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Harvest 2011 at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

At last, the long awaited moment has arrived to start the harvest!  The villages and vineyards are a hive of activity.  Teams of harvesters are dotted amongst the vines from the crack of dawn, and the roads are filled with the tractors that go back and forth between the vineyards and the wineries, carrying their precious load.

We started the Harvest Experience Days for the 2011 vintage last weekend at Domaine Chapelle in the Côte de Beaune village of Santenay.

Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy France

As with the other French wine growing regions, the grapes have ripened early this year.  At Domaine Chapelle the first bunches were harvested some three weeks earlier than last year!

After the quick introductions, it was straight of the Clos des Cornières vineyard, home to the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients.  Jean François Chapelle lost no time in distributing our tools for the day, a pair of secateurs each, and a pile of crates to put the grapes into!

Containers at the start of each vine row to collect the harvested grapes

In teams of two, we spread out to take charge of a row of vines per couple, and the harvest began!  After removing some of the leaves from around the bunches, so as to better see the grapes, we used the secateurs to cut them and then we placed them in the crate.

Harvesting the Grapes from the adopt-a-vines

In such a setting it's impossible to resist the temptation of tasting the grapes!  They are looking good this year, fairly large and oh so sweet!  We noticed a few damaged bunches, either some grapes that had shriveled up from the hot sun at the end of June, and some bunches where the first signs of rot have appeared, caused by the hot and wet weather that settled over Burgundy in the couple of weeks prior to the harvest starting.

Assessing the quality of the grapes

Once we had filled each crate, we brought it back to the beginning of the vine row to be picked up later, and then took a new crate to harvest some more grapes.

Filling the crates with the harvested grapes

Harvesting is a fairly physical job, especially in Burgundy where the vines are pruned close to the ground.  The aperitif was therefore very welcome!

Back at the winery, we started the wine tasting session with a Santenay "St Jean" 2009 white wine, followed by a Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru "Morgeot" 2009.  As is the custom, the wines were accompanied by some gougères, a local specialty!

Wine tasting Burgundy wines from Domaine Chapelle

During the meal, we continued the tasting with some of the winery's red wines; a Santenay "Clos des Cornières" 2007, followed by an Aloxe Corton 2007 to compare two pinot noir wines of the same vintage but from different terroirs.  We ended with a Santenay Premier Cru "Beaurepaire" 2002.

After lunch, we met back up with our harvested grapes, which had since continued their journey to the reception hall.  Here the crates, brimming with grapes, are received and emptied onto the sorting table.  Side by side with the professional team, and once again equipped with a pair of secateurs, we separated the damaged or unripe grapes from the ones which are to be used to make our wine.

Sorting the good from bad grapes on the sorting table

We saw the de-stemming machine at work which separates the grape berries from the stalks.  The stalks and rejected grapes are collected in a trailer to make compost.

The discarded stems headed for compost

The sorting table is located above the fermentation hall, and so the good grapes continue their journey down a slide where they are collected in a trolley before being taken to one of the fermentation tanks.  Each plot of vines is vinified separately.  Yannick Jacrot, the Technical Director, and Jean François Chapelle then explained the first stages of fermentation to us.

Filling the fermation tanks with the harvested grapes

We then headed down the stone steps into the cellar to see where the wines will continue their fermentation and ageing in oak barrels.

Visiting the wine cellar

All this made us thirsty again, so we had a final refreshment waiting for us; some grape juice from that day's harvest!

A big thank you to all those who shared the day with us, and especially to Jean François and his team for welcoming us so warmly during the busiest period of the winemaker's year!

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Home Straight to the Harvest

We had to be flexible last Saturday with the Wine Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle to avoid a few showers, but that didn't stop us having a good time all the same!

Understanding the vineyards and terroir of Burgundy

We started off with a little stroll through the vines.  Jean-François Chapelle explained what makes the Burgundy terroir so special, and showed us the geological differences between the vineyards that make up Santenay village, Santenay Premier Cru and the plots used for the Burgundy Pinot Noir.

We climbed up to one of Domaine Chapelle's Premier Cru vineyards, Beaurepaire.  Some of the old vines in this vineyard have recently been dug up, so Jean-François explained how his team removed the vines and roots, and how the plot will be sowed with mustard to regenerate the soil before the new vines are planted.

Visit of the Fermentation Hall

The first rain shower arrived a little earlier than expected, so we scurried back to the shelter of the winery to continue our discussions on the work carried out in the vineyard, and we also visited the fermentation hall where the grapes are received at harvest time and put into the fermentation tanks.

Wine Tasting of Burgundy Wines at the winery

Next up was a wine tasting of some of the white Burgundy wines from Domaine Chapelle, a Santenay "Saint Jean" 2009 and a Chassgane Montrachet Premier Cru "Les Morgeots" 2009.  The wine tasting continued over our lunch of Burgundy specialties.  First, a Santenay "Clos des Cornières" 2006, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, then an Aloxe Corton 2007, with a Santenay Premier Cru "Beaurepaire" 2002 to finish.

Rent a vine in a Burgundy vineyard

After the meal, we had a new bright patch, so we headed back amongst the vines, this time to the Clos des Cornières vineyard so that everyone could get acquainted with their adopted vines!

Visit of the wine cellar

Back at the winery, we descended through the low door to the vaulted cellar which is a real labyrinth.  Here we saw where the ageing takes place in the oak barrels, and where hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine are stored!

The Wine Labeling Room

The Wine Experience Day finished with a visit to the labeling room, where one day next year the bottles of the 2011 vintage will be dressed with the personalised wine labels of the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  But there's still lots of work to be done before then - you have to be patient in the world of wine!

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Among friends in the Chablis Vineyards

We've just spent two glorious sunny days among the Chablis vines with some of the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  With Céline, Pierre and Yvonnick from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard at our sides, we spent the day behind the scenes to get an insight into what it's like to be a winemaker!

Explaining the terroir around Chablis

Link to the video 

To get a better understanding of the terroir around us, we stepped out onto the terrace which overlooks the vines which encircle the winery.  It's an impressive view and the perfect spot to appreciate the difference in vineyard plots that make Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru wines.


In the vineyard, Yvonnick explained to us all of the key stages in cultivating the vines, from pruning right up until the harvest.  As is the custom with our Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Days, the winemakers had left us some work to do!  To concentrate the energy of the vines in the fruit bearing branches and the grapes, we needed to do some "épamprage", which involves removing unwanted shoots from the vines.  These are the shoots that won't bear any fruit this year, and won't be needed when it comes to pruning to generate next year's harvest.  The other advantage of épamprage is to improve the flow of air around the grapes to help defend the vines from mildew.

Getting stuck in

After receiving our instructions from Yvonnick, we spread out among the rows of vines to get stuck in.  But we soon found out that épamprage is not quite as easy as it seems!


Each Wine Experience client is the adopted owner of some vines in the vineyard.  Their vines are identifiable by a name board placed in front of them.  Once the hunt for the vines was declared open, we set off to find them and to check that everything was in order!

Organic and biodynamic wine making

The Boissonneuse vineyard, where the adopted vines are located, was the first plot to be converted to organic and biodynamic cultivation.  Yvonnick explained the difference between these two approaches, and showed us some of the plants, found at the end of the vine rows, that are used in making the biodynamic infusions and concoctions that attract unwanted insects away from the vines, or are used to strengthen the vines.

Wine Tasting of the Chablis Wines at the Vineyard

After all our efforts and all the talk about wine, the time finally came to taste some of the wines from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.  To get a good appreciation of the range of wines, we started the wine tasting with a Petit Chablis Sainte Claire 2010, followed by a Chablis Sainte Claire 2010, before tasting the Boissonneuse 2009, the wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey.  We then moved on to several Chablis Premier Crus and finished with a Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2009.

Exposed cut of the Kimmeridgien soil

Once we had enjoyed a lunch from the highly acclaimed Chablis charcutier, Marc Colin, we headed down into the cool or the cellar.  Here, the Brocard family has left one of the walls exposed so that we can see the layers of limestone and marl which are the source of the distinctive aromas and taste of Chablis wines.

Visit of the fermentation hall

The day finished with a visit to the fermentation hall to see the tanks and oak vats that are used to ferment and age the wines.  After a final tasting, straight from the vats, we said our goodbyes, everyone hopefully leaving with a better understanding of the fascinating profession of a winemaker!

Link to the video 

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Is your Dad a Wine Connoisseur? Adopt a Vine for an original Father’s Day Gift!

Father's Day is fast approaching - it's the time to find that unique gift.


Original father's day wine gift for a wine connoisseur

The Romans used to pay tribute each year during February to dead fathers, but Father's Day as we celebrate it today was born in the United States at the beginning of the last century. Mother's Day was already well established when a young girl who had lost her mother and was being raised by her father wished to honour him, and so suggested that we also celebrate Father's Day. The idea caught on, resulting in Father's Day becoming an institution in many countries!

A delightful day for all fathers but a real dilemma for children; what to give for an innovative and original father's day present Gourmet Odyssey has an original father's day gift idea for you that is a unique adventure for any wine connoisseur!

More than a wine course or a good bottle of wine, your father will receive a personalised gift box introducing him to the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  During a whole vintage he will be the adopted owner of vines in a renowned French vineyard and will participate in the making of his own personalised bottles of wine!

So look no further for the perfect present: offer him an unusual Father's Day wine gift that he'll remember for years!


Learn more about our Father's Day wine gifts.

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De-budding in Burgundy

Under the blue skies of Burgundy, we spent last weekend at Domaine Chapelle with some of the Wine Discovery Experience Day clients.  The aim of the day is to learn more about making wine in a very practical way and to get behind the scenes to find out what it's really like to be a winemaker.

Watch the video (french langauge)


Burgundy vineyards

After the initial introductions, we headed straight out into the Clos des Cornières vineyard, where the adopted vines of the clients are located.  With the panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards, Jean Françcois Chapelle began by explaining the difference in terroir between the vine plots used for Premier Cru, Santenay village, Burgundy red, and Santenay village white wines.  Something which is much easier to understand with the landscape in front of you than by looking at a map!

Cultivating the vines organically

We learnt about all of the key stages in cultivating the vines from pruning, treating the vines organically, right through to when the grapes will eventually be fully ripened come harvest time.  Much like the other wine producing regions of France, Burgundy has had a very warm and sunny April, which means that the vines are currently some 3 weeks in advance of a normal year.  It's still too early to predict exactly when the harvest will be, but it will almost surely be sooner than usual.

The difference betwwen Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Vine Leaves

The adjacent vineyard is planted with Chardonnay vines, so we took a look at the difference in the vines, the different pruning methods used and compared the foliage of the pinot noir and Chardonnay vines. 



Back in the Clos des Cornières vineyard, time to get down to some work!  The essence of a Gorumet Odyssey Wine Experience Day is to learn about wine making by touching, seeing, doing, tasting and smelling.  Jean François had left a few rows of vines to be de-budded.  He explained the importance of removing some of the vine shoots to concentrate growth in the future fruit-bearing shoots, which will help improve the quality of the grapes, and showed us how to select which shoots to break off.  Easy! We each settled in front of some vines, looked at each shoot, remembered what Jean François had told us, and then froze as the realisation of the responsibility that had been placed upon us hit home. No-one wants to choose the wrong shoot to detach!  Luckily Jean François and Yvette Chapelle were at hand to guide us, and soon the pace of activity increased!

Rent-a-vine sign in the Burgundy vineyard


Signs had been placed in the vineyard to mark where the adopted vines of each client are located. Time was set aside to search out each client's mini plot of vines.  The cameras came out, various poses were adopted, some set about weeding around their vines, and others even started murmuring sweet nothings to encourage their fertility!

Wine tasting in the courtyard Domaine Chapelle, Santenay, Burgundy

After the effort, time to head back to the winery for a well earned aperitif!  In the shade of the courtyard, we began the wine tasting, accompanied by some Gougères, a delicious cheese pastry specialty from Burgundy.  We started with Domaine Chapelle's Santenay "St Jean" 2009 white wine, a crisp and mineral chardonnay from the upper slopes above the domaine that we had seen from our time in the vineyard.  Next we tasted the Chassagne Montrachet  "Morgeot" Premier Cru 2008 white wine, a more fruity and complex wine.

Lunch, including boeuf bourguignon and local cheeses, was served in the reception hall, whilst the wine tasting continued with the red wines. First a comparison of the Santenay Village "Clos des Cornières" 2009 and 2006 (the wine selected for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience), followed by the domaine's Aloxe Corton 2007, and finally the Santenay "Beaurepaire" Premier Cru 2002. 

Visit of the fermentation hall

The cool of the cuverie and cellars awaited us in the afternoon.  First an introduction to how the grapes are received at harvest time, sorted, and ferment in the tanks.

Visit of the cellars

Ducking our heads, we descended into the vast cellars where the 2010 wines are currently ageing, and some 130,000 bottles are stocked.  Jean François explained the ageing process, and the choice of oak barrels used.

The wine labelling station

The visit ended with an explanation of the bottling and labeling stations, the final stage in preparing the wine before it is packaged up and dispatched to be enjoyed far and beyond the small village of Santenay!

A very warm thanks to Jean François and Yvette for sharing their passion with us, and for giving us an insight into the many and varied facets that make up the life of a winemaker.

Watch the video (french langauge)


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Wine Tasting of the 2010 Vintage during the Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle

Last weekend saw us travel to Santenay in Burgundy for the Vinification Experience Days at Domaine Chapelle.  During each day, we participated in an in-depth wine tasting course, alongside the winemakers, to discover the key stages of fermentation and ageing of the wine, and to better understand the notion of terroir.

Oenology course in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

The Vinification Experience Day is the most technical oenology course of the wine experience days offered by Gourmet Odyssey, and most of the time is dedicated to wine tasting.  We therefore headed straight to the cuverie (fermentation hall), and after a brief explanation of how the grapes are received and put into the tanks at harvest time, we learnt more about the fermentation process.

Tasting sugar, salt, acid, and bitter solutions

To prepare us for the wine tasting to follow, Yannick, the Technical Director at the wine estate, had prepared a little test: four numbered cups, each containing a sugary, acidic, salty or bitter solution.  The game was to guess which was which.  Not the most appetising drinks, but as Jean-François Chapelle, the owner of the winery, told us, wine tasting is a work tool!  He also explained the importance of the five senses when tasting wines; smell, sight, taste, touch and hearing.

Wine tasting direct from the barrels

In the cellar, we began the tasting of the 2010 vintages, using a pipette to draw the wine directly from the barrels.  The côte de Beaune region of Burgundy uses just one grape varietal in the makeup of its wines, pinot noir for the reds and chardonnay for the whites.  The wines we tasted were chosen to highlight the difference in terroirs and the impact that the choice of oak used in the barrels has on the wines.   The first comparison was between wine from the same vines, from the same vineyard plot, and of the same age, but aged in different barrels.  The second comparison showed us the difference in terroir, comparing two Premier Crus, Santenay "La Comme" and Santenay "Beaurepaire", which hail from two different vineyards with differing geology and relief.

Blending wines from different aged vines

Climbing back up from the cellar, we stopped at the bottling machine before arriving at the final test.  This time we were presented with three wines, each coming from different plots in the same vineyard, the Clos des Cornières, where the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey clients are located.  As well as their situation, the vines also varied in age, so we could also compare the impact on the wine.  One of the wines was more advanced in the ageing process than the others, one more fruity, and the last had a longer finish.  Using measuring cylinders, we played with different proportions of these three wines to make our own blends.  We tasted some great blends, but unfortunately the doses were not always remembered!

We passed the labeling machine as we headed back to the reception hall for the aperitif of Santenay white wine and gougères, a local specialty.  During the meal we tasted other regional fare such as beouf boruguignonne, and Epoisses cheese, and continued the comparisons of the estate?s wines with a Clos de Cornières 2009 and 2006, an Aloxe Corton 2007, and a Chassgane Montrachet Premier Cru 2007, before ending with an old marc de Bourgogne with the coffee.

Introduction to the adopted vines

After all that, we needed to take in some fresh air! Off we headed into the vineyard to inspect the work, and to give each person the chance to (re)introduce themselves to their adopted vines!

Thank you to all for two enriching and enlightening Vinification Experience Days.

Link to video (video available in french language only) 

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Amongst the Chablis vines for a Wine Discovery Experience Day

Last Saturday we were at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in the heart of the Chablis vineyards for a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience Day.  The objective for the day, to learn more about cultivating the vines, and biodynamic winemaking.

In the Middle of the Chablis vineyards for the Wine Dicovery Experience Day

Céline Brocard, the daughter of Jean-Marc, welcomed us to the winery in the magnificent reception room that overlooks the estate's vineyards which surround the building.  Céline introduced us to the region and winery, and from the balcony explained the difference in the terroir of the Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru.

Explanation of Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru vineyards

We were fortunate to have a crisp blue skied day.  After equipping ourselves with boots and warm coats, we headed off directly for the Boissonneuse vineyard, where the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients are located.  We were accompanied by Yvonnick, a modern day "druid" who is in charge of the biodynamic culture at the estate, and passionate about working in harmony with the environment and nature's rhythm.  Under his expert guidance, we learnt why and how to prune the vines, and realised that pruning vines is not as simple as it seems!

Learning how to prune the vines

Yvonnick then explained the fascinating principles of biodynamic farming, explaining the difference between organic and biodynamic, and how the biodynamic treatments are prepared using plant infusions, cow manure and silica, and how they are applied to treat the vines. 

Explanation of biodynamic wine making

After a few hours spent outdoors, the relative warmth of the cellar was very welcome!  At one end of the cellar, the wall has been left in its natural state to expose a cross section of the earth that characterises the Chablis terroir; Kimmeridgian strata composed of alternating limestone and clay marl.  The cellar was the location for our wine tasting session of the estate's organic Chablis wines, including a Chablis "vielles vignes", the Chablis from the Boissonneuse vineyard, several Chablis Premier Crus and a Chablis Grand Cru "Les Preuses".  The gougères, a Burgundy specialty, helped keep the hunger at bay before tucking into the Chablis Ham, served at lunch overlooking the vines!

Wine tasting session in the celllar

In the afternoon, we headed down to the wine making building to get an introduction into the vinification side of things, and finished with a final wine tasting, direct from the oak casks, of a few of the 2010 wines that are still ageing.

Wine tasting direct from the oak casks
Another great day that once again helped better understand the care and effort that is needed to make a quality wine!

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Gourmet Odyssey at the Rare Brand Christmas Market

Gourmet Odyssey will be one of the select exhibitors at the Rare Brand Christmas Market at the Goodwood Racecourse in West Sussex.


original christmas gift ideas wine lover

This event brings together a wide range of small, independent boutique brands that offer unique and original Christmas gift ideas.  So if you're looking for an original Christmas present, come to the Rare Brand Market, and make sure you visit us at the Gourmet Odyssey stand!


Opening Times of the Rare Brand Christmas Market:

Wednesday 17th November, 9am to 8pm

Thursday 18th November, 9am to 5pm


Goodwood Race Course, Goodwood, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0PS

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Successful Harvest Experience Day in Bordeaux!

Last weekend we were at Château Beau Rivage, in the Bordeaux region, to get involved in the harvest with some of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients.  We had a great time, mixing work in the vineyard, getting to know the winemakers and sharing their knowledge, and of course tasting some great wines!


Harvest Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux


After a brief introduction to the winery, Christine (the owner and winemaker) and her team, we headed off to the vineyard, each carrying a basket and pair of secateurs.  Christophe explained the differences between the five grape varieties grown in the vineyard, the work involved in bringing the grapes to maturity, and what to look out for to know when the grapes have reached the ideal moment for harvesting.

Adopt-a-vine sign

Before starting to harvest, we made our way to the part of the vineyard where the Gourmet Odyssey vines are located, so that each client could find their adopted vines.  To help identify the vines, Château Beau Rivage had engraved wooden signs, specially for the clients of the Harvest Experience Day, at the barrel-making firm that belongs to Christine's family.


Christine threw out a challenge to us to fill a trailer! In pairs, each on opposite sides of a row, we began to harvest the Merlot plot that was at the peak of its maturity.  A few songs and the regular cry of "Porter" added to the snip snip of the secateurs and the rustle of leaves.  Once the baskets were filled, the harvester called for the porter, and empties the picked grapes into the basket that the porter carries on his back.  Having collected the bunches from the different teams of harvesters, the porter then empties his basket into the trailer, which starts to fill little by little.


Transferring the grapes to the trailer

The work of the harvester and porter is very physical, especially if done day after day for a couple of weeks.  Luckily, our mission was finished in a little over two hours, and a wine tasting session and harvester's meal awaited us back at the château!

Barbecue over dried vines

The first wine we tasted was the Château Beau Rivage Clairet 2009, a fresh Bordeaux style rosé, served with local charcuterie.  Accompanying the duck and gizzards salad, we tasted the Château Beau Rivage 2005 and 2003 vintages, and the Clementine 2004.  During this time, Christophe started the barbecue by lighting the dried vine branches that would cook our delicious steak bordelaise, served with a gratin dauphinois and a carafed Clos la Bohème 2007, and the Phare 2002. Once the cheese and home-made chocolate cake were also finished, it was time to get back to work!

The grapes climb into the destemmer

The tractor reversed the trailer full of harvested grapes to the reception area.  The grapes climb up a mechanized ladder from the trailer to the de-stemming machine, where the grape berries are separated from the stalks.  We all gathered round the sorting table to remove any bad grapes or stems that managed to get through the machine.  There were very few rotten grapes this year, which helped us with the sorting!

Remontage to mix the grape juice with the skin

Once the sorting was finished, we entered the winery to learn more about the first stages of fermentation which turns the grape sugar into alcohol.  We watched a "remontage" happen, where the must (grape juice) is drawn from the bottom of the vats and pumped back into the top to mix with the grape skins that remain at the top.  This process is very important to ensure that the tannins and colour from the grape skins are best extracted to help improve the quality of the wine.  We tasted the sweet tasting must directly from the vat, to better understand firsthand about fermentation.

Tasting the Grape Must in the cellar

After a quick tour of the cellar to see the barrels that are currently holding the 2009 vintage, and some cleaning of the tools used during the day, the time had come to say our farewells.  A huge thank you to all the clients, and to the staff at Château Beau Rivage for having brought such energy and good cheer to this harvest experience day.

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Adopt a Vine in France and Let Them Follow the Making of Their Own Wine !

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