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Vinification Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage

We finished the year, nose in glass, during the Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage in the Bordeaux region.  It's the most technical of the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Days, with the objective of understanding more about the ageing and blending of wine.

Vinification Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage

To awaken our senses of taste and smell, we started the morning outside in the vineyard for a breath of fresh winter air!  Christine showed us how they will prune the vines over the coming months, and we set to work pulling the cut branches from the training wires.  The creepers from the branches had wrapped themselves tightly around the wires and posts, so it was a job that helped warm us up!

Pulling the branches from the vines

We went to the far end of the vineyard where the plot of Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines is located, so that we could each see our mini plot!

It was then time to head back inside to the warmth to start putting our senses to work!  We passed around some small bottles, the first set containing the aromas to be found in red wine, the second those which characterize wine that has been aged in oak barrels.  We had to guess the smell of each, which is an exercise more difficult than you would imagine, particularly as often you know you know the smell, but you just can't put a name to it!

Working our sense of smell

We then started the tastings to unravel the principal tastes and aromas that each grape varietal and ageing in different types of oak brings to the wine.

For the first tasting, we took the same merlot wine, but which had been aged in three different ways.  We had to guess which had been aged in old French oak, which in new French oak and which had been aged in new American oak. It's always incredible to smell and taste the huge differences that different wood makes to the wine.
During lunch, we continued the wine tasting of the winery's finished wines so that we could learn how different blends and quantities of grape varieties change a wine's structure.

Tasting the wines

At Château Beau Rivage, each grape varietal is aged separately, and the blending takes place at the end of the ageing process.  We therefore were able to taste each grape varietal of the 2011 harvest one by one to learn the characteristics of each.  We learnt, for example, that merlot is a more fruity variety, the cabernet sauvignon has a longer finish, and the petit verdot is sharper.

Making our own wine blends

In Bordeaux, it's the blending of the different grape varieties that is the art form.  In small teams, we saw for ourselves by concocting our own blends using the measuring cylinders. We also learnt that even if there is a grape variety that we don't much care for on its own, once blended with others can really bring out the best in the overall blend. 

At the end of the day, each team presented its preferred blend to the rest of the group before tasting two blends that Christine had prepared.  The day had taught us that there is much skill needed for the ageing and blending of wine, and so fortunately our wine is in the safe hands of Christine!


  • Thanks for the photos which bring back great memories of the excellent day we spent with Christine (the winemaker) and you. We learnt much that has helped us better appreciate wine! The group was very nice too. The next stage for us is to collect our bottles of wine, which we will do when we are next passing the château. We have told our friends about our great experience, hoping that you will get some more orders!
    Happy 2012!
    We also spent 2 good days at the Pont Bernet hotel, and don't regret for a minute all of the miles we drove down from the north!
    Kind regards
    Christine & Daniel

  • Thanks and congratulations for a very pleasant day spent with you on the 17th December.
    The world of vines and wine remained very abstract before participating in this informative day of scents, taste and colour. Thanks for the great photos of each moment which are a nice souvenir.
    We wish a very Happy New Year to you, to Château Beau Rivage, their vines and their wine!
    Françoise and Hubert

  • A very enrichening way to spend a Sunday. I'm putting what I learnt to the test each time I open a bottle...

    Thanks for everything.

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