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Archive from March 2014

Wine fairs. Our partner winemakers are on the road this Spring

Now that the pruning has finished for the most part, it's time to let the vines slowly awaken from their winter rest. It's also time for our partner winemakers to take to the road for different wine fairs throughout France. Why not join them, and taste their great organic wines!
The upcoming wine fairs are:


Château Beau Rivage

Salons des Vignerons Indépendants de Paris
Espace Champerret - Paris
28, 29 & 30 March : 10:00 - 20 :00
31 March : 10 :00 - 18:00
More information here.

Salon des Vignerons Indépendants


Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard

Salon des Vins de Mâcon
Salle « Le Spot » - Parc des Expositions de Mâcon
25 April : 14:00 - 21:00
26 April : 10:00 - 21:00
27 April : 10:00 - 19:00
Tarif : 5 euros (1 wine tasting glass included). Tickets on sale at the entrance.

More information here.

Salon des vins de Mâcon


Domaine Stentz-Buecher

DiVINes & Sens 2014
7 April : 16:00 - 22:00
Hôtel Régent Petite France, 5 Rue des Moulins - Strasbourg

This unusual and fun approach enables the visitors to discover Alsace wines and other gourmet delicacies via thematic workshops which present a range of wines and gastronomic products produced by women.

Tarif: 10 euros, glass included and part of the entrance fee is given to charity.
Information and registration.


Rendez-vous Portes Ouvertes : Les Guinguettes
Open day and wine tasting at the winery.
30, 31 May & 1 June 2014

More information here.


Domaine Chapelle

The 25th edition of the Journées Gourmandes du Grand Morvan
Hall des Expositions - Saulieu
Thursday 29 & Saturday 31 May : 10:00 - 23 :00
Friday 30 May : 10:00 - 20 :00
Sunday 1 June : 10:00 - 19:00
Tarif : 2 euros. Tickets on sale at the entrance.

More information here.

Journées Gourmandes du Grand Morvan

Foire gastronomique de Mailly-Champagne
In the village streets of Mailly-Champagne
Saturday 7 & Monday 9 June : 10:00 - 19:00
Sunday 8 June : 10:00 - 20:00
Tarif : 5 euros. Tickets on sale at the entrance.

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End of the winter holidays... for the vines

At this time of year, we often talk of the vines resting period. After the harvest and once the leaves have fallen, the vine goes into hibernation mode and the sap retreats into the roots as the cold sets in. The vines then rest and get ready for the next year's campaign which starts when the temperatures rise again with the onset of Spring. But don't imagine for one minute that the winemaker also gets the chance to rest during this time...
vine at winter in Burgundy France


The winter months are perfect to prepare the soil and vines for the coming season. Once the leaves have dropped from the vines, and before the cold winter temperatures have set in, soil is taken from the centre of the vine rows and heaped around the vine stocks to help protect them from the frosts.

The main job over the winter months is pruning, which is sometimes preceded by a pre-pruning to cut the top of last year's growth and to facilitate untangling the branches from the training wires. The vine is from the creeper family of plants, and if not kept under control, can use trees and posts as supports to reach 20 or 30 metres tall... Not very practical if you want to pick the grapes!

Pruning vin Cote du Rhone

Pruning not only serves to limit the growth of the plant, but it also enables to better control the yield, to keep the vine healthy, and thus to increase its longevity. The buds the furthest from the roots will develop first and be the most vigorous. If we reduce the length of the branches, we reduce the distance from the roots, which enables us to limit the amount of grapes produced for the harvest, and thus to improve their quality. It also allows us to keep a more consistent form of the vines to make them easier to work and maintain.

Cordon de Royat pruning Rhone Valley

So how do we prune? There are various different methods, adapted according to the climate, grape varietal and cultural differences. There are more severe methods such as the "Goblet" or "Cordon de Royat" where just one to three eyes are left per branch. Other methods such as the "Guyot" leave between 4 and 10 eyes, leading to a larger yield per vine.

Guyot pruning in Burgundy

When do you prune? Studies have shown that depending on when the vines are pruned, you get more or less dense vegetation. The best time is when the vines are fully resting. If you prune before the leaves have naturally fallen from the vines, you delay the buds from coming out.

vine winter work Rhone Valley

Once the pruning has finished, the vines that have had a long branch left need to have them attached to the training wires or posts. It's another long, manual process and after all the effort the winemaker deserves some well earned rest... But then Spring is upon us and the winemaker needs to carefully monitor the growth of the new shoots, and work the soil. But that's another story for another time!

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End of the winter work in the vineyard in Chinon

The Discovery Experience Days for the 2014 vintage got under way last Saturday at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon.  The aim of the day was to learn more about the work needed in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time. 

Wine Experience Gift in the Loire Valley, France


After an introduction by the winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, we headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière, the vineyard where our adopted vines are to be found.  We took a few minutes to take some pictures and introduce ourselves to our vines!


Rent-a-vine in France. Original gift for a wine enthusiast


With the relatively mild winter, pruning has now finished across all of the winery's vineyards.  It's important to wrap up the pruning before the sap rises into the branches.  Marc explained how the vines are pruned to leave just one branch that will produce the fruit-bearing canes on one side, and a short branch on the other in preparation for the following year.


Pruning vines during the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience


Once pruned, the cut branches need to be removed from the vines.  Marc had left us a few rows to do, so rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in!  The vines wrap themselves tightly around the training wires, so it's quite a physical job!


Removing the cut vine branches


We placed the branches in the middle of the rows where they will be crushed in-situ to return some nutrients to the soil when they decompose.

The next job is to bend the remaining branch on each vine until it is horizontal and then attach it to the training wire.  We worried about breaking the branches, but with a gentle touch we managed just fine!


Attaching the vine to the training wire


During the morning, Marc also explained the other work that will be carried out into the vineyard between now and harvest time, and we learnt that there is much more to be done than you would first think!

After our hard work, the aperitif was just reward!  We tasted one of the winery's sparkling wines, "Perles Fines", with some homemade goat's cheese and olive cake.  During the meal, we continued the wine tasting with some of the other white and red wines from the winery.

In the afternoon, Marc introduced us to the notion of biodynamic farming and showed us how he makes some of his biodynamic preparations.  He also showed us the range of tools and machines that he uses to work the vines and the soil.


The tools and machinery used to work the vines and soil


The day ended in the winery's cellar which is located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress.  Marc showed us where the wines are aged in oak barrels and also took the opportunity to turn his bottles of sparkling wine.


Turning the sparkling wine bottles in the cellar


Many thanks to all who participated in the day and to our passionate winemaker, Marc, for letting us in behind the scenes to discover what it's really like to be a winemaker!

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Pruning the Steingrubler Grand Cru Riesling vines in Alsace

Last Saturday we welcomed the adoptive parents of the new 2014 vintage to Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Wettolsheim for a Discovery Experience Day. The aim of the day was to learn about the work in the vineyard, starting during the winter and ending up at harvest time, when the grapes will have reached maturity.


Vines adoption in France Alsace


After the introduction of Céline, winemaker at the estate with her brother Stéphane, we headed off to the vineyard to meet our adopted vines. Having taken a few pictures, we then walked through the different vineyards until we arrived at the Steingrubler Grand Cru plot. Here, Céline and Stéphane had left us a few rows to prune!

Guyot pruning in the vineyard Alsace

Armed with a pair of secateurs, and under the instructions of Jean-Jacques, the father of Céline and Stéphane, we learnt how to prune the vines using the Guyot method.


Pruning Riesling vine Grand Cru Steingrubler in Alsace

It's not as easy as it would seem at first to work out which are the canes to leave or cut, but getting stuck and having a go is the best way to learn! Pruning is really important to help control the yield of fruit per vine.


Wine tasting at the winery Alsace France

At the end of the morning spent in the vineyard, we returned to the winery to taste some of the wines and to enjoy an Alsacien stew with the Stentz family.

Typical winemakers meal Alsace France

In the afternoon we visited the fermentation halls and the cellar for an introduction to the winemaking side of the things from the harvest, through the fermentation and the ageing of the wine. These topics will be covered in more detail during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

Winery tour Alsace France

Many thanks to all of the participants for your inquisitiveness, and to the winemakers for your passionate and fascinating explanations!

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Vinifying and ageing wine in Alsace

The adoptive parents of the 2013 vintage were at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace last Sunday for a Vinification Experience Day to learn about the work needed in the cellar to ferment and age the wine until it is ready for bottling.
Domaine tour Francre Alsace


Whilst enjoying a cup of coffee in the sun, we listened to Céline, winemaker with her brother Stéphane, introduce us to the wines of Alsace, and more particularly, Wettolsheim, where the winery is located.

Tasting workshop Alsace

We split into two groups. One went down into the cellar to see where the grapes were received during the harvest and how the wine has subsequently been worked. The other group developed their sense of smell by discovering the different aromas that can be typically found in Alsace wines.

Vinification ageaing cellar tour

Before heading to the vineyard we tasted the Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2013 wine direct from the fermentation tank. This is the wine that is chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients. The wine is still in its ageing process and not yet ready for bottling, but already has a very promising finish and bouquet!

Vine adoption Alsace France

In the vineyard, we took some photos of our adopted vines, and listened to Jean-Jacques, the father of Céline and Stéphane, tell us more about the different terroir and wines that they produce.

Vine adfoption pinot Gris Alsace

Back at the winery, we tasted a number of different wines, starting with the Who Am I?, then the Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2011, followed by a Pinot Noir Ambre, and ending with the Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst.

Wine tasting France Alsace

At the end of the tasting, we sat down to eat a fleishnaka, a traditional Alsace dish.

Traditional winemakers' meal

We finished the day in the cellar with Stéphane to learn more about how the wine is bottled, the choice of corks used, and how the labels are applied to the bottles.

Many thanks to the Stentz family for another great day, and to all of the clients for your good cheer!

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Pruning the vines in Burgundy

What a beautiful sunny day we spent in the vineyard! Last Saturday, we were at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay, Burgundy for a Discovery Experience Day. During this hands-on wine course, we learn all about the work in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes at harvest time.
The Domaine and vineyard at winter


Following an introduction to the winery and the region of Burgundy by Jean-François Chapelle, the winemaker and owner of the estate, we headed out into the Clos des Cornières, the vineyard plot where the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey clients are to be found.

Vine adoption Burgundy Santenay

Jean-François gave us a short lesson in geology, showing us the surrounding landscape that helps explain the different terroir that is used for the vineyard plots of Santenay village, Premier Cru or Burgundy regional wines.

We took a few moments to visit our adopted vines and encourage them to produce a good harvest this year!


Vine pruning experience Burgundy

Then time for more serious matters. At the moment we are approaching the end of the pruning period, one of the most important steps in ensuring the quality of the grapes. You need to prune well to reduce the quantity of grapes produced by each vine, thereby improving the concentration of sugar in the fruit. Yannick, the Technical Director at Domaine Chapelle, showed us how to prune using the Cordon de Royat method.

Under the watchful eye of Yannick and Jean-François, we then had a go at pruning some vines for ourselves. It seems easy enough, but once in front of a vine, secateurs in hand, we soon realise that there are many exceptions to the rule, and therefore many questions!


Vine pruning workshop Burgundy

The vineyard on the other side of the road is planted with Chardonnay, and here another pruning method, Guyot Simple, is used. Yannick showed us the differences and how to remove the cut branches from the vines and training wires.


Pruning expereince Santenay Domaine Chapelle

Between now and the harvest, there is still much work to be done. Yannick explained the principal tasks remaining such as tilling the soil and de-budding the vines.

Back at the winery, we made the most of the sun, enjoying a glass of Santenay white wine in the courtyard. We continued the wine tasting during lunch.


wine tasting Santenay Burgundy

In the afternoon, we visited the fermentation hall for an introduction into the winemaking side of things. Those who'll return for the Harvest Experience Day will see this room in full swing during their next visit.


The cellar

The day ended in the cellar with a visit of the labyrinth where the barrels of wine are aged and the bottles stocked.


Many thanks to Jean-François and Yannick for thier passionate explanations, and to all the participants for sharing such a great day with us.

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Pruning in the Rhone Valley

And so another year starts at Domaine la Cabotte with the arrival of a new set of adoptive vine owners for the 2014 vintage. Last Sunday we visited the winery for a Discovery Experience Day under a sunny blue sky. The aim of the day was to understand all of the work that is carried out in the vineyard from winter up until the grapes reach their optimum maturity at harvest time.


Explaining how to prune the vine


In the vineyard, Marie-Pierre introduced us to the winery and the Massif d'Uchaux region, telling us how she and her husband, Eric, have developed the estate during the past 20 years. She led us to a plot of vines that had yet to be pruned.

Here, she explained why it is important to prune vines, and showed us how to do it. Under the watchful eye of Marie-Pierre and each armed with a pair of croppers, we chose which branches to cut. At first it demanded much reflection, but we soon became more confident, and managed to finish the rows which had been left for us work on!

Pruning the vines

Marie-Pierre explained the different pruning methods that are used, and the different yields that each vine plot produces. She then talked about all of the work that will be carried out in the vineyard between now and the harvest.

Vine adoption in the Vallée du Rhône

After the hard work, we visited our adopted vines and saw how they had been pruned. We also took some pictures before returning to the winery to taste some of the wines and savour the meal prepared by Marie-Pierre. The winery is lucky enough to have a few truffle oaks, and Coka, Marie-Pierre's dog, is an adept at sniffing them out! After the meal, she even gave a demonstration how she finds the "black diamond".

Explaining the vinification Domaine la Cabotte

We finished the day in the chai where Marie-Pierre explained how the grapes will be received at harvest time once they have reached maturity and have been picked. She then showed us the biodynamic treatments used to care for the vines, and explained the principals of biodynamic farming.

Explaining the biodynamic farming

Another very informative and enjoyable day, thanks to Marie-Pierre's passion, and the good cheer of our participants!

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Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte

A beautiful sunny day welcomed the clients of the 2013 vintage to Domaine la Cabotte for the Vinification Experience Day last Saturday! No working in the vineyard this time, as that is now the work of the next vintage, but instead a series of workshops to understand what has happened to the grapes since the harvest.


Vineyard visit Rhone Valley Domaine la Cabotte

To get us started, Marie-Pierre, the owner of the winery, explained to us how she arrived in the Massif d'Uchaux from her native Burgundy, and how she has planted and developed the lion's share of the vineyard with her husband, Eric, over the past 20 years. We spent a few minutes visiting our adopted vines, which have now been pruned during the winter months ready for the next campaign.

Vine adoption in the Rhone Valley

Back in the chai, we got down to the serious matters of the day. Marie-Pierre told us all about the vinification of red and white wines, both of which are made on the estate. She told us how the wines are then aged. Marie-Pierre showed us the different tools that are used in the chai, such as the plungers used to push the cap of grape skins and pips down into the wine, and the metal flags that are lowered into the vats to control the temperature. We then tasted some white wine from the 2013 vintage, directly from the barrel.

Wine tasting at the Domaine Rhone Valley

In the wine boutique Marie-Pierre showed us that to make a good wine, you must have good grapes, perfectly ripened, to obtain the most aromatic wine. She showed us how to estimate the alcoholic potential of the wine and how to measure the density of the wine to know if the fermentation has finished.

Wine tasting masterclass Domaine la Cabotte France

We then participated in a workshop to help us identify the different aromas that we can find in wine, whether from the fruit itself, or the choices made by the winemaker in ageing the wine. Next, we tasted the three red grape varietals grown on the estate, and then had a go making our own blends. Marie-Pierre prepared a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache used to typically make the "Garance" wine which the Gourmet Odyssey clients receive.

Wine blending masterclass France Rhone Valley

We tasted some of the finished wines from the estate over the lunch that Marie-Pierre had prepared, starting with the Colline and Sauvageonne white wines. We then tasted the Colline, Garance, Gabriel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape red wines.

After lunch, we headed back out into the vineyard, where Marie-Pierre explained what makes the Massif d'Uchaux terroir special, and how the soil has been worked since the last harvest to prepare the next one.

Vineyard tour at Domaine la Cabotte France

The day ended back in the chai for a few explanations of biodynamic winemaking, and Marie-Pierre also told us how the wines are bottled and labelled before being ready to be poured into our glasses!

Many thanks to all the participants for their good humour and curiosity

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

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