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Archive from April 2015

De-budding in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

After the worry of a little rain on Friday evening, all our doubts disappeared on Saturday morning as the wind swept the last of the clouds away from the Burgundy sky.  We were at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay for a Discovery Experience Day to learn all about the work carried out in the vineyard by the winemaker to obtain the best possible grapes come harvest time.

Adopt-a-Vine wine experience gift in Burgundy France

Following a brief presentation of the winery by Jean-François, the owner and winemaker, we headed out into the garden of the family manor, where Jean-François talked about the geography and geology of Burgundy.  He also explained why he had decided to embark on the organic approach to making wine.  For him, it is as much about taking pleasure from drinking a wine that is free from harmful products as it is about respecting the soil and protecting the health of the people who work at the winery.

Jean-François then showed us the "Clos des Cornières" vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found.  He took the opportunity to explain the differences between the Burgundy regional, village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellations.  We then met our adopted vines for the first time.  A very emotional moment!

Original wine enthusiast gift. Adopt some organic vines and get involved in making your wine

We knew that sooner or later, it would be time for us to roll up our sleeves and do some work...  We're getting into the de-budding season.  After pruning, a very important stage in determining the future development of the vines and for reducing the quantity of grapes that each vine produces, de-budding is another key step.  You mustn't leave too many branches and leaves to feed, or you run the risk of not obtaining mature enough grapes.  We removed some of the buds on the vines to better appreciate the complexity and scale of this titanic job.

Back at the winery, we made the most of the lovely April sun, and enjoyed our aperitif outside.  We started the wine tasting with a Santenay 2013 white wine, accompanied by some gougères, and then continued the tasting over lunch of a Burgundy Pinot Noir 2011, a Santenay Clos de Cornières 2011 and a Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru 2010 with cheese.

Original vineyard tour gift in Burgundy, France.

In the afternoon, we took a stroll to the Beaurepaire plot of Santenay Premier Cru vines.  The walk allowed us to appreciate the landscape of the southern côte de Beaune, and to learn a little more about the local geology.  The vineyard has just been replanted, and so we found out about a vine's life-cycle of a vine.  Yannick Jacrot, the winery's Technical Director, explained how the vines are planted and the vineyard prepared.

Organic vine gift. Adopt a vine in Burgundy and visit the winery

The day finished with a brief visit of the fermentation hall and cellar where the barrels of wine are ageing and the bottles of wine are stocked.

Organic winery tour near Beaune, France

Many thanks to Jean-François and Yannick for their passionate explanations, and to all of the Gourmet Odyssey clients for your good cheer.

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Wine making course in Bordeaux

Many thanks to all of the participants of the Vinification Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux last weekend. We spent a great time learning more about the art of blending wines and the work of the winemaker in the chai to vinify and age their wines.

The day started in the chai, where Christine Nadalié, the winemaker at Château Beau Rivage, explained how the grapes are received during harvest time and the work done during the fermentation period.

wine experience in Bordeaux

We then passed through into the barrel room. Christine comes from a family of coopers, and she spoke with passion about the role of the barrel in ageing wine.

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

Before starting the wine tasting workshops, we headed out into the vineyard to see the plot where our adopted vines are to be found. The first buds are starting to appear on the vines, and in no time at all, the first shoots will grow to mark the start of a new season.

rent a vines in Bordeaux

The first workshop concentrated on our sense of smell, which is one of the key senses used when tasting wines. We had to identify some of the aromas that can be found in wine with the help of some small bottles. It's not such an easy exercise!

Unique wine gift in Bordeaux, France

Then we blind tasted two wines to compare them. Both were from the same Cabernet Sauvignon grape varietal, from the same vine plot, and from the same year. The only difference being the barrel used to age the wine. The first was made from American oak and the second from French oak, resulting in two very different wines, aromatically and on the palate.

Personalised wine gift in Bordeaux

During lunch, we tasted a Clairet rosé wine, and five different Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut-Médoc red wines made by Christine.

The afternoon was dedicated to blending wines, starting with the tasting of the four major grape varietals cultivated at Château Beau Rivage; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. We noted the different characteristics of each.

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux

Then in small groups, we worked on different blends to better understand what each grape varietal brings to the final blend. The Merlot brings the fruitiness and roundness, the Malbec lovely aromas and colour, the Cabernet Sauvignon length in the finish, and the Petit Verdot a balancing acidity. It's amazing how just a small change in the percentage used of each grape varietal can have on the final wine.

Many thanks to Christine and Guillaume from Château Beau Rivage, and to all of the participants for this great moment spent together.

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Bud burst of the vines in Spring

After the long and in parts cold winter, it's time to crawl out from under the duvet and make the most of the sunny days that spring will hopefully bring us. The vines feel the same way!

The vines have been in hibernation mode between December and March. During this time the sap has descended down into the root system of the plants, enabling the winemakers to prune the vines. Pruning limits the growth of the plant and limits the quantity of grapes produced, whilst improving their quality.

Towards the end of the pruning season, from around mid-March, you can notice the vines starting to "cry". But not to worry, it's a normal occurrence!

Adopt a vine in France

The vine's tears appear when the sap climbs up again from the roots and starts to flow from the exposed wood on the branches that have been cut during pruning. This is the first sign of life starting again for the new season.

The brighter days and longer hours of sunshine, couple with warmer temperatures cause the vine buds to swell. The tiny buds have been protected during the colder winter months by a layer of husk. The husk splits open as the temperatures rise and head north of 10°C, to give the buds room to develop. The buds generally start to grow around the end of March and beginning of April.

A small green point and new branches begin to appear from each bud, and you have to be careful of spring frosts during this precarious stage in the vine's developments.

If you would like to learn more about this and other steps in the vine cycle, why not join us for a Discovery Experience Day at one of our organic partner vineyards, where you will learn more about the work in the vineyard to cultivate the vines.

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