Pierre, Eric and Etienne Plumet-d’Ardhuy at Domaine la Cabotte


Once again, for our profile series of our partner winemakers, we asked a few question to Marie-Pierre, Eric and Etienne Plumet-d'Ardhuy from Domaine la Cabotte. We learnt that what really makes them tick is their passion for their job, and in learning and sharing with others.

Meet the Côtes du Rhône winemakers in Mondragon 

How long have you been a winemakers?

For us (Eric & Marie-Pierre), since 1981: It's both a profession and passion that we share as a family, that our respective parents did before us, and that our son, Etienne will carry on since his arrival at the winery this year.

What is your best memory in the vineyard or cellar?

So many memories over the past 35 years, but the ones that stand out the most are the first times. We created the winery, and all of the first times we did something new will be forever etched in our memories; the first planting of the vines, first vinification, first tasting of our wines, first bottling, and first bottle labelled with the name of our winery.

Everything is not always perfect the first time, but it's always the beginning of a new journey, a new challenge, and forces you to question yourselves.

Adopt some organic vines in the Rhone Valley at Domaine la Cabotte 

For the 2015 vintage, what is at present your favourite wine and why?

We never have a favourite wine. Ask a parent which is their favourite child? It's impossible to answer. We love all of our wines for their qualities and their imperfections.

They are all touched by the same vintage, whether they are rich, full, smooth, fruity, fresh, or velvety, they are all the product of our passion and so deserve the same attention.

What are your projects or challenges for 2016?

The arrival of our son, Etienne, to the winery, then uprooting and replanting 12ha of vines that our son is leasing.

A question that our clients often ask. What do winemakers do when they have a little time to themselves?

A bit like everyone. We go to the cinema, to the theatre, we visit exhibitions and museums, and we spend time with our children and grandchildren.

Sometimes we get the chance to go on holiday, and if there is a winery or wine merchant nearby, we stop by to learn and exchange knowledge on wine-making!

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Wine-making Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


The Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte got started as always with one eye turned towards the weather. We’d had lots of wind from the mistral for the previous few days in the Rhone Valley, but everything had calmed down by Saturday. The sun was shining and the vibrant green of the first vine leaves were gleaming. Everything was in place to share a great day.

Our guests arrived from as far afield as Belgium and the Reunion Island, as well as from closer to home such as Marseille, Avignon and Courthezon.

Rent a vine, Rhone Valley, France

After the introductions and a welcome croissant, we set off to greet our adopted vines. For some it was their first meeting, for others a warm reunion and the pleasure of taking a photo with the first buds peeking through.

Under the spring sunshine, Eric, the winemaker, took us to the highest vineyard plot behind the chai to start talking about the vinification process. It was a good way to remind us that everything starts in the vineyard and results from the earth under our feet. We briefly touch on topics as varied as pruning, biodynamics and the influence of the terroir on the taste of the wines.

Vineyard experience, Rhone Valley, France

The questions flow and the time flies by. We return to the wine boutique to start getting down to some practical work.

Marie-Pierre had prepared some pens and paper, and some small bottles containing the aromas to be found in red and white wines. It was a workshop designed to try and help us identify different aromas. It can be a very frustrating experience as you know you know the aroma, but you just can’t put a name to it... “I know that smell. What is it? Lemon. No, wait, grapefruit?... Ah that one I know for sure. Lime tree! I’ve got one in my garden.”

Wine making experience, Rhone Valley, France

One of our participants managed to correctly name all of the aromas!

We then hurried to the chai to put our new found nasal skills to the test, this time with real wines!

Eric spoke passionately and expertly about what happens in the vat, how the work of the yeast is measured daily, how the temperatures rise and fall as the fermentation starts and then slows down. A good wine doesn’t just happen by itself, and we had the honour of tasting some of the wines that are still in the ageing process in the chai.

Wine lover gift,Rhone Valley, France

À table ! Marie-Pierre had put a bench out in the sun for the aperitif of the delicious Colline rosé wine. Over lunch, freshly prepared by Marie-Pierre, we continued the tasting with the Colline white and red wines, and then the Massif d’Uchaux red wines.

Wine experience, Rhone Valley, France

To honour the Chateauneuf-du-Pape made at Domaine la Cabotte, Jacqueline, the sommelier, enchanted us with a little poem that had been written by a friend of Pétrarque who was familiar with the Vaucluse region:

 

« Je veux vous chanter mes amis
ce vieux Châteauneuf que j'ai mis
pour vous seuls en bouteille 
il va faire merveille... 
Il est fils des côteaux pierreux
Que Phoebus brûle de ses feux
C'est un divin dictame 
qui enchantent nos âmes ».

 

The day ended back in the chai where there still remained much to talk about. Blending wines, the different types of container to store the wines – stainless steel, wood, or amphorae. We also talked about how the chai itself had been designed to work using natural gravity as much as possible, about bottling, and the different demands of clients in different countries.

Unique wine gift, Rhone Valley, France

Having stocked up with a few bottles to take home, it was time to end the day, hoping that the wine will continue to tell its story when it is poured into a glass.

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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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Wine-making Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


It was a full house for the first 2015 Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte. Eric and Marie-Pierre, the winemakers, were there as usual and this time were accompanied by their son Etienne, who joined the winery at harvest time last year. On the Gourmet Odyssey side, we also had the pleasure to welcome Jacqueline and Bertrand, both sommeliers, who will be running the next experience days.

At 9:30, once everyone had arrived and had finished their coffee and croissant, we introduced the day and Marie-Pierre presented the history of the winery, how it is named after the little “Cabotte”, a stone shelter for the workers in the vineyard, and how she and Eric became winemakers.

Vineyard experience, Rhône Valley

We then went to visit our adopted vines, and talked about the different grape varietals grown on the estate. The plot of vines where our adopted vines are located is planted with Grenache, and the Garance wine that we will end up with at the end of the experience, also contains Mourvèdre and Syrah.

Rent a vine in Rhône Valley, France

We then went to the chai to see what happens after the harvest. The grapes from the different vineyard plots are put into individual vats and go through two fermentation phases before being racked to separate the wine from the marc of solid matter such as the skin and pips. Eric explained how this part of the vinification process differs slightly for the white wines.

Throughout the vinfication period, there are many controls and decisions that the winemaker must make, but as Eric reminded us, much of the work is done in the vineyard before the harvest, especially for wineries like Domaine la Cabotte who work biodynamically.

After having answered lots of questions on organic and biodynamic wine making, and the work that they entail for the winemaker, we returned to the reception to put into practice our wine tasting skills. We started with a challenge to test our noses by identifying the primary and secondary aromas found in wine. It’s not such an easy thing to do!

And it’s a task that is even more difficult for the winemaker who must identify the aromas that are all intermingled following the blend of several wines and where tertiary aromas are also added depending on the choice of ageing the wine in oak barrels.

Wine tasting gift, Rhône Valley, France

Eric took us back to the chai to taste some of the 2015 wines that have been blended and are still in the process of ageing. Of the three wines, the first two had exactly the same age and the same proportion of different grape varietals, the only difference being that the second wine had been ageing in new oak barrels for a couple of months. We could already taste a big difference. The third wine had not completely finished its malo-lactic fermentation, and was measuring 10g of sugar per litre instead of the authorised maximum of 3g. More time is needed for this wine to finish fermenting.

Wine experience gift, Rhône Valleu, France

Once we had tasted these wines, it was time for lunch, which had been prepared by Marie-Pierre. We tasted some of the finished wines too, starting with the rosé with the starter. We then tasted the Garance and Gabriel 2014 red wines with the main course and cheese. We finished with a Château-neuf-du-Pape from a recently acquired vineyard which is worked entirely by hand and by horse.

We started the afternoon with a short walk around the vineyards whilst Eric explained the geology that makes the Massif d’Uchaux such a unique place, and gives the wine its special qualities.

Unique wine gift, Rhône Valley, France

We finished the day by learning what happens to the wine at the end of the maturing period and how it is bottled, labelled and packaged. Being biodynamic, this too is done in harmony with the lunar calendar that takes into account the position of the moon and the tidal coefficients. There are still a few months to wait until our 2015 vintage of the Garance wine will be ready, but as Eric said, you need time to become mature and wise!

Many thanks to all of the participants for your curiosity

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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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Biodynamic winemaking at Domaine la Cabotte


Last Saturday saw us visit the Domaine la Cabotte winery in the southern part of the Côtes du Rhône region for a Discovery Experience Day. The programme for the day was to better understand the work of the winemaker in the vineyard.

Vineyard experience in Rhône Valley, France

At 9:00 am, the first guests started to pass through the large iron gates at the entrance of the winery, and we were blessed with a very pure light and crisp colours. The winemakers, Eric and Marie-Pierre, welcomed us with a cup of coffee and some croissants, whilst we waited for everyone to arrive.

Marie-Pierre told us the history of the winery before passing over to her husband, Eric, who took us out to spend the morning in the vineyard, and help him train the vines, which is the work of the moment.

Unique wine gifts in Rhône Valley, France

As we walked through the different vine plots, Eric took care to explain the differences of each grape varietal, and the work that has already been carried out in the vineyard this year. We learnt about the growth of the vines, their strength, how they create the grapes, and how grafting is used when replanting the vines.

Adopt a vine in Rhône Valley, France

To best understand the work of a winemaker, it's always best to roll up your sleeves and get involved, so we each found ourselves in front of a row of vines. We started by:

1- taking off the clips that were already keeping the training wires together,

2- raising the two wires and making sure that the vine branches were supported between them,

3- tightening the two wires together again by replacing the clips...

Original wine gift in Rhône Valley, France

There was lots of wind blowing from the Mistral, but everyone got stuck in and enjoyed this physical activity.

Once we had finished, Marie-Pierre replenished us with some chilled water, and we headed back to the chai to taste some of the rosé and white wines produced at the winery, accompanied by some freshly picked radish and a goats cheese cake.

We tasted the delicious fruity red wines with the meal, which we enjoyed inside the chai to keep us sheltered from the wind blowing outside.

Wine lover gift in Rhône Valley, France 

A coffee to end lunch, and then back out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines.

Rent a vine in France, Rhône Valley

Once we had immortalised the moment with our cameras, we grouped around Eric who recounted passionately the local geology and how the Massif d'Uchaux appellation came to be.

We finished the day with a demonstration of how to prepare a biodynamic tisane. Eric explained the differences between organic and biodynamic methods, and talked in depth about sulphites. We made an tisane from stinging nettles, horsetail, and carpenter's weed, which we then tasted!

Personnalised bottles of red wine in Rhône Valley, France

Our winemakers showed us how to dynamise the preparation using the dynamiser, and then we realised that it was already 4pm. How the time had flown!

Wine gift packs, biodynamic, Rhône Valley, France

We thanked Eric and Marie-Pierre for the time that they had shared with us, and for their dedication to their profession.

And then we headed back through the gates, a few cases of wine safely stored in the boot of the car. Safe trip and see you again soon for the "Harvest Experience Day".

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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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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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The harvest starts at Domaine la Cabotte


We had a lovely sunny day to start the harvest at Domaine la Cabotte last Saturday. Following an introduction to the winery and an update on the 2014 campaign so far, we made our way through the vineyard to harvest the Syrah plot of vines that will be used in the Garance wine, which is the chosen wine for the Gourmet Odyssey clients.

 

adopt a vine gift in the Cotes du Rhone, France

 

Once Eric and his wife Marie-Pierre, the owners of the winery, had explained to us how to pick the grapes, we spread out among the vine rows in pairs. This year, the harvest was made easier due to the excellent condition of the grapes, with practically nothing to sort or leave behind.

 

Grape picking gift in France

 

The buckets filled up quickly, and by the end of the morning we had filled two trailers. We followed our harvest to the chai to assist with the de-stemming, before the grapes were put into the vat. The berries are separated from the stalks and then, once in the vat, will start to slowly ferment. It was then time to refresh ourselves with a tasting of some of the estate's wines.

 

Wine Experience gift in the Cotes du Rhone to get involved in the harvest

 

After lunch, which was prepared by Marie-Pierre, we headed back out into the vineyard. We learnt how to taste the grapes to decide whether they are ready for picking or if they need more time to mature. It's all a matter of the colour of the skin, the taste in the mouth, and what the pips look like. It all seems very easy to Eric, but for the rest of us, the nuances are often very subtle!

 

Unique wine gifts in the Rhone Valley

 

Whilst tasting the grapes, we took sample bunches from a number of different vine plots of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah. We then mixed these together in the cellar to estimate the sugar levels and hence the potential volume of alcohol of the wine, if it were blended with these three grape varietals. It's quite a simple technique, but one that has to be repeated often and for each plot during the harvest time, to ensure the quality of the juice and of the wine that it will produce.

 

How to be a winemaker hands on gift in the Rhone valley

 

We finished the day by tasting the grape juice produced from the Viognier vine plot, which had started its fermentation two days beforehand. It was still very sweet, but had already started to fizz a little. After a few words on how the estate is managed organically and biodynamically, we had spent a very full and informative day.

 

Harvets Experience present in the Rhone valley

 

Many thanks to all the participants for their questions and enthusiasm, and of course for the snip of their secateurs!

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Raising the training wires and biodynamic farming at Domaine la Cabotte


Last Saturday we were welcomed to Domaine la Cabotte, in the heart of the Massif d'Uchaux region of the Rhône Valley. Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet d'Ardhuy initiated us in working in the vineyard and introduced us to the biodynamic farming principles used on the estate. We had a very instructive day with some very warm sunshine!
Wine making course in the Rhone Valley

As our guests noted, Domaine la Cabotte is to be found in the middle of the vines, surrounded by wooded hills, vineyards and the Mont Ventoux in the distance. What better place to discover the profession of wine making. The aim of the Discovery Experience Day is to understand the work carried out in the vineyard from winter right up to the harvest the following autumn, and so we began the day in the vineyard.

Vineyard tour in the Rhône Valley

Eric recounted the history of the winery and the establishment of the Massif d'Uchaux wine appellation. He then brought us up to speed on the work that Marie-Pierre and he had already done since last winter, covering such topics as pruning and the flowering of the vines. He then showed us how to raise the training wires to better space and support the weight of the vines as they grow.

French wine making course in the Rhône Valley

The training wires had just been raised, but had not yet been attached. Armed with handfuls of clips, we clipped the wires together to keep the vine branches in place between the wires. It can get very hot in the middle of the vineyard, particularly in the Rhône Valley, and luckily Marie-Pierre had brought some home-made drinks to share with us! After this full morning, we were glad to find some shade back at the winery to taste some of the estate's wines and enjoy the meal prepared by Marie-Pierre.

Winemaker meal Domaine la Cabotte France

We spent the afternoon in the cool of the chai, where Eric talked to us about the different herbal treatments made of horsetail, valerian, stinging nettles and the like, that serve to help stimulate the growth of the plant. He also showed us how the soil is vitalised using a preparation of cow manure that has been buried in cow horns according to the biodynamic principles.

Biodynamic farming in France Rhône Valley

Eric finished the day by briefly explaining the key steps in fermenting the wine, something that we will go into more detail about during the Vinification Experience Days.

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Domaine la Cabotte. Top Pick from Decanter.


In their July 2014 issue, Decanter rated the best Côtes du Rhône Villages wines from the 2011 and 2012 vintages. Gourmet Odyssey's partner from the Rhône Valley, Domaine la Cabotte was rated among the very best producers with two of the three taster's including Domaine la Cabotte's "Gabriel" Massif d'Uchaux 2012 wine in their top three wines of the 100 wines tasted.

 

Decanter July 2014

 

The 2012 vintage of Gabriel was one of just three wines to be "highly recommended", and the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, Garance, was also included in the "recommended" category for the 2012 vintage.

Decanter noted that when choosing Côtes du Rhône Villages wines, it pays to know which appellations to look out for, and they concentrated their article on the most notable villages and the ones that are on the rise. The Massif d'Uchaux is one of the newer Côtes du Rhône Villages appellations, and according to Decanter is deserving to be much better known for the quality of their wines. We certainly agree, and with Domaine la Cabotte leading the way, it's surely just a matter of time.

See more accolades for our partners  

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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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Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte


A beautiful sunny day welcomed the clients of the 2013 vintage to Domaine la Cabotte for the Vinification Experience Day last Saturday! No working in the vineyard this time, as that is now the work of the next vintage, but instead a series of workshops to understand what has happened to the grapes since the harvest.

 

Vineyard visit Rhone Valley Domaine la Cabotte

To get us started, Marie-Pierre, the owner of the winery, explained to us how she arrived in the Massif d'Uchaux from her native Burgundy, and how she has planted and developed the lion's share of the vineyard with her husband, Eric, over the past 20 years. We spent a few minutes visiting our adopted vines, which have now been pruned during the winter months ready for the next campaign.

Vine adoption in the Rhone Valley

Back in the chai, we got down to the serious matters of the day. Marie-Pierre told us all about the vinification of red and white wines, both of which are made on the estate. She told us how the wines are then aged. Marie-Pierre showed us the different tools that are used in the chai, such as the plungers used to push the cap of grape skins and pips down into the wine, and the metal flags that are lowered into the vats to control the temperature. We then tasted some white wine from the 2013 vintage, directly from the barrel.

Wine tasting at the Domaine Rhone Valley

In the wine boutique Marie-Pierre showed us that to make a good wine, you must have good grapes, perfectly ripened, to obtain the most aromatic wine. She showed us how to estimate the alcoholic potential of the wine and how to measure the density of the wine to know if the fermentation has finished.

Wine tasting masterclass Domaine la Cabotte France

We then participated in a workshop to help us identify the different aromas that we can find in wine, whether from the fruit itself, or the choices made by the winemaker in ageing the wine. Next, we tasted the three red grape varietals grown on the estate, and then had a go making our own blends. Marie-Pierre prepared a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache used to typically make the "Garance" wine which the Gourmet Odyssey clients receive.

Wine blending masterclass France Rhone Valley

We tasted some of the finished wines from the estate over the lunch that Marie-Pierre had prepared, starting with the Colline and Sauvageonne white wines. We then tasted the Colline, Garance, Gabriel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape red wines.

After lunch, we headed back out into the vineyard, where Marie-Pierre explained what makes the Massif d'Uchaux terroir special, and how the soil has been worked since the last harvest to prepare the next one.

Vineyard tour at Domaine la Cabotte France

The day ended back in the chai for a few explanations of biodynamic winemaking, and Marie-Pierre also told us how the wines are bottled and labelled before being ready to be poured into our glasses!

Many thanks to all the participants for their good humour and curiosity

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Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte


Last Saturday we had our first Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte under a beautiful sunny sky and a little bit of wind from the mistral. The aim of the day was to learn about the work in the cellar to ferment and age the 2013 vintage until it will be ready for bottling next year.

 

Domaine La Cabotte

 

We were welcomed by Eric & Marie-Pierre, the winemakers at Domaine la Cabotte, who started the day by showing us around the chai. Here we saw the vats full of wine, and Eric explained to us the first stages of fermentation. We quickly got down to the practical side of things with a tasting direct from the vats of some of the 2013 white and red wines that are still in the process of ageing. We compared them to the 2012 vintage to give an idea of how they will develop over time. We also learnt how to spit out the wine, so as not to saturate our taste buds with all the wine to be tasted!

 

Tasting Wine La Cabotte

 

Back in the warmth of the tasting room, we put our senses of smell to the test with a workshop to identify the aromas present in the wines at Domaine la Cabotte. It's not always as easy as it would seem...

 

Tasting blending wine

 

We then tasted wines from the three different grape varietials, grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre that will be used to make the Garance 2013, which is the wine selected for the Gourmet Odyssey clients. Following Eric's instructions we each then had a go at making several blends to see how the taste of the blended wine varies according to the grape varietials and percentages of each used.

 

Vine varietals blending Cotes du Rhone

 

After all this wine tasting, we were ready to sit down to eat a delicious home-made meal prepared by Marie-Pierre with other local specialities such as the winery's own olive oil and some truffles that their dog had found the day before! During the meal, we tasted some of the estate's finished wines, the Sauvageonne white wine, followed by the Garance and Gabriel red wines. Eric also explained to us the fundamentals and his passion for biodynamic wine-making.

In the afternoon we headed out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines. Eric took us on a little tour of the estate to show us the different vines and terroir.

 

Vineyard La Cabotte

 

We ended the day back in the chai, where Eric showed us the different preparations and tools used in biodynamic wine-making, and how the wine is bottled and labelled once it is finally ready to be sent out to the clients.

 

Bottling winery La Cabotte

 

We can't wait to see how the 2013 will age and mature over the coming months. Thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre for having welcomed us so warmly, and to all of the participants for their good humour.

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

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