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Décavaillonage during the Discovery Experience Day in Chinon

We spent a very enjoyable Wine Discovery Experience Day last Saturday in the vineyard at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon.  This hands-on wine course enables you to roll up your sleeves and get involved in discovering the winemakers profession.

Wine Experience Gift in France. Rent-a-vine in an organic vineyard in Chinon.

We're approaching the end of the cold months, and so at this time of year in the Loire valley, we start to slowly work the soil again.  To protect the vines from the freezing winter temperatures, the winemakers heap soil around the vines stocks in a process called "cavaillonnage".  At the end of winter, this extra soil is removed again during the "décavaillonnage".  And this was what was in store for us today!

Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner, joined us in the vineyard with his tractor.  With the help of some of our clients, he had attached a mechanical "décavaillonneuse" (a special type of plough) behind the tractor.  The décavaillonneuse has a fairly flat blade on either side which tills the soil between the vine stocks, and removes the extra soil from around each vine, returning the soil to the centre of each row.

Décavaillonnage in the vineyard

The machine has a semi-automated mechanism that enables it to plough around each vine.  Most of the time it works fine all by itself, but every now and then needs a little helping hand!   We took turns guiding it to ensure that the vines weren't dug up in the process!  You can better see how it works in the short video.

Some clients also had the chance to drive the tractor - a few childhood dreams becoming reality!

Driving the tractor

Despite the efforts of the décavaillonneuse, a few heaps of soil and some grass remained around the vines.  For the more energetic, the hoes enabled us to finish the job properly!

Hoeing the weeds

Throughout the morning, Marc explained to us all of the steps taken and to be taken in the vineyard to ensure the best possible grapes come harvest time.    The vineyard is organically certified, so we also spent time discussing the differences between organic, biodynamic and conventional farming methods.

A Wine Experience day isn't complete without a visit to the vineyard plot where the adopted vines are located.  As usual, out came the cameras to take a few snaps, and we have already received a few photos for the "My Vine" photo competition.

The rent-a-vine plot

Our hard work in the morning was rewarded with some wine tasting back at the château, starting with the winery's Sauvignon Blanc and Chinon rosé.

Wine Tasting Gift at the winery. Adopt an organic vine and follow the making of your own wine

Lunch was served in the barn, where we continued our tasting with some of the red wines, including the Château de la Bonnelière Chinon red, which is the cuvée chosen by Gourmet Odyssey.

Winemaker's lunch in the barn

We started the afternoon in the fermentation hall to see where the grapes are received during the harvest, and where the juice is turned into wine.  We will spend more time here during the Harvest Experience Day.

Fermentation Hall

The day finished in the magnificent cellar which is found in the centre of Chinon, directly beneath the Chinon castle.  It's a magical and impressive place, even more so when we learnt that the huge galleries where dug by hand!

Visiting the wine cellar below the Chinon fortress

It's here in the cellar that the barrels quietly rest, and the bottles are stocked before being dispatched to be enjoyed near and far.

As always, many thanks to Marc for welcoming us so warmly and giving us a tiny glimpse of what it's like to be a winemaker.


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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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