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Archive from June 2023

Wine gift experience to discover the work in an organic vineyard in Saint-Emilion


The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Days at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion are a great way to immerse yourself in the life of a winemaker and learn about all of the work that goes on in the vineyard.

We met up at the magnificent Château Coutet, a family-run winery, very close to the centre of this beautiful medieval town that is renowned throughout the world for the quality of its wine.  We were to spend the day with one of the winemaking owners, Alain David-Beaulieu.  The aim of the day was to discover the daily work of a winemaker.  The vines had already grown lots by the end of June, and we could already see the future grapes well formed on the vines.

Adopt organic vines in Saint-Emilion

After a quick tour of the estate and our adopted vines, Alain explained the different work that has been carried out in the vineyard since winter.  It all started with pruning the vines to control the quantity of grapes produced and to limit how much the vines spread.  Once the vines start to grow, the best fruit-bearing branches were selected, and any shoots that wouldn’t produce any grapes removed, so as to preserve the vines energy on producing better quality grapes.  Then came the raising of the training wires to keep the vines nicely aligned and supported between two wires.  This enables the tractors to continue to pass through the vine rows without hindrance or damaging the vines.

Alain had kept a little work back for us to do, and so after all the explanations, we got to experience firsthand what it’s like to work in a vineyard.

Dicover all the work behind a bottle of wine

Removing some of the leaves from the zone around the grapes is very important for the vines, as it improves the airflow, as they can bring dampness.  Spring was fairly wet and humid this year, increasing the risk of fungi such as mildew forming which can quickly destroy the work of a whole season by drying out the future grapes, which then can’t be used to make wine.

After having a go for ourselves, we soon learned that it’s a physical job, especially so if it’s done for many days and even weeks in a row!  Producing quality grapes demands a lot of effort!

But after the effort, the just reward!  We all ate a lovely meal together and delighted our taste buds with the wines from the estate under the shade of the tress in the garden.

Elaborate you own cuvée

In the afternoon, we visited the chai and talked more about the challenges of working organically.  We finished the day with a visit of the family cellar where the old vintage wines are stored!

This immersive day proved to be very interesting and we thank Alain warmly for his welcome.  We can’t wait to come back for the Harvest Experience Days in September!

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Discover the work of an organic winemaker in the vineyard


In May and June, we visited Château de Jonquières, a magnificent family-run winery in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, to spend a couple of Discovery Experience Days with the winemakers, Charlotte and Clément de Béarn.  The aim of these Wine Experience days is to learn about all the work that goes on in an organically certified vineyard.

Adopt an organic vine in the south of France

We were welcomed by Gaël, the Gourmet Odyssey wine specialist, and the winemakers who gave us an introduction to the château and its history that has been passed down through 32 generations.

The days were focused mainly on the work in the vineyard, but we had to be flexible in May to avoid the showers.  Charlotte and Clément were all smiles to see the rain because the winter had been very dry and the vines were desperately in need of water. Clément assured us that there would be enough dry patches to be able to do some work in the vineyard, and he was right!

Once in the vineyard, Charlotte and Clément explained the work that had been done during the winter and early spring, most notably to prune the vines.  In spring the vines need lots of care to keep them healthy, and accompany them in preparing them for an optimal harvest.  The vines had already grown quickly, so there were two tasks awaiting our help.

Make your own organic French wine

First we raised the training wires in a couple of rows of Cinsault to trap the branches between them.  This helps the vines to support the weight of the grapes and foliage.

We also de-budded the vines by removing the young shoots that had sprouted from the vine trunks and might transport disease from the soil to the vines.  We also removed any double-buds in a plot of Carignan, leaving the best branches to bask in the sun and to have a better airflow around them so that they dry more quickly, again reducing the risk of disease.

Discover all the work in a vineyard during summer

After the effort, we were rewarded back at the château with a well earned aperitif and winemakers lunch.  Charlotte and Clément had selected 5 of their wines to accompany the delicious meal which had been prepared by a local chef, Aubin Vie.

Participe in the winemaker job during a day

The meal is always a lovely moment when the participants get to ask lots of questions to the winemakers about their life, daily routine, and the differences between the wines that we were tasting.

Wine experience day withe Gourmet Odyssey in the Languedoc

In the beginning of the afternoon, we went on a little stroll to visit our adopted vines.  It’s a great spot, and the 70 odd year old Carignan vines that were planted by Charlotte’s grandmother are a sight to behold.

Disover the winemaker job during a day

The days finished in the chai where Clement enlightened us a little to his universe and the tools he uses to receive the grapes at harvest time.  We’ll see all of that in action when we return to the winery in September for the Harvest Experience Day!

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A day in the vineyard with the winemakers


We spent a great day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher for a Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day.  These hands-on wine experience days at the winery enable wine lovers to discover all the work that goes on in the vineyard needed to make a great wine.

perfect gift for a wine lover

We were welcomed by Céline and Stéphane, the winemakers at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  After the introductions, we headed straight out and made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are located.

A little surprise was waiting for us!  A nameplate had been put in front of our adopted vines, and so we set out to acquaint ourselves with them, and take a few photos to immortalise the moment!

Discover the winemaker job during a day

To make good wine, you need good ingredients, and the choices that the winemakers take and the quality of the work in the vineyard will have a big impact on the quality of the grapes at harvest time.   The weather also plays its part of course, but let’s stay focused on the factors we can control!

Stéphane and Céline explained the work that has been done since the last harvest, notably to prune the vines and attach the selected branches to the training wire.

Elaborate your own french wine

The flowering period went well in early June, and now the vines are in full growth mode to form the grape bunches and grow the leaves needed to ripen them through photosynthesis.  There’s lots of work to be done and so our help was very welcome!

Be a winemaker during a day in Alsace

Our first task was to train the vines onto the trellis system.  When the branches grow, they fall into the middle of the row, and sometimes to the ground.  Without any intervention, two big problems are quickly encountered.  Firstly, the tractor won’t be able to pass down the row to treat and work the vines without breaking the branches.  And secondly, the risk of spreading disease from one row to another, or from the ground, is increased. 

Gift idea for wine lover

Stéphane showed us how to raise the branches and place them between the training wires of the trellis system.  Then in pairs, we spread out to start our newfound profession of being a winemaker!  At first we were a little hesitant, so as not to damage or break any of the branches, but we quickly understood that the branches are much more robust that you would think!

Stéphane also asked us to de-bud the vines as we went down the rows if we saw any shoots that had sprouted from the lower trunk of the vines.  These shoots won’t produce any grapes, so it’s best to remove them to concentrate the vine’s energy on the fruit-bearing branches.

Learn how to produce wine

When we arrived at the end of the row, it was with great satisfaction that we turned around to admire our work!

On our way back to the winery, Céline showed us a plot of young vines that had just been planted.  She explained how important it is to plan ahead and coordinate the replanting schedule with the other plots to best manage the continuity of production across the winery, as you need to allow for a good ten years from the moment you pull up the old vines, to the moment that you can start harvesting grapes that begin to be of an interesting quality.

Discovery Experience Day in Alsace

Back at the winery, we went down into the cool of the cellar and gathered in the impressive wine library where the old vintage wines are stored. And yes, it’s not just red wines that you can conserve!

Céline had prepared a great wine tasting session to reward us after our morning’s effort, starting with the fresh and crisp 2019 Muscat Rosenberg.  We then tasted the very aromatic 2014 Riesling Tannenbuehl cuvée Flavien, a wine that is already almost 9 years old and which can happily be kept for a fair few more years to come.  Next up was the 2021 Pinot Gris Rosenberg, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, followed by the Brut Nature Crémant d’Alsace sparkling rosé wine to finish, accompanied by some savoury kouglof.

Taste organic french wine

We continued the wine tasting over lunch, the 2018 Who Am I? Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling blend pairing the baeackeofe, one of Alsace’s quintessential specialties.  With the local cheese board, we enjoyed the 2018 Pinot Noir Granit, and the 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg with the blueberry tart.

Wine tasting in Alsace

After lunch, Stéphane detailed the work remaining to be done in the vineyard before the harvest, and how he will choose when the right time to harvest is.   We then retunred to the cellar to quickly visit the press, barrel room, and fermentation hall.  We’ll be spending more time in the cellar during the Harvest Experience Day to see how the grapes are received, and during the Vinification Experience Day to learn more about the work during the fermentation, ageing, and bottling phases.

Many thanks to Stéphane and Céline for sharing their passion for their profession with us. We can’t wait to come back for the harvest!

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Wine Experience Gift to discover the work in the vineyard


In June, we welcomed two groups of wine lovers for a couple of Discovery Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière in the beautiful Loire Valley town of Chinon.  Under a wonderful sunny sky, we learnt more about the work of a winemaker to produce great organic grapes!

Original gift for a wine lover

The coffee and introduction by the winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, were a little faster than normal because the heat was rising rapidly, and so we wanted to get out into the vineyard as early as possible.

A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed a first group to the Discovery Experience Day who raised the training wires up a notch.  This Saturday, it was already time to raise them up another notch.

The vines are growing exceptionally fast this year.  Marc explained that in certain conditions, the vines can grow 10 cm in a day!  The winemakers are in a race against time at the moment to control the growth.

Adopt a vine in France


Flowering happened between the end of May and beginning of June, producing lots of great grapes.  At the moment the vines are making lots of leaves to feed the grapes.  They grow high, but as the vines are from the creeper family, the branches sag under their own weight, and become intertwined in the middle of the row, making it very difficult for the teams to work.

This is a scenario to be avoided because if it rains, as is this case with the fairly frequent storms at the moment, the moisture will remain in the bunched up branches, increasing the risk of mildew forming, which could compromise the harvest.

Discover the winemaker job during a day


Our little group therefore had a very important job to do!  Once we were each equipped with a sommelier’s apron, and our pockets stuffed with clips, we were ready to start raising the training wires.  

Learn more about winemaking with Gourmet Odyssey


Marc demonstrated what to do.  First, take the training wires in the middle, pull them apart and place the branches between them, raise and close them again, and attach them together using one of our small clips.

Perfect gift for wine lover


It’s a “simple” job, but a very important one for the quality of our future harvest. We all got stuck in, and did a couple of rows before taking a first well earned break, allowing us to start to talk about wine-making in general, working organically and biodynamically.  We then did a few more rows before enjoying the aperitif under the shade of the walnut trees.

Elaborate your own french cuvée


Lunch was served in the relative cool of the barn, accompanied by the wines from Château de la Bonnelière.  It recharged the batteries, but also made us yearn for a siesta.  For some reason, we weren’t quite as productive in the afternoon!

But we admit that to escape the 35 °C outside, we cooled off in the chai where we continued our conversation about the challenges and virtues of organic wine-making.  Marc has been making wine organically since he took over the running of the winery in the early 2000’s.  He has a long experience or working organically, and its impact on the vines and the wines that he makes.

Marc makes a few blended wines, but for the most part, his wines are left unblended to best reflect the diversity of terroir that his vineyards cover.  He also strives to find the best wine-making techniques to release the full potential of the grapes he harvests, but we can’t say too much, because that is what we will find out more about during the Vinification Experience Days!

We spent a couple of great Discovery Experience Days despite the crushing heat.  We look forward to meeting up again with some of you for the Harvest Experience Day!  

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Surprise your Dad with some adopted vines for his Fatherís Day gift this year


There are many wine-loving Dad’s out there, but you can’t get him yet another work-screw or bottle of wine for his Father’s Day present!  How about adopting him his own organic vines in France?  A really original Father’s Day gift that’s bound to make its mark.
The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience will get him immersed in the life of a winemaker.  Choose his favourite wine growing region from our 6 organic partner wineries in France and adopt his very own organic vines for a wine-making year.  The winemaker will send news of his adopted vines via the newsletters to follow their evolution and the key stages in making his wine.  Once his wine is bottled and labelled with his personalised labels, he’ll get to taste his delicious vintage that he’ll know all the secrets of!
 
We’ll send a welcome pack containing a vine adoption certificate, a brochure, and access to his own Customer Portal, as well as a few wine accessory gifts, so that you have something to give on the day.  And for the last-minute Father’s Day gifts, we can send the vine adoption certificate by email.
 
Adopt a vine in France during a vintage
 
The Wine Experience doesn’t stop there.  You can also choose to include one or more Wine Experience Days to your father’s present, so that he can meet and spend a day with the winemaker at the winery.  The originality of these Wine Experience Days is that they aren’t just simple winery tours.  You get to participate in the work in the vineyard or cellar alongside the winemaker who will explain all the key steps in making wine.
 
Wine gift for fathers day
 
There are three types of Wine Experience Day, it’s up to you to choose!  The little extra?  The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Days are valid for two people and include wine tasting and a full sit-down meal.
 
It’s a Father’s Day gift that he’ll be sure to remember and one that’s sure to please!

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Learning how to de-bud vines in Saint-Emilion


May and June are very busy months in the vineyard.  Everything grows very quickly, and it’s a daily battle to keep on top of things.  To better understand first hand, we spent a day with the winemaker at Château Coutet for a Discovery Experience Day.  These hands-on wine experience days are designed to get involved in the work at the winery, and learn about all the work in the vineyard by the winemaker to produce the best grapes possible come harvest time.
Adrien, one of the owners and winemakers at the winery, welcomed us with a coffee and croissant.  Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey win expert, introduced us to the programme of this great day that we would spend together in this beautiful Bordeaux winery.
 
We listened attentively as Adrien presented the history of his family’s tenure of the vineyards and winery at Château Coutet, which goes back over 400 years.  He is a very passionate winemaker, full of unusual and interesting stories regarding the region and his winery.
 
We headed out for a walk through the different terroir of the winery to better understand this prestigious wine appellation and the different grape varietals grown at Château Coutet, each with their own distinctive leaf. 
 
Adopt a vine in Bordeaux
For example, cabernet franc leaves close at the top to create a hole, whereas the malbec leaves are open with a u-shape at the top.
 
Wine experience in Saint-Emilion
At the top of the hill, we admired the magnificent view over the Dordogne valley, and started to learn about the work in the vineyard from pruning through to the work currently being carried out.  It’s a complicated job!
 
Learn the winemaker job during a day
The Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located close to where we were, also on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, one of the best vineyards of the appellation.  We each found our adopted vines thanks to a slate nameplate that had been put in front.  We took a few minutes to take some photographs of our vines and the surrounding rolling vineyards.
 
Wine gift for wine lover
We then passed by the vineyard where the grapes are grown for the wonderful Demoiselle wine that we had the chance to taste at lunchtime.  It was then time to get down to some work, and see what being a winemaker is really like!  At the moment, the vines need to be de-budded to keep just the branches that are best positioned on the vines and those that will produce the fruit for the coming harvest.   It’s a long and difficult job, but one that is very important.
 
Wine experience in Saint-Emilion with Gourmet Odyssey
Back on the lawn in front of the château, we enjoyed a well earned aperitif of a lovely white wine made by Adrien’s cousin in the Entre-Deux-Mers wine-growing region, the Vertige wine from Château Le Grand Verdus.  We then sat down for lunch and continued the tasting with wines from the winery.  The 2020 Château Coutet was paired with the foie-gras starter, followed by the 2018 Demoiselles with the duck main course.  There is a complexity and length to this wine that admirably represents some of the mythical Saint-Emilion wines, and it’s one that will only get better with time.
 
Be a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey
After lunch, Adrien talked about the benefits and difficulties in nurturing the vines organically.  He also explained the work left to do in the vineyard between and now and the harvest, of which we’ll learn more about during the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days.
 
Original gift for a wine lover
The day finished with a visit of the fermentation hall, which is one of the most rustic in Saint-Emilion, and the family cellar where the old vintage wines are stored, the oldest dating back to 1945!
 
Many thanks to Adrien for his passionate recounting of life at the winery and giving us a really interesting insight into his job as a winemaker.

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

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