Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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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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Wine-making Experience courses in Burgundy to learn about the work in the cellar


In March and April, we welcomed some of the 2022 vintage Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients to Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy for some Vinification Experience Days.  Through these wine courses, the wine makers explain their work in the cellar to transform the grape juice into wine.  There are lots of decisions to take, and as the wine-maker Jean-François Chapelle says, to let the wine best express itself, sometimes it’s as important to choose which techniques not to use as those to use.

Jean-François told us about his family’s history, that of the winery, and the Burgundy wine-growing region.  He explained his reasons behind transforming the winery to being organic to preserve the soil and safeguard the people coming into contact with the vines, starting with himself, his family, and his team of staff.

Myriam, the Gourmet Odyssey oenologist then gave a detailed explanation of the senses used when tasting wines, particularly the aromas, and influences from ageing the wines in oak barrels. 

Adopt a vine in Burgundy

In the cellar building, we visited the rooms and saw the equipment used to make and age the wine.  Jean-François taught us about the work involved during the fermentation and maceration stages phases, and how he monitors the wines during the ageing stage.

Ageing the wine in oak barrels is crucial for the wines at Domaine Chapelle, improving the aromatic complexity and equilibrium on the palate.  The tiny pores in the wood allow micro-oxygenation to occur, making the tannins more refined and the wines smoother.  The wood will also helps the wine to develop aromas such as vanilla and coconut that are associated with oak, whilst the heating of the inside of the barrels will develop toasted and smoky aromas.

Perfect gift for a wine lover in France
 
We tasted two different barrels of the 2022 Santenay Les Gravières Premier Cru which is currently in the ageing process to understand the different impact that a new barrel and an old barrel has on the wine.  The new oak gave more depth and toasted notes, whereas the old oak gave wonderfully soft tannins, but less aromatically.  We also tasted a Santenay which was ageing in a vat to compare it against the wines aged in oak.
 
We ended the tasting workshop with a 2022 Clos des Cornières which Jean-François had blended together from different barrels to give us an insight into how this wine might be like at the end of the ageing process
 
Discover how to produce wine during a vintage

It was one o’clock before we knew it, and so time for a Burgundy aperitif of a Santenay white wine, accompanied by the famous gougères!

We then sat down to a delicious lunch of jambon persillé, Gasto Gérard chicken, and a three-chocolate dessert, accompanied by a 2021 Burgundy aligoté, a 2020 Santenay Clos des Cornières, and a 2019 Santenay Beaurepaire Premier Cru.

Create your own wine with Gourmet Odyssey

After lunch, we headed out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines.  The pinot noir adopted vines for the clients having chosen the Santenay red wine are located in the Clos des Cornières vineyard, and the chardonnay adopted vines in the neighbouring Crays vineyard for the Santenay white wine clients.  

Discover the winemaker job during a day in Burgundy

Back at the winery, Jean-François ended the day by explaining how the wines are prepared for bottling, how they are then bottled, labelled, and sold.  Bottling is done at the winery using their own machine, as opposed to using an external company that come to the winery with their bottling truck, a common practice for smaller wineries.  Domaine Chapelle is lucky to have its own bottling line as it gives them much more flexibility in organising when to bottle the wines.

Adopt organic vines in Burgundy

Domaine Chapelle exports between only 20 and 30% of their production, compared to 80% on average for Burgundy.  The rest is sold directly to their clients so as to keep a link to their customers.

We all had an excellent day and learnt lots about the art of winemaking.  We look forward to welcoming you back soon to Domaine Chapelle or one of our other Gourmet Odyssey partner wineries for another wine experience day!

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Wine making in Saint-Emilion, an art passed down from generation to generation


We headed to Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for a Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day.  This hands-on wine course enables wine lovers to spend the day with the winemaker and learn about all the work in the cellar to ferment, age and blend the wines before they are ready for bottling.

Benoît, the Gouret Odyssey wine expert, introduced us to the day while we enjoyed a coffee and croissant.  Then Matthieu, who represents the 13th generation of winemaker at the winery, presented Château Coutet and its diversity of terroirs and grape varietals.  It’s an exceptional place where the vines, trees, and family have been living together in perfect harmony for over 400 years.

In the vinification hall, Matthieu explained the fermentation phases, something that those of us who had already participated in the Harvest Experience Day had touched upon last September.  Matthieu proved to be someone both very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject.

Organic wine-making experience gift Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We then went through to the barrel room, where the wine is laid to rest and age in oak barrels once the fermentation has finished.  Traditionally, wines are aged in oak barrels in Bordeaux.  At Château Coutet, the aim is to limit the amount of wood that can be tasted in the wine, so the percentage of new barrels used is fairly low.

Cellar tour and visit gift in an orgnaic Saint-Emilion winery

Back in the fermentation hall, Benoît then initiated us to the art of wine tasting, starting with a reminder of the basics, so that we were all talking the same wine language.  We blind tasted a first series of wines, a very interesting exercise that enables us to better concentrate on the aromas and tastes to analyse the wines by avoiding being influenced by labels and any preconceived ideas that go with them.

Organic wine tasting experience gift in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We continued with another blind tasting of the four grape varietals grown at the winery.  This enabled us to identify the characteristics of each before having a go at blending them together in different proportions to create our own wines like real Saint-Emilion wine-makers!

Wine blending gift in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

The morning flew by and before we knew it, it was time to sit down to lunch.  We continued the wine tasting with the Vertige white wine made by a cousin of the family at Château Grand Verdus, which accompanied the Landais salad for the starter.   The 2020 Château Coutet paired wonderfully with the beef brochette main course, ending with the magnificent 2018 Demoiselles wine, which has a long finish and complexity to it that matches the best of the Saint-Emilion wines.

After lunch, we made the most of the sun’s return to go and visit our adopted vines up on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, surrounded by Château Coutet’s prestigious neighbours.  We each found our vines thanks to a personalised slate that had been put out.  We marvelled at the wonderful view, and took some photos in the hope of winning a magnum of wine in the “My Vine” photo competition.

Organic rent-a-vine gift experience in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We finished the day with a visit to the cellar where the bottles are stored.  Matthieu explained how the wine is bottled and labelled, the last remaining steps before the wine is ready to be sold and tasted.

Many thanks to Matthieu for his warm welcome, and to all the participants for this great day, that was as enjoyable as always.

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Wine Experience in the Loire Valley to learn about the work in the cellar


We welcomed some of the 2022 vintage clients to Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon for a Vinification Experience Day.  During this wine-making course, we discovered the work of the winemaker in the cellar from just after the harvest up until the moment when the wine is ready to be bottled.

The day started with a coffee and croissant to introduce ourselves to one another and discover the day’s full programme of events.  The objective of the day was to learn the decisions the winemaker takes in the cellar when making wine, and as we were to learn it’s a complex task!

We divided the group into two for the morning’s two different workshops.  One half started in the chai opposite the château with the winemaker, Marc.  This building is home to the fermentation hall, the bottling and labelling line, and the logistical centre.

Organic wine experience gift in the Loire Valley, France

Marc had the honour of transforming our guests into apprentice winemakers through his explanations.  He covered all of the most important steps from the harvest, through the fermentation and maceration phases, up until the wine starts the ageing process, which was to be our theme for the afternoon!

The other half stayed with Louise, Gourmet Odyssey’s wine expert, for a wine tasting workshop!  It’s all very interesting to learn about how wine is made, but it’s also good to know how to taste it properly!  We worked on the senses we use when tasting wines, in which order to use them, and the specificities of each step.  Before putting our new found skills into practice, we put our noses to the test!  Most of us are not used to paying close attention to the aromas that surround us, and we learnt that it is something we need to train to be able to better identify the subtle aromas and characteristic of different grape varietals.

Learn how to taste wines with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

The groups were then swapped around before we all met up again for the aperitif and lunch, a good occasion to put into practice our morning’s work!

As always, Mme Plouzeau had prepared a wonderful meal, and we savoured the range of Château de la Bonnelière’s wines that we tasted.  So much so that it was difficult to pull ourselves away from the table afterwards!

There remained two important activities: meeting our adopted vines in the vineyard next to the château and visiting the cellar underneath the Chinon Fortress.

The vines were in very good shape.  They had recently been pruned and were impatiently waiting for the first warm days to burst back into life.

Adopt-a-vine gift for wine lovers to learn about the work behind a bottle of wine

We then headed into Chinon to end the day.  Marc has the very good fortune to own his own troglodyte cave, directly underneath Chinon’s fortress.  He uses the cave as a cellar to age his wines in oak barrels from anything between one and three years depending on the wine and the vintage.

Make your own FRench organic wine gift in the Loire Valley

It’s a precise and painstaking job that requires patience and skill to know when a wine is ready, and which need longer.  It took Marc years of trial and error to master.  To give our participants a notion, we had the honour of tasting different wines to better understand how they change during the ageing process.  It was a unique moment that everyone very much appreciated.

Before we knew it, the day drew to a close, and it was time for us to go our separate ways.  Many thanks to all of those who took part and helped to make the day so special.  Hopefully see you again soon!

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A Wine-Making Experience Day in the Cellar


The work in the cellar is the final phase in the cycle of wine-making, transforming the grapes into wine, and closely monitoring the wines through the fermentation and ageing phases until the wine is finally ready for bottling.  These were the topics we were to cover during the Vinification Experience Day with Stéphane and Céline, the winemakers at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace.

After the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines and better appreciate the diverse terroir of the Alsace wine-growing region.  It is after all the starting point for making wine.

Adopt a vine in France

We took some photos with our adopted vines, and listened to Céline as she explained the work of the moment in the vineyard to prune and attach the branches that will produce this year’s fruit-bearing canes. This is probably the most fundamental way in which the winemaker can set the tone for the style of wine that they are trying to produce.  Céline pointed out the number of nodes left on each branch and the smaller arc of the vines compared to the majority of the neighbouring vineyard plots.  As we could see, Domaine Stentz-Buecher voluntarily reduces the number of fruit-bearing branches that each vine will produce, thus keeping the yield of grapes lower per vine.  This ensures grapes of a higher quality, and is one of the main reasons why their wines are more concentrated and aromatic than your average Alsace wine. 

Discover the winemaker job during a day in Alsace

We then followed the journey that the grapes had taken at harvest time back to the winery, where Stéphane explained the different ways that the red and white grapes are received.  Some of us had seen this first hand during the Harvest Experience Day last year. The white grapes pass through the press to extract the juice and separate it from the skin, stems and pips, whereas the red grapes are put whole into the vat to extract the colour and tannins from the skin during the maceration phase. 

Visit a amazing vinyard in Alsace and make your own wine

We had a quick look at the barrel room where the pinot noir grapes are aged.  Alsace pinot noir is becoming more and more critically acclaimed, and starting with the 2022 vintage, has finally been accepted as one of the grape varietals allowed to be considered for Grand Cru status within the Hengst vineyard.

Be a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey

The white wines ferment and are aged in stainless steel vats or large oak casks.  Stéphane explained all that happens and how he keeps track of the wines through the fermentation process.  He then drew some of the 2022 Pinot Gris Rosenberg directly from the cask for us to taste what a wine is like that hasn’t yet finished.  It was still a little cloudy, tingled a little on the tongue, and hadn’t yet developed all of its aromatic potential, but it was great to have the chance to taste a wine at this stage.

Learn how to taste wine during a Vinification Experience Day

Céline had organised a blind wine tasting session for us.  Before starting, we learnt the key steps in wine tasting and how we use all of our senses when doing so.  There were three wines in the first series, and our challenge was to describe what we thought of each wine and to name the aromas that we could identify.  It’s not always so easy to put words to our sensations!  We then tried to determine what the three different wines were.  Different grape varietals, different ages ...?  Lots of guesses were made, none of them correct!  They were in fact all the same grape varietal, riesling.  The difference was the type of soil.  The first wine was the Riesling Tradition which is made from grapes grown mainly down on the alluvial plain.  The next was the Riesling Ortel, from a clay limestone marl soil  , and the third wine the Riesling Steingrubler Grand Cru from a sandy clay marl soil on top of limestone and granite .  As we had noted, these three different terroirs produce greatly different wines in taste, aroma, and complexity, helping to also explain the different levels of wine in the Alsace hierarchy of AOC wines.
There were two wines in the next series.  This time they were of different grape varietals to show the difference between the more floral pinot blanc and the more honeyed and smoky pinot gris.

We continued the wine tasting over lunch of traditional Alsace specialities.  Kouglof, choucroute, local cheeses, and black forest gateau, were enjoyed with the 2018 Who Am I blend of pinot blanc, pinot gr is and riesling, the 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg, and the 2019 Pinot Noir Tradition.

After lunch we returned to the cellar to learn about the work for bottling and labelling.  Stéphane showed us the filters used to clarify the wines and remove the last of the lees.  We learnt the different choices available for corks and their alternatives, and saw the machines used for bottling and labelling.

Adopt some vines with Gourmet Odyssey

Séphane also explained how the Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine is made, and he showed us the rotating crate used to collect all of the deposit in the neck of the bottles.

The day finished in the wine library  , where a selection of wines are further aged in the bottles before being sold as old vintage wines. It was a very informative day, and we can’t wait to taste our 2022 Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine again when it is ready sometime around the end of the year!

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Wine blending Experience Day in the Cotes du Rhone


We spent a fascinating day last Saturday in the Cotes du Rhone wine growing region at Château Cohola.  We were in Sablet to discover all of the work in the cellar from the harvest through to the time when the wine is ready for bottling and labelling.

The day started with a quick visit to the vineyard to meet our adopted vines and take a few photos to immortalise the moment!  It was also a good occasion to remember that the wine made can only be as good as the grapes grown in the vineyard.  With the idyllic location of the vines, high up on the terrace, overlooking the Rhone Valley plain below, our vines certainly looked to be very happy!

Gift idea for a wine lover

We then headed to the chai, following the journey that the grapes take at harvest time.  Quentin and Jeff from Château Cohola explained how the grapes go through the de-stemming machine to remove the grapes from the stalks and are then put into vats to start the fermentation process.

There are two fermentation processes that take place.  The first transforms the sugar from the grapes into alcohol using the yeast that is found naturally in the picked grapes.  The second is the malolactic fermentation that changes the malic acid into lactic acid, softening the wines and giving them more depth.  Quentin also explained how the colour and tannins are extracted from the grape skins during the maceration phase.

Adopt a vine in Cote du Rhone, France

Once the fermentation has finished, the wines start the ageing period, and so we went through to the barrel room.  Most of the wine is aged in large 650 litre oak barrels, but some of the wine is also aged in stainless steel barrels, and earthenware jars.  Quentin explained the virtues of each, and the impact that they have on the wine.  We even got to taste some of the wine direct from the barrel.

Meet Winemakers during an entire day and discover their job

The syrah wine that was ageing in one of the stainless-steel vats needed to be racked to separate the wine from the lees.  Jeff had set up the pump and tubes to do so, and so we watched as he drew off the wine and pumped it into a second stainless steel barrel.

Unique wine experience with Gourmet Odyssey

Once the first barrel was empty, Jeff opened it, so that we could take a look at the lees, and some of us even tasted them!

Perfect gift for a wine experience in France

We then headed to the tasting room, where Mark explained the principles of wine tasting, and how to use all our senses to taste and compare the different wines that had been prepared for us.  We started by blind tasting two wines, and then taking the time to compare their characteristics before having the difference between them revealed.

We then compared two different grenache syrah blends that Quentin prepared for us to see how a wine changes if it is dominated by grenache or syrah, before comparing the same wine that had been aged in a stainless-steel vat and one that had been aged in an oak barrel.  As we were to learn, there are many different options and decisions to take for the winemaker.

Exclusive wine tasting at Château Cohola

After all this wine tasting, we were starting to feel a little hungry, so the delicious lunch prepared by one of the local restaurants was very welcome.  For the aperitif, we tasted the 2021 Château Cohola Sablet rosé, following up with 2021 Cuvée Fruit with the caillette starter.  We paired the 2018 Château Cohola Sablet red with the main course of daube provençale, and the 2022 Château Cohola Sablet white without added sulphites with the goat’s cheese, and square of honeycomb from the winery’s bees.  The meal ended with a mirabelle tart, accompanied by the Château Cohola TBF red wine.

Learn how to make wine during a day

After lunch we returned to the winery to learn about the last stage in the wine-making process, covering topics such as bottling, labelling, and the different options available when choosing corks. 

Visit and discover a wine cellar with Gourmet Odyssey

And so the day drew to a close.  As we had also learnt during the Discovery Experience and Harvest Experience Days, winemaking is a wonderfully diverse profession, and we left invigorated by the passion that the team at Château Cohola exude.  We can’t wait to come back again!

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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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