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Harvesting organic grapes in the Loire Valley


Last Saturday, we harvested lots of beautiful grapes under a sunny blue sky at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley, in the expert company of our partner winemaker, Marc Plouzeau.  This hands-on day, organised by Gourmet Odyssey as part of the Wine Experience enables wine lovers to discover the work of the winemaker in the vineyard and cellar during the harvest.  We would quickly understand that it’s a very busy time for the winemaker!
Gift for wine lover in Loire Valley
2022 hasn’t been a simple year for the winemakers.  It looked as though it would be very early after rapid growth in spring, but finally the summer drought delayed the maturing of the vines and reduced the quantity of grapes which didn’t grow so big due to the lack of water.  But they were of a very high quality with a good level of concentration.
Once we had finished breakfast, over which we discussed the nature of this vintage, we headed to Les Roches St Paul.  It’s a wonderful little hamlet, typical of the Touraine region, with its lovely houses made of the local limestone and slate. 
 
Harvest day with Gourmet Odyssey in loire Valley
Marc has several small vineyard plots here.  We learnt which grapes to harvest and how to pick them, then equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs, we spread out among the rows.
 
Wine experience day at chateau Bonneliere
The grapes were indeed a little smaller than usual, but were very good!  Our harvesters turned out to also be very good tasters, and we appreciated the lovely sweet grapes.
We put the grapes we had picked into our bucket, and once full we emptied it into the trailer.  It’s one of three ways of harvesting at Château de la Bonnelière.  We can also empty our buckets into crates, each weighing around 20 kilos when full.  The other method is to use porters who walk down the rows collecting the grapes from each harvester, filling up the basket on their backs, to then take to the trailer.  The porter’s basket can weigh up to 80 kilos, making it a fairly physical job.
 
Participate to a harvest day with gourlet odyssey
We harvested two plots of vines in the morning, one of 23 ares and the other of 12 ares (although Marc had fooled us into believing that we had 2 hectares to pick!)
Our harvesters for the day were very productive, and in 2 hours we had completed our mission!  We enjoyed an aperitif in this wonderful setting among the vines of the Roches St Paul priory, tasting the Perles Sauvages natural sparkling wine that Marc makes using Chenin Blanc grapes.
We then returned to the winery for lunch and to build our strength back up for the next stage of putting the grapes into the vat.
Taste organic wine in Loire Valley
We ate lunch in front of the winery.  Château de la Bonnelière has three different buildings, each dedicated to different functions.  There is the fermentation hall where the grapes are received at harvest time and put into the various stainless steel and concrete vats, the hangar dedicated to bottling and labelling, and the hangar used for storing and dispatching the deliveries.  We’ll learn more about these areas during the Vinification Experience Days
After lunch, we saw the first stages of transforming the grapes into wine.  First, the grapes are separated from their stems using a de-stemming machine.
 
Harvest day in organic vines at chateau de la bonneliere
The grapes then fall into a trolley below, which is raised above one of the vats using a forklift truck.  Once stable, the bottom of the trolley is opened little by little, to let the grapes fall into the vat.  It’s a very good way of doing so, as it ensures that the grapes enter the vat in as good condition as possible.
 
Gift for winelover with Gourmet odyssey
Once this important step has been completed we can then start the analysis of the harvest, measuring the sugar level to give us the probable alcoholic degree, and the pH levels to determine the acidity.  This will help Marc make the right decisions during the following fermentation stages.  We asked lots of questions, and saw how much Marc enjoys talking about his favourite passion!
We finished this great day by paying a visit to our adopted vines.  They hadn’t yet been harvested because the Clos de la Bonnelière is a little behind the other plots, and so the grapes hadn’t yet reached optimum maturity.  We’re all hoping for a magnificent 2022 vintage!
Many thanks to Marc and all of the participants.  We hope to see you again soon!

Comments

  • We spent a lovely sunny day for the harvest. As with the first day, Louise, Marc and his team were very welcoming, friendly and attentive. The meal was very good and generous. Everything was perfect!

  • Thanks Marc and Louise for all these great times. What a wonderful day it was

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