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Biodynamic Wine Making in Chablis

We entered into the depths of the mysterious world of biodynamic wine making during the latest Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis, Burgundy.  
Bidoynamic winemaking using cow horns stuffed with cow dung

The Wine Experience days are a hands-on and practical way for our adopt-a-vine clients to learn more about wine making and the life of a winemaker in the main French wine growing regions.

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Chablis vineyards and terroir

To introduce us to the Chablis wine growing region, we stepped out onto the terrace at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard to survey the surrounding vineyards.  From this great vantage point Céline Brocard-Guegen, pointed out and explained the differences in terroir between the four local appellations, Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, and briefly explained the history of the winery that her father started some 40 years ago with a small plot of vines that were loaned to him.

Walking in the Cbalis Vineyards

We then walked to the Boissonneuse vineyard, home to the Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine plot.  This vineyard was the first of the winery's vines to be converted to organic and biodynamic cultivation.  We were accompanied by Yvonnick, head of biodynamics at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, who talked us through the various of stages of working on the vines from pruning to harvesting.   

Explaining De-budding

As always during a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Day, there is some work involved, and the task was to de-bud the vines (ébourgeonnage).  Yvonnick explained the importance of de-budding to improve the quality of the grapes by concentrating the growth and energy of the vines into the future fruit-bearing canes.  He showed us how to select the stems to detach, and which ones were to be left alone.

De-budding - Ebourgeonnage

Each client then set off to find their adopted vines, and began putting into practice what Yvonnick had just explained.  Luckily Céline and Yyvonnick were at hand to guide us, as it's not always as simple as you would think! 

We learnt about how the vines are treated organically, and were also introduced to the world of biodynamics.  The Experience Day was planned to coincide with one of the key biodynamic events that is undertaken at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, the digging up of cow horns, filled with cow dung, that have been buried for six months!  First impressions of biodynamic farming are often that it is all a bit of hocus-pocus and wizardry, so you need to keep an open mind and bear in mind the underlying principles of biodynamics, that is to improve the structure of the soil, and to strengthen the natural defenses of the plant from disease.

Unearthing the buried cow horns

The cow horns had been interred in the fertile grounds of the old priory in Chablis that also belongs to the Brocard family. During the six months the cow manure ferments to form a fibrous super concentrated compost, that when mixed with collected rainwater and spread amongst the vines, helps to improve the soil structure and enhance the life of micro-organisms.

Emptying the cow horns

Our job was to remove the fermented cow dung from the horns.  Not as smelly and dirty a task as you might think!  In fact the cow dung has a sweet and rich aroma!

Wine tasting Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru

Intrigued, amazed, disbelieving, no one was left indifferent as we returned to the winery to finally taste some of the wines from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, including the Petit Chablis Sainte Claire 2009, Chablis La Boissonneuse 2009, Chablis Premier Cru Vau de Vey 2009, Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2008, Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2008 and ending with the Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2009.


During the meal of local Chablis charcuterie and cheese, we continued the wine tasting with a Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2002 and the domaine's Irancy 2008 red wine.

Wine Tasting from the fermentation vats

The afternoon finished with a tour of the fermentation hall to see the mix of oak and stainless steel vats that are used to ferment and age the wines.  A final tasting was in store of the unfinished 2010 wines, direct from the vats!

Many thanks to Yvonnick and Céline for giving us an insight into the life at the winery, and for introducing us to the weird and wonderful world of biodynamic winemaking!

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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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