Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

Visit www.gourmetodyssey.com for more information

Gifts

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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Harvesting organic grapes in the Loire Valley


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

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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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Harvest Experience Day in Alsace


We sent a most enjoyable time last Saturday at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace, harvesting the grapes in the Steingrubler grand cru vineyard.  We then followed their journey back to the winery to learn about the work in the cellar during harvest time. As with all of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Days, the aim is to better appreciate the skill and effort that goes into making wine by actually getting involved in the work.

After the introduction to the day by Mark, the founder of Gourmet Odyssey, and Céline, the winemaker at Domaine Stentz-Buecher, we made our way to the Steingrubler grand cru vineyard with Céline, her father, Jean-Jacques, and a few of the winery’s harvest team.  Céline handed us each a pair of secateurs and a bucket, and explained which grapes to pick, and gave us some useful tips on how to avoid cutting our fingers!

Original wine lover gift to get involved in harvesting organic grapes in Alsace

In two or fours, we were then assigned a row, and started the harvest.  The grapes we were picking were of the Gewurztraminer variety, were in perfect condition, and tasted delicious!  There were very few bad grapes to sort, so our buckets quickly filled up.

Harvest Experience Day in Alsace to picj the organic grapes

When the buckets were full, we passed them under the rows until they reached the central row of the porter.  Here, we took it in turns for two people to carry a hop on their back, which we then filled up with the buckets of grapes.  It’s surprising how heavy grapes can be, and when full the hopper can weigh between 40 and 50 kg.

Harvest gift experience in France to pick grapes

The porters then carried their load to the nearby trailer, climbed a ladder, and tipped the grapes in.  You have to tip them over your shoulder, something which is a little difficult the first time, but our team of apprentice harvesters quickly got the hang of it!

Grape harvest gift experience in an organic vineyard

When we got to the top of the row, we then took another row and came back down.  The slope made it a little harder to walk up and down, but also made it easier to pick the grapes because we could position ourselves to have the grapes higher up.

Once we had finished harvesting the plot of vines, we gathered around the trailer to admire our work, wash the sticky grape juice from our hands, and have a drink.

50th birthday gift experience for wine lovers

We then headed to the Rosenberg vineyard to meet our adopted vines.  The grapes had been picked earlier that week because they had already reached optimum maturity.  We took a few minutes to take some pictures and admire the view across the vineyards and of the nearby châteaux.

Rent-a-vine in Alsace, France and follow the making of your own organic wine

Back at the winery, we met up with Stéphane, Céline’s brother and fellow wine-maker.  We helped our harvested grapes into the press by raking them out of the trailer and into the press below.

Original gift idea for wine enthusiasts.  Harvest the grapes from your adopted vines

Stéphane explained how the press works, and how the cellar had been designed to use the force of gravity, as opposed to pumps, to get the juice into the vats.  The first vat is a holding vat, where the juice will rest for between 24 and 48 hours during the “débourbage” process as the small solid particles of skin, pips, and stems that managed to get through the press, settle on the bottom of the vat and the juice becomes clearer.

We then headed back out into the courtyard where Céline had prepared a well earned wine tasting session for us, starting with a delicious naturally sparkling Crémant d’Alsace.  For each of the following wines, we had to say what aromas and tastes we could identify, and try to guess which of the Alsace grape varietals it was.  An easy task for Céline, but not quite so easy for the rest of us!

Wine tasting gift experience with the organic winemaker in Alsace

Céline first served us the 2019 Pinot Gris Rosenberg, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, followed by the 2018 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes, the 2017 Riesling Steingrubler Grand Cru, and finishing with the 2019 Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru.

We then continued the tasting over the harvesters lunch with the 2019 Pinot Blanc, 2020 Pinot Noir, and 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg to accompany the local charcuterie, cheeses and apple pie.

After lunch, we returned to the cellar, where Stéphane showed us the fermentation hall where the white wines start the process of transforming the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol.  Stéphane explained how he monitors the progress of these wines through the process, as we listened to the vats and casks gargle away.

Wine-making experience gift in Alsace, France

The Pinot Noir grapes don’t go into the press straight away.  Stéphane explained how the berries are separated from the stems, and are then put into vats.  The juice is clear in Pinot Noir grapes, the colour being found in the skin.  Therefore to make red wine, the juice needs to be kept in contact with the skins to be able to extract the colour.  Tannins are also found in the skin which adds body to the wine.  During the fermentation phase carbon dioxide is released which pushes the skin to the surface, forming a solid cap.  This cap needs to be broken and pushed down into the juice for the extraction of the colour and tannins to take place.  At Domaine Stentz-Buecher this is done using the pigeage method.

Original wine gift to discover the work in the cellar during the harvest period

Stéphane explained pigeage and showed us how to use the large plungers to break the solid cap of skin and pips.  We took it in turns to have a go, and realised that it is a very difficult job, and the cap is actually very hard to push down!  The job gets easier as the fermentation progresses, but it’s still something that has to be done once or twice a day for each vat!

Before we knew it, the day had come to an end.  We look forward to returning next year for the Vinification Experience Days, and learning about all of the work after the harvest to age the wines and prepare them for bottling.

Many thanks to all for making it such a great day.

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The 2022 Gourmet Odyssey harvest gets underway in Burgundy


We welcomed our apprentice wine-makers to Domaine Chapelle in the Burgundy village of Santenay for the Harvest Experience Days on the 27th, 28th, and 29th August.  2022 is a very early year due to the high temperatures of the last few months.  Our objective for the days was to pick the grapes, follow their journey into the vat, and to learn about all the work in the cellar during harvest time.  There’s more to harvesting than just picking grapes!

 

The Gourmet Odyssey apprentice wine-makers participate in the Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

 

After an introduction to the day and the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and of Domaine Chapelle’s history, we walked to the “Clos des Cornières” and “Les Crays” vineyards, where the adopted pinot noir and chardonnay vines are to be found.  

 

Meeting the adopted vines

 

We took a few minutes to say hello to our adopted vines, and take some photos for the “My Vine” photo competition.  A magnum of Santenay wine is up for grabs!

After this fun start, it was time to get down to the more serious business of harvesting, and so we gathered in the Clos des Cornières vineyard where the beautiful bunches of grapes from this exceptional vintage were waiting.

 

The top quality grapes waiting to be picked

 

Climate-wise, the last couple of years have been challenging, and so we were delighted that the 2022 vintage had produced such good quality grapes, and of a normal quantity!

Jean-François and Simon gave us each a pair of secateurs and explained how to pick the grapes, which ones to harvest and which to leave on the vine.  The ripe grapes are located at the bottom of the vine and, as we quickly noticed, the vines in Burgundy are very low to the ground!

In pairs, we each took a row and started the harvest.  First we removed the leaves around the grapes to see them better.  This makes it much easier to cut the bunches without taking our fingers with them!

 

Our harvesters in action

 

We put the cut grapes into crates, which is the best way to harvest pinot noir due to their delicate skin.  The crates avoid the grapes being squashed by the weight of other grapes above them, ensuring that they arrive in the cellar in the best possible condition. 

Harvesting is a physically demanding job as our backs and legs could testify!  But it’s also very rewarding and satisfying to see the rates full of delicious grapes!  And to arrive at the end of the row!

 

Our lovely grapes in the crates

 

Once the crates were full, we brought them back to the beginning of the row to be taken back to the winery in the van.

After the effort, our reward was a lovely glass of chilled 2020 Santenay Villages white wine which we enjoyed in the garden, accompanied by the famous  Burgundy gougères.

 

The 2020 Santenay Villages white wine aperitif

 

We then sat down to enjoy lunch.  Poached egg on a bed of mushrooms, veal risotto and potatoes, and a framboisier to finish.  The courses were accompanied by a Burgundy Aligoté, a 2019 Santenay Clos des Cornières, and a 2016 Santenay Les Gravières Premier Cru.  All delicious!

In the afternoon, we made our way to the sorting table to participate in the process involved in putting the grapes into the vat.

 

Sorting the grapes

 

We learnt how the work is organised around the sorting table and we got involved.  The quality was so good this year that we didn’t have a very stressful job!  We did however have to remove some of the grapes that had been scorched and had dried out due to the drought, but fortunately there weren’t very many.

We then went down into the fermentation hall, one floor below. The grapes that had been separated from their stalks by the de-stemming machine fall into a trolley using the power of gravity.  Once the trolley is full, it is pushed next to the vat to be filled, and the grapes poured into a vertical conveyor belt, known as the giraffe, which carries the grapes up into the vat without the need for a pump.

 

The grapes are carried into the vat using the giraffe

 

This method of putting the grapes into the vat treats the grapes very gently, keeping each individual berry as intact as possible to start the maceration phase before fermentation starts.

For three days, the harvested grapes are kept cold during the initial maceration stage, and then the temperature is warmed to allow the fermentation to begin.  This will last for approximately 10 days.  At the same time, the maceration continues and the tannins and colours are extracted by pigeage and pumping over.  The maceration phase lasts for around three weeks.

Then comes the time to separate the wine from the solid matter, and to put the wine in the oak barrels to start the ageing process which will last for around one year.  We’ll learn more about the rest of the work in the cellar after the harvest and up until bottling during the Vinification Experience Days in spring next year.

And so the day drew to a close and having collected some bottles of wine for the most part, we parted company, promising to come back soon to discover more of the Burgundy terroir in Santenay!

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The key steps involved in wine tasting


Who hasn’t thought how great it would be to taste wine like a professional sommelier?  Gourmet Odyssey shares a few tips with you to amaze your friends with when you next share a bottle of wine!

Step 1 : The look

The first step is to place your glass of wine above a clear white surface, ideally in the light.  You’ll be able to judge how clear it is based on the number of particles that are held in suspension, and gauge its level of acidity.  If you can see thick tears form on the inside of the glass, it’s a sign that the wine is full-bodied, and inversely if the tears are finer and flow more quickly, the wine is likely to be more acidic.

 

Analyse the robe

 

You can also pick up some clues regarding the wine’s age to indicate whether the wine is likely to be young or old.  For red wines, the colour changes from bright red or purple for the youngest wines to a rusty colour for the older ones.  And for the white wines, from pale yellow or even green to a deep amber colour.

Step 2 : The nose

This phase is done in two parts.  Without moving the glass, place your nose over the glass and take in a big sniff. This is known as the first nose.  Then swill the wine carefully around the glass a few times to oxygenate the wine and liberate the less volatile aromas before sniffing again.  This is known as the second nose.  Often, there is a big difference between the first and second noses.

 

Smell the different aromas in the wine

 

There are different types of aromas; primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas.  The primary aromas come from the grapes themselves, and there are a wide range of smells such as floral ones (acacia, honeysuckle, jasmin, rose, lilac etc.), fruity aromas (pineapple, apple, lemon, mango, peach, apricot, raspberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, etc.), vegetal aromas (aniseed, thyme, grass, pepper, fennel etc.), or spicy aromas (cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, etc.)

The secondary aromas come from the fermentation, and we can find three distinct types.  There are those that are produced by the fermentation process such as brioche, yeast or biscuit.  There are also the milky aromas such as butter, yoghurt or milk, and the alcoholic aromas such as boiled sweets, nail polish, or banana.

The tertiary aromas develop during the ageing process, several months after the harvest.  Oak barrels give woody aromas such as cedar, oak, vanilla, and eucalyptus, spicy aromas such as pepper, cinnamon, and liquorice, or toasted aromas such as toast, coffee, grilled almonds, or tabaco.

Step 3 : The taste

 

Taste the wine

 

When finally getting to the tasting stage, take a small amount of wine in the mouth, breath in a little air between the lips, swill the wine around the mouth, then breath out of the nose to let the taste and aromas to develop, before swallowing the wine or spitting it out.    
There are three moments to take note of:
-    The attack.  What impression does the wine give the moment you take it into your mouth?  It can be weak, strong, or intense.  
-    The mid-palate.  Analyse the texture of the wine and the aromas.  Is it smooth, acidic, are there any new aromas that have developed since step 2?
-    The finish.  Once you’ve swallowed the wine, what sensation prevails, and how long does the taste last?  If there are lots of tannins present it will have a longer finish, and a wine that is fruitier is likely to have a shorter finish. 

Using our senses is very important in tasting wine, and by following these stages, you will be able to comment on a wine more easily, and to compare it with others.  Wine-tasting skills improve with practice and remembering the characteristics of the wines that you have previously tasted.  You can always use a notebook to write down your thoughts.  And remember the two most important things when tasting wine.  It starts with “I like the wine, or I don’t”.  And secondly, we all have our own perceptions of smell and taste, and so it is remains very subjective!

To develop your wine tasting skills further, you can participate in a Vinification Experience Day and learn directly from the winemaker and a Gourmet Odyssey wine expert.  Each of the partner wineries are organically certified, and the wine-making course teaches you about all that happens in the cellar from the harvest, right up until the moment when the wine is ready for drinking  During the day, you’ll see how the fermentation phases change the structure of the wine, participate in a wine-tasting workshop to help you develop your senses, taste wines that are in the ageing process, and get involved in blending different wines.   

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Great summer food and wine pairing ideas


It’s summertime, the holiday season is upon us, and so Gourmet Odyssey has come up with some great food and wine pairings between our favourite summer dishes and the organic wines from our partner wineries!

We kick off with a great classic.  A butterfly shoulder of lamb, accompanied by the fruity and intense Côte du Rhône Villages Sablet red from Château Cohola.

 

Côtes-du-rhône Village, Sablet Château Cohola

 


The Terrasses du Larzac “Lansade” red from Château de Jonquières pairs perfectly with a smoked duck salad.  Freshness on the palate with a nice long finish. 

 

The Terrasses du Larzac Lansade red, Château de Jonquières

 


The colourful asian sautéed noodles with ginger, served with a fruity, aromatic Pinot Gris Rosenberg white wine from Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace for your lighter dishes when it gets hot.

 

Pinot Gris Rosenberg, Domaine Stentz-Buecher

 


Wild sea bass or swordfish accompanied by a dry white wine next to the sea like the Santenay Village from Domaine Chapelle.  This rich Burgundy wine will reveal its fresh side thanks to the saltiness of the fish.

 

 Santenay Village white, Domaine Chapelle

 


A spatch-cooked chicken on the barbecue is perfect with the Santenay “Clos des Cornières” red, our 100% pinot noir from Domaine Chapelle.  It’s a nice strong Burgundy with notes of liquorice that goes very well with a tarragon marinade.

 

Santenay Clos des Cornières red, Domaine Chapelle

 


Cold roast beef with home-made chutney is a fine match for our Clos de la Bonnelière red wine from Château de la Bonnelière.  This refined Chinon wine mixes power and purity to give added elegance to your summer picnic.

 

Clos de la Bonnelière du Château de la Bonnelière

 


And to finish in beauty, what better for the gourmands than a grilled côtes de bœuf served with glass of Château Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.  The fruitiness and light touch of spice of this fantastic Bordeaux will bring out the best in the beef. 

 

Château Coutet Saint Emilion Grand Cru

 


Just a few ideas of some great meals and wine to share or treat yourself to this summer!

Don’t forget to tag us on the social media and immortalise your food pairings with the wines of Gourmet Odyssey’s organic partners with the tag #SUMMERWITHGOURMETODYSSEY.

All the Gourmet Odyssey team wish you a great summer!

Get involved in making your own personalised bottles of wine with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

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Become a wine-maker for the day in the Loire Valley


In May and June we welcomed some of our adopt-a-vine customers to Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley to discover the work of the wine-maker in the vineyard.  These hands-on wine experience days enable us to spend the day with the wine-maker and get involved in the seasonal work.   As we were to learn, it’s a very busy time of year in the vineyard, and so our help was very welcome!

 

Learning about the work in the vineyard during the Discovery Experience Day

 

Each of our days start with a short time for all of the participants and the wine-maker to get to know each other over a coffee and croissant, and to talk about our favourite subject – wine!

Once all of the participants had arrived, it was time to get down to more serious matters, starting with the programme of the day and the activities that we could look forward to.  At this stage of the vine’s lifecycle, we’re in the “green work” phase, and Marc was very pleased to have a few extra pairs of hands!

Before getting started, we headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard where our adopted Cabernet Franc vines are located.  Cabernet Franc is THE grape varietal for Chinon red wines.  We checked that the vines were well, and that they hadn’t suffered from the frost or the more recent hail storm.  Fortunately the vineyards at Château de la Bonnelière escaped the storm which proved to be so severe for some of the nearby wineries.

After the photo shoot for the “My Vine” photo competition, Marc explained the work that had been carried out in the vineyard so far, and the work to be done. It was then time for us to get stuck in.

 

The wine-maker explains the work to be done in the vineyard

 

For the Discovery Experience Day in May, we removed the shoots that had sprouted from the vine trunks.  These young shoots take away energy from the vine, and won’t produce any grapes, so it’s best to remove them to improve the quality of the grapes on the fruit-bearing branches.  Our hands, a spade and sickle were the tools for the job!

 

Removing the shoots form the vine trunks

 

In June, the foliage had grown much more thanks to the warm and sunny days.  We then moved onto the next job to be done which was to remove some of the leaves from around the grapes.  This ensures that the grapes receive more sun and a better air flow around them to dry them after any rainfall.  Marc removes the leaves only from the side that is facing the rising sun, as it is softer in the mornings, whereas in the afternoons the grapes need some shade from the stronger sun to avoid being burnt.

 

Removing the leaves

 

These two jobs kept our participants busy until it was time for the welcome aperitif, enjoyed in the shade of the château’s walls in the inner courtyard.  We learnt more about the winery, the château, and of course the wines that we continued to taste and enjoy throughout lunch.  Marc explained his philosophy for making wines, and how he tries to capture the expression that each of his different vineyard plots gives to his wines. 

 

Tasting the wines over lunch in the old barn at the château

 

After the delicious lunch and with the warm sunshine, it was difficult to get up from the table, but the stroll in the vineyard was good for our digestion!  We visited a plot of young Sauvignon Blanc vines that had been planted last year to replace the existing plot that had suffered badly from a wood disease.  The young vines are developing well, and will start to be pruned and harvested next year.

 

Visiting the fermentation hall

 

The end of the day approached, and so we went to the fermentation hall for a quick overview of what happens to the grapes once they are harvested. 

We look forward to welcoming you back for the Harvest Experience Days in September or October, and the Vinification Experience Days next year!

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Learning about the work in the cellar to make wine


We enjoyed hosting the Vinification Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière in the charming Loire Valley town of Chinon.  It’s the last of three types of day proposed in the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the theme being to discover the work of the wine-maker in the cellar to make, age and prepare the wines for bottling.

 

Wine Experience Days in the Loire Valley to discover the work in the cellar

 

The days started at the entrance to the winery’s cellar, located in the centre of Chinon, directly beneath the fortress.  It’s a breathtaking place, and we enjoyed a coffee and croissant outside in the warm sunshine.

Marc explained his family’s history and that of the winery, and then talked to us about the Chinon wine appellation and the vintage that is currently ageing in the cellar, bringing us all up to speed, ready to start the day!  The aim was to understand all that happens after the harvest, and the choices that the wine-maker takes to shape the taste, structure and aroma of the wine.

The cellar is used to age the wines in the barrels until they are ready for bottling and drinking.  Marc uses French oak barrels between 400l and 600l, which are larger than standard barrels so that the wine isn’t as marked by the wood.

The wines are made according to the vineyard plot and type of soil.  In Chinon, there are three principal soil types: sand, clay limestone, and flint.  Each type of soil gives a different style of wine, and so Marc adapts the choices he makes accordingly.  The wines from the sandy soil are aged in vats, the majority of the clay limestone wines are aged in oak barrels for 12 months, and the flint wines are aged in oak barrels for between 24 and 30 months.

 

Tasting wines from the barrel

 

We had the privilege of tasting some of the wines that are still undergoing the ageing process, which is something that is very rare to do.  As the wines weren’t yet finished, they held a few surprises for us!

It had been a full morning, and Louise added a few additional explanations on the history of the cellar and the Chinon Fortress.  We then made our way to Château de la Bonnelière, where Claudine, Marc’s wife, and the sun were waiting for us, along with a nice fresh glass of sparkling wine, in the château’s courtyard.

 

Tasting wines in the château’s courtyard

 

We then sat down to lunch in the barn, and revelled in the different courses and locally produced asparagus, goat’s cheese and strawberries, accompanied by Marc’s delicious wines.

Difficult afterwards to get up from the table, and as much as some of us would have liked to settle down to a nice siesta, we headed out to meet our adopted vines in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard.  This is the historical plot of the winery and was planted in the 1980’s by Marc’s dad.

The fermentation hall was the next stop to see where the grapes are received at harvest time, and how they are transformed into wine during the fermentation and maceration stages.

 

The vats and barrels used in the fermentation hall

 

Marc explained his secrets for making good wine : Time, care, and love of what you are doing...

The day finished with a visit of the room used to bottle and label the wines, bringing to a close a great time spent exchanging knowledge, ideas, laughs and opinions.  We love spending these moments with you, and look forward to seeing you again in Chinon or at another of our partner wineries soon. 

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A Wine Experience day with the winemaker to discover the art of blending wines


We spent a fantastic Vinification Experience Day in Saint-Emilion at Château Coutet.  This hands-on wine course is the last of the days that Gourmet Odyssey offer and is focused on the work in the cellar to ferment, age, blend and bottle the wines.

 

A Vinification Experience Day in Saint-Emilion to discover the art of making wine

 

Our hosts for the day were Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, and Alain, the winemaker and owner at Château Coutet.  We shared a coffee and croissant to get to know each other, whilst Benoît explained the order of the day.  Alain then started to recount the family’s relationship with the winery.  It’s a magical place and full of history as Alain represents the 13th generation of winemaker there from his family.  The tradition is set to continue as his son and nephew joined him a few years ago.

We were then led into the fermentation hall to pick up where we left off during the Harvest Experience Day.  We learnt about the work during the fermentation and maceration phases, Alain replying to the many questions that arose.  We then went through to the barrel room where the 2021 vintage is currently in the ageing process.  Alain explained how he monitors the wines, and keeps the barrels topped up to replace the angle’s share that is lost to evaporation.

 

Learning about the fermentation of wine

 

To better understand the role of a winemaker, Benoît had organised a wine tasting session for us.  He taught us the basic principles to ensure that we had a common language to describe the wines, and then we set about tasting several different series of wines.  We honed our senses and gained in confidence to describe the sensations that we were experiencing.

 

The wine tasting workshop

 

We finished the morning with a wine blending workshop to better appreciate the characteristics that each grape varietal brings to a wine.  We then had a go at making our own blends and tasted our different wines!

 

Wine blending workshop

 

Our taste buds were fully awake for the tasting of the winery’s finished wines, and we started with the Claret de Coutet, a wine that is mid-way between a red and rosé, and refreshed our palate after tasting all those red wines that are still in the ageing process.

 

The organic Saint-Emilion wines tasted during lunch

 

We then sat down to lunch, where Benoît served us a glass of the 2019 Château Belles-Cimes with the Landaise salad.  It’s the second wine, made using the grapes from the young vines.  It’s not made every year and is a wine that can be drunk a little earlier than the winery’s first wine.  We tasted the 2017 and 2019 vintages of the Château Coutet wine with the magret de canard main course.  It was very interesting to compare the two vintages and see the difference that two extra years ageing in the bottle brings.    We finished lunch with the 2018 Demoiselles wine, which is a blend of two different plots on the limestone plateau that are worked by hand and with the help of a horse. The meticulous work, combined with the great terroir, gives a magnificently deep wine. 

In the afternoon, we returned to the vineyard to visit our adopted vines that are located in one of the winery’s lest plots up on the limestone plateau, just a few hundred metres from the bell tower in Saint-Emilion.  It’s a fantastic place, and we each took a few minutes to immortalise the moment and take some photographs. 

 

Visiting our adopted merlot vines

 

We finished the day in the storage cellar, where Alain explained the last steps involved before the wine is ready to leave to the winery, covering the bottling and labelling processes.

 

Visiting the cellar where the wine is labelled and stored

 

Many thanks to Alain for his warm welcome and for having given us such a deep and frank insight into his job as a winemaker.

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A day behind the scenes to learn about the work in an organic vineyard


We met up at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for a Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day.  The aim of the day was to learn about the winemaker’s work in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes.

 

A Wine Discovery Experience Day at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

 

Alain, the owner and winemaker, welcomed us with a coffee and some pastries.   Alain is the 13th generation of winemaker at Château Coutet, his family’s history there starting some 400 years ago.   He is now proud to work alongside his son and nephew who have joined him in running the winery. 

We started with a walk through the different terroir that make up the winery to better understand this prestigious Bordeaux wine, and the different grape varietals that are grown on the estate.

At the top of the hill that looks down over the Dordogne Valley, we stopped to take in the magnificent view and then learnt about the winemaker’s work in the vineyard during winter to prune the vines. It’s a fascinating job, but also very complex as we were to learn.

 

Meeting our adopted vines

 

The plot of Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines was located nearby, on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, rubbing shoulders with some of the most prestigious names.  We each found our micro-plot of vines, thanks to a slate nameplate that had been placed in front of them.  We all took some photos of this magnificent setting, and some came up with original ideas for the “My Vine” photo competition organised by Gourmet Odyssey in the hope of winning a magnum of wine!

It was now time to get down to some work.  The task of the day was to raise the training wires, trapping the branches between them in the process.  This ensures that the tractor can continue to pass freely through the vineyard to treat the vines and protect them from mildew and odium.  It’s quite an easy job, but the intense heat made us aware of how the weather can have a big impact on the winemaker’s work.

 

Raising the training wires

 

The Claret de Coutet wine was welcome refreshment back at the winery after our efforts in the vineyard.  We then sat down to lunch and continued to taste different wines.  The winery’s second wine, the 2019 Château Belles-Cimes gave us an introduction into the more classic Saint-Emilion red wines.  It’s made using the young vines and is less fruity and less tannic than the longer 2019 Château Coutet that we tasted afterwards.  We ended the tasting with the magnificent 2018 Demoiselles that is a truly great wine that will further improve with age.

After the delicious lunch, we regrouped in the shade of the old oak tree to listen to Alain talk about the benefits and challenges of cultivating the vines organically.  He also explained the work still to do in the vineyard before the harvest, at which time we will return for the Harvest Experience Days.

 

Visiting the private cellar containing the old vintage bottles.

 

We ended the day with a visit of the cellar which is one of the more rustic ones to be found in Saint-Emilion, and a tour of the family cellar that stores the old vintage bottles from the winery, the oldest of which dates back to 1945!

Many thanks to Alain for his good humour and his explanations of the vineyard, family, and his daily life of being a winemaker.

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A Wine Experience Day in the Côtes du Rhône to learn about the work in the vineyard


Chéli and Jérôme, the passionate winemakers at Château Cohola, welcomed us warmly to their organic winery for a Discovery Experience Day.  The aim of this wine experience day was to learn about the work required in the vineyard to nurture the vines and produce the best quality grapes possible.

 

A Discovery Experience Day in the Côtes du Rhône at Château Cohola

 

Perched in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail ridge, the winery has a stunning view over to the village of Sablet and the plain of Côtes du Rhône vineyards that stretch below.  This was our backdrop for the introductions to the day by Mark, the founder of Gourmet Odyssey, and Chéli and Jérôme from Château Cohola.

We then headed out into the vineyards, pausing on the way for Jérôme to explain the work done in the vineyards during the winter months, notably the different pruning methods used for different grape varietals, and the organic methods used to nurture and protect the vines.

 

Jérôme explains how to prune the vines

 

At this time of year, the vines grow rapidly, and it’s a very busy period to try and keep everything in order, and so the help of our winemakers-for-a-day was very much appreciated!  As always with a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Day, we had some work to do to attach the staked vines, or “échalas” vines.

The vineyards at Château Cohola are spread among 15 terraces, some of which are fairly small and unpractical for tractors and heavy machinery to access.  In such places the échalas system is used to provide support to the vines that would normally be done by training wires.  A wooden stake is positioned next to each vine that has been pruned using the goblet method, and once the branches have grown to around a metre in length they are bunched together and tied around the stake using a piece of raffia.  This will help the vine support the weight of the grapes to come and reduces the risk of branches being damaged by wind, something that is often present in the Rhone Valley.

 

Chéli and Jérôme show us how to attach the échalas vines

 

Chéli and Jérôme demonstrated how to attach the vines, and then in pairs we spread out in the vineyard to have a go ourselves.  Standing on opposite sides of the vine, we collected together all of the vine branches.  One person hugged the vine to keep them all together, whilst the other tied a piece of raffia around the stake and branches to keep them in place.

It took us a few vines to get the hang of it, but we were soon experts, and we became much quicker.  It’s also a very rewarding task, as you can instantly see the result of your work.  When we arrived in the vineyard, the branches were falling in all directions, but at the end everything was very orderly, and we could walk easily around the vines.  This also has the benefit of lifting the branches off the ground and from becoming entwined with the surrounding vines which would increase the risk of disease spreading.

 

Getting involved in the work in the vineyard

 

Jérôme then guided us up the hill, explaining the different plants along the way, until we arrived at another stunning viewpoint looking over the Rhone Valley below.  Here we enjoyed an aperitif of the Château Cohola rosé wine, with some local olives and cheese.

 

Enjoying the views, rosé wine, olives and cheese during the apertiif

 

Back at the winery, we sat down to lunch in the shade of the platane trees.  With the deliciously fresh crespou starter we enjoyed the Château Cohola Cuvée Fruit red wine.  To accompany the filet mignon and ratatouille main course, we tasted the 2018 vintage of the Château Cohola Sablet, the red wine that is chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience. The local goat’s cheese was served with the delicious honey made from the winery’s own beehives and the 2021 Château Cohola Sablet white wine. Lunch ended with a strawberry tart and two more wines.  First the Château Cohola TBF red wine, which is made using wine aged in a clay amphorae and oak and stainless-steel barrels, followed by the powerful and full-bodied Cor Hominis Laetificat Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

 

Lunch and wine-tasting in the shade

 

After lunch, we visited our adopted vines that will produce the grenache grapes used to make the wine that we will receive at the end of the experience. 

 

Visiting our adopted vines

 

Jérôme then explained the work that remains to be done between now and the harvest before we headed down into the village of Sablet for a quick tour of the chai. 

Chéli and Jérôme showed us the press used to extract the juice from the grapes for the white and rosé wines, and the vats where the grape juice will ferment, and then the barrel room where the wines are aged.  We’ll be spending more time here during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

 

Visiting the chai

 

Many thanks to all for a fantastic day! We’ll think a little differently and will appreciate the work that goes into making wine a bit more when we open that next bottle of wine!

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Discovering the work in an organic Burgundy vineyard


We were blessed with a lovely summer day to welcome the apprentice winemakers to Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay.  This hands-on wine-making experience day is designed so that wine lovers can learn more about all of the work in the vineyard needed to produce the best quality grapes.

 

A wine Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle to learn about the work in the vineyard

 

In the château’s garden, overlooking the vines, Jean-François explained the history of his family, the winery and the development of Burgundy wines.  The terroir, the grape varietals, and the winemakers are the major influences on the quality of wine, something that was important to Jean-François to emphasise as an introduction to the day.

We made our way down into the vineyard to start the day by meeting our adopted vines, and giving them some gentle words of encouragement in producing a good harvest this year! There were lots of photos taken, some of them very original for the “My Vine” photo competition.

 

Meeting our adopted vines

 

Simon, the son of Jean-François, is now in charge of the production side of things at the winery, and he explained the work that is carried out in the vineyard throughout the year’s cycle, including working the soil, and the treatments used in organic winemaking.

The main work in the vineyard at the moment is de-budding, which involves removing some of the unwanted shoots to stop the vines from producing too many grapes and from wasting energy on non fruit-bearing branches.  It also helps to improve the airflow around the vines and grapes which will help reduce the risk of mildew setting in.  A good air flow is very important in organic farming to dry the leaves and grapes as soon as possible.

There are a few important details to take into consideration.  First we need to identify which branches are well placed to act as the spur during pruning and so produce the branches for next year.  We also need to be sure not to damage the fruit-bearing branches that we wish to keep for this year, and to clean the old wooden branches by brushing them to remove any potential buds that might yet sprout into life.

 

Simon explains how to de-bud the vines

 

It’s a delicate job that demands a skilled eye, and is something that needs to be achieved in 3 weeks throughout all of the winery’s vineyards, before the branches become too thick to be easily removed.  That’s why the winery hires an extra 10 seasonal workers during this period to bolster the team of permanent staff.

The help of our apprentice winemakers was therefore very much appreciated!  We each had a go, and despite our worries of not doing a good job, we soon gained confidence!

After our effort, we reconvened back at the winery for a nice fresh glass of Santenay white wine, accompanied by some gougères.  We then sat down to a delicious lunch which had been prepared by a local caterer from Meursault. We tasted three other wines from Domaine Chapelle, a Burgundy white, a Santenay Clos des Cornières red, and a Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières. 

 

Organic wine tastings at Domaine Chapelle

 

We started the afternoon with a walk through the vineyards to have a look at a plot that had recently been replanted.  Simon showed us the surrounding landscape and explained how the different terroir determines the quality of the wine.  He then shared with us how to plant new vines and the consequences of doing so.  

 

Simon showed us a newly planted vineyard

 

The old vines had been pulled out, and the vineyard plot left fallow for 3 years to regenerate the soil.  The new vines were planted in 2021 just before a severe frost, and around 20% of the vines perished as a result, so the winery has had to replace the dead ones.  For a further three years the vines will concentrate on developing their root system, and there will be no harvest, so the winery will have to wait around 7 years before the whole plot is productive again. The cost of replanting a vineyard is substantial for the winemaker, but is necessary to successfully transfer the winery on to the following generations.

After, this very interesting discussion in the vineyard, we returned for a quick tour of the cellar, which gave us a good introduction to the Vinification Experience Day for those that will be coming back or want to add the day.

It was a great day and we loved sharing it with you.  We hope to see you again soon at Domaine Chapelle or another of our partner wineries!

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Discovering the work in the vineyard to nurture the grapes in Alsace


To make a great wine, you need to make sure that you produce the best possible grapes, and that involves lots of hard work and dedication in the vineyard throughout the year.  We spent a very enjoyable and informative day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace to learn about the different tasks involved, and by the end of the Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day we left with a much deeper appreciation of just how much there is to do to make organic wine.

 

A Discovery Experience day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher

 

After the introductions to the day, we headed out into the vineyard with Céline and Stéphane, the brother and sister duo who run the winery.  Our first stop was to visit the Rosenberg vineyard where our adopted vines are located.  We took a few minutes to find our vines, give them some words of encouragement and to take a few photographs.

 

Visiting our adopted vines in the Rosenberg vineyard

 

Stéphane then led us to a plot a little further along the track and explained the work that has already been carried out in the vineyard during the winter months to prune the vines and work the soil.  Pruning is one of the most essential jobs, as it helps the winemaker to control how many grapes each vine can potentially produce.  By reducing the quantity, you can increase the quality of the grapes and thus the wine that they will make. 

Stéphane explained how the branches left on the vine were then bent and attached to the training wire to slow the flow of sap and help the vines to produce more uniformly ripe grapes.
The buds had already appeared, and the shoots had started to grow from each of the nodes.  Each shoot will grow to form the fruit bearing branches for this year.  We could even see the first signs of the grapes to come.

 

The first signs of the future grapes on the vines

 

As always during a Gourmet Odyssey Experience Day, Stephane had left us some work to do.  Despite their endeavours during pruning, there are always some extra unwanted shoots that appear, whether from a double bud, or from lower down on the vine trunk.  The vines that Stéphane had brought us to were fairly young and vigorous, so they had lots of shoots that had sprouted on the trunks.  If left, they will take energy away from the vines and have a negative impact on the quality of the grapes, so our job was to remove them.  A simple job by hand when they have just appeared, so it’s important to do so before the shoots grow too much and become thicker. 

 

Removing the unwanted shoots form the vine trunks

 

We then returned to the winery, where Céline had prepared a tasting of some of the different wines that the winery produces, starting with the 2019 Muscat wine from the Rosenberg vineyard.  We then tasted the citrus and aromatic 2018 Riesling Ortel, followed by the 2019 vintage of the Pinot Gris Rosenberg that is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience. 

 

Tasting the organic wines in the courtyard

 

The tasting continued over lunch of a delicious baeckeoffe, local cheeses, and blueberry tart, which were paired with the 2018 Who Am I?, a blend of Pinot blanc, Pinot Gris  and Riesling, the 2020 Pinot Noir Tradition, and the 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg. 

After lunch Stéphane explained the work that is left to do in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and how to know when the right time is to pick the grapes.  We also talked about working organically and the importance of respecting the surrounding environment.

 

Visiting the wine cellar

 

We ended the day with a tour of the cellar.  Stéphane showed us where the grapes will be received during the harvest and gave us an overview of the fermentation and ageing process.  We’ll learn more about these two stages during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

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An experience day gift for wine lovers to discover the work in an organic vineyard


A summary of an excellent wine experience day in the vineyard at Château de Jonquières in the dynamic Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region in the south of France.  Our small group of wine lovers got together to spend the day with the winemakers and learn more about their job and the work that they get up to in the vineyard.

 

A Discovery Experience Day at Château de Jonquières in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region

 

Our young wine-making couple, Clément and Charlotte, welcomed us in the courtyard of the château, facing Mont Baudile.  The weather was perfect with a sunny blue sky and a gentle cooling breeze that blew down off the Larzac plateau, so typical of the terroir that brings freshness and balance to these Languedoc wines.

We headed straight out into the vineyard.  The winemakers showed us the different grape varietals and explained the work carried out during the winter to work the soil and prune the vines, cutting the branches to leave spurs with just two nodes.  In early spring, the spurs give birth to new buds, which grow to produce the grapes for the next harvest.

 

Clément explains the work in the vineyard

 

Clément and Charlotte brought us to a plot of chenin vines next to the château to show us how to de-bud the vines, the main job in the vineyard at this time of year.

De-budding is the removal of any superfluous buds or shoots, and is necessary to maintain the quality of grapes by limiting the number produced, and increasing their sugar concentration.

We spread out among the vines, one row per couple, and set about de-budding the vines.  Clément was close at hand to guide us, and help us to learn which shoots to keep and which to remove.

 

We all had a go at de-budding the vines

 

It’s a painstaking and time-consuming job, where you have to select the best shoots, and ones that are best positioned on the vine.  We removed those that were growing out into the row, and those that could hinder the development of the vine by taking away energy from the fruit-bearing branches.   It was a very important task, because we were selecting which branches would produce the fruit for the 2022 harvest for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients.

Clément and Charlotte then led us to a vineyard that had been recently replanted.  They explained how they had prepared the ground and how they manage the plots to rejuvenate the vines without having too much of an impact on the overall production levels. 

 

Planting new vines in the vineyard

 

After more than two hours in the vineyard, we had a much better understanding of the huge task that the winemakers face to nurture each and every vine in the vineyard.

Back at the winery, we had earned our lunch, which had been prepared by a local caterer and was accompanied by the château’s wines, starting with the 2021 Lansade rosé and Lansade white wines.  We then tasted the White Label N°5 100 % Carignan red wine which had been aged in oak barrels, and, paired with the beef main course, we enjoyed the 2020 Lansade red, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  The gourmand 2020 Baronnie white was a great match for the ewe’s cheese, and we finished with the 2020 Baronnie red with pudding.   

After lunch, we traversed the small village on foot to visit our adopted vines, located in a magnificent plot of Carignan which was planted 80 years ago by Charlotte’s grandmother.  We took some souvenir photos to mark the occasion.

 

Visiting our organic adopted vines

 

Clément then explained the remaining work to be done between now and the harvest, and how he will know when the grapes are ripe enough for harvesting.

The day ended back at the winery for a quick overview of the work in the cellar.  We see more what happens here during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

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A wine-making gift experience in Burgundy to discover the work in the cellar to make a great organic wine


We welcomed some of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients to the stunning Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy for a Vinification Experience Day.  This wine-making gift explains all the work in the cellar to make, age, and prepare wines to be ready for bottling.  We get to taste wines that are still in the ageing process, something that winemakers don’t normally share with people outside of the winery.  It’s a real treat to get behind the scenes and learn first-hand.

 

A winemaking experience day at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy to learn about making organic wines

 

After having introduced us to the day Jean-François, the owner of the winery, recounted his family’s history at the winery and the evolution of the Burgundy wine-growing region.

Then in smaller groups, we visited the cellar where Jean-François explained all of the work involved between the harvest and bottling during the fermentation, maceration, and ageing stages to mature the wines in oak barrels.

 

Visiting the cellar

 

Myriam, Gourmet Odyssey’s wine expert, then explained how to taste wines using our different senses, and the difficulty in analysing the sensations that we encounter.  She gave us a few tips to better train our nose, and we now know that to do so, we have to poke our nose everywhere!

This theoretical step prepared us for the tasting of wines that are still in the ageing process.  We compared the changes that two different types of barrel can have on the same wine, and noted that there was indeed a big difference!  The new barrels have a bigger impact on the tannins and bring more woody aromas than the barrel that had already aged two wines.

 

Tasting wines in the ageing process

 

We also tasted the difference that the age of the vines has on the characteristic of the wine.  The Clos des Cornières vineyard, where the vines for the Gourmet Odyssey red wine grow, has different plots within with different aged vines.  The wine form each of these plots is aged separately before being blended, and so were able to compare two ages.  The younger vines which are stronger, give a more structured and concentrated wine, but the older vines bring more finesse.  When blended together they make a more complex wine than either of the two wines alone.

We noted that the wines that are still in their ageing process have not yet reached their optimum balance, hence the importance of maturing the wines to fully develop their expressive qualities.

We ended the morning with an aperitif of Santenay Blanc, accompanied with the famous Burgundy gougères!

We continued the Burgundy specialities with a lunch of parsley ham, Gaston Gérard chicken, and trio chocolate dessert.  We enjoyed the dishes with a 2020 Ladoix, 2019 Santenay Clos des Cornières, and a 2016 Santenay La Comme Premier Cru.

 

Wine tasting over lunch

 

After lunch, we went for a little walk in the vineyard to meet up with our adopted vines and take photos from all angles for the My Vine photo competition.

 

Meeting up with our adopted vines

 

Before ending this lovely day, we returned to the winery to discover the stages involved to prepare the wines for bottling and how they are then commercialised.  We discussed a little more with Simon and Jean-François and asked many more questions covering topics such as the choice of corks and labels for the bottles.

 

Simon explains the bottling process

 

Many thanks to all of the participants for their good cheer and enthusiasm which helped make the day so special.  We hope that you had a great day with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience and that we’ll see you again for another day in Burgundy or at one of our other partner vineyards!

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Wine-making experience gift in the Terrasses du Larzac


We spent a fantastic week-end at Château de Jonquières in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-making region for a couple of Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Days.  The aim of these interactive wine-making courses is to learn about all the work in the cellar to ferment, age, blend, and prepare the wines for bottling.  There is a lot of work to be done, and many decisions that the winemakers must make along the way, as we were to learn.

 

Learning the art of wine-making during the Vinification Experience Day at Château de Jonquières

 

We were accompanied for the day by Charlotte and Clément de Béarn, who represent the 32nd generation of winemakers at Château de Jonquières.  Amazingly, the château has been in the same family for 900 years, and has always been a working château with vines, and in the past, other fruit and cereal crops. Charlotte introduced us to her family history at the winery, and the surrounding terroir that makes up the Terrasses du Larzac wine region. 

We then headed across the courtyard and down into the cellar.  Here we learned how the grapes are received at harvest time, and the different processes involved for the red, white and rosé wines, which grapes are pressed, and which are put directly into the vats having been separated from their stems.

 

Clément explains the work during the fermentation and maceration stages

 

Clément then explained in length the fermentation process that transforms the sugar in the grapes into alcohol, and the work needed during the maceration stage to extract the colour and tannins for the red wines.  We discovered the different types of vats that exist and how Clément uses hot and cold water in jackets or immersion heaters to warm or cool the wine, and so control the speed of fermentation.  During this phase each grape varietal from each vineyard is kept separately in different vats.

Once the wines have finished fermenting, they are transferred to the other end of the cellar to begin the ageing process.  Clément explained the virtues of the different containers used for ageing the wines.  Some are aged in vats, others in oak barrels of differing sizes, and this year they are testing an egg-shaped vat that keeps the lees in continual suspension with the aim of bringing more depth to some of the wines.

 

Clément explains the different types of barrels and vats used for ageing the wines

 

We then sat down to the wine tasting workshop to better understand first hand the structure and make up of a wine.  
Clément had organised a series of blind wine tastings so that we could better appreciate the distinct characteristics of different grape varietals and the change in aroma and taste brought about due to the choice of container used to age the wine.

 

Blind tasting different wines

 

We then started to blend the wines.  Our first blend was made up of 80% Grenache aged in a vat, 10% Carignan aged in an oak barrel, and 10 % Carignan aged in an egg-shaped vat.  We then changed the Grenache for Syrah and compared the two blended wines.  We learnt that the Grenache brings a fruity and soft tannic structure to the wine with some slightly floral aromas, whereas the Syrah dominated blend had a deeper colour, was spicier, and had a longer finish.  Interestingly, the Carignan, which hadn’t been so popular in the first round of tasting, was noted for bringing more freshness through its acidity to both the Grenache and the Syrah blends.  Blending wines is all about finding the right balance to enhance each of the individual grape varietals. 

 

Clément blends wines with us

 

The wine blending workshop ended with a tasting of a pre-assembled wine that will be used in the final blend of the 2021 Lansade vintage, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience. It was a made up in equal measure of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache, and gave us a sneak preview of our wine to come!

It was then time for lunch and to taste the range of the wines that Château de Jonquières produces, starting with the 2020 Lansade white wine for the aperitif, and tasting the 2021 Lansade rosé and 2020 White Label N°5  red with the selection of starters.  We savoured the 2020 Lansade red with the coq au vin main course.  Cheese was paired with the gastronomic 2020 Baronnie white wine, and lunch ended with the 2020 Baronnie red, accompanying the chocolate mousse.

 

Enjoying lunch and wine tasting

 

After lunch, we headed out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines, which are the pride and joy of the winery, and were planted over 80 years ago by Charlotte’s great grandmother.  We took a few minutes to take some photos of our vines and admire their majestically gnarled trunks.

 

Visiting our adopted vines

 

Back at the winery, we returned to the cellar to learn all about bottling.  Clément showed us the machine that fills the wine bottles and puts the corks in.  We spent some time discussing the different options to cork and their advantages and disadvantages.

 

The bottling machine

 

Clément then showed us the labelling machine that will be used to apply our personalised labels once our wine is ready.
Many thanks to Clément and Charlotte for welcoming us so warmly, and for giving us such a comprehensive insight into the art of wine-making.

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Learning the art of organic wine-making in Alsace


Céline and Stéphane warmly welcomed us to Domaine Stentz-Buecher to learn about all the work in the cellar after the harvest right up until the moment when the wine is bottled, labelled, packaged and ready to be enjoyed!   This organic winery in Alsace is run by the brother and sister duo, and as we would learn from them, there is much more to making wine that you might at first imagine!

 

A Vinification Experience Day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher

 

After the introductions and welcome coffee, we made a quick visit to our adopted vines that are located in the Rosenberg vineyard, as it is after all here that the wine starts out.  Without the best quality grapes, it’s very difficult to make a good wine!  We took a few photos of our vines, and Céline explained the different terroir of the surrounding vineyards, a great foundation for some of the wines we would taste later in the day.

 

Visiting our adopted vines in the Rosenberg vineyard

 

Back at the winery, we followed the journey that the grapes take during harvest time.  Stéphane explained how the grapes are pressed for the white wines, and how the pinot noir grapes are separated from their stems and put directly into the vats for the maceration to take place during the alcoholic fermentation phase.
We visited the barrel room to see where the red and white wines that are aged in oak barrels rest.  Stéphane explained the benefits the barrels bring through the micro-oxygenation process, and how it’s important to keep the barrels topped up to replace the angel’s share that is lost to evaporation.

 

Pinot noir wines ageing in oak barrels

 

We then made our way into the fermentation hall where the vast majority of the winery’s white wines are stored.  Stéphane talked us through the fermentation phases and explained the differences between the ancient oak casks and the more recent stainless-steel vats.   
He gave us a taste of the 2021 Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine that is still in the ageing process and won’t be ready until later in the year.  It was very interesting to taste, as it’s very unusual to get the chance to taste a wine that hasn’t yet finished.  We then compared it to a wine that is still in the malo-lactic fermentation phase.  Straight away we could see that the second wine was cloudier, had a slightly yeasty smell, and fizzed a little in the mouth.

 

Tasting wine direct from the vat

 

Stéphane explained how the wines will change during the ageing process, and he passionately explained his vision of wine-making, and drummed home the importance to him of deliberately reducing the quantity of grapes produced to be able to make more concentrated and aromatic wines.  
We then headed out into the courtyard to make the most of the sun, and to start tasting some of the finished wines.   Céline had prepared a blind tasting for us to highlight the difference between grape varietals and the impact that different terroir can have. 

 

A blind tasting session of the range of Alsace wines

 

We then sat down to a traditional Alsace lunch of choucroute, local cheeses, and Black Forest gateau, all accompanied with more wines.  By the end of the meal, we had tasted three different Riesling wines including a Riesling Steingrubler Grand Cru, the 2019 vintage of the Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the 2017 Pinot Gris Pfersigberg Grand Cru, a Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine, two Gewurztraminer wines including the 2019 Hengst Grand Cru, and the Who Am I? wine that is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.   The variety and range of wines was extraordinary.
In the afternoon, we headed back down into the cellar to learn all about the final stages of the wine-making process to bottle the wines.  Stéphane explained how the wines are filtered to remove any remaining lee particles and showed us the bottling machine that fills and corks the bottles. 

 

The labelling mchine

 

We then moved onto the machine used to label and put the capsules over the tops of the bottles, and the final machine that tapes us the boxes.

 

The wine library

 

The day ended in the wine library where Stéphane and Céline have an impressive collection of their old vintage wines.  Many thanks to all of the participants for helping make it such a fun day, and to the winemakers for opening their doors and talking about their job in such a no-nonsense and frank way.

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