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Archive from March 2013

Vinification Experience Day in Chinon

Last weekend, we were welcomed by Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, for two Wine Experience Days covering the vinification, ageing and blending aspects of wine making.

Wine Making Gift Experience in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The day started at the winery with a hot drink and some croissants to get to know each other.  Marc Plouzeau then introduced us to the winery and its history, the different terroirs of the region and his vision of organic wine.  It was then time to start the practical side of proceedings!

Adopt your own vines in Chinon, France

The first workshop concentrated on our senses.  One of the most difficult things to do when tasting wine is to find the words to describe it and to explain why we like it or don't like it.   To help us, we had to identify the aromas contained in small flasks.  Some were easy to name, whilst other proved more subtle and difficult to pinpoint.  We identified the aromas in wine that are the result of the fruit and terroir, and those that are obtained when the wine is aged in oak barrels.

Gift for making your own wine in France, Loire Valley

We then headed to the chai to see the vats and some of the barrels.  Marc explained the choices he takes to produce the wine to the high standards he expects, and we learnt that it's a very detailed process where a small error can have a large impact on the quality of the wine.  He talked us through the fermentation process, when the sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol, and the malo lactic fermentation, when the wine becomes rounder by decreasing some of the acidity.  He also explained the difference between a wine aged in the vats and that which is aged in oak barrels.

Rent-a-vine Gift in France.

Then off to the vineyard to get some fresh air.  We stopped off to say hello to our adopted vines and to take some photos!

Wine tasting gift, red wine in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The morning now finished, we set off for the cellar to begin the wine tasting and to enjoy our meal.  The cellar, located under the Fortress of Chinon, is a very special place and was dug out by hand a couple of hundred years ago.  We started the tasting with a sparkling wine that has no added sulphur, the 'Perles Sauvages' 2011, and is perfect for an aperitif.  We then sat down to eat amongst the barrels in the cellar.  During the meal we tasted some of the different red wines, including the 'Clos de la Bonnelière 2011', which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients.

Oenology course in France with Gourmet Odyssey

A short tour of the cellar to digest the meal and wines, and then it was time to start the final workshop of the day to learn how to blend wine.
We split into groups and tasted 5 different wines from the 2012 vintage that are still in the process of ageing.  The wines were chosen to show the specificity between different Chinon terroirs and the choice of ageing in a barrel or vat.  There was also a press wine to bring more structure.  We then started to blend our own wines.  The aim was to find the best harmony by mixing different wines together.  Not as easy as it sounds, but when done right, the blend can make something much more interesting than any one of the wines on its own.

Many thanks to Marc Plouzeau for letting us in on his fascinating profession, one that is rich, varied and very interesting.  Thanks also to our apprentice winemakers for getting stuck in and we hope that you has as enjoyable day as we did!

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First Wine Experience Day in Alsace

Last Saturday we were at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in the Alsacien village of Wettolsheim for the very first Wine Experience Day at the winery.  And if they all go as well, then we're well set!  A passionate winemaking family, a group of very interested clients, a most enjoyable time spent together, and even some sunshine!

Rent a vine wine gift alsace

We were welcomed by Céline and Stéphane Stentz who introduced us to the region and the winery.  Their father Jean-Jacques, officially retired but who continues to work each day, also spent the morning with us.

We then headed off to the Rosenberg vineyard, home to our adopted vines that will produce the grapes for the 2013 vintage.

Wine experience gift Alsace

It's the end of the pruning period at the moment, all of the vines needing to be pruned before the sap rises up in the plants with the arrival of the warmer spring days.  We walked through the vineyards until we reached a plot of Grand Cru vines that still had to be pruned.

Adopt-a-vine gift. Vineyard tour gift

Jean-Jacques and Stéphane explained why we prune and how to do so, and then we each had a go at pruning for ourselves.  Something that's not as easy as you would imagine!

Rent-a-vine. Gift for wine lovers Alsace

We also learnt more about working the soil, and Jean-Jacques even prepared a couple of vine cuttings to be planted back at home.  You'll have to keep us posted if they take or not!

Wine experience gift Alsace

Back at the winery, we tasted several of the wines produced by the Stentz family, starting with the Pinot Gris Rosenberg, which is the wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey.  Stéphane explained the differences between the Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and other wines that we tasted.  The tasting continued over the lunch of choucroute and other regional specialties.

Wine tasting gift Alsace

In the afternoon, Stéphane took us through the rest of the work that will be accomplished in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and explained how he will choose the optimum time to harvest.   We took a tour of the cellar to see the wine press, the barrels, vats and casks, the oldest of which dates from 1899!  He introduced us to the vinification side of winemaking, and we could even hear the gurgles of the wine that is currently still fermenting.

Winery visit gift Alsace

Many thanks to our clients who shared this first day at the winery with us with such enthusiasm and good humour, and of course to the Stentz family for welcoming us with such passion.  We look forward to coming back for the next day soon!

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A day in the vineyard at Domaine la Cabotte

We spent last Saturday in the Rhône Valley with Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet, the owners and winemakers at Domaine la Cabotte.  It was the very first Wine Experience Day at the winery, and this long awaited moment went very well.  But with such passionate winemakers in such a splendid setting, it would be difficult not to have a good time!

Wine experience gift. Adopt a vine in France and participate in the pruning with the winemaker

The aim of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is to discover more, not only about wine, but also about the multi-faceted profession of being a winemaker.  During the Discovery Experience Day, we spend most of the time in the vineyard, learning about the work involved in nurturing the vines to produce the best grapes possible come harvest time.

Adopt-a-Vine gift in France. Follow the making of your own wine in the Cotes du Rhone.

So off we headed to the vineyard, to start the day in the plot where the adopted vines of our clients are located.  We took a few minutes to take some photos with the vines, and to whisper sweet nothings to them.  Some people even started naming them!

Original gift for wine lovers. Rent a vine and get involved in the pruning.

Eric spoke to us about the different grape varietals that are planted in the vineyard, and showed us the various pruning methods used.  We're approaching the end of the pruning period at the winery, but Eric and Marie-Pierre had set aside a few rows for us to prune.After a few demonstrations on how to prune, we spread out, a large pair of clippers in hand, to give it a go ourselves.  It's not easy at first, but once we each had a few vines under our belt, we gained in confidence.

Original wine experience gift in the vineyard. Pruning the vines.

We pruned two rows of vines.  We weren't necessarily as quick as the professionals, but it's nevertheless very satisfying.  We had well earned our wine tasting!

Wine tasting gift at the winery in France. Visit the vineyard and taste the wines in the Cotes du Rhone.

The wine tasting began with the two Côtes du Rhône white wines made at the winery, before tasting the red wines.  First up, the AOC Massif D'Uchaux Gabriel, followed by the Chateauneud-du-Pape.

Only local products were on the menu for lunch.  Marie-Pierre had prepared small pieces of toast with truffles found by her dog the day before and drizzled olive oil from the winery's olive trees!  We tasted the wine chosen for Gourmet Odyssey, the Massif d'Uchaux Garance 2011, with the main course, and after some local goat's cheese, we were treated to a lemon desert served with biscuits made using almonds gathered from the tree outside.  Some even left with the recipes!

Organic vineyard tour in France.

A digestive walk amongst the vines was most welcome afterwards.  Eric described the work throughout the different seasons, and showed us the difference in vines in the different plots.

Winery tour gift in the cotes du rhone, France. Visit the cellar.

Back at the winery, we finished the day in the cellar.  We saw the vats used to ferment and age the wines, something that will be covered in more detail during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days..

Biodynamic wine gift. Discover how to make wine biodynamically.

The winery is biodynamically certified by Demeter, and so Eric explained the philosophy behind this environmentally friendly way of working.  We were even treated to smelling some of the fertilizer made using organic cow dung, which will help give more energy and strength to the vines!

Many thanks to our clients who participated in the day and to Marie-Pierre for sharing their passion for what they do with such authenticity and simplicity!

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Wine Experience Days in Burgundy

During the first weekend of March, Domaine Chapelle in Santenay welcomed two groups of apprentice winemakers for two different wine experience days.  For one group it was the last in the 2012 series, and for the other the first of the 2013 vintage.  In the warmth of the reception hall, Jean François and Yvette introduced us to the distinctiveness of the Burgundy terroir and working organically.


Wine Course Gift in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

Saturday 2nd March : Vinification Experience Day

On Saturday we concentrated on the ageing and blending of the wine. With Yannick and Yvette we learnt some wine tasting techniques with a series of workshops to develop the sense of smell and taste, and found out how the wine interacts and evolves in the oak barrels.

Gift for wine lovers. Wine tasting lesson in Burgundy, France

Far from just be contained in the barrels, the wine is very active, exchanging with the wood and the air, and the winemaker must remain attentive at all times.  With the large part of the work having been done in the vineyard, the room to manoeuver is limited.
A first series of tasting enabled us to discover the different influences that new and old oak can have on the same wine.

Tasting wine in the cellar

We headed out into the vineyard after lunch to visit the adopted vines, and gave us the opportunity to see the work that had been carried out since our last visit.  The pruning has now been done, and the contrast with the luxurious green from September is striking. 

Adopt-a-vine gift in France. Organic vineyard visit in Burgundy.

Back at the winery, we tasted a few glasses of the 2012 vintage.  It's still in the process of ageing, and will soften considerably by the time it is bottled later in the year.  We concluded the day by comparing wines from the different areas of the Clos des Cornières vineyard, which are from three different ages of vines.

Wine tasting of Burgundy wines in the Cotes de Beaune, France

Sunday 3 March: Discovery Experience Day

On Sunday morning, our new winemakers launched the new cycle of the Wine Experience for the 2013 vintage.  Delighted to reveal the secrets of his profession (or at least some of them!), Jean-François welcomed us to Domaine Chapelle, happily noting that at the start of the 4th year working with Gourmet Odyssey, he still had as much to say and to teach his guests.

Jean-François recounted the history of the winery, from the beginnings with the great great uncle, the local history of the Côte de Beaune region and the influence of the Cîteaux monks, the relationship between the commercial and agricultural sides of the business, the choice of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy, and the introduction of the appellation Contrôlée in 1935...  This overview enabled us to become acquainted with the region, and to learn that winemakers don't necessarily work in the same way from Bordeaux, Mondragon or Santenay!

We started to discuss the issues and choices that a winemaker is faced with.  The decision to work organically, the fruit of a personal decision concerning the wine and its impact on the surrounding environment, has consequences that you can immediately see in the vineyard.

The rest of the morning was spent in the vineyard.  We visited several plots of vines to see the difference in pruning methods.   Which branches to cut and leave?  We don't necessarily prune the same way in all the vineyards or for Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

Wine Experience day in the Vineyard

We then headed to meet our adopted vines.  Once again out came the cameras!

Rent a vine in France and visit the organic vineyard.

Then back to the winery to taste the wines from Domaine Chapelle and for lunch.

In the afternoon, we visited the fermentation hall and the cellars.  It was an introduction to the winemaking side of things, quiet now, but frenetic at harvest time!  Reception of the grapes, following of the fermentation, blending before bottling...  Despite appearances, this room is rarely truly quiet.

Visit the cellar and adopt your own vines in France

We then descended into the labyrinth of cellars under the winery buildings to discover the hidden treasures.  A nice way to end the day before returning for the harvest!

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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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