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Archive from October 2012

The Harvest 2012 Finishes in Chinon

The 2012 harvest has now finished at all of our partner wineries.  We had our final Harvest Experiences days of the year at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon last weekend.  The winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, had left us a couple of plots of vines to harvest, so come rain or shine, it was up to us to finish the job!

Original wine gift. Harvest Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière, Chinon, Loire Valley, France

On Saturday, we headed off to one of the oldest vineyards in France, the Clos du Maulevrier, where the vines survived the phylloxera disease that ravaged the vast majority of the French vineyards in 1860.  Here, all of the work on the vines is carried out by hand.

Harvester in action

After the distribution of buckets, secateurs and cases, we spread out among the rows to start harvesting!

On Sunday, we finished the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, where the adopted vines are located.  Each day we took some time to visit the vines and to take the odd photo or two!

Visiting the adopted vines

A morning harvesting makes for thirsty work, so the wine tasting session at midday was most welcome, starting with one of the winery's sparkling wines, Perles Sauvages.  We continued the tasting session with the red wines during the harvesters' meal in the old barn.

Wine tasting and harvesters meal

After lunch, we headed over to the chai to rejoin our harvest and participate in putting it into the fermentation tanks.  We took the crates out of the van and tipped the grapes into the de-stemming machine which separates the berries from the stalks.

Putting the garpes into the de-stemming machine

The grape berries are collected in a trolley which is then raised by a forklift truck and emptied into a vat.  This method of putting the harvest into the fermentation tanks ensures the maximum number of intact grapes enter the vat, which improved the quality of the wine.

Putting the grapes into the vat

We then set about cleaning the material to keep the chai and equipment hygienic.

Cleaning the material

Marc explained to us how the sugar in the grapes will be turned into alcohol during fermentation, and how he will work in the chai over the coming days to nurture the wines.

We finished the day with a final tasting, this time of two grape juices at different stages of fermentation to compare their evolution.

Tasting the grape juice

Many thanks to Marc for sharing his knowledge and passion with us, and to our clients for working so well despite the odd drop or two of rain!

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Harvest Experience Days 2012 in Bordeaux

We spent last weekend in Macau-en-Médoc for the Harvest Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage. We had to be flexible due to the changeable weather, but we managed to harvest three different plots of vines, merlot, malbec and cabernet sauvignon.

The days started with an introduction to the château and the winemaker, Chrsitine Nadalié, before heading straight out into the vineyard.

Original Gift for a wine enthusiast. Harvest Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage, Bordeaux

Before getting down to the real work of harvesting, we paid a visit to the part of the vineyard where the adopted vines are located!

Harvest your adopted vines in an organic Bordeaux vineyard

Then secateurs in hand, and having received our instructions on how to harvest, we spread out between the rows to start picking the grapes.

Harvest Experience Gift. Porter emptying the harvested grapes into the trailer

On Saturday we harvested using porters with baskets on their backs to carry the grapes between the harvesters and the awaiting trailer.

Harvesting the grapes into cases

On Sunday the weather forecast was for some showers, so we harvested the grapes into some crates to give us more flexibility.  And luckily we did too, because shortly after we started harvesting the second plot of vines, we had to rush back to take shelter in the chai!

Wine Tasting of the winery's bordeaux superieur and haut-medoc wines

We stopped at lunchtime to taste the wines from Château Beau Rivage and to eat the harvesters' meal.  After the morning's effort, it was most welcome!

Sorting Table

During the days, we also participated in putting our harvest into the fermentation tanks.  On Saturday, the bunches were pushed from the trailer into the de-stemming machine to separate the grapes from the stalks.  Then, gathered around the sorting table, we removed any unripe or rotten berries before they were pumped into the vats.

Emptying the crates into the de-stemming machine

We worked a little differently on Sunday, emptying the crates into the de-stemming machine which then placed the grapes directly onto an escalator to be put into the vats.

The cleaning team!

And we also had a few helpful volunteers who got stuck into cleaning the material afterwards!

Oxygenating the wine

In the chai, Christine explained how the grape juice will be transformed into wine during the fermentation stage.  We also saw how the juice is drawn from the bottom of the vats and pumped back into the top, a process which helps oxygenate the wine and extract more tannin from the grape skins.


Tour of the barrel room

We then went into the barrel room for an introduction into the vinification and ageing side of wine making.

Tasting the grape juice

The day finished with the tasting of a grape juice that has just started to ferment.  Very sweet and a little effervescent, but the first taste of the wine to come!

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Harvest Experience Day in Chablis

Last weekend we were in Chablis with some of our Wine Experience clients for the Harvest Experience Days.  We followed the grapes journey from the vine to the fermentation tank!

Adopt a vine Gift. Harvest Experience day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis, France

We started the day in the vineyard, where we received our instructions on which grapes to harvest and which to leave.

Harvest Experience Gift for wine lovers. Harvest your own grapes in the vineyard.

Having been issued with our pair of secateurs and bucket, we spread out in twos between the vine rows to start harvesting.  The grapes this year in Chablis are very healthy and the buckets were quickly filled.  It wasn't long before the cries of "Porter" started ringing out in the vineyard.

Porter emptying his basket into the trailer

We took it in turns to be a porter.  Carrying a basket on our back, we went back and forth between the harvesters and the awaiting trailer.

Wine Tasting session of the estate's Chablis wines

A few hours harvesting makes for thirsty work, and we had well earnt our wine tasting at lunchtime!  We started with a Petit Chablis, and then tasted a few different Chablis and Chablis Premier Cru before finishing with a Chablis Grand Cru Valmur.  The tasting of the estate's wines continued over lunch.

Photo session of the adopted vines

In the afternoon we went to the Boissonneuse vineyard where the adopted vines are located.  We took a few minutes to take a few souvenir pictures!

The harvesting machine

On the Saturday afternoon, some harvesting machines were in operation nearby, so went and took a closer look!

Loading the harvested grapes into the press

Back at the winery, we went to the cuverie to pick up the trail of the harvest.   The grapes are loaded into a press which then extracts the juice form the each berry.

The fermentation tanks

We then followed the pipes to the fermentation tank where the juice will start its transformation into wine.  Here we learnt how the sugar will be broken down and turned into alcohol overt the coming weeks and months.

Tasting the grape juice

A final tasting to end the day - this time the juice from our harvest.  At first sight, it's not the most appealing of prospects as you look at a murky brown liquid, but even those who hesitated to try were agreeably surprised! Sweet with a fresh taste, we just have to wait patiently until next winter until the wine will finally be ready!

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2012 Harvest in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

This year's harvest at Domaine Chapelle is now over, and it was the clients of Gourmet Odyssey who finished it off!  The Harvest Experience Days were spread over four days, and with the exception of a few minutes worth of rain on one of the days, we miraculously avoided the worst of the very variable weather that Burgundy has seen in the past few weeks.

Wine Experience Gift for a wine enthusiast. Adopt a vine and harvest your own grapes in Burgundy, France

The Harvest Experience days each started directly in the Clos des Cornières vineyard, the plot where the adopted vines are located.  As is the custom, we took a few minutes so that everyone could introduce themselves to their adopted vines, and we have already received a few entries for the "My Vine" photo competition.

But to more serious matters - the harvest!  Once instruction had been given, secateurs and cases distributed, we spread out in twos among the vine rows to begin the harvest.  Our objective was to reach the wall at the far end of the clos, something that none of our clients had achieved to date.

Harvest Experience Gift in Burgundy

But 2012 isn't a year like the others.  In the vineyard it's been a very difficult campaign.  A mild winter followed by a few weeks of arctic conditions, cold and wet weather during the flowering season, and then the subsequent passing of three hailstorms have each played their part in lowering the yield.  In a normal year (if such a thing exists!), you would expect perhaps one of these events, but never all together.  As a result, there were considerably less grapes on each vine than normal, and our harvesters positively galloped through the rows.  Where several cases were filled per row last year, just one case was needed this year.  Fortunately with wine though, a lack of quantity doesn't necessarily mean a lack of quality, as those who tasted some of the grapes instead of putting them in the basket can attest to!

Back at the winery, the wine tasting was just reward!  For the aperitif, we compared a Santenay St Jean 2011 white wine with a Meursault 2010, accompanied by a few gougères, the local cheese puff delicacy.

Wine tasting session of the Burgundy white and red wines from the Côtes de Beaune

Over the harvester's lunch, we tasted some of the winery's red wines.  We started with a couple of different vintages of the Santenay Clos des Cornières to taste the red wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey cuvée, and to see how it develops over time.  We then finished with a fine Aloxe Corton.

Harvester's Lunch

From the vineyard, we picked up the trail of our grapes.  First stop the reception hall where the harvested grapes are delivered.  Here, we took up our station around the sorting table to remove any unripe grapes or bunches that had started to develop fungus.

Sorting the grapes on the sorting table

At the end of the sorting table the grapes fall into the de-stemming machine, which separates the berries from the stalks.  The grape berries then continue their fall by gravity down a slide into a waiting trolley below.

Inside the fermentation hall, we followed the end of the grapes journey into the fermentation tanks.  Here we learnt how the sugar will be transformed into alcohol, and how the tannins and colour are extracted from the grape skins during the maceration period.

Putting the grapes into the fermentation tanks

Then a quick tour of the cellar to see where our wine will rest during the malo-lactic fermentation and age for the necessary time in the oak barrels.

Cellar tour

We ended the day by sampling the grape juice that we had just harvested.  It's nice and interesting to taste, but the end product will be even better!

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