Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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A great Harvest Experience Day in the Loire Valley


A shy sun, hiding behind an autumnal mist, welcomed our apprentice winemakers to the Harvest Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon in the Loire Valley.

The winery had started the harvest at the start of September with the grapes used for the sparkling wines.  At the time of our visit, the winery was about half way through the harvest, having already picked all of the vineyard plots used for Chinon blanc, sparkling wines, rosé and light red wines, and the fermentation hall was a buzz.

And that’s where we found the winemaker, Marc, during our welcome coffee.  He was checking that the fermentations were going well, but more to come on that, as that was one of our missions for the afternoon!

We got ready to leave for the harvest, and made our way to the Clos des Roches St Paul, a small plot of vines in a very pretty hamlet of tuffeau limestone houses.

The winemaker explained how to pick the grapes

We listened intently as Marc explained what to and what not to pick, and then we quickly got to work!  The sun decided to come out, which helped motivate us even more!

Picking the grapes

We cut the grapes using a pair of secateurs, and then placed the bunches in a bucket.  Once full, we emptied the grapes into a trailer to be transported back to the winery.

Emptying the grapes into the trailer

The mildew had attacked some of the vines, but only those at the beginning of the rows.  Thankfully, overall, the grapes were fine and there wasn’t too much to sort.

Once we had finished the plot, we moved onto a second vineyard.  A very small plot in the same hamlet that was almost like a garden.

Harvesting in the second vineyard

Now that we were experts, our harvesters of the day quickly polished the job off and we were almost in time for the aperitif in the vineyard, kindly prepared by Claudine and Lucie.

Back at Château de la Bonnelière, we sat down to a delicious lunch to lunch to recharge the batteries and to taste Marc’s excellent wines!

The harvesters lunch at the winery

The work of our harvesters was far from over.  The grapes weren’t just going to stay in the trailer!

The first thing to do was to put the bunches through the de-stemming machine.  Marc only put the grapes into the vats, and so the machine separates the berries from the stems.

The grapes fall into a small trolley which is then lifted by a forklift truck and emptied into the vat without the need to use a pump.

The grapes fall into a trolley which is then emptied into a vat

It didn’t take Marc and Fabien, accompanied by our participants, long to finish the job, and we had soon filled the vat with the grapes that will be turned into the future Roches Saint Paul wine!

Before ending the day, we then learnt how the fermentation is monitored.  The winemakers work doesn’t finish once the grapes are in the vat; you need to check that the fermentation starts, and that it doesn’t stop before the end of the process. This almost magical process is brought about using the yeast cells that are naturally present on the grapes, and whose job it is to eat the sugar found in the grapes.

Marc explained the fermentation process

Marc checks that all is in order by measuring the density of the wine, and he does it for each vat once a day until the density falls to 995 g/l, at which time you can almost call it wine!

But in reality, you need to wait several months more, the secrets of which will be revealed during the Vinification Experience Days.  So a little more patience required!

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Participate in the grape harvest in Saint-Emilion


This weekend it was the turn of Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion to welcome the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  It’s harvest time, and our apprentice winemakers were able to get involved in picking the grapes and learn about the work of the winemaker in the cellar at harvest time.  We spent two really interesting days with Adrien and Alain, the winemakers at the winery.

Wine Harvest Experience Gift Saint-Emilion

After the introductions, we ventured out into the vineyard to visit the plot where our adopted vines are located.  On the way, we compared the different types of soil that make up the three distinct terroirs of the estate.

The Peycocut vineyard is located on top of the limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion, and we took a few minutes to say hello to our adopted vines and admire the view.

Organic Adopt-a-Vine gift Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

But we weren’t just there to wander about and listen.  We had some work to do!  We learnt how to pick the grapes and armed with a pair of secateurs and a bucket, we started to harvest a plot of cabernet franc vines.

Grape harvest present in France

The grapes were in great condition, and our buckets quickly filled up! We emptied them into a crate, and a porter then took them back to the beginning of the row to be put onto the trailer.

Organic grape harvest gift experience

We then followed the grapes back to the winery before enjoying a nice cold glass of Le Grand Verdus Vertige white wine produced by one of the cousins, on the lawn in front of the château.

Organic wine tasting gift with the winemaker in France

Lunch had been prepared by a local caterer who delighted our taste buds with a winemaker’s salad of mesclun, smoked lardons, free-range egg, échalottes and grapes, followed by guinea fowl stuffed with duck aiguillettes, morille and foie gras sauce, potato rosace and vegetables, and a chocolate praline dessert.  During the meal, we tasted the 2020 Château Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, and the 2018 Les Demoiselles Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.

We returned to the cellar after lunch to put our harvest into the vats.  First of all, we needed to separate the grapes from the stems.  Normally it is done by a machine, but as is the tradition at the winery for the Emeri wine, we did it by hand!

WIne-making gift experience in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

Around some large bins, we first sorted the bunches to remove the damaged grapes, before putting the good ones into the bins.  It’s a long job, but one that is nice to do.

The grapes were then poured into a vat.  The winemakers explained how the yeast that is naturally present on the grape skins will transform the grape juice into wine during the fermentation phase, and how the colour and tannins are extracted during the maceration phase.

Putting our harvested grapes into the vat

Many thanks to the winemakers at Château Coutet for having welcomed us so well, and for enabling us to become harvesters for a day!  We can’t wait to discover the next phase during the Vinification Experience Days next spring.

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Grape harvester for a day in Alsace


We spent a great day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace to get involved in the grape harvest and follow their journey into the vats.  We were there with the apprentice winemakers of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, a gift for wine lovers that Gourmet Odyssey developed to enable them to discover all the work that goes into making a bottle of wine.

Wine lover gift to participate in the grape harvest in Alsace, France

After the introductions, we made our way into the vineyard to harvest a plot of pinot noir located on the hillside above the Alsace village of Wettolsheim.

Céline, the winemaker, showed us how to harvest the grapes, which bunches to cut, and which to leave behind.

Harvest Experience gift in an organic French vineyardn

Equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs, we spread out amongst the vine rows to start the harvest.  The grapes were generally in good condition, but some of the bunches had been touched by mildew, so we had to sort the grapes to ensure that only the good ones made it into our buckets.

Once our buckets were full, we cried out “Seau”, and passed our buckets under the rows until they reached one of the porters, where they were emptied into the basket on their back.

Organic wine experience gift in Alsace, France

The porters then carried the grapes and emptied them over their shoulder into a trailer.  It’s a fairly physical job, especially with the slope of the hill that had to be negotiated!

Grape harvest gift experience

With the need to sort the grapes, we discovered that picking grapes isn’t as simple as you would think, but we worked well, and succeeded in picking the whole plot.

Before returning to the winery, we stopped off to visit our plot of adopted vines to see them and take a few souvenir photos.

Organic adopy-a-vine gift experience in Alsace, France

Harvest time isn’t just about picking grapes.  Once you’ve harvested them, you need to do something with them!  Back at the winery, we tipped the grapes into the de-stemming machine to separate the grapes form the stalks.  The grapes then fell into a vat below in the cellar.

Grape harvest gift for organic wine lovers

We had earned our aperitif and the glass of chilled rosé Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine was very welcome!  Céline then led us through a wine tasting session of a selection of the organic wines, starting with the 2021 Pinot Gris Rosenberg, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients, followed by the 2017 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes, and the 2018 Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru.

Make your own organic wine gift in Alsace, France

We spent the afternoon in the cellar where Stéphane, the winemaker, explained how the white grapes are pressed, and the differences between making red and white wines.

Stéphane told us how the sugar from the grape juice is transformed into alcohol, and the analysis that is done to follow the evolution of the fermentation in the vats.

Gift Experience in an Alsace wine cellar

We finished the day by breaking the cap of the pinot noir vats to extract the colour and tannins from the grape skins.  A job that is much more difficult that it looks!

We’re looking forward to returning in the spring to discover more about the work in the cellar after the harvest through to the bottling of the wines during the Vinification Experience Day.

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Harvesting the grapes in Burgundy


We welcomed some of the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers to Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy to participate in the Harvest Experience Days on the very warm days of the 9th and 10th September.

Adopt-a-vine and harvest your own grapes at an organic vineyard in France

After the introduction to the winery and a brief history of wine-making in Burgundy, we headed out into the Clos des Cornières and Crays vineyards, the two plots where the adopted vines are located.  We met up with our vines and took a few souvenir pictures to immortalise the moment!

We then went to the Park corner of the Clos des Cornières vineyard where we valiantly harvested the ripe and generous grapes that this great year has provided.  After listening intently to the instructions as to how harvest the grapes, and which bunches to cut, we spread out among the rows to start picking.

Harvest your own grape gift in France

The 2023 vintage has turned out to be exceptional in terms of quantity and the size of the grapes.  There were just a few bunches that we had to sort that had either been attacked by mildew or had some grapes that had been dried out by the sun.

We put the good grapes into crates, and once full, we took them back to the beginning of the row, exchanging it for an empty one!

Organic Wine Experience Gift

The time flew by, and we after a couple of fun and productive hours we had amassed quite a harvest, especially impressive considering the hot temperature!

After a refreshing glass of water, we savoured the tasting of the 2018 Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières white wine, accompanied by the delicious Burgundy gougères.

Organic wine tasting session with the winemaker

Lunch was served outside in the shade of the trees.  A mushroom mousse and poached egg starter, paired with a 2020 aligoté, then a veal confit and risotto, served with the 2021 Clos des Cornières, before finishing with a deliciously velvety raspberry dessert, accompanied by the Santenay Premier Cru Gravières red wine.

The siesta was replaced by a visit to the hall where the grapes we harvested were sent.  Here we sorted them and separated the grapes from the stems, and followed their gentle journey into the vat, thanks to Madame Giraffe.  The whole process has been designed to keep the grapes as intact as possible all the way.

Participate in the grape harvest in Burgundy

From the vineyard to the vat, great care is taken of the harvest to limit any premature maceration and to keep the fruit fresh.

Grape Harvest Experience Gift

We finished the day by learning how the sugar is transformed into sugar during fermentation, and the colour and tannins extracted during the maceration phase. The indigenous yeast cells that are naturally present on the skin of the grapes are used for the fermentation, and they will start the process by themselves if the temperature is right.  The fermentation phase lasts about 10 days.

The winery then keeps the wine in contact with the skin through pigeage or pumping over, in order to extract the colour and the tannins that will give the wine structure.  This will be done every day for around 3 weeks, and then the wine will be put into oak barrels to start the ageing process.

Some of you will come back in spring 2024 to learn more about the decisive and delicate period of vinification and ageing.

The day drew to a close.  We were very happy to have shared such a happy and instructive day in the true tradition of Burgundy harvests!

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A day harvesting grapes in the south of France


A look back on the Harvest Experience Day on the 9th September at Château de Jonquières in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, one of the Languedoc’s oldest family run wineries.

Charlotte and Clément, the young wine-making couple are now in charge at the winery, and represent the 32nd generation.

We were welcomed in the courtyard with a coffee and some delicious brioche from a local baker. Once everyone had arrived, Gaël, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, presented the programme for the day, before Charlotte introduced us to the history of the winery, the characteristics of the different terroirs, and the latest news of this vintage.

We then walked out into the vineyard until we got to a plot of Grenache where we admired the surrounding view.

Charlotte has been harvesting the grapes since she was a little girl and knows that time is precious, particularly with the hot weather we’ve been having this September, so we needed to make the most of the relatively cooler morning.

Harvesting the grapes

We spread out in pairs throughout the rows having listened intently to our instructions of how to harvest.  We had a little sorting to do, ensuring that we only collected grapes that were in the best condition.  We quickly got the hang of harvesting, and learnt out to handle the precious fruit without damaging it.

Clément stayed nearby with his tractor, where we stocked the fruit of our labour.  The buckets filled quickly, and a couple of brave volunteers circulated among us to empty the Grenache grapes into one of the crates on the trailer behind the tractor, and give us an empty bucket as our reward!

The quality was very good in this plot of Grenache.  Despite the hot year, the vines had been able to adapt and remained receptive to the care that had been given to them over the preceding months.

As we finished our rows, we felt justly proud of our work.  It had been a great opportunity to see at firsthand what it’s like to be a harvester.

We made the most of a refreshment break to visit a plot of your Cinsault vines, and the winemakers explained how they had replanted the vineyard.

Back at the winery, we cleaned the material, as the buckets and secateurs needed to be rinsed for the next day.  Once again, we showed great teamwork.

During this time, Clément brought the grapes we had picked back and left them in front of the de-stemming machine.

This next stage is the first in the transformation of grapes to wine, and consists of separating the grapes from the stems to avoid any unwanted bitter taste in the wine.  Some of us helped Clément empty the crates into the de-stemming machine.

We put the harvest into the de-stemming machine

The grapes were then put into a stainless steel vat, ready to begin the fermentation process, and we listened attentively as Clément described how.

Charlotte also explained to us the different techniques used depending on the grape varietals and for making red, white and rosé wines.  The process is very different for the red wines which ferment in contact with their skin during 20 or so days, and the whites which are pressed straight away before the fermentation starts.  We also learnt about how controlling the temperature is crucial, something we’ll talk more about during the Vinification Experience Days.

We sat down to lunch in the shady courtyard behind the château, and enjoyed the paring of the organic wines with the meal prepared by a local chef.  It was a great opportunity to ask lots of questions to Charlotte and Clément.

After lunch, we walked through the small village of Jonquières to visit our adopted vines, an old plot of Carignan that had been planted by Charlotte’s grandmother some 80 years ago. 

Clément explained the work in the cellar during harvest time

The day finished back in the chai, where Clément introduced us to the work that happens next to manage the wines through the fermentation and ageing processes.  We’ll learn more about this during the Vinification Experience Days

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The benefits of shade in the vineyard


Sunshine is crucial for ripening the grapes sufficiently to make our precious wine.  A hot spell during summer doesn’t harm, and it’s well documented that warm years often produce some of the best vintages.  However, many winemakers are confronted with new climatic challenges, notably due to the vines being excessively exposed to the sun.
The problem is that the hotter it gets, the higher the sugar level and so the higher the alcoholic volume.  The vineyards most impacted are in the southern regions, where the alcoholic volume of the wines has increased by a degree per decade over the past 30 years.  It’s not such a problem for wines with a high sugar content like Sauternes, but other wines such as Pinot Noir, risk losing their intensity and acidic balance.
 
This is where shade can play a role in winemaking, a simple technique that offers several advantages to protect the vines and improve the quality of the grapes.  The shade will help regulate the temperature of the vegetative matter and reduce hydric-stress, and for the grapes, keep the sugar levels down and slow the ripening of the grapes.
 
Protection from excessive heat
 
The shade provides a natural protection from direct sun rays, keeping the temperature of the vines lower.  When vines are exposed to too much heat, they can be damaged from burnt leaves or grapes, as well as dehydration.
 
Several techniques exist depending on the region.  The first is to stop the practice of removing leaves from the vines.  Leaving more leaves on the plant will naturally protect the grapes from the sun and help avoid them from drying out.
 
Some winemakers choose to train the vines, using up to 5 or 6 training wires, in order that the vines reach 2m high, thus creating their own shade.
 
In the Rhone Valley, the vines grow around and are attached to large wooden stakes, or échalas.  The tops of the vines are weaved together with those from the vines on either side to form an arch.  This helps to create even more shade, a technique used effectively at Château Cohola.
 
Global warming in vineyard
 
Other winemakers are looking to vitiforestry, whereby the vineyards are surrounded by trees that help protect the vines from the heat, help retain water, and fertilise the soils.  It’s also a great way to improve the biodiversity in the vineyard!
 
Keeping the soil damp
 
Prolonged exposure to the sun means that water evaporates more quickly from the soil, which can cause hydric stress for the vines.  Some winemakers therefore choose to leave the cut grass around the vines to create a vegetal carpet.  The shade provides a protective layer that slows down the evaporation and keeps the soil damper.  By keeping better water reserves in the soil, the vines can better resist dry spells and remain in good health.
 
Controlling the ripening of the grapes
 
The grape maturing process is a delicate one, and needs particular attention paid to it.  The shade can play a crucial role by slowing the process down.  Exposure to too much sun accelerates how quickly the grapes mature, which can have a negative impact on their quality, particularly the development of aromas and taste.  By creating shady areas in the vineyard, the winemakers can help slow down the maturing process in the quest to improve quality.
 
The shade can provide numerous advantages to protect the vines and improve the quality of the grapes.  It can help protect the vines from heat damage, better maintain the humidity in the soil, and to control the rate of maturity. The techniques used to help create shade can be adapted to the specifics of each region and local climatic conditions.  With careful management, the winemakers can help create the optimal conditions for the vines to prosper and produce better quality wines.

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Get involved in the grape harvest in an organic French vineyard.


The harvest is the crucial time of year when the winemaker’s work throughout the year comes to fruition.

The date of the harvest depends on many factors; the weather, the grape varietal, the type of wine, but it fundamentally comes down to the maturity of the grapes, and finding that perfect balance between sugar and acidity.  The winemaker will then choose the optimum moment to harvest the grapes and make the wine to the desired taste.

Gourmet Odyssey offers Harvest Experience Days where you can get involved in the harvest at one of our 6 organic partner wineries.  The aim is to participate in and learn from the winemaker about the process to harvest the grapes through to putting them in the fermentation tanks.

Armed with a pair of secateurs and a bucket, the winemaker will show you how to cut the bunches and to select the best grapes.  Once you’ve finished the harvest, you’ll follow their journey back to the chai.

Harvest you own french vines

You’ll also enjoy a wine tasting session, because after the effort, the just reward!  And then you will sit down to the harvesters’ lunch, accompanied by a selection of wines, where you can talk with the winemakers and learn more about how they work organically and the challenges in doing so.  It’s a very privileged moment!

Then discover the work in the cellar during harvest time.  You’ll get involved in sorting the grapes and putting them into the vats, where you’ll learn about the fermentation process.  The day will be over before you know it, but you’ll be much wiser about all of the work and effort that goes into harvesting and making wine.

Perfect original gift for a wine lover

The little extra? Each Harvest Experience Day is valid for two people!  And what’s more, when you buy a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, you also have some adopted vines included that you’ll get to meet when you go to the winery for the harvest.  You’ll follow the making of your wine, and will receive a bottle of wine for each adopted vine, using the grapes that you have helped to harvest.  So, are you ready to meet up for the harvest?

Discover more about the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

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A day spent with the winemakers to learn about their work in the vineyard


We spent an excellent Discovery Experience Day at Château Cohola in the Côtes du Rhône village of Sablet.  Accompanied by the winemakers, Cheli and Jérôme Busato, we learnt a lot about their efforts in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes, and we’ll be sure to better appreciate the bottles of wine that we open from now on!

Adaopt a vin in France

After the introductions to the winery, the winemakers, and the region’s wines, we headed straight out into the vineyard.  Our first stop was to visit our adopted vines!  Thanks to a small blackboard, we were able to find and introduce ourselves to our micro-plots of vines and take a few souvenir photos.

Cheli and Jérôme explained the work that they had carried out in winter and the start of spring to prune and de-bud the vines in order to reduce the quantity of grapes produced by each vine with the aim of improving the quality.

Original gift for a wine lover

The winery is made up of 15 terraced vineyards, and Jérôme and Cheli showed us the different grape varietals and pruning methods that they use.  The vines had grown lots over the past few weeks, and we stopped in front of a plot of staked vines.

Next to each vine was a large wooden stake, or échalas, to which the vine was attached to help support the weight of the grapes and leaves.  Our mission was to take the tops of the branches, divide them in two, and weave them together with those from the neighbouring vines to form arches. The arches make the vines more stable, protecting them from the winds that often blow hard in this region, and give some more shade to the grapes to protect them from the sun.

Participating to the elaboaration of an organic cuvée

Jérôme and Cheli showed us how to create the arches, and then we spread out between the rows to have a go ourselves.  At first, we were scared of damaging the branches, but we quickly learnt that they are stronger than you think, and we started to advance more quickly!

We continued our stroll through the vineyards until we reached the highest point of the estate, where we stopped to admire the wonderful view overlooking the village of Sablet and the plains of the Rhone Valley below.  Jérôme enlightened us as to how they work organically and the challenges of doing so, and he explained the work that remains to be done between now and the harvest.

Discover the winemaker job

Aperitif time had arrived, and so we made our way down to the village and met up in a local restaurant for a nice fresh glass of 2022 Sablet rosé from the winery which has the peculiarity of being a blend of press and bled rosé wines.

With the aubergine papeton starter, Cheli served us their 2022 Sablet Cuvée Fruit, a light and fruity red wine that she had made specially for drinking chilled. Absolutely fantastic!  With the chicken Provencal main course, we tasted the 2019 vintage of the Sablet wine that has been chosen for the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

Participate in the summer work in an organic french vineyard

Cheli and Jérôme are also beekeepers, and so with the goat’s cheese, they honoured us by serving squares of honeycomb.  An unforgettable experience, accompanied by the excellent 2022 Sablet white wine.  And with the home-made cherry clafoutis dessert, we tasted the powerful TBF wine that had been aged in wood, clay, and steel cotenants.

Perfect gift idea for wine lover

After lunch, we went to the chai.  Jérôme showed us where the grapes will be received at harvest time and gave us a quick introduction to the work in ageing wine.  We’ll spend more time here in September during the Harvest Experience Day and in spring for the Vinification Experience Day.

Many thanks to Cheli and Jérôme for this fascinating day spent in this wonderfully relaxing spot. 

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Learn from the winemaker about the work in the vineyard to nurture organic grapes in Burgundy


Since March, we have welcomed groups of wine lovers to Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay for the Discovery Experience Days.  These hands-on Wine Experience Days aim to better understand the work of the winemaker in the vineyard to produce the best quality grapes for harvesting.

Wine Discovery Experience in Burgundy

After the welcome and briefing of the day’s programme, Jean-François Chapelle recounted the history of his family, his winery, and of Burgundy wines.

We then set out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines, whisper them a few sweet words, and take some photographs to immortalise the moment!

Adopt a vine with Gourmet Odyssey

We were joined by Jean-François’ son, Simon, who has been managing the vines and vinification process since 2021.  Jean-François is progressively taking his retirement and passing on the reigns to Simon.

Simon explained the whole vegetative life cycle from pruning through to the harvest, and we quickly learnt that the work carried out in the vineyard demands lots of manual effort.

Pruning is done between January and April, before the branches are arced and attached to the bottom training wire to delay the moment when the buds burst, with the aim of reducing the risk of being impacted by any frosts.  The participants of the Discovery Experience days in March were able to witness the complexity of pruning!

Elaborate your own organic wine in France

The buds burst in the second half of April, and the vines started to grow the fruit-bearing branches for this new season.

In May, the main job was de-budding the vines, which involves removing any double shoots and unwanted branches to limit the quantity of grapes that each vine can produce.  It’s a job that demands dexterity and some thought, as the participants of the May Discovery Experience Day found out by de-budding some vines for themselves.  There is always the fear of damaging the vines or choosing the wrong branch to remove, but it’s only by doing that you really learn.

Discover the winemaker job during a day

The branches grew rapidly in May, and so we had to return to each vineyard plot to raise the training wires twice, finishing by trimming the tops of the vines to stop the branches from becoming too intertwined.  Raising the training wires was the task we were set for the Discovery Experience Days in June and July.

Original gift for a wine lover

Domaine Chapelle has been adhering to the organic charter for 15 years now, working the soil mechanically and only using treatments permitted in organic agriculture.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to work they work organically at the vineyard and the challenges of doing so.

Learn all the work behind a bottle of wine

After these great mornings spent in the vineyard, we returned to the winery for a nice glass of fresh Santenay white wine, accompanied by the famous Burgundy gougères.  We then sat down to lunch with three food and wine parings: the fish terrine starter served with a Burgundy Aligoté, the Gaston Gérard chicken main course paired with the Clos des Cornières Santenay red wine, and the chocolate and blackcurrant dessert accompanied by a Santenay Premier Cru.

Discover how to make organic wine in Burgundy

Depending on the weather, in the afternoon, we went for a walk through the vineyards to see the different terroir and/or we visited the cellar to have a glimpse of what we’ll cover in much more detail during the Vinification Experience Days next spring.

But the next rendez-vous is to meet up for the Harvest Experience Days in September to harvest the grapes from our vines!

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Wine gift experience to discover the work in an organic vineyard in Saint-Emilion


The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Days at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion are a great way to immerse yourself in the life of a winemaker and learn about all of the work that goes on in the vineyard.

We met up at the magnificent Château Coutet, a family-run winery, very close to the centre of this beautiful medieval town that is renowned throughout the world for the quality of its wine.  We were to spend the day with one of the winemaking owners, Alain David-Beaulieu.  The aim of the day was to discover the daily work of a winemaker.  The vines had already grown lots by the end of June, and we could already see the future grapes well formed on the vines.

Adopt organic vines in Saint-Emilion

After a quick tour of the estate and our adopted vines, Alain explained the different work that has been carried out in the vineyard since winter.  It all started with pruning the vines to control the quantity of grapes produced and to limit how much the vines spread.  Once the vines start to grow, the best fruit-bearing branches were selected, and any shoots that wouldn’t produce any grapes removed, so as to preserve the vines energy on producing better quality grapes.  Then came the raising of the training wires to keep the vines nicely aligned and supported between two wires.  This enables the tractors to continue to pass through the vine rows without hindrance or damaging the vines.

Alain had kept a little work back for us to do, and so after all the explanations, we got to experience firsthand what it’s like to work in a vineyard.

Dicover all the work behind a bottle of wine

Removing some of the leaves from the zone around the grapes is very important for the vines, as it improves the airflow, as they can bring dampness.  Spring was fairly wet and humid this year, increasing the risk of fungi such as mildew forming which can quickly destroy the work of a whole season by drying out the future grapes, which then can’t be used to make wine.

After having a go for ourselves, we soon learned that it’s a physical job, especially so if it’s done for many days and even weeks in a row!  Producing quality grapes demands a lot of effort!

But after the effort, the just reward!  We all ate a lovely meal together and delighted our taste buds with the wines from the estate under the shade of the tress in the garden.

Elaborate you own cuvée

In the afternoon, we visited the chai and talked more about the challenges of working organically.  We finished the day with a visit of the family cellar where the old vintage wines are stored!

This immersive day proved to be very interesting and we thank Alain warmly for his welcome.  We can’t wait to come back for the Harvest Experience Days in September!

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Discover the work of an organic winemaker in the vineyard


In May and June, we visited Château de Jonquières, a magnificent family-run winery in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, to spend a couple of Discovery Experience Days with the winemakers, Charlotte and Clément de Béarn.  The aim of these Wine Experience days is to learn about all the work that goes on in an organically certified vineyard.

Adopt an organic vine in the south of France

We were welcomed by Gaël, the Gourmet Odyssey wine specialist, and the winemakers who gave us an introduction to the château and its history that has been passed down through 32 generations.

The days were focused mainly on the work in the vineyard, but we had to be flexible in May to avoid the showers.  Charlotte and Clément were all smiles to see the rain because the winter had been very dry and the vines were desperately in need of water. Clément assured us that there would be enough dry patches to be able to do some work in the vineyard, and he was right!

Once in the vineyard, Charlotte and Clément explained the work that had been done during the winter and early spring, most notably to prune the vines.  In spring the vines need lots of care to keep them healthy, and accompany them in preparing them for an optimal harvest.  The vines had already grown quickly, so there were two tasks awaiting our help.

Make your own organic French wine

First we raised the training wires in a couple of rows of Cinsault to trap the branches between them.  This helps the vines to support the weight of the grapes and foliage.

We also de-budded the vines by removing the young shoots that had sprouted from the vine trunks and might transport disease from the soil to the vines.  We also removed any double-buds in a plot of Carignan, leaving the best branches to bask in the sun and to have a better airflow around them so that they dry more quickly, again reducing the risk of disease.

Discover all the work in a vineyard during summer

After the effort, we were rewarded back at the château with a well earned aperitif and winemakers lunch.  Charlotte and Clément had selected 5 of their wines to accompany the delicious meal which had been prepared by a local chef, Aubin Vie.

Participe in the winemaker job during a day

The meal is always a lovely moment when the participants get to ask lots of questions to the winemakers about their life, daily routine, and the differences between the wines that we were tasting.

Wine experience day withe Gourmet Odyssey in the Languedoc

In the beginning of the afternoon, we went on a little stroll to visit our adopted vines.  It’s a great spot, and the 70 odd year old Carignan vines that were planted by Charlotte’s grandmother are a sight to behold.

Disover the winemaker job during a day

The days finished in the chai where Clement enlightened us a little to his universe and the tools he uses to receive the grapes at harvest time.  We’ll see all of that in action when we return to the winery in September for the Harvest Experience Day!

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A day in the vineyard with the winemakers


We spent a great day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher for a Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day.  These hands-on wine experience days at the winery enable wine lovers to discover all the work that goes on in the vineyard needed to make a great wine.

perfect gift for a wine lover

We were welcomed by Céline and Stéphane, the winemakers at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  After the introductions, we headed straight out and made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are located.

A little surprise was waiting for us!  A nameplate had been put in front of our adopted vines, and so we set out to acquaint ourselves with them, and take a few photos to immortalise the moment!

Discover the winemaker job during a day

To make good wine, you need good ingredients, and the choices that the winemakers take and the quality of the work in the vineyard will have a big impact on the quality of the grapes at harvest time.   The weather also plays its part of course, but let’s stay focused on the factors we can control!

Stéphane and Céline explained the work that has been done since the last harvest, notably to prune the vines and attach the selected branches to the training wire.

Elaborate your own french wine

The flowering period went well in early June, and now the vines are in full growth mode to form the grape bunches and grow the leaves needed to ripen them through photosynthesis.  There’s lots of work to be done and so our help was very welcome!

Be a winemaker during a day in Alsace

Our first task was to train the vines onto the trellis system.  When the branches grow, they fall into the middle of the row, and sometimes to the ground.  Without any intervention, two big problems are quickly encountered.  Firstly, the tractor won’t be able to pass down the row to treat and work the vines without breaking the branches.  And secondly, the risk of spreading disease from one row to another, or from the ground, is increased. 

Gift idea for wine lover

Stéphane showed us how to raise the branches and place them between the training wires of the trellis system.  Then in pairs, we spread out to start our newfound profession of being a winemaker!  At first we were a little hesitant, so as not to damage or break any of the branches, but we quickly understood that the branches are much more robust that you would think!

Stéphane also asked us to de-bud the vines as we went down the rows if we saw any shoots that had sprouted from the lower trunk of the vines.  These shoots won’t produce any grapes, so it’s best to remove them to concentrate the vine’s energy on the fruit-bearing branches.

Learn how to produce wine

When we arrived at the end of the row, it was with great satisfaction that we turned around to admire our work!

On our way back to the winery, Céline showed us a plot of young vines that had just been planted.  She explained how important it is to plan ahead and coordinate the replanting schedule with the other plots to best manage the continuity of production across the winery, as you need to allow for a good ten years from the moment you pull up the old vines, to the moment that you can start harvesting grapes that begin to be of an interesting quality.

Discovery Experience Day in Alsace

Back at the winery, we went down into the cool of the cellar and gathered in the impressive wine library where the old vintage wines are stored. And yes, it’s not just red wines that you can conserve!

Céline had prepared a great wine tasting session to reward us after our morning’s effort, starting with the fresh and crisp 2019 Muscat Rosenberg.  We then tasted the very aromatic 2014 Riesling Tannenbuehl cuvée Flavien, a wine that is already almost 9 years old and which can happily be kept for a fair few more years to come.  Next up was the 2021 Pinot Gris Rosenberg, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, followed by the Brut Nature Crémant d’Alsace sparkling rosé wine to finish, accompanied by some savoury kouglof.

Taste organic french wine

We continued the wine tasting over lunch, the 2018 Who Am I? Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling blend pairing the baeackeofe, one of Alsace’s quintessential specialties.  With the local cheese board, we enjoyed the 2018 Pinot Noir Granit, and the 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg with the blueberry tart.

Wine tasting in Alsace

After lunch, Stéphane detailed the work remaining to be done in the vineyard before the harvest, and how he will choose when the right time to harvest is.   We then retunred to the cellar to quickly visit the press, barrel room, and fermentation hall.  We’ll be spending more time in the cellar during the Harvest Experience Day to see how the grapes are received, and during the Vinification Experience Day to learn more about the work during the fermentation, ageing, and bottling phases.

Many thanks to Stéphane and Céline for sharing their passion for their profession with us. We can’t wait to come back for the harvest!

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Wine Experience Gift to discover the work in the vineyard


In June, we welcomed two groups of wine lovers for a couple of Discovery Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière in the beautiful Loire Valley town of Chinon.  Under a wonderful sunny sky, we learnt more about the work of a winemaker to produce great organic grapes!

Original gift for a wine lover

The coffee and introduction by the winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, were a little faster than normal because the heat was rising rapidly, and so we wanted to get out into the vineyard as early as possible.

A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed a first group to the Discovery Experience Day who raised the training wires up a notch.  This Saturday, it was already time to raise them up another notch.

The vines are growing exceptionally fast this year.  Marc explained that in certain conditions, the vines can grow 10 cm in a day!  The winemakers are in a race against time at the moment to control the growth.

Adopt a vine in France


Flowering happened between the end of May and beginning of June, producing lots of great grapes.  At the moment the vines are making lots of leaves to feed the grapes.  They grow high, but as the vines are from the creeper family, the branches sag under their own weight, and become intertwined in the middle of the row, making it very difficult for the teams to work.

This is a scenario to be avoided because if it rains, as is this case with the fairly frequent storms at the moment, the moisture will remain in the bunched up branches, increasing the risk of mildew forming, which could compromise the harvest.

Discover the winemaker job during a day


Our little group therefore had a very important job to do!  Once we were each equipped with a sommelier’s apron, and our pockets stuffed with clips, we were ready to start raising the training wires.  

Learn more about winemaking with Gourmet Odyssey


Marc demonstrated what to do.  First, take the training wires in the middle, pull them apart and place the branches between them, raise and close them again, and attach them together using one of our small clips.

Perfect gift for wine lover


It’s a “simple” job, but a very important one for the quality of our future harvest. We all got stuck in, and did a couple of rows before taking a first well earned break, allowing us to start to talk about wine-making in general, working organically and biodynamically.  We then did a few more rows before enjoying the aperitif under the shade of the walnut trees.

Elaborate your own french cuvée


Lunch was served in the relative cool of the barn, accompanied by the wines from Château de la Bonnelière.  It recharged the batteries, but also made us yearn for a siesta.  For some reason, we weren’t quite as productive in the afternoon!

But we admit that to escape the 35 °C outside, we cooled off in the chai where we continued our conversation about the challenges and virtues of organic wine-making.  Marc has been making wine organically since he took over the running of the winery in the early 2000’s.  He has a long experience or working organically, and its impact on the vines and the wines that he makes.

Marc makes a few blended wines, but for the most part, his wines are left unblended to best reflect the diversity of terroir that his vineyards cover.  He also strives to find the best wine-making techniques to release the full potential of the grapes he harvests, but we can’t say too much, because that is what we will find out more about during the Vinification Experience Days!

We spent a couple of great Discovery Experience Days despite the crushing heat.  We look forward to meeting up again with some of you for the Harvest Experience Day!  

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Surprise your Dad with some adopted vines for his Fatherís Day gift this year


There are many wine-loving Dad’s out there, but you can’t get him yet another work-screw or bottle of wine for his Father’s Day present!  How about adopting him his own organic vines in France?  A really original Father’s Day gift that’s bound to make its mark.
The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience will get him immersed in the life of a winemaker.  Choose his favourite wine growing region from our 6 organic partner wineries in France and adopt his very own organic vines for a wine-making year.  The winemaker will send news of his adopted vines via the newsletters to follow their evolution and the key stages in making his wine.  Once his wine is bottled and labelled with his personalised labels, he’ll get to taste his delicious vintage that he’ll know all the secrets of!
 
We’ll send a welcome pack containing a vine adoption certificate, a brochure, and access to his own Customer Portal, as well as a few wine accessory gifts, so that you have something to give on the day.  And for the last-minute Father’s Day gifts, we can send the vine adoption certificate by email.
 
Adopt a vine in France during a vintage
 
The Wine Experience doesn’t stop there.  You can also choose to include one or more Wine Experience Days to your father’s present, so that he can meet and spend a day with the winemaker at the winery.  The originality of these Wine Experience Days is that they aren’t just simple winery tours.  You get to participate in the work in the vineyard or cellar alongside the winemaker who will explain all the key steps in making wine.
 
Wine gift for fathers day
 
There are three types of Wine Experience Day, it’s up to you to choose!  The little extra?  The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Days are valid for two people and include wine tasting and a full sit-down meal.
 
It’s a Father’s Day gift that he’ll be sure to remember and one that’s sure to please!

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Learning how to de-bud vines in Saint-Emilion


May and June are very busy months in the vineyard.  Everything grows very quickly, and it’s a daily battle to keep on top of things.  To better understand first hand, we spent a day with the winemaker at Château Coutet for a Discovery Experience Day.  These hands-on wine experience days are designed to get involved in the work at the winery, and learn about all the work in the vineyard by the winemaker to produce the best grapes possible come harvest time.
Adrien, one of the owners and winemakers at the winery, welcomed us with a coffee and croissant.  Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey win expert, introduced us to the programme of this great day that we would spend together in this beautiful Bordeaux winery.
 
We listened attentively as Adrien presented the history of his family’s tenure of the vineyards and winery at Château Coutet, which goes back over 400 years.  He is a very passionate winemaker, full of unusual and interesting stories regarding the region and his winery.
 
We headed out for a walk through the different terroir of the winery to better understand this prestigious wine appellation and the different grape varietals grown at Château Coutet, each with their own distinctive leaf. 
 
Adopt a vine in Bordeaux
For example, cabernet franc leaves close at the top to create a hole, whereas the malbec leaves are open with a u-shape at the top.
 
Wine experience in Saint-Emilion
At the top of the hill, we admired the magnificent view over the Dordogne valley, and started to learn about the work in the vineyard from pruning through to the work currently being carried out.  It’s a complicated job!
 
Learn the winemaker job during a day
The Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located close to where we were, also on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, one of the best vineyards of the appellation.  We each found our adopted vines thanks to a slate nameplate that had been put in front.  We took a few minutes to take some photographs of our vines and the surrounding rolling vineyards.
 
Wine gift for wine lover
We then passed by the vineyard where the grapes are grown for the wonderful Demoiselle wine that we had the chance to taste at lunchtime.  It was then time to get down to some work, and see what being a winemaker is really like!  At the moment, the vines need to be de-budded to keep just the branches that are best positioned on the vines and those that will produce the fruit for the coming harvest.   It’s a long and difficult job, but one that is very important.
 
Wine experience in Saint-Emilion with Gourmet Odyssey
Back on the lawn in front of the château, we enjoyed a well earned aperitif of a lovely white wine made by Adrien’s cousin in the Entre-Deux-Mers wine-growing region, the Vertige wine from Château Le Grand Verdus.  We then sat down for lunch and continued the tasting with wines from the winery.  The 2020 Château Coutet was paired with the foie-gras starter, followed by the 2018 Demoiselles with the duck main course.  There is a complexity and length to this wine that admirably represents some of the mythical Saint-Emilion wines, and it’s one that will only get better with time.
 
Be a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey
After lunch, Adrien talked about the benefits and difficulties in nurturing the vines organically.  He also explained the work left to do in the vineyard between and now and the harvest, of which we’ll learn more about during the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days.
 
Original gift for a wine lover
The day finished with a visit of the fermentation hall, which is one of the most rustic in Saint-Emilion, and the family cellar where the old vintage wines are stored, the oldest dating back to 1945!
 
Many thanks to Adrien for his passionate recounting of life at the winery and giving us a really interesting insight into his job as a winemaker.

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Discover the art of blending wines


We spent a great Vinification Experience Day at Château de Jonquières, a magnificent family run winery in the Terrasses du Larzac wine growing region, and partner of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

The aim of this hands-on wine course is to learn about the winemaker’s work in the cellar from harvest time until the wine is bottled.

A participative wine course at Château de Jonquières to learn about ageing and blending wines

Charlotte, the 32nd generation of winemaker from her family at the chateau, welcomed us with a coffee, and she introduced us to the history of the winery, her family, and the Terrasses du Larzac appellation.  Gaël, the Gourmet Odyssey oenologist, presented the day’s programme, and we were very happy to welcome back a couple from Ireland that had come for their third day with us.

We started in the fermentation hall to understand how the grape juice becomes wine.  Charlotte explained the fermentation and maceration phases, and the different methods used to make red, white, and rosé wines.  We also learnt all about racking wines and the role that yeast plays in the fermentation process.

The winemaker explains the work in the cellar

The group of participants was very curious, asking Charlotte lots of questions.  We learnt about the different containers used at the winery to age the wines, and the different impact that the concrete egg, stainless steel vats, and oak barrels have on them.  What better way to learn than by tasting!

We then tasted the latest carignan, mourvèdre and syrah wines individually to appreciate the distinct characteristics that each grape varietal has before Charlotte gave us a lesson on how to blend wines to better understand the possibilities open to the winemaker.

Wine blending workshop

Lunchtime quickly arrived, and we sat down to a delicious meal prepared by a local caterer.  On the menu were Mimosa eggs with beans and truffle oil, coq au vin de Granny Martine, and a dark chocolate dessert with cookies and a vanilla ganache.  To accompany these courses, we tasted 5 organic wines from the winery.

After lunch, we visited our adopted vines, and marvelled at the beauty of the plot of old carignan vines that were planted some 70 years ago by Charlotte grandmother.

Meeting our adopted vines

Back at the winery, Charlotte ended the day by describing in detail the steps taken to prepare the wine for bottling, and then how the bottles are sealed and labelled. 

Many thanks to Charlotte for giving us such a warm welcome, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm.  We can’t wait to taste the 2022 vintage once it has finished its ageing process!

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The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

Adopt a Vine in France and Follow the Making of Your Own Wine !

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