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Archive from June 2012

Summer work in the Bordeaux Vineyard

It did a whole lot of good to be out amongst the vines under the sun last weekend, and we finally felt like summer has at long last arrived! We were at Château Beau Rivage in Macau-en-Médoc for a couple of Wine Discovery Experience days to learn about the work that goes on in the vineyard. 

Vines Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey

Accompanied by Christine and Guillaume from Château Beau Rivage, we headed straight out into the vineyard. Here Christine showed us the differences between the 5 grape varietals that are grown on the estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. 

Vines Wine Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey Bordeaux

Since December, there has already been much work done. Christine explained how the vines have been pruned, the trellis repaired and the soil worked. 

Vines Vineyard Château Beau Rivage

The vines at Château Beau Rivage are cultivated organically, so we also learnt how to protect the vines from disease without the use of synthetic products.

At the far end of the vineyard, we arrived at the plot of Merlot, where the adopted vines are located. As is custom, we took a few minutes to whisper sweet nothings to our vines and to snap a couple of pictures! We have already received a few photos for the My Vine competition

Adopted Vines Vineyard Bordeaux Beau Rivage

But we were also there to work!  It's a very interesting time in the vineyard at the moment because the flowering is reaching the end and the first berries are starting to form. The vines are growing prolifically and must be kept in check. There's therefore a lot to be done, and Christine and Guillaume showed us how to de-bud, train and de-leaf the vines. We then rolled our sleeves up and spread out in pairs between the rows!

To start with; de-budding. We had to remove all growth from the vertical part of the vine foot, as this takes away energy from the rest of the plant. 

De-budding the vines

Next we made sure that any vine branches that were falling into the middle of the row were placed in between the training wires. This helps support the vine and makes it easier for the tractor to pass down the rows without damaging the vines, as well as helping to reduce the risk of disease. 

Winemaker Vineyard Vines

And finally we removed some of the leaves on each vine from around the grapes so that they will be able to ripen more quickly. It's a delicate operation because if there is too much sunlight and heat, then it's sometimes better to keep the leaves to provide some shade for the grapes. For this reason, we only removed the leaves from the east facing side of the vines, so that the west side is better protected from the stronger afternoon sun. Removing some of the leaves also helps reduce the risk of rot and mould forming on the grapes as better circulation of air dries them quicker after rainfall. 

Adopted Vines in Beau Rivage Bordeaux

After the work, the reward, and we had well earned our chilled Clairet rosé wine! We ate outside in front of the château and tasted several of the winery's red wines over lunch, including the Château Beau Rivage Bordeaux Supérieur and Christine's Haut-Médoc, "Clos la Bohème", which has just been selected as a Cru Bourgeois wine. 

Wine Winery Vines Vineyard Gourmet Odyssey

During the afternoon we were happy to find the relative cool of the chai. Christine showed us where the grapes will be received at harvest time and where they are put into the vats to begin fermenting.

We finished the day in the impressive barrel room where the wines are slowly aged in the casks that are made by the cooperage owned and run by Christine's family.

Many thanks to Christine, Guillaume and Pauline from Château Beau Rivage, and to our clients for two fun days. We'll now be leaving the vines alone for a while so that the grapes can ripen, before returning for the harvest in October!

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A rainy day in Chinon

The sun doesn't always shine in the vineyard as we well saw last Saturday! But a few drops of rain weren't going to get in the way of our Wine Discovery Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière.
To work around the weather as best as possible we changed the order of things slightly, so instead of starting in the vineyard like we normally do, we began the day with a visit to the cellar.

Vines Wine Winemaker Vineyard Cellar

The impressive cellar at Château de la Bonnelière lies directly beneath the Chinon Fortress. Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner, showed us the scars left in the rock from the picks used by the miners when the cave was dug by hand to extract the stone used to build the castle.

The cellar

Marc explained to us how the wine is aged in the cellar, and also how he makes his sparkling wine.

Wine Tasting at Château de la Bonnelière

We had our first taste of some of the wines from the winery in the cellar, enjoying a couple of Touraine and Chenin Blanc white wines as well as a Chinon rosé.
Back at the winery, we visited the shed where the tools and machinery used in the vineyard are stocked. Here, Marc told us what each piece of machinery is used for and why.

Winery Chinon Bonnelière Winemaker

In the chai, we saw where the grapes are received during the harvest and Marc enlightened us as to how the juice from the grapes is transformed into wine. We had the opportunity to taste the 2011 vintage of the Château de la Bonnelière directly from the vat. This Chinon red wine, still in the process of ageing, is the wine that the Gourmet Odyssey clients from last year will receive in a few months time.

Vines Grapes Wine Chinon Chai

We continued the wine tasting back at the château with the range of different Chinon red wines that the winery produces, and we sat down to eat in the old barn. 

Red Wines Winery Wine Tasting Grapes

The rain eventually let up a bit in the afternoon, allowing us to get out amongst the vines and finally meet our adopted vines!

Meeting with the adopted vines

Marc explained the work that has already been down in the vineyard and talked us through what remains to do between now and the harvest. The vines are growing quickly at the moment and are in flower. To help the vines support all of the growth, Marc showed us how to raise the training wires and place the branches between them. It was then time for us to work a few rows on our own!

Vines Vineyard Bonnelière

Marc also explained how to go about debudding in the adjacent plot of Sauvignon Blanc vines.
The day finished in front of the dynamizer that is used to prepare the biodynamic treatments at the winery. Marc talked us through the biodynamic philosophy and how it differs from organic cultivation.

Debudding Biodynamic Winery Wine Organic cultivation

So, despite the weather, we managed to cover many aspects of winemaking during the day. Fortunately we were accompanied by a passionate winemaker, and hardy clients well equipped with wellies and cagoules!

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Small tennants in the vineyard

First of all a huge "Thanks".  My wife and I spent an excellent wine experience day at Domaine Chapelle on the 10th June.

We received a very warm welcome from your team and the owners.  Mr Chapelle gave us simple and interesting explanations, and we learnt much about wine.  I'm attaching a photo for the competition.  Yes, you can also find some small tennants in the vineyard at Domaine Chapelle!

Small tennants in the vineyard

I hope that the sun shines on the vines.


Best wishes

Jean Marc Doussin

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Photos for the My Vine Competition

Thanks again for this great Wine Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle.

As we both appreciated and had fun during the day, we've sent in two pictures for the "My Vine" photo competition.  

Picture for the My Vine photo competition


Picture for the My Vine photo competition


Julie & Vincent

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Working in the Vineyard

There's much to do in the vineyard at this time of year, and the rainy weather that we've had for the past couple of weeks hasn't helped matters. Fortunately we were lucky enough to have a window of sunshine last weekend to accompany us in the vineyard during the

The Wine Discovery Experience Days at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

We gathered in the château's garden, overlooking the surrounding vines, for the introductions. To get our bearings, Jean-François, the winemaker and owner, briefly told us the history of the region and of his family that have been making wine here for four generations.
In the Clos des Cornières vineyard, where the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey clients are located, we learnt about the difference in Burgundy terroirs. It's easier to understand when you can look around you and see the differences rather than reading about it in a book or looking at a map.


Vines Winery Winemaker Domaine Chapelle

To make quality wine, you have to have quality grapes; something that involves much hard work and tender loving care. From pruning to the harvest, each task is important to try and obtain the best possible grapes and to limit the risk of disease. We learnt about the many tasks, often manual, and passages that are necessary. 

Quality Wine Grapes Harvest

The vines at Domaine Chapelle are organically certified, so we also learnt about the differences that entails compared to conventional farming.

In front of the adopted vines, a small chalk board identified each separate micro-plot. We took a few minutes out so that the introductions could be made with the new owners, and the photographs taken! 

Meeting with the adopted vines at the vineyard

Then the time had come to roll up the sleeves and lend a helping hand to the winery to catch up some of the lost time. The jobs of the day: de-budding and raising the training wires.

De-budding involves removing some of the non fruit-bearing shoots to better concentrate the fruits energy in the ones that will produce the grapes. Once we had been given our instructions on how to do it, we spread out among the rows and got stuck in! 


The other task to be done was the "relevage". The vine is a creeper plant and if its growth isn't controlled will spread everywhere. We had to raise the training wires and make sure that the shoots were supported on either side by a wire, and so grow upwards. It is also important to separate the shoots from the neighbouring vines, using clips when necessary. Relevage helps to protect the branches from the passing tractors, and reduces the risk of disease and rotting of the future grapes by improving the flow or air around the plant. 

Vines Relevage

By this time the thirst was beginning to set in, so we headed back to the winery to start the wine tasting. For the aperitif we tasted a Santenay white wine and compared it with a Meursault on the Satrurday and a Chassgne Montrachet on the Sunday.

Wine Tasting

Lunch was served in the harvesters refectory, and we continued the tasting with some of the estate's red wines, a Santenay Clos des Cornières, a Santenay Premier Cru and an Aloxe Corton. 

The meal of the winemaker at Chapelle

We started the afternoon in the cuverie. It's here that the grapes are received at harvest time and we were introduced to the various stages of fermentation that will transform the sugar into alcohol. 

Cuverie Wine Grapes

The day ended in with a tour of the cellar. It's a real labyrinth of passages and rooms full of wine ageing in oak barrels and thousands of bottles resting the calm. 

Visit of the cellar
Many thanks to Jean-François and Yannick for having shared their passion of being winemakers with us. We'll appreciate the next bottle of Santenay that we open differently!


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

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