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Château de Jonquières

Harvest Experience Day in the Languedoc


Harvest season is once again upon us, and last weekend we headed to the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region in the Languedoc for a Harvest Experience Day at Château de Jonquières.  The sun was shining and the grapes in perfect condition, so all was set for a great day.

 

Adopt-a-vine in the south of France and get involved in harvesting your grapes

 

After a quick introduction to the winery, region, and family history by Charlotte and Clément, the 32nd generation of winemakers at the winery, we made our way to the plot of Syrah vines that we were to harvest.  Charlotte explained which grapes to pick and how to pick them, and also showed us which grapes to leave behind so as to ensure that only the grapes that were fully ripe are used to make the wine.

 

A great present for wine lovers.  Get involved in the harvest of the grapes in the Languedoc

 

Clément then equipped us each with a bucket and pair of secateurs, and assigned us our rows.  We then started to pick the grapes, slowly at first as we checked that we had indeed understood Charlotte’s instructions.  But we soon got the hang of it, and the buckets started to quickly fill up.

 

Adopt-a-vine and pick grapes in the Terrasses du Larzac

 

The task was made that much easier thanks to the quality of grapes, which were in very good condition, and so needed very little sorting.  When in doubt whether any grapes were ripe enough, the best way to tell is to taste them, and we needed no encouragement to do so!  You can taste straight away whether the grapes are ripe, because they are deliciously sweet.  The unripe ones, even though they may at first look ripe, are too sharp.

 

Grape harvest experience gift for wine enthusiasts

 

Once we had filled our buckets we emptied them into some crates, which we then loaded onto the trailer behind the tractor.  We then took another crate and headed back to the rows to continue our harvest.

 

Organic harvest experience gift in the south of France

 

Having picked all the grapes in the plot of Syrah, we then followed their journey back to the chai.  We then emptied the crates into the de-stemming machine to separate the grapes from the stalks.

 

Participate in the grape harvest

 

The stalks are jettisoned from the machine and will be spread in the vineyards to return some nutrients to the soil.

 

The de-stemming machine in action

 

The grapes fall into the pump which transports them to the vat where they will start the transformation process into wine.

 

Grapes at harvest time

 

After the full morning’s programme, we made our way into the courtyard of the chateau, where Charlotte served us a lovely fresh glass of the 2020 Lansade white wine, a mineral wine that is a blend of 70% Chenin Blanc, and 30% Grenache Blanc.

 

Organic wine tasting experience gift in the south of France

 

We then sat down to a delicious lunch, prepared by a local caterer, starting with a starter of terrine de porc aveyronnais and taboulé, accompanied by the 2020 Lansade red, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.   We enjoyed the richer 2019 Baronnie red with the duck main course, the 2020 Baronnie white with the cheese platter, and finished with the 2020 White Label wine with the strawberry macaron dessert.

After lunch, we strolled through the village and vineyards to visit the plot where our adopted vines are located.  They were heavily laden with grapes, but they weren’t quite ripe enough for picking yet.  We each took a few minutes to locate our micro-plot of vines and take some souvenir photos!

 

Organic rent-a-vine gift and harvest experience

 

Harvesting isn’t just about picking grapes though!  Back in the chai, there is much to do, and that is where Clément spends most of his time during the harvest.  He explained the fermentation process and how he keeps the wine must in contact with the skins during the maceration process to extract the colour and tannins from the grape skin and pips.

 

The fermentation vats in the cellar

 

He showed us the mustimeter that he uses to analyse the sugar content of the juice that reduces during the fermentation process as the sugar is turned into alcohol.  He also explained the differences between making red, white, and rosé wines.

 

Analysing the grape juice at harvest time through the fermentation stage

 

We finished the day with a final tasting, first of the juice from the grapes we had picked that morning.  It was deliciously sweet and very enjoyable.  We then compared it to the juice from another vat of Syrah that had been picked earlier in the week and had already started to ferment, noting the difference in colour, smell and taste.

Many thanks to Charlotte and Clément for their warm hospitality, and to all of the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice wine-makers for their hard work and jovial humour throughout the day!  We’ll be back at Château de Jonquières next year for the Vinification Experience Days to discover the work that lies ahead to age, blend and bottle the wines.

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De-budding the vines in the Languedoc at Château de Jonquières


We spent last week-end in the sunny Languedoc for a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience Day at the magnificent Château de Jonquières.  This winery, in the heart of the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, is the latest addition to the adopt-a-vine partner wineries of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and the wine-makers Charlotte and Clément gave us a very warm welcome.

 

Rent a vine and discover how to make organic wine in the south of France

 

Charlotte got the day underway with a brief introduction to the region and the winery, which has been in her family for over 900 years.  Together with her husband, Clément, they represent the 32nd generation!

The aim of the Discovery Experience Day is to learn about all of the work in the vineyard to produce the best possible quality of grapes for the harvest.  As we were to learn, there is lots to do that keep the winemakers busy.

The first plot we came to was planted with Syrah.  Here Clément explained how they had been pruned using the cordon de royat method.  Pruning is the most important of the tasks in the vineyard as it gives structure to the vines to make them easier to manage, and it improves the quality of grapes by limiting the number of bunches that each vine produces.

 

Original gift experience for wine lover to learn about making wine

 

Clément also showed us another plot, planted with chenin, a grape varietal used to make the white wines, and Charlotte explained how they had cleared a plot of old cinsault vines and had planted cereal to replenish the soil before they will plant new vines next year.  They have also planted a hedge of different types of trees to improve the biodiversity of the vineyard, and to act as a natural barrier to frost.

All of the wines at Château de Jonquières are organically certified.  We learnt the differences between conventional, organic, and biodynamic farming techniques.

The vines were at the start of the rapid growth phase when we visited.  Despite the hard work to prune the vines and limit their growth, there are always a few extra buds and shoots that appear, and so need to be removed to concentrate the plants energy on the fruit-bearing branches.  This is known as de-budding, and was the job we were tasked with for the morning.  Clément explained which ones to remove, those that grow low down on the trunk, from the roots, or the spurs that have more than two shoots.

 

Work alongside the wine-maker to help create your own organic wine

 

So we then spread out among the rows, and had a go ourselves.  At first a little nervously, but with the coaching of Charlotte and Clément, we gained in confidence.  It’s more difficult than you think because there are always a few exceptions to the rule, notably for shoots that are interesting to keep not for this year, but for next year’s pruning to help keep the balance of the vines.

We then visited two other plots that have recently been replanted to better understand the importance of planning for the future.

 

Wine Tasting gift experience in an organic French château, Terrassed du Larzac, Languedoc

 

Back in the courtyard of the château, we gathered for a well-earned aperitif.  Charlotte treated us to the 2019 Lansade white wine, followed by the deliciously pale 2020 Lansade rosé.  We continued the tasting of the wines over lunch, starting with the 2019 Terrasses du Larzac Lansade red, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, which we enjoyed with the trio of starters, a terrine de délices de porc aveyronnais, taboulé, and gazpacho.  The main course was a succulent royal de bœuf, which had been slowly cooked for 72 hours at a low temperature, which paired fantastically with the 2018 Terrasses du Larzac Baronnie red.  Charlotte and Clément served the 2019 Baronnie white with the cantal, chèvre, and bleu d'auvergne cheeses, and we ended lunch with the 2020 white label red wine which accompanied the dessert.

After lunch we walked through the village to the vineyard that is home to the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines, a vineyard of 80 year old carignan vines that were planted by Charlotte’s great grandmother.  We took a few minutes to find our adopted vines and admire the works of art that they each are.  Some even started to de-bud them with our new found skills learned in the morning!

 

Adopt a row of oragnic vines in the south of France and make your own personalised bottles of wine

 

Clément then explained all of the work that will be done between now and the time of the harvest.  The next stage will be the flowering that should happen in the next couple of weeks.

Back at the winery, we finished the day with a quick look at the chai to see where the grapes will be put into the vats and be transformed into wine.  We’ll be spending more time here during the Harvest Experience Days after the summer and the Vinification Experience Days next year.

 

Organic winery tour with the winemaker, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc, southern France

 

Many thanks to Charlotte and Clément for making it such an interesting and informative day.  We can’t wait to come back again!

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Make your own organic wine in the Terrasses du Larzac vineyards of southern France


We’re delighted to add a new partner winery in the Languedoc region of the south of France. You can now adopt your own organic vines in the beautiful Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region as Château de Jonquières joins the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience!

The magnificent Château de Jonquières is one of the oldest family-run wineries in the Languedoc, and has been in the same family for over 900 years!  Charlotte and Clément de Béarn, the winery’s 32nd generation of winemakers, took over the running of the vineyard and wine-making operation at Château de Jonquières in 2014 from Charlotte’s parents, and continue to strive to make the best possible organic wines from the different vineyard plots that surround the listed château.  It’s the perfect place, with the perfect hosts, to learn more about all of the hard work and skill that goes into making great organic wines.

We got together with Charlotte and Clément to prepare this profile that we share with you so that you too can get to know our new partner winemakers.

New adopt-a-vine experience in the Terrasses du Larzac

Charlotte and Clément, how long have you been wine-makers?

Charlotte : I grew up here in Jonquières and then studied business in Paris, Ireland, Athens, Reims and then closer to home in Pezenas for the wine-making studies.

Clément : I grew up in Montpellier, where I also studied, before working in Marseille, Lyon and Sydney.
After a summer working together to manage the table d’hôte at Château de Jonquières, we decided to take over the wine-making operations at the age of 24, just after our studies ended. When we decided to do so, Clément had never stepped a foot into a vineyard, and it was less than two years that we had been together. When we announced our intentions to my parents, they were very pleasantly surprised and accompanied us as we set out on our journey, whilst remaining very flexible and letting us know that we would always back track if needed.

Looking back, we don’t regret for one second having started so young.  We were full of energy, even if we were definitely a little naïve!

What has been your journey since you took over the winery?  

We took over from Charlotte’s parents in 2014 by buying the vineyards, buildings, material, and stock. We live with our two daughters in the old estate manager’s quarters of the château. We’re completely independent of Charlotte’s parents, but all 6 of us live in the same place, together with the vines, our vegetable patch and chicken coup.

We became organically certified and produce 30 000 bottles or red, white, and rosé wines, which we sell to wine-merchants, restaurants, private customers and export.

We have introduced commented guides for the château and its history, the cellar and wine tastings. We also offer an ephemeral bistrot each summer for the last 4 years in the courtyard, and organise a concert or play every two years. We have also taken some bookings for corporate seminars.

What is your best memory so far concerning the winery?

We are already very fortunate to have a job that is varied and hands-on, where we don’t notice the time fly by. We’ve also successfully managed to create an environment that allows us to live independently, and to welcome our visitors and clients to the winery.

But our proudest moment is the first harvest from the plot of Grenache blanc that we planted in 2017.  A fantastic moment with our baby vines!

What are your principal projects or challenges for 2021?

We’re looking to further develop the White Label cuvée, a wine that is completely off the charts that we launched on a small scale two years ago. It’s a wine made using 100% Carignan grapes that were planted by my great-grandmother 80 years ago.  The wine is then aged in oak “demi-muid” 500 litre barrels, a type of large barrel that was originally used to transport wine. Like a vinyl record that is pressed in a very small number of copies, the White Label, is for the moment a very limited series wine.

We also have plans to replant a vineyard using massally selected vines, taking cuttings from our best vines to transmit their genes, rather than using cloned vines. We’ll use our older vines that are more than 40 years old, because they have a richer genetic make-up.  It will enable our vines to be hardier and to redevelop some of the characteristics that have been lost little by little with the use of cloned wines.  For example we’re hoping they’ll benefit from maturing more slowly, and being more resistant to coulure during the flowering period.

There are also a few challenges to contend with.  After two years with harvests 40% less than usual, we worry about the changing climate and what impact that will have.  We’re also worried about wine sales in light of the Covid-19 situation and the international market which is struggling.  But we’ll get through it, adapt, and continue to refine our wines to try and express who we are through them.

A question that our clients often ask. What do winemakers do when they have a little time to themselves?

Clément : I like to cook. Bread, cakes, bœuf bourguignon, and other dishes that I like to pair with wines that I’ve discovered in other regions during my travels!

Charlotte : I started jogging a year ago.  I’ve done my first trail and want to do more!

Learn more about adopting vines at Château de Jonquières

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