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Harvesting the grapes in Burgundy


We welcomed some of the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers to Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy to participate in the Harvest Experience Days on the very warm days of the 9th and 10th September.

Adopt-a-vine and harvest your own grapes at an organic vineyard in France

After the introduction to the winery and a brief history of wine-making in Burgundy, we headed out into the Clos des Cornières and Crays vineyards, the two plots where the adopted vines are located.  We met up with our vines and took a few souvenir pictures to immortalise the moment!

We then went to the Park corner of the Clos des Cornières vineyard where we valiantly harvested the ripe and generous grapes that this great year has provided.  After listening intently to the instructions as to how harvest the grapes, and which bunches to cut, we spread out among the rows to start picking.

Harvest your own grape gift in France

The 2023 vintage has turned out to be exceptional in terms of quantity and the size of the grapes.  There were just a few bunches that we had to sort that had either been attacked by mildew or had some grapes that had been dried out by the sun.

We put the good grapes into crates, and once full, we took them back to the beginning of the row, exchanging it for an empty one!

Organic Wine Experience Gift

The time flew by, and we after a couple of fun and productive hours we had amassed quite a harvest, especially impressive considering the hot temperature!

After a refreshing glass of water, we savoured the tasting of the 2018 Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières white wine, accompanied by the delicious Burgundy gougères.

Organic wine tasting session with the winemaker

Lunch was served outside in the shade of the trees.  A mushroom mousse and poached egg starter, paired with a 2020 aligoté, then a veal confit and risotto, served with the 2021 Clos des Cornières, before finishing with a deliciously velvety raspberry dessert, accompanied by the Santenay Premier Cru Gravières red wine.

The siesta was replaced by a visit to the hall where the grapes we harvested were sent.  Here we sorted them and separated the grapes from the stems, and followed their gentle journey into the vat, thanks to Madame Giraffe.  The whole process has been designed to keep the grapes as intact as possible all the way.

Participate in the grape harvest in Burgundy

From the vineyard to the vat, great care is taken of the harvest to limit any premature maceration and to keep the fruit fresh.

Grape Harvest Experience Gift

We finished the day by learning how the sugar is transformed into sugar during fermentation, and the colour and tannins extracted during the maceration phase. The indigenous yeast cells that are naturally present on the skin of the grapes are used for the fermentation, and they will start the process by themselves if the temperature is right.  The fermentation phase lasts about 10 days.

The winery then keeps the wine in contact with the skin through pigeage or pumping over, in order to extract the colour and the tannins that will give the wine structure.  This will be done every day for around 3 weeks, and then the wine will be put into oak barrels to start the ageing process.

Some of you will come back in spring 2024 to learn more about the decisive and delicate period of vinification and ageing.

The day drew to a close.  We were very happy to have shared such a happy and instructive day in the true tradition of Burgundy harvests!

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Get involved in the grape harvest in an organic French vineyard.


The harvest is the crucial time of year when the winemaker’s work throughout the year comes to fruition.

The date of the harvest depends on many factors; the weather, the grape varietal, the type of wine, but it fundamentally comes down to the maturity of the grapes, and finding that perfect balance between sugar and acidity.  The winemaker will then choose the optimum moment to harvest the grapes and make the wine to the desired taste.

Gourmet Odyssey offers Harvest Experience Days where you can get involved in the harvest at one of our 6 organic partner wineries.  The aim is to participate in and learn from the winemaker about the process to harvest the grapes through to putting them in the fermentation tanks.

Armed with a pair of secateurs and a bucket, the winemaker will show you how to cut the bunches and to select the best grapes.  Once you’ve finished the harvest, you’ll follow their journey back to the chai.

Harvest you own french vines

You’ll also enjoy a wine tasting session, because after the effort, the just reward!  And then you will sit down to the harvesters’ lunch, accompanied by a selection of wines, where you can talk with the winemakers and learn more about how they work organically and the challenges in doing so.  It’s a very privileged moment!

Then discover the work in the cellar during harvest time.  You’ll get involved in sorting the grapes and putting them into the vats, where you’ll learn about the fermentation process.  The day will be over before you know it, but you’ll be much wiser about all of the work and effort that goes into harvesting and making wine.

Perfect original gift for a wine lover

The little extra? Each Harvest Experience Day is valid for two people!  And what’s more, when you buy a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, you also have some adopted vines included that you’ll get to meet when you go to the winery for the harvest.  You’ll follow the making of your wine, and will receive a bottle of wine for each adopted vine, using the grapes that you have helped to harvest.  So, are you ready to meet up for the harvest?

Discover more about the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

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A day spent with the winemakers to learn about their work in the vineyard


We spent an excellent Discovery Experience Day at Château Cohola in the Côtes du Rhône village of Sablet.  Accompanied by the winemakers, Cheli and Jérôme Busato, we learnt a lot about their efforts in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes, and we’ll be sure to better appreciate the bottles of wine that we open from now on!

Adaopt a vin in France

After the introductions to the winery, the winemakers, and the region’s wines, we headed straight out into the vineyard.  Our first stop was to visit our adopted vines!  Thanks to a small blackboard, we were able to find and introduce ourselves to our micro-plots of vines and take a few souvenir photos.

Cheli and Jérôme explained the work that they had carried out in winter and the start of spring to prune and de-bud the vines in order to reduce the quantity of grapes produced by each vine with the aim of improving the quality.

Original gift for a wine lover

The winery is made up of 15 terraced vineyards, and Jérôme and Cheli showed us the different grape varietals and pruning methods that they use.  The vines had grown lots over the past few weeks, and we stopped in front of a plot of staked vines.

Next to each vine was a large wooden stake, or échalas, to which the vine was attached to help support the weight of the grapes and leaves.  Our mission was to take the tops of the branches, divide them in two, and weave them together with those from the neighbouring vines to form arches. The arches make the vines more stable, protecting them from the winds that often blow hard in this region, and give some more shade to the grapes to protect them from the sun.

Participating to the elaboaration of an organic cuvée

Jérôme and Cheli showed us how to create the arches, and then we spread out between the rows to have a go ourselves.  At first, we were scared of damaging the branches, but we quickly learnt that they are stronger than you think, and we started to advance more quickly!

We continued our stroll through the vineyards until we reached the highest point of the estate, where we stopped to admire the wonderful view overlooking the village of Sablet and the plains of the Rhone Valley below.  Jérôme enlightened us as to how they work organically and the challenges of doing so, and he explained the work that remains to be done between now and the harvest.

Discover the winemaker job

Aperitif time had arrived, and so we made our way down to the village and met up in a local restaurant for a nice fresh glass of 2022 Sablet rosé from the winery which has the peculiarity of being a blend of press and bled rosé wines.

With the aubergine papeton starter, Cheli served us their 2022 Sablet Cuvée Fruit, a light and fruity red wine that she had made specially for drinking chilled. Absolutely fantastic!  With the chicken Provencal main course, we tasted the 2019 vintage of the Sablet wine that has been chosen for the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

Participate in the summer work in an organic french vineyard

Cheli and Jérôme are also beekeepers, and so with the goat’s cheese, they honoured us by serving squares of honeycomb.  An unforgettable experience, accompanied by the excellent 2022 Sablet white wine.  And with the home-made cherry clafoutis dessert, we tasted the powerful TBF wine that had been aged in wood, clay, and steel cotenants.

Perfect gift idea for wine lover

After lunch, we went to the chai.  Jérôme showed us where the grapes will be received at harvest time and gave us a quick introduction to the work in ageing wine.  We’ll spend more time here in September during the Harvest Experience Day and in spring for the Vinification Experience Day.

Many thanks to Cheli and Jérôme for this fascinating day spent in this wonderfully relaxing spot. 

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Learn from the winemaker about the work in the vineyard to nurture organic grapes in Burgundy


Since March, we have welcomed groups of wine lovers to Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay for the Discovery Experience Days.  These hands-on Wine Experience Days aim to better understand the work of the winemaker in the vineyard to produce the best quality grapes for harvesting.

Wine Discovery Experience in Burgundy

After the welcome and briefing of the day’s programme, Jean-François Chapelle recounted the history of his family, his winery, and of Burgundy wines.

We then set out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines, whisper them a few sweet words, and take some photographs to immortalise the moment!

Adopt a vine with Gourmet Odyssey

We were joined by Jean-François’ son, Simon, who has been managing the vines and vinification process since 2021.  Jean-François is progressively taking his retirement and passing on the reigns to Simon.

Simon explained the whole vegetative life cycle from pruning through to the harvest, and we quickly learnt that the work carried out in the vineyard demands lots of manual effort.

Pruning is done between January and April, before the branches are arced and attached to the bottom training wire to delay the moment when the buds burst, with the aim of reducing the risk of being impacted by any frosts.  The participants of the Discovery Experience days in March were able to witness the complexity of pruning!

Elaborate your own organic wine in France

The buds burst in the second half of April, and the vines started to grow the fruit-bearing branches for this new season.

In May, the main job was de-budding the vines, which involves removing any double shoots and unwanted branches to limit the quantity of grapes that each vine can produce.  It’s a job that demands dexterity and some thought, as the participants of the May Discovery Experience Day found out by de-budding some vines for themselves.  There is always the fear of damaging the vines or choosing the wrong branch to remove, but it’s only by doing that you really learn.

Discover the winemaker job during a day

The branches grew rapidly in May, and so we had to return to each vineyard plot to raise the training wires twice, finishing by trimming the tops of the vines to stop the branches from becoming too intertwined.  Raising the training wires was the task we were set for the Discovery Experience Days in June and July.

Original gift for a wine lover

Domaine Chapelle has been adhering to the organic charter for 15 years now, working the soil mechanically and only using treatments permitted in organic agriculture.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to work they work organically at the vineyard and the challenges of doing so.

Learn all the work behind a bottle of wine

After these great mornings spent in the vineyard, we returned to the winery for a nice glass of fresh Santenay white wine, accompanied by the famous Burgundy gougères.  We then sat down to lunch with three food and wine parings: the fish terrine starter served with a Burgundy Aligoté, the Gaston Gérard chicken main course paired with the Clos des Cornières Santenay red wine, and the chocolate and blackcurrant dessert accompanied by a Santenay Premier Cru.

Discover how to make organic wine in Burgundy

Depending on the weather, in the afternoon, we went for a walk through the vineyards to see the different terroir and/or we visited the cellar to have a glimpse of what we’ll cover in much more detail during the Vinification Experience Days next spring.

But the next rendez-vous is to meet up for the Harvest Experience Days in September to harvest the grapes from our vines!

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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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Discover the art of blending wines


We spent a great Vinification Experience Day at Château de Jonquières, a magnificent family run winery in the Terrasses du Larzac wine growing region, and partner of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

The aim of this hands-on wine course is to learn about the winemaker’s work in the cellar from harvest time until the wine is bottled.

A participative wine course at Château de Jonquières to learn about ageing and blending wines

Charlotte, the 32nd generation of winemaker from her family at the chateau, welcomed us with a coffee, and she introduced us to the history of the winery, her family, and the Terrasses du Larzac appellation.  Gaël, the Gourmet Odyssey oenologist, presented the day’s programme, and we were very happy to welcome back a couple from Ireland that had come for their third day with us.

We started in the fermentation hall to understand how the grape juice becomes wine.  Charlotte explained the fermentation and maceration phases, and the different methods used to make red, white, and rosé wines.  We also learnt all about racking wines and the role that yeast plays in the fermentation process.

The winemaker explains the work in the cellar

The group of participants was very curious, asking Charlotte lots of questions.  We learnt about the different containers used at the winery to age the wines, and the different impact that the concrete egg, stainless steel vats, and oak barrels have on them.  What better way to learn than by tasting!

We then tasted the latest carignan, mourvèdre and syrah wines individually to appreciate the distinct characteristics that each grape varietal has before Charlotte gave us a lesson on how to blend wines to better understand the possibilities open to the winemaker.

Wine blending workshop

Lunchtime quickly arrived, and we sat down to a delicious meal prepared by a local caterer.  On the menu were Mimosa eggs with beans and truffle oil, coq au vin de Granny Martine, and a dark chocolate dessert with cookies and a vanilla ganache.  To accompany these courses, we tasted 5 organic wines from the winery.

After lunch, we visited our adopted vines, and marvelled at the beauty of the plot of old carignan vines that were planted some 70 years ago by Charlotte grandmother.

Meeting our adopted vines

Back at the winery, Charlotte ended the day by describing in detail the steps taken to prepare the wine for bottling, and then how the bottles are sealed and labelled. 

Many thanks to Charlotte for giving us such a warm welcome, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm.  We can’t wait to taste the 2022 vintage once it has finished its ageing process!

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Wine making in Saint-Emilion, an art passed down from generation to generation


We headed to Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for a Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day.  This hands-on wine course enables wine lovers to spend the day with the winemaker and learn about all the work in the cellar to ferment, age and blend the wines before they are ready for bottling.

Benoît, the Gouret Odyssey wine expert, introduced us to the day while we enjoyed a coffee and croissant.  Then Matthieu, who represents the 13th generation of winemaker at the winery, presented Château Coutet and its diversity of terroirs and grape varietals.  It’s an exceptional place where the vines, trees, and family have been living together in perfect harmony for over 400 years.

In the vinification hall, Matthieu explained the fermentation phases, something that those of us who had already participated in the Harvest Experience Day had touched upon last September.  Matthieu proved to be someone both very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject.

Organic wine-making experience gift Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We then went through to the barrel room, where the wine is laid to rest and age in oak barrels once the fermentation has finished.  Traditionally, wines are aged in oak barrels in Bordeaux.  At Château Coutet, the aim is to limit the amount of wood that can be tasted in the wine, so the percentage of new barrels used is fairly low.

Cellar tour and visit gift in an orgnaic Saint-Emilion winery

Back in the fermentation hall, Benoît then initiated us to the art of wine tasting, starting with a reminder of the basics, so that we were all talking the same wine language.  We blind tasted a first series of wines, a very interesting exercise that enables us to better concentrate on the aromas and tastes to analyse the wines by avoiding being influenced by labels and any preconceived ideas that go with them.

Organic wine tasting experience gift in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We continued with another blind tasting of the four grape varietals grown at the winery.  This enabled us to identify the characteristics of each before having a go at blending them together in different proportions to create our own wines like real Saint-Emilion wine-makers!

Wine blending gift in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

The morning flew by and before we knew it, it was time to sit down to lunch.  We continued the wine tasting with the Vertige white wine made by a cousin of the family at Château Grand Verdus, which accompanied the Landais salad for the starter.   The 2020 Château Coutet paired wonderfully with the beef brochette main course, ending with the magnificent 2018 Demoiselles wine, which has a long finish and complexity to it that matches the best of the Saint-Emilion wines.

After lunch, we made the most of the sun’s return to go and visit our adopted vines up on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, surrounded by Château Coutet’s prestigious neighbours.  We each found our vines thanks to a personalised slate that had been put out.  We marvelled at the wonderful view, and took some photos in the hope of winning a magnum of wine in the “My Vine” photo competition.

Organic rent-a-vine gift experience in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We finished the day with a visit to the cellar where the bottles are stored.  Matthieu explained how the wine is bottled and labelled, the last remaining steps before the wine is ready to be sold and tasted.

Many thanks to Matthieu for his warm welcome, and to all the participants for this great day, that was as enjoyable as always.

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A Wine-Making Experience Day in the Cellar


The work in the cellar is the final phase in the cycle of wine-making, transforming the grapes into wine, and closely monitoring the wines through the fermentation and ageing phases until the wine is finally ready for bottling.  These were the topics we were to cover during the Vinification Experience Day with Stéphane and Céline, the winemakers at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace.

After the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines and better appreciate the diverse terroir of the Alsace wine-growing region.  It is after all the starting point for making wine.

Adopt a vine in France

We took some photos with our adopted vines, and listened to Céline as she explained the work of the moment in the vineyard to prune and attach the branches that will produce this year’s fruit-bearing canes. This is probably the most fundamental way in which the winemaker can set the tone for the style of wine that they are trying to produce.  Céline pointed out the number of nodes left on each branch and the smaller arc of the vines compared to the majority of the neighbouring vineyard plots.  As we could see, Domaine Stentz-Buecher voluntarily reduces the number of fruit-bearing branches that each vine will produce, thus keeping the yield of grapes lower per vine.  This ensures grapes of a higher quality, and is one of the main reasons why their wines are more concentrated and aromatic than your average Alsace wine. 

Discover the winemaker job during a day in Alsace

We then followed the journey that the grapes had taken at harvest time back to the winery, where Stéphane explained the different ways that the red and white grapes are received.  Some of us had seen this first hand during the Harvest Experience Day last year. The white grapes pass through the press to extract the juice and separate it from the skin, stems and pips, whereas the red grapes are put whole into the vat to extract the colour and tannins from the skin during the maceration phase. 

Visit a amazing vinyard in Alsace and make your own wine

We had a quick look at the barrel room where the pinot noir grapes are aged.  Alsace pinot noir is becoming more and more critically acclaimed, and starting with the 2022 vintage, has finally been accepted as one of the grape varietals allowed to be considered for Grand Cru status within the Hengst vineyard.

Be a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey

The white wines ferment and are aged in stainless steel vats or large oak casks.  Stéphane explained all that happens and how he keeps track of the wines through the fermentation process.  He then drew some of the 2022 Pinot Gris Rosenberg directly from the cask for us to taste what a wine is like that hasn’t yet finished.  It was still a little cloudy, tingled a little on the tongue, and hadn’t yet developed all of its aromatic potential, but it was great to have the chance to taste a wine at this stage.

Learn how to taste wine during a Vinification Experience Day

Céline had organised a blind wine tasting session for us.  Before starting, we learnt the key steps in wine tasting and how we use all of our senses when doing so.  There were three wines in the first series, and our challenge was to describe what we thought of each wine and to name the aromas that we could identify.  It’s not always so easy to put words to our sensations!  We then tried to determine what the three different wines were.  Different grape varietals, different ages ...?  Lots of guesses were made, none of them correct!  They were in fact all the same grape varietal, riesling.  The difference was the type of soil.  The first wine was the Riesling Tradition which is made from grapes grown mainly down on the alluvial plain.  The next was the Riesling Ortel, from a clay limestone marl soil  , and the third wine the Riesling Steingrubler Grand Cru from a sandy clay marl soil on top of limestone and granite .  As we had noted, these three different terroirs produce greatly different wines in taste, aroma, and complexity, helping to also explain the different levels of wine in the Alsace hierarchy of AOC wines.
There were two wines in the next series.  This time they were of different grape varietals to show the difference between the more floral pinot blanc and the more honeyed and smoky pinot gris.

We continued the wine tasting over lunch of traditional Alsace specialities.  Kouglof, choucroute, local cheeses, and black forest gateau, were enjoyed with the 2018 Who Am I blend of pinot blanc, pinot gr is and riesling, the 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg, and the 2019 Pinot Noir Tradition.

After lunch we returned to the cellar to learn about the work for bottling and labelling.  Stéphane showed us the filters used to clarify the wines and remove the last of the lees.  We learnt the different choices available for corks and their alternatives, and saw the machines used for bottling and labelling.

Adopt some vines with Gourmet Odyssey

Séphane also explained how the Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine is made, and he showed us the rotating crate used to collect all of the deposit in the neck of the bottles.

The day finished in the wine library  , where a selection of wines are further aged in the bottles before being sold as old vintage wines. It was a very informative day, and we can’t wait to taste our 2022 Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine again when it is ready sometime around the end of the year!

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Wine blending Experience Day in the Cotes du Rhone


We spent a fascinating day last Saturday in the Cotes du Rhone wine growing region at Château Cohola.  We were in Sablet to discover all of the work in the cellar from the harvest through to the time when the wine is ready for bottling and labelling.

The day started with a quick visit to the vineyard to meet our adopted vines and take a few photos to immortalise the moment!  It was also a good occasion to remember that the wine made can only be as good as the grapes grown in the vineyard.  With the idyllic location of the vines, high up on the terrace, overlooking the Rhone Valley plain below, our vines certainly looked to be very happy!

Gift idea for a wine lover

We then headed to the chai, following the journey that the grapes take at harvest time.  Quentin and Jeff from Château Cohola explained how the grapes go through the de-stemming machine to remove the grapes from the stalks and are then put into vats to start the fermentation process.

There are two fermentation processes that take place.  The first transforms the sugar from the grapes into alcohol using the yeast that is found naturally in the picked grapes.  The second is the malolactic fermentation that changes the malic acid into lactic acid, softening the wines and giving them more depth.  Quentin also explained how the colour and tannins are extracted from the grape skins during the maceration phase.

Adopt a vine in Cote du Rhone, France

Once the fermentation has finished, the wines start the ageing period, and so we went through to the barrel room.  Most of the wine is aged in large 650 litre oak barrels, but some of the wine is also aged in stainless steel barrels, and earthenware jars.  Quentin explained the virtues of each, and the impact that they have on the wine.  We even got to taste some of the wine direct from the barrel.

Meet Winemakers during an entire day and discover their job

The syrah wine that was ageing in one of the stainless-steel vats needed to be racked to separate the wine from the lees.  Jeff had set up the pump and tubes to do so, and so we watched as he drew off the wine and pumped it into a second stainless steel barrel.

Unique wine experience with Gourmet Odyssey

Once the first barrel was empty, Jeff opened it, so that we could take a look at the lees, and some of us even tasted them!

Perfect gift for a wine experience in France

We then headed to the tasting room, where Mark explained the principles of wine tasting, and how to use all our senses to taste and compare the different wines that had been prepared for us.  We started by blind tasting two wines, and then taking the time to compare their characteristics before having the difference between them revealed.

We then compared two different grenache syrah blends that Quentin prepared for us to see how a wine changes if it is dominated by grenache or syrah, before comparing the same wine that had been aged in a stainless-steel vat and one that had been aged in an oak barrel.  As we were to learn, there are many different options and decisions to take for the winemaker.

Exclusive wine tasting at Château Cohola

After all this wine tasting, we were starting to feel a little hungry, so the delicious lunch prepared by one of the local restaurants was very welcome.  For the aperitif, we tasted the 2021 Château Cohola Sablet rosé, following up with 2021 Cuvée Fruit with the caillette starter.  We paired the 2018 Château Cohola Sablet red with the main course of daube provençale, and the 2022 Château Cohola Sablet white without added sulphites with the goat’s cheese, and square of honeycomb from the winery’s bees.  The meal ended with a mirabelle tart, accompanied by the Château Cohola TBF red wine.

Learn how to make wine during a day

After lunch we returned to the winery to learn about the last stage in the wine-making process, covering topics such as bottling, labelling, and the different options available when choosing corks. 

Visit and discover a wine cellar with Gourmet Odyssey

And so the day drew to a close.  As we had also learnt during the Discovery Experience and Harvest Experience Days, winemaking is a wonderfully diverse profession, and we left invigorated by the passion that the team at Château Cohola exude.  We can’t wait to come back again!

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Top tips on how to best serve your wine


Your dinner party is approaching and it’s time to get out your best bottles of wine from the cellar to share with your guests.  But before tasting, there are a few tips to know to unlock the full potential of your wine and fully appreciate it.

Which wine glass to use?

A crucial choice, which glass for which wine? It’s not a simple question because there are more than 120 different types of wine glass to choose from.  Here are a few tips from Gourmet Odyssey to help you.

•    Which glass for your red wine?

The Bordeaux wine glass (or tulip glass) is a large and fairly tall glass, tapered and more flared at the bottom.  Bordeaux wines are often tannic and powerful, needing time to open up.  The tulip shape of the glass allows the wine to air and soften the tannins.

Wich glass for Brdeaux wines?

The Bourgogne wine glass is larger and a little more flared, allowing the wine aromas to become more concentrated, and the wine to be aired less.   Pinot Noir, the grape varietal used for Burgundy red wines, doesn’t generally need much airing, or else it loses some of its character.

Most adapted glasses for Burgundy

As a general rule for red wines, opt for curved glasses with a slightly closed rim that will help to accentuate the aromas.  They will work with most wines and so you won’t need to buy lots of different sets of wine glasses.

•    Which glass for your white wine?

Serve your white wine in a smaller glass than your red wine.  If your glass is too big, lighter and more easy drinking white wines will lose their intensity.  But the glass shouldn’t be too small, or all the aromas won’t be able to be liberated.  The main tip is to choose a conical shape, which will intensify the aromas and reveal the colour of the wine.  More complex and full bodied white wines, like those from Burgundy, need more space to develop.

The best glass to enjoy white wine

•    Which glass for your champagne?

The champagne flute is the most common glass for drinking champagne. It’s thin bowl limits the loss of bubbles. 

In wich glass should I drunk champagne?

For tasting a very good champagne or one that is very bubbly, it’s best to choose a tulip shaped champagne glass, which will allow you to better appreciate the aromas and subtleties.

Tulip glasses are most adapted for champagne tasting

We advise against using a traditional champagne coupe glass, which are flat and wide.  Despite their charm, they don’t give the best tasting experience as the bubbles and aromas quickly dissipate due to the shape.

•    Which is the best glass for all wines?

The INAO glass is the best glass to use if you had to choose just one!  Smaller than a tulip glass, but with the same shape, it is used by wine professionals for tasting sessions.  It is perfect for concentrating the aromas quickly due to its smaller size, and the rim that tightens at the top of the glass.  You can use it to taste white, rosé, red or sparkling wines with no problem. 

 

The best glass if you have to choose only one

Last tip for choosing your wine glass:

Pay attention to the thickness of the glass, as it will impact the temperature and the taste.  A glass that is too thick can quickly warm the wine or cause condensation to form.  Thinner glasses also give a nicer feeling on the lips.

What temperature to serve your wine at?

The second factor to take into account when tasting a good bottle is the temperature of the wine.  The temperature is very important because it will influence the sensation you feel on your palate, and varies depending on the type of wine.

•    At what temperature should you serve red wine?

If a red wine is served too cold, the tannins will lack smoothness.  Above 20°C, the taste of the alcohol takes over, and the wine becomes unbalanced.

To truly appreciate a red wine, it’s preferable to serve it a little on the cool side, bringing more lightness to the wine.  The right temperature for a red wine is somewhere around 14°C for a light and fresh wine, and 18°C for a more powerful wine.

•    At what temperature should you serve white wine?

If a white wine is served too warm, the acidity will be overemphasized on the palate.  Inversely, if it’s served too cold, we won’t be able to appreciate all its potential.

For white wines, they shouldn’t be served too cold, never below 8°C, or too warm, never above 13°C, so as to keep the acidity of the wine well balanced.

The livelier and drier the wine, it’s better to serve the wine slightly on the colder side, between 8 and 11°C.  For more full bodied white wines, you can serve them between 11 and 13°C.  It’s also worth noting that for white wines, it’s better to fill the glass a maximum of a third full and to serve again if needed to keep the wine cooler.

•    At what temperature should you serve champagne?

The ideal temperature for serving champagne is between 7 and 8°C.  Champagne warms quite quickly in the glass, and so should be drunk between 8 and 10 °C, the ideal temperature for appreciating all of the aromas.

If your champagne is drunk too cold, you won’t be able to detect all of the aromas, and if it’s too warm, the bubbles will seem less lively.

Should you air your wine?

A common misconception is that old wines should be carafed to air them.  In fact, this is better advice for young wines, particularly red wines.  Young white wines could also benefit from being aired.  Airing allows the wines to open up and dissipate unpleasant aromas or tastes.  

However, be careful with older vintage wines, as they are more fragile and should be handled with care.  They should be tasted first to determine if they need a little airing or not.

To air a wine, you have the choice of opening it several hours before drinking, or to pour the wine into a carafe.

You now know a few more tips on how to get the best out of your wines.  Over to you to dazzle your guests! 

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Last minute Christmas gifts for wine lovers


Christmas is almost upon us and we know that there are a few of you who are behind on your Christmas present shopping!  If you’re looking for an original wine related Christmas gift, choose a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience and you’re sure to make someone very happy!

Adopt some organic vines for a wine-making year and your original Christmas gift will see them following the making of their own wine.  At the end of the experience that will receive their own personalised bottles of wine, made using the grapes from their adopted vines.

Oringal gift idea for a wine lover with Gourmet Odyssey

If you would like to go further, you can also add one or more Wine Experience Days at the winery to meet the wine-maker and get involved in making the wine!

We offer 3 types of Wine Experience Day. The Discovery Experience Day allows you to participate in working in the vineyard and learning about the challenges of cultivating the vines organically.  During the Harvest Experience Day you can pick the grapes and get involved in the harvest!  And if you are more interested in the work in the cellar, sign up for a Vinification Experience Day to understand the choices the wine-maker makes, and to taste wines that are still in the ageing process.

Last minute gift idea for all wine lovers by adopting vines

All of the days are participative.  They are valid for two people and include wine tasting and lunch.  The wine-maker will accompany you all day from 09:30 to 16:00. 

To receive the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Welcome packs in time for Christmas, order them by the 20th December outside of France, and by the 21st December in France.

 

Gourmet Odyssey wine experience for Christmas

Don’t panic for last minute Christmas gifts! If you order after these dates and before 16:00 on the 24th December French time, we will send you the vine adoption certificate by email to slip under the Christmas tree!

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What Christmas gift to give a wine lover?


Give some bottles of wine, a wine subscription, or corkscrew to a wine lover for Christmas?  Not bad, but here’s a more original Christmas wine gift idea…  Adopt some vines in an organic award-winning French vineyard and you can be sure that you’ll be giving a great Christmas present that will be remembered for years to come!
 
Participate in the elaboration of your own wine with Gourmet Odyssey
Gourmet Odyssey enables you to get behind the scenes for a wine-making year and discover all the hard work and skill that goes into making wine.  Choose one of our organic partner vineyards located in the main wine-growing regions of France, adopt your vines, and let the adventure begin.
 
Meet your own wine and the winemaker and learn how to make wine
 
We’ll send your vine adoption certificate and welcome pack to begin the experience.  Follow the making of your wine via the newsletters and receive your bottles of wine made using the grapes from your adopted vines.  You even get to choose the name of your wine for your personalised bottles!  You can also choose to include up to three wine experience days where you get to visit the winery, spend the day with the winemaker, and get involved in the work in the vineyard and cellar.
 
What makes the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience so special?

  •  All of the wineries are organically certified and carefully chosen for the quality of their wines
  • The Wine Experience days last the whole day from 09:30 to 16:00, are valid for two people, and include lunch and wine-tasting
  • It’s the winemakers themselves that welcome you to the winery to share their passion during the day, accompanied by a Gourmet Odyssey wine expert
  • You have the choice of up to three Wine Experience days at the winery:
The Discovery Experience Day to learn about all the work in the vineyard to produce the best grapes and the challenges of working organically
The Harvest Experience Day to participate in the harvest of the grapes and discover the work in the cellar at harvest time to put the grapes into the vats
The Vinification Experience Day to better appreciate the winemakers’ choices in ageing, blending, and preparing the wines for bottling
The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is a unique and convivial Christmas present that is informative, fun, and sure to please all wine lovers! 
 
But don’t just take our word for it.  Here is some feedback from some of our customers:
 
Huge thanks for this harvest day at Chateau Cohola. Cyril and I really enjoyed ourselves. Cheli and Jerome were adorable and passionate about what they do. The organisation was top and fun thanks to Maeliss and Mark. The wine was very good and there was a really good vibe. Many thanks again! (Harvest Experience Day at Château Cohola, September 2022)
Elodie & Cyril
 
Thanks for sharing your passion for wine at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  The Vinification Experience Day with the adoption of your own vines is unique and original.  I spent a really interesting day with people who really love wine.  The day is very well organised with the discovery of our adopted vines, and the explanations from Stéphane in the cellar as to how he makes the wine.  I also appreciated the wine-tasting lesson to learn how to taste the wines and recognise the different types of aromas.
Thank you for this excellent day that I’ll remember fondly for a long time to come. (Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher, March 2022)
Laurent
 
We really appreciated and loved this day in the vineyard at Château de la Bonnelière.  It was absolutely fascinating, we were warmly welcomed by everyone, and the wine tasting and meal were both excellent too.
I got to realise how much technical knowledge is required, and also the artistry and continual attention that each vine needs.  Thank you so much! (Discovery Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière, June 2022)
Anne

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A great gift for a wine lover to get involved in the grape harvest in the Cotes du Rhone


A look back to the Harvest Experience Day at Château Cohola in the Rhone Valley on Saturday 17th September.  Joined by our apprentice winemakers, we helped Jérôme and Chéli, the wine-making couple at Château Cohola with the harvest.  The aim of this hands-on wine experience day is to accompany the winemakers throughout the day and follow the grapes from the vines until they arrive in the vat.  It’s a fun way for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience participants to understand the work of the winemaker during the busy harvest period.
Harvest day with gourmet odyssey
We started the morning with a coffee and brioche at Château Cohola, marvelling at the superb view down over the vines and the Rhone Valley.  Mark, Gourmet Odyssey’s founder, explained the programme for the day, and then Jérôme and Cheli introduced us to their winery, the winegrowing region of the Côtes du Rhône and Sablet, and talked a little about the organic methods they use and other more unusual techniques, such as playing music twice a day to the vines to help them resist disease.  A surprising method, but one that they believe has made a differenc over the last 4 years.
 
Wine lover gift in cotes du rhone
Before getting down to harvesting, we made our way to one of the lower terraces to meet our adopt-a-vines.  It was a fun moment, and we each took some photos with our adopted vines.
 
Wine experience day with gourlet odyssey
We then followed the winemakers to a plot of vines just a little higher up the hill, and the real work was about to get underway.  We each took possession of our harvesting tools of a bucket and pair of secateurs.  Before starting, Cheli and Jérome showed us how to cut the bunches of grapes without injuring ourselves or our partner.
 
adopt a vine in cote du rhone
We then paired up, and spread out among the rows, with one pair of harvesters at each end of the row, who would eventually meet up somewhere in the middle.  The buckets filled quickly, and we then emptied them into crates positioned every two metres along the row.
We rapidly perfected the cutting action, and the crates were soon full.
 
discover how to harvest with gourmet odyssey
Jérôme then passed down the central row, pulling a trailer behind his quad.  A few volunteers from our group, helped load the crates onto the trailer.  It was an energetic task as the crates were fairly heavy, but the team was very efficient. We then cleaned our hands and drank some cold water to refresh ourselves whilst Jérôme and Cheli congratulated us on a job well done.
 
Harvesting of organic vines at chateau cohola
It was a busy morning and we had managed to harvest all of the grapes from the plot of Syrah that had been set aside for us.  To capture the moment, we took a photo to celebrate the end of the harvest.
 
Adopt your own vines with gourmet odyssey
We then went down into the village of Sablet, where Château Cohola’s cellar is located, taking our precious harvest with us.  Lunch was fast approaching, so Cheli served us a glass of the 2021 Château Cohola white wine, a well-earned aperitif after our morning’s work.
 
Organic wine tasting at chateau cohola
After we had finished our glass, we sat down to a delicious lunch prepared by a caterer from the village.  And of course, we also tasted some of the other organic wines from Château Cohola.  Jérôme served us the 2021 Château Cohola rosé to accompany the lovely country pâté starter.
We compared two very different red wines over the main course.  The 2021 Cuvée Fruit Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet, a red wine that is to be drunk slightly chilled, and then the 2018 Château Cohola Sans Soufre Ajouté Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet with no added sulphites.  Two distinct styles, but both of which paired well with the chicken and wild mushroom fricassee. A delight for our taste buds!
Jérôme then served us some of the honey that he produces, cutting the honeycomb into squares before us.  The honey was served with some local goat’s cheese and a glass of the 2018 Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet red wine.  We finished the meal with a slice of pear tart, accompanied by another glass of the wine that we had each preferred.  It was a great moment shared, during which time we asked lots of questions to Jérôme and Cheli.
 
harvest day wat chateau coholo in cotes du rhone
After this generous lunch, we returned to the fermentation hall to put our grapes into the vat.  Jérôme explained the first stage of separating the grapes from the stems and showed us the machine that we would use.
We emptied the crates of grapes into the de-stemming machine.  Once the grapes had been separated, the machine crushes them
slightly to help release some of the juice.
 
Wine experience day with gourmet odyssey
At Château Cohola, some dry ice is added to the grapes to stop the juice from oxidising and the quality diminishing.  It also enables the temperature of the harvested grapes to be lowered, which delays the start of the fermentation process and will help improve the aromatic characteristics of the wine.  The grapes are then put directly into a vat or barrel to start the fermentation process.
 
Rent your own organic vines in cotes du rhone
We helped Jérôme clean all the material used, and once again, it was a great team effort!  We then tasted some juice that had been fermenting for a few days and compared this to the juice from the grapes that we had just picked.  We could all taste the difference and saw how it only takes a few days before the sugar in the grapes starts to transform into alcohol as the fermentation process begins.
 
Gift idea for all wine lovers with gourmet odyssey
Jérôme then explained all the rest of the work in the cellar during the harvest period to track and manage the evolution of each vat and barrel.  He told us about the different techniques used to extract the tannins and colour from the grape skins, and showed us the pigeage method, whereby the cap of skin that rises to the top, is pushed down into the juice.
 
harvest day in cote du rhone vineyard with gourmet odyssey
This thoroughly enjoyable day then came to an end, we said our farewells, and left with some bottles to replenish our wine cellars at home!

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Participate in harvesting the grapes in a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru vineyard


We spent another great couple of Harvest Experience Days in Saint-Emilion at Château Coutet.  We were warmly welcomed by Alain and Matthieu, the father and son wine-makers at this family run winery who taught us how to harvest the grapes as we followed their journey during the course of the day from the vines and into the vats.  As we were to learn, there is much more to harvesting than just picking grapes!

Gift for wine lover with Gourmet Odyssey

After the introductions, we headed straight out into the vineyard, climbing the hillside to reach the famed Saint-Emilion limestone plateau, where the best plots are located, including the Peycocut vineyard, home to the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines.  We took a few minutes to each find our micro-plot of vines, take a few photos and admire the lovely scenery of sloping vineyards, châteaux and the church spire of Saint-Emilion.

Adopt a vine with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

We then made our way to the plot of vines to be harvested.  Here we were each given a basket and pair of secateurs and listened to the instructions of which grapes to pick, which ones to leave, and how to cut the bunches safely without cutting our fingers!

 

In pairs, we spread out among the rows, and started to harvest the grapes!  The grapes this year were of excellent quality, so our job was made much easier.  There was very little to sort, and virtually all of the grapes were for picking. 

 

Experience day gift in Saint Emilion

Once our baskets were full, we emptied them into larger crates which were then taken back to the beginning of the row.  It’s important not to squash the grapes at this stage, and the crates ensure that they don’t get crushed from the weight of the grapes above them.

 

Harvest day with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

Once we had filled all of the crates, we loaded them onto the trailer to be taken back to the winery and placed in the shade.  We followed behind and stopped in the garden in front of the chateau for a well earned glass of wine!

 

Adopt a Vine for a winelover
 
We then sat down to a delicious lunch of salade vigneronne, guinea fowl with a morille and foie gras sauce, and chocolate praline dessert, enjoying the 2019 Château Coutet and 2018 Les Demoiselles Saint-Emilion Grand Cru wines at the same time . 

 

In the afternoon, our mission was to put our harvested grapes into a vat.  First we had to separate the grape berries from the stems.  This is normally done by a de-stemming machine, but at Château Coutet, the grapes from the best plots are done by hand, including the ones that we had picked.  In fours, we gathered around some tables and removed each of the grapes by hand, placing them in a separate basket, and throwing the stems away in a bin.  The stems will then be spread in the vineyards to return some nutrients to the soil.  It also gave us the opportunity to remove any dried-up grapes or leaves that might have inadvertently made their way into the baskets.

 

organic harvest experience with gourmet Odyssey

The full baskets of grape berries were then emptied into a large bucket, and we then lightly crushed them using a wooden post to break the skins and release some of the juice.  Theses grapes were then emptied into a vat, where they will begin the fermentation process in a couple of days time once the yeast cells naturally present on the grape skins come to life and start to transform the sugar into alcohol.

 

Wine experience gift in Saint Emilion

Alain and Matthieu showed us the de-stemming machine and sorting table used for the majority of the grapes at the winery, explaining how they work and how the grapes are then pumped into one of the vats.
We then learnt about the work during the fermentation and maceration phases to monitor the transformation of sugar into alcohol, and to extract the colour and tannins from the grape skins.  At Château Coutet the extraction is done mainly by drawing the juice from the bottom of the vat and pumping it back into the top to filter down through the cap of skin and pips that has been pushed to the surface by the carbon dioxide released during fermentation.

 

Follow a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey

Alain and Matthieu will be kept busy over the next 3 to four weeks tracking and managing each of the vats until the fermentation has finished and the wine is ready to be transferred to the barrels.

 

We look forward to learning more about this work, and the rest of the wine-making process to age, blend, and prepare the wine for bottling during the Vinification Experience Days next year.

 

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Harvester for a day in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region



We spent two great Harvest Experience Days on the 3rd and 10th September at Château de Jonquières, a magnificent family-run winery in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region of Languedoc in the south of France.  We were there with some clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience who had come to get involved in harvesting the grapes and learn about how the grapes are turned into wine during the fermentation and maceration phases.

Charlotte and Clément, the young wine-making couple, are the 32nd generation of winemakers at the winery, welcomed us in the courtyard of the château over coffee.  Smiles beamed from each of their faces, which maybe hid a little bit of stress that this crucial period of harvesting in the wine-making year inevitably brings!

Equipped with buckets and secateurs, Charlotte explained how to harvest the grapes.

After a quick explanation of the winery’s history, the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, a recap of the 2022 vintage so far, and an overview of the day’s agenda, we were equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs.  We then made our way through the vineyards to a nearby plot of Syrah vines.  It’s important to pick the grapes early in the morning to preserve their full potential.

As we walked to the vines, Clément followed by tractor, pulling a trailer into which we would delicately put our harvest.
We were taught how to pick the precious grapes without damaging them or harming ourselves!  Sometimes we had to remove some of the leaves in front of the bunches to be able to get to the grapes more easily.

Getting involved in picking the grapes

The harvest was generous and of great quality this year despite the very hot spring and summer.  The vines were able to adapt to the climate and responded well to the treatment and care of the winemakers throughout the year.  Some of our apprentice winemakers had learnt this first-hand during the Discovery Experience Days earlier in the year.
Once the buckets were full, we emptied them into the trailer.

We emptied our grapes into the trailer

 In didn’t take us long to realise that it’s a fairly difficult job.  The positions we find ourselves in to pick the grapes can be uncomfortable at times, some rows are more abundant than others, and some harvesters are quicker than others...  But the groups remained supportive of one another and we had lots of fun.  In just over two hours, we had harvested the plot and had become real harvesters!

We had a quick refreshment break until Charlotte informed us that Clément was already ready to put out harvest into the vat.

We didn’t have any time to lose, and so we brought our precious gaped back to the winery to put them into the vat, but we had one last little job to do before then.  We set about cleaning the buckets and secateurs with water so that they were nice and clean for the next day, and once again the team spirit shone through!

Cleaning the buckets

  Clément carefully positioned the crates of grapes in front of the chai to then put them into the de-stemming machine.

This is in some ways the first step in making wine, and involves separating the grapes from the stems and any leaves that may have inadvertently fallen into one of the buckets.  This avoids the wine from developing a bitter taste.

Once the grapes are freed from their stems, they are put into a stainless steel vat to start the fermentation process.  
Charlotte then explained the differences in the process for white, red and rosé wines.  For example, the red wines are kept in contact with the skins during the fermentation and maceration phase which lasts around 20 days, whereas the white grapes are immediately pressed before the fermentation phase starts to separate them from their skins.   

Charlotte explains the work in the chai during the harvest.

 

 We tasted some of the grape musts that had been fermenting for 10 days, and Charlotte suggested that we put our ears to the vats to listen to the effervescence of the fermentation.

It was then time for lunch, and so we made our way back into the shade of the courtyard to taste 5 of the winery’s organic wines over lunch which had been prepared by a local caterer.  We took the opportunity to ask the winemakers lots of questions about a wide range of topics such as their way of life, their philosophy of being organic, and the differences between the wine that we had tasted.

Our adopted organic vines

  After lunch, we went to visit our adopted vines.  After a short walk through the village of Jonquières, we arrived at the vineyard where our vines are located, and spent a few minutes metting our vines, and taking some photos of them.

We then returned to the chateau to bring the day to a conclusion, and collect a few bottles of wine to take home with us and share with friends and family.

We look forward to welcoming you back to the winery next year for one of the Vinification Experience Days!

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The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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

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