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Archive from June 2021

De-budding the vines in Alsace


Céline, the wine-maker at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace, welcomed us to the winery for a Discovery Experience day to learn about the work carried out in the vineyard.  The weather was sunny and warm, as it had been in the region for a few days, meaning that the vines were flourishing, and so there was lots to do keep their growth under control.

 

Meet the winemaker in an organic French winery

 

We listened with great interest as Céline introduced us to the Alsace wine-growing region and the winery, which she took over with her brother Stéphane from their parents to become the 4th generation of wine-makers in the family.  

She then took us into the vineyard where she explained the terroir and layout of the plots of vines.  The winery has 12 hectares of vines spread out over 74 different plots.  It allows Céline and Stéphane to work with all of the 7 Alsace grape varietals on different types of soil, and to achieve a great diversity in their wines.  The winery has the good fortune to boast 3 Grand Cru plots in the Steingrubler, Pfersigberg, and Hengst vineyards.  But it also means that there is much more work for the wine-makers to do, as they are constantly moving around to manage the different plots.

Stéphane brought us up to speed with the work carried out in the vineyard since the last harvest, such as pruning using the guyot double method, pulling the cut branches away, and attaching the remaining ones to the training wire.  With a yield of just 45 hectolitres per hectare on average, and as low as 17 hl/ha for the old vines, compared to the 60 hl/ha authorised by the AOC, the winery voluntarily reduces the amount of grapes produced with the aim of producing exceptional quality grapes.

After pruning, the soil is tilled to loosen and aerate it, which also helps it to soak up the rainwater.  Despite a month of continuous rain in the spring, with the return of the high temperatures, some of the vines lower down on the plain have started to suffer from drought.

Vine adoption in an organic vineyard in Alsace, France

We then headed to the Rosenberg vineyard to see our adopted pinot gris vines.  The Rosenberg vineyard is fairly large, and is cut into lots of small plots.  The name means the rose hill, because traditionally lots of roses were planted at the beginning of each row to warn against mildew.  We took a few photos of our vines, and saw how the vines had grown so far.

The vines flowered some 3 to 4 weeks later than the last 3 years, but is more in line with a “normal” year.  The branches have grown lots, and so they have been placed in between training wires, and the unwanted non-fruit-bearing branches removed.

It’s important to ensure the vines are contained between the training wires to make it easy for the tractor to pass through the rows, to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis, and to reduce the risk of disease if the leaves remain wet.  At Domaine Stentz-Buecher the training of the vines is done by hand.  It can be done by machine as we saw in a neighbouring plot, but Stéphane prefers not to as it can break many of the young shoots.

Vine de-budding session in an organic vineyard in France

We remove the young shoots that won’t become fruit-bearing as they drain energy from the vines.  In a plot next to our pinot gris vines, there were some unwanted shoots growing from the vine trunks, and so that became our mission for the day.  Stéphane explained that we needed to remove any shoots growing from ground level up till around 20cm.  Above 20 cm, we leave the branches because they can be useful for becoming the new branch left after pruning next year, useful if a branch breaks or has become too old and unproductive.  Any branches that remain are held between the training wires so as to not fall across the row where it would be at risk from being damaged.

To remove the branch, we slide our finger into the hollow between the branch and trunk, and push downwards until it falls away.  We then spread out to de-bud a row each.  It’s not a very complicated task, but when you’re bent over under a blistering sun, we quickly understood why Stéphane prefers to do so at 5am, and how long it must take to do all of the winery’s vineyards with just 2 or 3 people!   Especially so at the moment, as the vines can grow a couple of centimetres a day, and in a month a whole new branch may have grown and so you have to start again.

adopt a vine and come to help the winemaker in the vineyard

We worked diligently and then returned to the winery for a very well earned wine tasting session.  To start with, Céline served a naturally sparkling Crémant, made using the same method used in champagne but without any liqueur added, making for a drier than normal Crémant.

Visit and tasting in an organic winery in Alsace

We then tasted a Riesling Ortel, a Muscat, and a Pinot Gris Rosenberg to appreciate the diversity of the Alsace grape varietals.  We finished with a Pinot Noir Granit, one of the red wines made at the winery.  We then continued the wine tasting over lunch of a traditional Alsace baeckeofe, regional cheeses, and blueberry tart.

After lunch, we headed into the coolness of the cellar.  It had been redesigned to work using gravity as much as possible from the moment the grapes are put into the press and vats.  We saw the grape press and the room where the wines ferment in century old wooden casks, and the barrel room where the red wines and some of the whites are aged.

Cellar visit and adopt a vine experience in France

The day ended in the wine library where the oldest vintages are stocked, before concluding the day.  We learnt much about nurturing the vines, the winery’s philosophy behind making organic wines, and we met some fascinating people.  Many thanks to Céline and Stéphane for this great moment shared.  We’ll be back for the harvest!

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The wine-making and ageing process for Chinon wines


We were able to organise the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Days in June and meet up again with our adopted vines!  After more than a year’s wait for some, we were eager to learn more about the art of wine-making and ageing wines at the winery.

Marc Plouzeau, the wine-maker and owner of Château de la Bonnelière, welcomed us over a coffee, and introduced us to his family history at the winery, which covers some 30 hectares, spread out along the left bank of the Vienne River.  The wines are all made organically, most of them falling into the Chinon appellation.

Winery tour with the winemaker in Chinon, France

We had a busy programme in store, and to start with, we split into two groups.  The first visited the chai with Marc, and the second stayed with Louise for an initiation into the art of wine tasting.

To better understand how the wine-making techniques that Marc chooses to use impact the wine, it’s good to learn or refresh our wine-tasting skills, and so we tasted two different wines, breaking it down into steps to analyse our use of sight, nose and taste.

Wine making experience at the winery in france

We then tried to link that up with Marc’s explanations in the chai.  He covered all of the steps and work done during the fermentation and ageing phases.  Each wine is made to bring out the best of the terroir where the grapes are grown, and Marc explained the different choices he makes to age the wine in vats of barrels.

We headed to the fantastic cave beneath the Chinon fortress. At the entrance, we enjoyed lunch in the sun, pairing different Touraine Sauvignon and Chinon wines that Marc makes with the courses.

As tempting as the siesta was, we then went into the cave to put into practice what we had learnt in the morning.  Marc uses the cave to store and age his barrels of wine, as the conditions are ideal for a cellar, the temperature and humidity remaining the same all year round.

Wine tasting in a cellar in Chinon, Loire, France

We had the privilege of tasting the 2020 wines that are still in the ageing process, comparing wines aged in a vat, new and old barrels, and a press wine.  We noted how even though the wines hadn’t yet finished their ageing process, they each had very different characteristics.

Many thanks to Marc for sharing his vast knowledge and sharp wit!

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Making and ageing organic vines in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher


Today, we met up with the Stentz-Buecher family at their winery in Alsace to learn all about the work and skill to make and age their organic wines.  Domaine Stentz-Buecher is a family business as Céline explained to us, and she manages it with her brother, Stéphane.  They have both taken different paths to become wine-makers, and are complimentary in their work and their way of seeing wine.  They were with us to explain all of the work in the cellar to produce the best possible wines they can from when the grapes are picked right through to bottling.

Today, we met up with the Stentz-Buecher family at their winery in Alsace to learn all about the work and skill to make and age their organic wines.  It’s a family business as Céline explained to us, and she manages it with her brother, Stéphane.  They have both taken different paths to become wine-makers, and are complimentary in their work and their way of seeing wine.  They were with us to explain all of the work in the cellar to produce the best possible wines they can from when the grapes are picked right through to bottling.
We started the day in the vineyard, because that is where everything begins, and we visited one of the 74 plots that make up the winery’s 12 hectares of vines.  It’s necessary to have lots of plots to be able to express the diversity of the 7 grape varietals used to make Alsace wines.  Pinot Noir for the reds, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Muscat, Riesling and Gewurztraminer for the whites, all planted in different types of soil on the hillside and the plain.

 

Adopt-a-vine gift in an organic Alsace Vineyard

 

In the Rosenberg vineyard, where our Pinot Gris adopted vines are planted, we saw that the branches have been placed between the training wires, and that the flowering period has just finished.  We could see the little grains that will become grapes.  To Céline it looks like they have grown since the day before!  It’s possible, because with the heat and rain at the moment, the vines can grow 2cm a day.  We took a few moments to take some pictures with our vines, because for the 2020 vintage, this is the last time that we’ll be coming.

 

Rent-a-vine gift in Alsace

 

On the way back, we looked at the different plots, their location, their exposition to the sun, and the different soil types.  All important features that will help give the wines their taste and aromas.

 

Alsace wine region gift experience

 

Before getting down to the practical sessions, we talked about wine-tasting.  It’s all about perception, and is a unique and personal experience for all of us.  We use all of our senses when tasting, and once stimulated, they send lots of information to our brain, who has the task of filtering and treating them.  For example, our ears enable us to analyse the bubbles in a crémant.  Our eyes tell us information about the colour of a wine, its intensity and tint, its viscosity, shine, and clarity.  Our nose adds information about the aromas, and our mouth for the taste and texture.  Each person perceives this information differently, and the good news is that we can all train ourselves to improve.

We then talked in more detail about aromas and where they come from.  Are they primary aromas that come from the terroir or grapes themselves, secondary aromas that result from the fermentation phase, or tertiary and due to the choices made during the ageing process?  To help us better understand the differences, Céline had prepared a little game to blind taste different wines, in a blacked-out glass and with covers over the bottles, so that we had just our nose and mouth to rely on.

 

Organic wine tasting gift experience in Alsace

 

We tasted the wines by two in order to try and identify the difference between them and why.  For example, we first tasted a Pinot Blanc Tradition with white peach aromas, and which was well balanced and fresh on the palate.  We then tasted a wine that was completely different, its golden yellow colour being more unusual, and revealing smoky and toasted aromas.  It was dry and full bodied on the palate.  In fact it was also a Pinot Blanc, but made from a plot of old vines and aged in barrels on its fine lees, which changes the primary and tertiary aromas.  We continued our comparisons, tasting 6 wines in total.

Now that we were experts in the art of wine-tasting, we headed down into the cellar to catch up with our Pinot Gris wine from where we had left it during the harvest time.  Stéphane reminded us of the relationship between alcoholic maturity, phenolic maturity, and the aromatic potential of wine.  The higher the degree of alcohol, the better the potential for keeping wine, but that counts for nothing if there aren’t expressive aromas, something that is linked to the phenolic maturity, which is achieved around a month after the alcoholic maturity.  The difficulty lies in waiting to have sufficient phenolic maturity without the alcoholic degree rising too much, which is why when it’s too hot and the alcoholic degree is reached prematurely in August, it doesn’t bode well for a good phenolic maturity.

Stéphane then explained the fermentation and vinification processes of the white and red wines, and then we headed to the part of the cellar where the wines ferment in the casks.  Some of the wines are still in the process of fermenting, because the winery only uses indigenous yeast, and lets the wines work at their own pace.  We could still hear some of the vats and casks gurgling away as the carbon dioxide escaped through the siphons.

 

Wine cellar gift experience Alsace white wine

 

The other wines such as the Pinot Gris Rosenberg had finished fermenting, and we had the chance to taste it directly from the cask.  It will soften a bit more over the summer, before being ready for Stéphane to filter and bottle.

We finished the morning in the barrel room to see where the red and some of the vielle vignes white wines are aged.  We asked lots of questions about the role of oak barrels, the difference between old and new ones, and the varying sizes etc.  We had a very enthusiastic group and some great interactions.

 

Wine-making gift experience Alsace

 

It was then time to head up and outside for an aperitif, starting with a naturally sparkling crémant, made using the Champagne method, but without the liqueur being added, accompanied by a savoury Kouglof.  We then sat down to a delicious choucroute, cheese platter, and black forest gateau, all accompanied with delicious wines of course!

 

Organic Alsace wine gift and winery visit

 

After lunch we returned to the cool of the cellar to see the wine library where the old vintages are stored.  It’s also a reception room for tastings and family meals.  Only the most promising vintages are stocked, and each year, Stéphane and Céline uncork several dozen bottles, taste them, and re-cork them to ensure that they are still good.  The oldest wine from the winery dates back to 1969.

The day ended with the bottling and labelling machine, where the wine is held in a vat before passing through a filter on its way to being bottled and corked.  The bottles are then labelled and boxed up at the end of the line.  The wine is then ready to join the cellars and glasses of organic Alsace wine enthusiasts around the world.  We can’t wait to taste the 2020 vintage of our Pinot Gris Rosenberg!  

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Learning to de-bud and train the vines in Saint-Emilion


We were very happy to return to Saint-Emilion for the opening of the 2021 vintage Wine Discovery Days at Château Coutet at the end of May and beginning of June.  The aim of these days spent with the winemakers, is to learn about all of the work necessary in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes for the coming harvest. And as we found out, it’s a mammoth task!  Even more so, as we discovered the challenges of doing so organically!

 

Top gift idea for wine lovers.  Adopt vines in an organic Bordeaux winery

 

We got introduced to each other over a welcome coffee and croissant on the lawn in front of the chateau.  It’s a place steeped in history, and Adrien has a natural talent to recount it.

We started by wandering through the different vineyard plots to learn more about the various grape varietals and soil structures of the estate.  We were now experts in identifying the differences between merlot and cabernet franc, sandy and clayey soils!

On the top of the limestone plateau, we stopped in the plot were our adopted vines are located.  This is the best terroir at Château Coutet, and the vineyard is surrounded by some of Saint-Emilion’s most prestigious wineries such as Château Angélus and Beauséjour Bécot.  We each immortalised the moment and took a few pictures with our adopted vines.

 

Adopt-a-vine gift in a French organic winery

 

On one of the days, we watched a donkey tilling the soil, a method that respects this exceptional terroir as much as possible.

 

Organic wine experience gift in Saint-Emilion

 

There is always some participative work to do during the experience days, and we discovered how to de-bud the vines and raise the training wires, the two main tasks during spring.

The aim of de-budding is to select the branches best adapted to producing grapes on the vine.  It seems a little complicated at first, but Adrien’s explanations enabled us to quickly come to grips with it.  We each got stuck into the real work of a winemaker.

 

Wine-maker experience gift in an organic winery in France

 

Raising the training wires is an important job for several reasons, and is done by raising a wire either side of the row of vines, at the same time ensuring that the branches are spaced out and caught between the two wires.  Firstly, it helps to protect the vines from the wind by supporting the weight of the vegetation and grapes.  It also helps manage the shape and structure of the vines, making it easier for the tractor to pass through the vineyard, increasing the efficiency of the treatments, and improving the airflow around the leaves to reduce the risk of mildew.  After having listened to the instructions on how to do so, we spread out among the rows and started to raise the training wires.

 

Wine gift to learn about the work of an organic wine-maker

 

There isn’t much shade in the vineyard, and so the aperitif under the trees was very welcome.  After a few large glasses of water, we tasted the very refreshing Claret de Coutet, and its fresh fruit aromas awakened our taste buds for lunch.

The 2017 Château Belles Cimes, the winery’s second wine, is made principally from young vines, and is a Saint-Emilion wine with red and black fruit aromas that paired wonderfully with the foie gras terrine.

Food and wine pairings generally work best when matching a dish and wine from the same region.  The traditional south western French main course of magret de canard was enhanced by the 2017 Château Coutet, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, with a touch of Malbec.  We then compared the wine with the 2016 vintage, which was a little more refined thanks to the extra year ageing in the bottle.

The Demoiselle red wine concluded the tasting over cheese.  The wine is made from the oldest vines that are worked by horse, and are pampered at each stage.  It’s a wonderful wine that captured the relaxed moment enjoyed in the shade of the trees in front of the winery’s old chapel.

After the excellent lunch, Adrien and Alain explained the advantages and challenges of cultivating the vines organically.  It’s something that is very important to them, as the vineyards of Château Coutet have always been organic.

 

Organic winery tour gift in Saint-Emilion

 

We finished the day with a visit of the fermentation hall and the family cellar where the old bottles are stored.

We look forward to coming back for the Harvest Experience days in September to learn more about the next stage in the work of a winemaker, and to share other great moments with the David Beaulieu family.

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The work in the cellar to make organic Burgundy wine


We were at Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay the last two week-ends for the Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Days.  The aim of this wine experience day is to discover the decisions taken and choices made by the winemakers to transform the grape juice into wine, age the wine, and prepare the wine for bottling.  To best understand the impact that the different choices have on the wine, it’s a day when we do lots of wine tasting!

After the welcome coffee, Jean-François recounted the family history, and explained the origins of the Burgundy AOC system, the notion of the terroir, and his reasons for converting the winery to being organic.  We then split into two groups and alternated between the different wine-making workshops.

Learning the art of wine-making during the Vinification Experience Days at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

Myriam, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, and Mark, the company’s founder, explained how to taste wines, how to identify different aromas, and the impact that different choices made during the wine-making process have on wine.  We learnt why it’s so difficult to describe an aroma, and that it is necessary to train our nose to better identify and remember the plethora of different aromas that can be found in wines.  We also learnt the difference between the primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas to better understand why a wine smells the way it does.

During this time, Jean-François led the other group on a visit of the fermentation hall and cellar, explaining the different phases of making and ageing wine.  We saw the different machinery and equipment used to better understand the organisation, planning, and technical skill needed to end up with quality wine.

 Visiting the cellar to see where the wines are aged in oak barrels

We then met up again to taste different wines that are still in the ageing process, from different containers and different terroir, to learn about the impact that new oak has on a wine compared to a barrel that has already been used for two wines for example.

 Tasting wines to learn about the impact that different choices play

The time had come for the aperitif, and we enjoyed a 2019 Santenay white wine that accompanied the gougères, a local Burgundy delicacy.

The wine tasting continued over lunch of other Burgundy specialties, a delicious parsley ham, and chicken in a mustard sauce, paired with Santenay village and Santenay Premier Cru wines from the winery.

After lunch we headed out into the vineyard to meet up with our adopted vines.  We thanked them for the grapes that they had produced for the harvest, and took some photos to immortalise the moment!

 Visiting our adopted vines

To finish the wine-making cycle, we then learnt about the work to prepare the wine for bottling, and to label them.

 Learning about bottling wine

They were a couple of very enjoyable days, and opened our eyes to the complexity and dedication needed to make great wine.

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Learning how to make wine in Saint-Emilion


At the end of May and beginning of June, we were finally able to meet up again for some Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Days at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion to learn more about the work of a winemaker after the harvest, right up until the wine is ready to be bottled.  Mathieu ad Adrien, the winemakers, welcomed us over a coffee and croissant to start getting to know each other.

The winery has been in the same family for over 400 years, and is full of great stories.  The Vinification Experience Day is the last in the Gourmet Odyssey cycle, and concentrates for the most part on the art of making and tasting wines.

 

Wine Experience gift at an organic winery in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

 

We started the days with a visit of the cellar where the wine-makers picked up where they had left off during the Harvest Experience Days.  The old buildings at Château Coutet take us back in time and we learn about the artisanal wine-making methods that have been passed down the generations to make and age wines in the oak barrels.

The cellar tour had opened up our taste buds and we were ready to start tasting the wines.  Benoît, Gourmet Odyssey’s oenologist, taught us the basics to better taste wines, and then we got down to business as we discovered the wonderful aromas and tastes of the wines that are currently still in the ageing process.

We got to better understand the role of the wine-maker and tasted different blends to learn what each different grape varietal brings to a wine, and how they interact with each other to create something entirely different again.

 

Tasting organic French wines

Now that we were expert wine-taster, we moved on to the finished wines, starting with the Claret de Coutet for the aperitif.  This wine, between a red and a rosé has a lovely fresh finish and is packed with red fruit.  Delicious!

 

We then sat down to lunch in the shade of the trees.  As the different courses were served, we discovered the wines from the chateau.  The 2017 Belles Cimes, a Saint-Emilion wine made from the estate’s young vines paired wonderfully with the Landaise salad.  We stepped up a notch in strength whilst maintain the finesse with the 2017 Château Coutet, which went with the main course of steak bordelaise brochette.  We then compared the wine to the 2016 vintage Château Coutet, which is slightly more mature having had an extra year ageing in the bottle.  These wines can age for 25 years in a good cellar no problem.  Mathieu and Adrien then give us the honour of discovering the 2017 Demosielle wine, made from the old vines on the limestone plateau that are worked by hand and horse.

 

Organic rent-a-vine gift

We then set off again to visit our adopted vines, climbing the hill until we reached the limestone plateau, surrounded by grand cru classé vineyards.  The view is magnificent, and we each took a moment to admire and take a photo of our adopted vines.

The day ended in the storage room to talk about bottling, corks, and labels which are the last steps in producing a bottle of wine.  We feed off Mathieu and Adrien’s passion.

Warm thanks to the winemakers for these very informative days, and the very enjoyable time spent together.

 

 

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The perfect Fatherís Day wine gift


It can be difficult to find the ideal Father’s Day gift for a wine lover, when he already has all of the usual wine accessories, and a well-stocked cellar. But don’t worry, we have the perfect idea for you! Give him a wine experience gift that he’ll remember for years to come. It’s not just a normal winery visit or wine course, but the adoption of his very own organic vines in France, and the following of the winemaker through the key stages of making his wine.

 

A great Father’s Day wine present

 

Your father will end the experience with his own personalised bottles of organic wine that his adopted vines have helped to make. He’ll follow the making of his wine through newsletters and photos from the winery explaining the effort and skill that goes into making a great organic wine. He can also get involved in working at the winery alongside the winemaker and participate in one or more of the key stages, such as pruning the vines, harvesting the grapes, or learning about the blending of the wines.

For an ideal Father’s Day gift, adopt some organic vines in France

It’s a very original Father’s Day gift that also helps to support independent organic wineries. We only work with winemakers who are passionate about their profession and who love sharing their passion and know-how. Our partner wineries are located in the major wine-making regions of France. The Loire Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Languedoc, the Rhône Valley, and Alsace.

For an ideal Father’s Day gift, adopt some organic vines in France

When you place an order for one of our organic Wine Experience Father’s Day gifts, we’ll send out a welcome pack to you or directly to your father, containing some wine gifts, a personalised vine adoption certificate, the programme, and access code to activate his customer portal. For last minute gifts, we can also send you the certificate and programme by email. All your father then needs to do is let himself be guided through the different stages of the programme until his personalised bottles of wine are ready for tasting.

A great Father’s Day gift to share some great time together!

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The perfect gift for a wine lover

Adopt a vine in France and let them follow the making of their own wine !

From € 169

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