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The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience celebrates its 10th Birthday

The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience celebrates its 10th Birthday

News from 04/11/2019

It’s now been 10 years since Gourmet Odyssey was created, giving wine lovers the opportunity to adopt-a-vine and follow the key stages in making their own personalised bottles of organic wine.  It’s been a fantastic journey so far, full of great memories and happy times spent with our partner winemakers and clients alike.  The Gourmet Odyssey team got together recently with Mark Bootherstone, Gourmet Odyssey’s founder, and a nice bottle of wine of course, to look back over the past decade and to talk about what the future holds in store.

The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience original gift idea for wine lovers

Since the launch of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience in 2009, our clients have adopted some 19 hectares of vines, 190 000 m², the equivalent to around 27 football pitches! We have also organised 433 Experience Days at our partner wineries over this time to discover the winemaker’s work in the vineyard to nurture the vines, participate in the harvest, and learn about the work in the cellar to age, blend, and prepare the wines for bottling.  We’ve seen all weather, from the scorching heat of 40° C to an unforgettable snow-covered day in the Bordeaux wine-growing region, where a couple passed by the vineyard on cross-country skis.  Not something you see every day in the Médoc!

“10 years on, I still get a thrill from the Wine Experience Days.  I always learn something new.  Making wine is a subject so large that the winemaker’s think of different things to say, and of course the weather is never the same year on year, so the work is forever changing.  A winemaker will always compare the current year to a ‘normal year’.  I’ve learnt that a normal year is something that doesn’t actually exist!  There’s always something that is earlier, later, more abundant, lacking etc.  And then of course, as the Experience Days are interactive days and the clients are always different, the questions that are asked means that each day is unique, always taking a slightly different path, developing different themes.”

Learning about winemaking by working alongside the winemaker

Our clients, whilst predominantly French, come from all over the world.  We’ve had some come from as far afield as Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Dubai, and Japan!  One of the things that has struck us the most is the great atmosphere during the days, and the interaction that takes place, not just with the winemakers, but between the participants too.  It’s not unusual for friendships to be made, contact details exchanged, and plans made to meet up at another Gourmet Odyssey Experience Day or elsewhere.  That’s one of the fantastic things about wine.  It’s a federator, bringing people together around a shared passion.

The choice of our partner winemakers has always been, and continues to be, central to the success of Gourmet Odyssey.  Mark has personally chosen each and every one, not just for the quality of their wine, but as much for the passion that the winemakers have for their work.  “I’m amazed by their curiosity, how they are continually questioning how they work, and striving to do better,” Mark shared with us.  “I thought that the winemakers views and habits would be much more rigid, particularly with the wineries that have been handed down through the generations.  But each generation wants to leave the winery in a better place than when they took it over and make their mark.  And of course as all of our partner wineries are organically certified, they need to be that much more in touch with nature, nurturing and working with the surrounding ecosystem, and adapting to the vagaries of the climate.”

Organic adopt-a-vine wine experience in France

We made the choice to work exclusively with organically certified wineries since the launch of Gourmet Odyssey.  For sure, it has limited the number of producers with which we can work, but we are very proud to have taken this stance.  We find ourselves in a very interesting position acting as a bridge between wine enthusiasts and the winemakers.  On one hand we help to support organic winemakers by bringing them new clients, many of whom we hope will continue to buy and enjoy their wine for many years to come.  And on the other hand we help the winemakers educate our clients about all of the effort and skill that goes into winemaking, with a particular focus on the importance and challenges of working organically.    We feel it is more important than ever to support the organic movement as study after study is released warning of the harm being done to the ecosystem and the dire impact that has on the environment and the survival of thousands and thousands of plant and animal species.

Choosing a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is also helping support small independent businesses.  We ourselves are a small company, with a team of just 5 full and part time people, and our partner wineries are independent.  The economic benefit can also be felt in the villages where our wineries are located.  When organising a Wine Experience Day, we source lunch from local caterers and producers, and the bread and croissants come from the local bakeries.  The hotels and restaurants also benefit from those clients who decide to stay and explore the area for the weekend, as do other nearby tourist attractions.  It was particularly satisfying when the mayor of Santenay commended us on the boost, even on our small scale, that we bring to the village, often in the off-peak season.

10 years have flown by.  We still have lots of plans to improve and expand our service.  As ever, it’s not the ideas that are lacking, it’s just having the time to implement them, but 2020 should see some big changes.  More of which to come later!  Many thanks to all who have helped and supported Gourmet Odyssey in the first 10 years, whether by buying a Wine Experience, recommending us, giving us valuable feedback, or suggesting partner wineries.  Thanks to all of our caterers, suppliers, developers, printers, and graphic artists that work behind the scenes.  Huge thanks to all of the Gourmet Odyssey team and wine experts that help animate and manage the experience days at the wineries.  We’re lucky to have such knowledgeable, friendly and dedicated team.  And last but by no means least, thanks to our partner winemakers for believing in our concept, sharing their passion with us, and making the whole thing possible.  Here’s to the next 10 year odyssey!

Mark, Marie, Benoît, Louise & Myriam.
The Gourmet Odyssey Team

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1 - Product

2 - Range

3 - Region

4 - Producer

5 - Season

6 - Vines

7 - Experience Days

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