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Archive from June 2010

Oenoland – The Best of Wine Tourism in Bordeaux

The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is now featured on Oenoland, the online wine tourism guide for the Bordeaux region.


Oenoland wine tourism Bordeaux

Oenoland is managed by the Comité Régional de Tourisme d?Aquitaine, and groups together the best wine tourism services from the Bordelais; rent a vine, vineyard tours by bike or chauffeur, wine making courses, winery vists...

All of the featured wine tourism services on Oenoland have been selected by one of the regional tourist offices. 


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Bordeaux Wine Festival

Our partner vineyard in the Bordeaux region, Château Beau Rivage, is at the Bordeaux Wine Festival (Bordeaux Fête le Vin) from the 24-27 June 2010.


Bordeaux Wine Festival 2010

The wines from Château Beau Rivage are available for tasting at the Tonnellerie Nadalié stand, the family's cooperage.  You will be able to find out more about barrel making, including a demonstration of how the barrels are heated.

You can also learn how you can adopt vines at Château Beau Rivage, get involved in wine experience days, and follow the making of your own vintage with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

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Wine Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle

Last Saturday we were at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy for a Discovery Experience Day with the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.


Wine Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle, Burgundy

After a very rainy week, we were dreading the worst, but fortunately Yannick, the Vine Manager, was focused on his weather radar to take us into the vineyard as soon as a brighter window came along!

Yannick showed us the vines in full flowering season, and explained the work that has been done so far this year in the vineyard.  Everyone introduced themselves to their adopted vines, and then it was time to get down to some work!


Vine Flowering


The task to be completed was to ensure that each of the vine shoots were placed between the training wires, and that they were separated from one vine to the next.  Then we had to raise the wires as high as possible, and attach them together with a biodegradable clip, used at the estate since their conversion to organic farming.


Clipping the Vine Wires Together


After a few words on the history of the region, the winery and their organic wine making philosophy by Jean François Chapelle, it was time to taste the estate's wines over a meal.  We savoured their Meursault 2008 white wine, the Santenay "Clos de Cornières" 2004 and 2003 vintages, the Santenay Premier Cru "Beaurepaire" 2002, and their Gevrey Chambertin from 2007.


Wine Tasting Session of Domaine Chapelle's Burgundy Wines


During the afternoon, Mr Chapelle, pipette in hand, took us into the winery and cellars to introduce us to the wine making side of things, finishing with a tasting, direct from the casks, of the 2009 Clos de Cornières, which is still maturing.


Wine Tasting Straight from the Barrel


A huge thank you to all who came and to Domaine Chapelle for a very memorable day!

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No to European Organic Wine?

The very next day after posting our blog article, What Makes French Organic Wine, Organic, the European Commission withdrew the Orwine project, which was supposed to find a European standard for organic wine.


EU Organic Label

Decanter has reported on this in their article, EU says no to organic wine.  Vitisphere (French language link) quote the EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos, as saying "the conditions for introducing these new rules are not united in the majority of the member states.  I am not ready to accept a compromise on the organic standards which would send a bad signal to the consumers on the importance that the Commission places on quality.  I hope that the (wine) industry and research will make progress, and that the Commission will come back with a proposition."

We agree with the stance to refuse a compromise on standards, which are in our view the minimum that the public expects, but we are very concerned about the position in which organic wine is left.

If you buy organic jam, you expect a product that is not only made from fruit that has been cultivated to organic standards, but that the sugar used is organic, and that no other artificial elements have been use to "enhance" the flavour or colour.  Why should wine be any different?

It would appear that the wine making methods used in different EU countries and region are at the heart of the problem.  But why? If we agree on the principal that organic wine should be made from organically grown grapes, without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and that nothing unnatural is added during the fermentation and ageing process, there shouldn't be any problem.  True, there remains some debate about the use of some products such as sulfur to help preserve the wine, but the proposal to reduce the amount by 50% is a good starting point, and winemakers can use less if they wish.


A question of integrity

Yesterday we were at Domaine Chapelle (French language link) in Santenay, Burgundy for a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience day. Domaine Chapelle has been organically certified since the beginning of this year, but has been using organic methods for best part of the last decade. Jean François Chapelle explained the journey he embarked on to become an organic winemaker, and also responded to questions about the wine making methods he uses.  He is clearly a passionate man, not just for wine, but for the environment around him; his terroir, his village, his region, the legacy that his generation will leave to future generations.  He adds nothing else to his wine that wasn't covered by the Orwine proposal. Do organic wine makers in France, Italy, or Spain with the same ideology really think differently from one another?

Without a European standard, the worst possible outcome is inertia, which leaves the door open to profiteers who want to jump on the organic wine band wagon for purely economic reasons.  The other risk is that each country develops its own standards, but if the rules are different from one country to another, how can the consumer make an educated purchase decision?  Maybe the time has come for wine, like other food and drink products, to include the ingredients and amounts used on the labels, especially for organic wine?

A solution must be found urgently to introduce organic wine making rules and to have a real organic wine label. 


What are your thoughts?


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What makes French Organic Wine, Organic ?

The number of French organic wine producers is increasing each year, at a rate of 20-25% in terms of organic vine surface area, according to the Fédération Nationale Interprofessionnelle des Vins de l'Agriculture Biologique.

But what does it mean exactly when we talk about "French organic wine"?

Certified French Organic Wine Label


To put it simply, organic wine is a wine that is made from organically grown grapes, and that has had no chemical additives or other unnatural substances mixed in during the fermentation and maturing stages.

In France, consumers look for the "Agriculture Biologique" label to know whether a wine is organic or not, but beware ; presently, this label only certifies the manner in which the grapes are cultivated, and not the way in which the wine is actually made once the grapes have been harvested.  The European Commision is currently formalising the rules to resolve this issue in its Orwine project.  More to come soon hopefully on this. UPDATE - SEE ARTICLE NO TO EUROPEAN ORGANIC WINE ?


Cultivating Organic Vines

Let's start in the vineyard.  To cultivate organic vines, the use of all chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides is banned.  The systematic and repetitive use of these products can do much direct and indirect harm; on the insects, which has repercussions on the food chain and fertilisation of plants; on the natural plants which are important to sustain the balance of nutrients in the soil and to limit the effects of soil erosion; and on the wine makers who have to handle the chemical products, without even talking about the effects on the consumers themselves.

Prevention.  That is the key to organic cultivation.  Instead of using chemical products to treat diseases, organic winemakers use natural preventative measures.  For example, to reduce the risk of disease and rot linked to wet weather, the vineyard manager removes excess leaves and shoots to help the air circulate better between the bunches of grapes, thus helping them to dry quicker.  Copper and sulfur are the only products that are allowed to be added to the soil, to prevent mildew and oidium.

The soil is worked manually or by machine in place of weed killers, which help the microbes in the soil to prosper, and thus to be better aerated and its quality enriched.

Natural nutrients are returned to the soil as much as possible.  For example, the pruned vine shoots are crushed in between the rows of vines, and the marc (skin, seeds and stalks that remain after the grapes are crushed) is spread in the vineyards.


Organic Wine Making

At the time of writing, the French organic wine specifications do not apply any obligation in terms of the wine making, but in reality, the majority of wine makers that have taken the time and effort to cultivate organic vines, strive to express the taste of the grapes, the terroir and their work as naturally as possible.

In general, organic wine contains levels of sulfites much lower than normal wine (at least -50%), and the wine makers don't add sugar, other additives or genetically modified organisms that can change the aroma, colour, or taste artificially.


The Philosophy Behind Organic Wine

Often the journey to becoming organically certified prompts the wine maker to ask him/herself other questions.  What other actions can they take to better respect the environment and the wine? For example, reorganising the reception hall in the winery to use gravity as much as possible in carrying the grapes into the vats instead of pumps.  Or using old vats to collect rainwater that is then used to clean the tractors and machinery.


How to choose an Organic Wine?

As with all wines, we believe that they are best appreciated when we know the story behind where the wine comes from; the wine estate, the terroir, and the people involved.  It is therefore recommended to:

  • Read articles and reviews on organic wines and organic wineries in the wine press and guides
  • Ask your local wine merchant what organic processes have been used in making the organic wines from each winery
  • Or best of all, get out, discover and meet the organic winemakers at their estate.

Two recent guides that we appreciate on French organic wine are Le Guide des meilleurs Vins Bio de France (Gault Millau) and Carnet de Vigne Omnivore (Hachette Pratique), both of which are unfortunately only available in French.  If you have a French organic wine guide in English that you have found useful, please share!

We will be taking a look at biodynamic wine in a future article, and explaining what makes it different to organic wine.

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Harbour and Estuary Fete at Château Beau Rivage

Château Beau Rivage, partner of Gourmet Odyssey, invites you to join them at the Harbour and Estuary Fete on Sunday 13th June (link french only).


Wine tasting of the Clairet 2009, and visit of the cellar and vineyard. You can also enjoy grilled fish, walks on the bank of the Garonne river, a vintage car display and music from the "Bandas", traditional Basque country fanfare music!

Open from 10:00 to 18:00

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Grapes Don’t Just Grow on Vines!

The starting point for any good wine is in the quality of the grapes, but unfortunately they don't just appear by magic!

Bunch of Grapes 

Assuring the best possible harvest means many hours of labour in the vineyards throughout the year.  There are differences in the tasks carried out and in their timing according to the region, the grape varieties, and climatic differences year to year, but this blog post aims to explain the main steps in cultivating vines.


November: Preparation of the Vines for Winter

Before the cold snaps of winter set in, the vines are prepared to protect them from hard frosts, particularly the more northerly vineyards or ones that are more exposed. Often the vineyard staff will build up the level of soil around each vine stock to increase insulation in a process known as "buttage".

During this period, vines that are too old or are in bad health will be uprooted to free up space for new vines to be planted in spring.


December to March: Pruning and Training the Vines

Pruning the vines 

The main task is the pruning of the vines.  Left on their own accord, vines are very rampant, so need to be kept strongly in check.  The principal aim of pruning is to reduce the number of shoots to leave just those that will eventually bear fruit for the year's harvest. This practice enables each vine to concentrate its efforts, which will in turn improve the quality and the sugar levels in the grapes at a later stage. It's a long and laborious process, as the vineyard workers snip away with their secateurs vine by vine.  The cut shoots are often then scattered and crushed in between the rows of vines to return natural organic nutrients to the soil.

Posts and training wires are repaired, and the remaining shoots are attached to their support manually to help control the form of the fruit-bearing branches.  "Pliage" is the action of folding the branches to give the desired shape to the cine, and "accolage" is the term given to the act of attaching the shoots to the wires.

At the end of winter, once pruning has finished and as soon as the soil allows, the "débuttage" begins to return the heaped soil from around each vine stock to the middle of the rows.  This soil is then spread, "décavaillonnage", and the soil tilled to aerate it, remove unwanted weeds naturally, and to help with drainage of water.


April to May: Debudding


In April the vines begin to grow rapidly, and the dark, bleak countryside of the winter begins its transformation to green with the arrival of new life.

The vineyard manager then starts to debud the vines, selecting to keep only the buds that will produce the grapes come harvest time.  Unwanted shoots are also pruned in a process called épamprage, again to limit the number of grapes produced.  It is very important to control the yield, so that each vine can channel its energy into a smaller amount of fruit, but with an improved quality. 

The first treatment of the vines is carried out as a preventative measure against disease.  It's also a favourable time of year to plant new vines.

The weeks between the bursting of the buds and the definitive end of the risk of frost are very worrying for the vine manager, because a cold snap can burn the buds and severely impact the harvest.


May to June : Flowering


This is the period when the first flowers on the vines appear and reproduction happens. If it's too humid or cold during the flowering period, the rate of growth slows which can reduce the number and size of the grapes.  After flowering, the first small green grapes are formed. The vine managers closely monitor the vines, and select the necessary treatments to ward off unwanted diseases such as mildew, black rot vines reproduce. 


July to August: Leaf Removal and Green Harvest

Ripening Grapes 

As the weather gets warmer, so the bunches of grapes mature and become bigger.  The principal task of the winemaker at this time is to ensure the optimal mix of quality and quantity of grapes.  Too many grapes and the sugar levels will not be high enough to produce a good wine, but by reducing the number of grapes, so the number of bottles that the winemaker can produce and sell also decreases. 

The wine maker first removes some of the leaves from each vine during "effeuillage", so that each bunch of grapes receives the maximum amount of sun to fully ripen, and also to better aerate the grapes, which helps protect against mildew in rainy periods.

Once the grapes have started to grow, the winemaker may choose to conduct a green harvest by removing unwanted bunches of grapes in a process called "éclaircissage".  This helps to improve the quality of the remaining grapes by raising the sugar levels.


September TO October : Harvest

Harvest Vines 

This is the most stressful time of the year for the winemakers.  They spend much time walking amongst the vines, inspecting and tasting the grapes to choose the best possible moment to start the harvest.  The key influencing factors are the level of tannins, sugar and acidity, combined with weather forecasts.  The variety of grape, as well as their physical position in different vineyards will determine the order of harvesting of the vineyard plots.

As important as the choice of when to harvest the grapes, is the management of the team of harvesters and the preparation in the winery to receive the harvest.  The harvester need to be trained, supervised, and often lodged and fed, whilst the vats must be sterilised before the fruit is added.  

The annual cycle of cultivating the vines ends with the spreading of the "marc" (skin, seeds, and stalks) amongst the vines to return natural nutrients to the soil.

And then the leaves turn a sea of red, yellow and orange before falling from the vines, as a new cycle begins!


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We’ve heard of Ice Wine, but Ice Cider ?

We were at a wine tasting evening last night in Paris at a great event organised by Oh! Vino.


Ice Cider

We tasted some good Spanish Riojas, but unfortunately got there too late for the vintage bottles bought at La Tour d'Argent auction last December :-(

The highlight was this Cryomalus Ice Cider from the Antolino Brongo Estate in Québec. A taste of golden apples, sweet but still very fresh. A true delight that should go well with an old Comté, some foie gras, or maybe even a curry.

As with the production of ice wine, ice cider is made from fruit that has been left out in the freezing winter temperatures.  At Antolino Brongo, the ripe apples are picked from the trees, and then left outside on pallets to freeze until ready for pressing.  After a 6 week fermentation period, and then a further 6 months ageing in stainless steel tanks and the bottles, the ice cider is ready to be enjoyed.

Bottles of the Cryomalus Ice Cider are available in France through Oh! Vino.  We're not sure where else in Europe it's available, but the Antolino Brongo Estate should be able to let you know how to get hold of it. 

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The Gourmet Odyssey Blog Blossoms...

Welcome to the blog of Gourmet Odyssey.

We have created this blog to share news and information about wine and gastronomy - how the products are made, how best to enjoy them, the people behind them, upcoming wine and gastronomy fairs, news from our partners, and other random thoughts and stories that tickled our fancy along the way.

Please feel free to comment and share any ideas you may have. We look forward to hearing from you.

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The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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

From € 169


Adopt-a-Vine Biodynamic Blending Burgundy Cellar Experience Fermentation Gift Grapes Harvest Making Organic Tasting Vine Vines Vineyard Vinification Wine Winemaker Winery

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