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Tasting the 2010 and 2011 wines during the Vinfication Experience Day

The life of a winemaker can be tough at times, especially in winter when the weather is as freezing as it is at the moment!  And sometimes, even for the Gourmet Odyssey clients, you need to brave the elements, as we did last weekend in Bordeaux in sub zero temperatures and with 8cm of snow covering the vineyard on Sunday!  Fortunately, during the Vinification Experience Days, we spend most of the time inside, so we made ourselves at home around the roaring fire in the kitchen!

Snow covered Bordeaux vineyard

Wrapped up from head to toe, we started the day in the vineyard so that everyone could (re)visit their adopted vines.

At this time of the year, the principal activity in the vineyard is pruning.  Christine and David from Château Beau Rivage explained why pruning is so important and showed us how to do so.  When you see the number of vines to prune, and realise that each is pruned manually, you have a much better understanding of the huge and manually intensive task that it is for the winery.

Christine explains pruning the vines in Bordeaux during the Wine Experience day in Bordeaux

Next stop, the fermentation hall and barrel room where the wine is fermented and aged, to learn more about the vinification and wine making stages.

Learning about the fermentation process in the barrel room

We then headed to the warmth of the kitchen to delve into the heart of the day's topic with a wine tasting lesson and some exercises to put our sense of smell to work.  We passed around some small jars containing the main aromas to be found in red Bordeaux wines, and we had to identify which aroma each flask contained.  It's not as easy as it at first appears!

Training the nose to identify the aromas forund in wine

Our tasting senses awakened, it was then time to start the wine tasting.  First up, three different wines were chosen to better understand the effect that wood has on the wine.  Each wine was 100% merlot from 2010, but each had been aged separately in a different type of barrel.  The first had matured in an old French oak barrel, the second in new French oak, and the third in new American oak.  The result, three wines with completely different aromas, structure and taste.  The marked difference between the three is really quite astonishing!

We then continued the wine tasting during the meal with some of the winery's finished wines to compare different vintages and blends.
In the afternoon, we concentrated on the different grape varietals grown in the vineyard to better understand what characteristics each brings to a blended wine.  Chrsitine had prepared samples of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot from the 2011 harvest.  We tasted each one by one, and discussed their differences.


Wine tasting by grape varietal, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot
In small groups, we then mixed our own blends to learn how the different grape varietals and their percentages change the wine.
Blending our own wine

We finished the day by tasting the blend that Château Beau Rivage had presented at the Millésime Bio organic wine fair the week before.

It's impossible to learn everything in a day, and as Christine remarked, she studied oenology for 4 years, but we each left with a better appreciation of the choices that the winemaker faces to create very different wines depending on the grape varietals, percentages and barrels used.


  • Thanks for the photos and the review of this excellent and very interesting day.

  • Another really enjoyable day, this time with snow in Bordeaux! A good group and good advice from the experts. This day allowed us to enter the complex world of wine making which made us realise that to become a pro, the path is a long one!
    A very enlightening experience, well organised and good fun. To be done again. See you soon.

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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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