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Wine Discovery Experience Days in Bordeaux

Last weekend, we spent two thoroughly enjoyable Discovery Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage in Macau-en-Médoc.  The rain that was forecast on Saturday never materialised and we had deep blue skies all day Sunday.  Perfect for passing some time working in the vineyard!

Bordeaux Vineyard

During the Discovery Experience days, we learn more about what needs to be done in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time.  Christine Nadalié, the winemaker at Château Beau Rivage, spent all day with us to explain her profession and to answer our many and varied questions.

After the introductions, we headed straight out into the vineyard.  On the way to the plot where the adopted vines of Gourmet Odyssey's clients are located, Christine explained to us the different grape varieties planted in the vineyard, and she started to talk about the many manual tasks that are necessary to produce the best quality grapes.

Once we had arrived at the Merlot plot at the far end of the vineyard, we dispersed among the rows of vines, chalkboard in hand, to find our adopted vines! 

Adopted vines

Due to the cold and wet spring, the vines are a few weeks behind where they would be in a normal year.  Usually, we would have had lots of shoots to remove from the vine trunks, but they proved surprisingly hard to find.  It's important to get rid of the lower shoots because they won't produce any fruit, and will just drain energy from the plant.  Later, they can also act as a bridge to bring disease from the ground to the grapes if not removed.


There is much wildlife in the vineyard at Château Beau Rivage.  In the sky, some buzzards circled above and we even saw the odd stork, and on the ground rabbits were seen hopping and running between the vine rows.  But the rabbits are a little too fond of the shoots on the young vines, and as a result, the plot that has recently been replanted is taking longer to establish itself than wanted.  But that gave us another job to do!  To protect them from the rabbits, we removed the weeds from around the vines, and then placed a protective cover around them.

Protecting the young vines

After all that hard work, the wine tasting was just reward!  We started with the clairet, a type of Bordeaux rosé wine, followed by the Raphaël 2007.

Wine tasting

We then sat down to eat lunch in the barn and to continue the wine tasting, including the "Château Beau Rivage" wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Experience, Christine's "Clos la Bohème" Haut-Médoc , and "Le Phare".

Winemakers meal

In the afternoon, we went into the cellar where Christine continued to answer our questions.  She explained how the grapes are received during the harvest and what happens during the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation stages.

In the barrel room, we discovered Christine's other fascinating universe, that of a cooper. She enlightened us on the interaction between the oak and wine that takes place in the barrels and its importance in ageing Bordeaux wines.


In the cellar

Very many thanks to Christine and Guillaume for sharing their passion for winemaking with us, and of course, to all our clients who, we hope, left appreciating a little more the vast and varied profession of being a winemaker!

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Wine Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle

Last Saturday, we spent the day with Yvette, Jean-François and Yannick at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay.  Under a shy sun, but nevertheless present, we had come to learn more about the work in the vineyard and how wine is made during the Wine Discovery Experience Day.

Over a cup of coffee and a few croissants, Jean-François enlightened us about the notion of Appellations and the importance that the different terroirs in Burgundy play, the roots from which date back to the monks in the nearby village of Citeaux! After an introduction to the winery, and the evolution of the wine making over the past few generations, we made the most of the sun to learn more about the geology and its impact on the wine.

Gift adopt your own vines in Burbungy

From the garden in front of the chateau, you have a splendid view of the surrounding hills, and Jean-François pointed out the vineyards that are classified as Premier Cru, Village or for general Burgundy wine. The differences can seem rather theoretical and abstract, but when you can see the different plots in front of you, all is much clearer! After some additional explanations on the principal grape varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, that are grown in Burgundy, we headed to the winery building, accompanied by Yannick, the winery's Technical Director.

Gift adopt your own vines in Burgundy with Gourmet Odyssey

We followed the route that the grapes and then the wine take from the time of harvest, through the fermentation and ageing stages in making wine. A little teaser for those who are coming back for the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days!

Gift make your own wine in France with Gourmet Odyssey

Following the explanations of how the reception hall functions, we turned our attention to the barrels. Where do they come from? What wood is used to make them? What work is done before the bottling takes place? ...

We then ventured outside for the aperitif, and started to taste some of the white wines produced by Domaine Chapelle, the Santenay Saint-Jean and the Meursault. During the meal, we continued the tasting with some of the reds, including the Santenay Clos des Cornières and an Aloxe Corton. Some fine wines to accompany the Burgundy specialities that we savoured during the meal.

Gift tasting wines from Burbungy France and adopt your own vines

We spent the afternoon in the vineyard, first to visit our plot of adopted vines. Pruned and the soil recently tilled, the Clos des Cornières vineyard saw some of us take up some unusual positions and grimaces for those who were tempted to try and win a magnum of wine in the photo competition!

Gift visit a vineyard in France and make your own wine

The neighbouring vineyard is planted with Chardonnay, and we crossed the road to take a look. Surprise! The vines were not pruned in the same way. Each grape varietal has its own specificities, and as the ethos at Domaine Chapelle is to concentrate on the work in the vineyard and then to let the wine express itself as naturally as possibly in the cellar, each vineyard plot is worked individually to maximise the potential of the coming harvest.

Yannick showed us how to tidy up the branches and attach them to the training wires. Even at this stage, we are working to control the number of grapes that each vine will produce, and to try and help the future grapes to reach maturity at the same time. We were then each given the chance to have a go ourselves!

Adopt your own vines and make your own wine with Gourmet Odyssey in Burbungy

Domaine Chapelle is organically certified, so we also took the time to discover what exactly that entails. What products are used? In what doses? What is the difference from conventional farming methods? Yannick answered our questions, and told us about some of the difficulties that they have had to overcome.

Back at the winery, the day finally drew to a close. We loaded the cars up with wine, and said our goodbyes, at least, until the next time!

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Vinification Experience Day in Chinon

Last weekend, we were welcomed by Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, for two Wine Experience Days covering the vinification, ageing and blending aspects of wine making.

Wine Making Gift Experience in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The day started at the winery with a hot drink and some croissants to get to know each other.  Marc Plouzeau then introduced us to the winery and its history, the different terroirs of the region and his vision of organic wine.  It was then time to start the practical side of proceedings!

Adopt your own vines in Chinon, France

The first workshop concentrated on our senses.  One of the most difficult things to do when tasting wine is to find the words to describe it and to explain why we like it or don't like it.   To help us, we had to identify the aromas contained in small flasks.  Some were easy to name, whilst other proved more subtle and difficult to pinpoint.  We identified the aromas in wine that are the result of the fruit and terroir, and those that are obtained when the wine is aged in oak barrels.

Gift for making your own wine in France, Loire Valley

We then headed to the chai to see the vats and some of the barrels.  Marc explained the choices he takes to produce the wine to the high standards he expects, and we learnt that it's a very detailed process where a small error can have a large impact on the quality of the wine.  He talked us through the fermentation process, when the sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol, and the malo lactic fermentation, when the wine becomes rounder by decreasing some of the acidity.  He also explained the difference between a wine aged in the vats and that which is aged in oak barrels.

Rent-a-vine Gift in France.

Then off to the vineyard to get some fresh air.  We stopped off to say hello to our adopted vines and to take some photos!

Wine tasting gift, red wine in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The morning now finished, we set off for the cellar to begin the wine tasting and to enjoy our meal.  The cellar, located under the Fortress of Chinon, is a very special place and was dug out by hand a couple of hundred years ago.  We started the tasting with a sparkling wine that has no added sulphur, the 'Perles Sauvages' 2011, and is perfect for an aperitif.  We then sat down to eat amongst the barrels in the cellar.  During the meal we tasted some of the different red wines, including the 'Clos de la Bonnelière 2011', which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients.

Oenology course in France with Gourmet Odyssey

A short tour of the cellar to digest the meal and wines, and then it was time to start the final workshop of the day to learn how to blend wine.
We split into groups and tasted 5 different wines from the 2012 vintage that are still in the process of ageing.  The wines were chosen to show the specificity between different Chinon terroirs and the choice of ageing in a barrel or vat.  There was also a press wine to bring more structure.  We then started to blend our own wines.  The aim was to find the best harmony by mixing different wines together.  Not as easy as it sounds, but when done right, the blend can make something much more interesting than any one of the wines on its own.

Many thanks to Marc Plouzeau for letting us in on his fascinating profession, one that is rich, varied and very interesting.  Thanks also to our apprentice winemakers for getting stuck in and we hope that you has as enjoyable day as we did!

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First Wine Experience Day in Alsace

Last Saturday we were at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in the Alsacien village of Wettolsheim for the very first Wine Experience Day at the winery.  And if they all go as well, then we're well set!  A passionate winemaking family, a group of very interested clients, a most enjoyable time spent together, and even some sunshine!

Rent a vine wine gift alsace

We were welcomed by Céline and Stéphane Stentz who introduced us to the region and the winery.  Their father Jean-Jacques, officially retired but who continues to work each day, also spent the morning with us.

We then headed off to the Rosenberg vineyard, home to our adopted vines that will produce the grapes for the 2013 vintage.

Wine experience gift Alsace

It's the end of the pruning period at the moment, all of the vines needing to be pruned before the sap rises up in the plants with the arrival of the warmer spring days.  We walked through the vineyards until we reached a plot of Grand Cru vines that still had to be pruned.

Adopt-a-vine gift. Vineyard tour gift

Jean-Jacques and Stéphane explained why we prune and how to do so, and then we each had a go at pruning for ourselves.  Something that's not as easy as you would imagine!

Rent-a-vine. Gift for wine lovers Alsace

We also learnt more about working the soil, and Jean-Jacques even prepared a couple of vine cuttings to be planted back at home.  You'll have to keep us posted if they take or not!

Wine experience gift Alsace

Back at the winery, we tasted several of the wines produced by the Stentz family, starting with the Pinot Gris Rosenberg, which is the wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey.  Stéphane explained the differences between the Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and other wines that we tasted.  The tasting continued over the lunch of choucroute and other regional specialties.

Wine tasting gift Alsace

In the afternoon, Stéphane took us through the rest of the work that will be accomplished in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and explained how he will choose the optimum time to harvest.   We took a tour of the cellar to see the wine press, the barrels, vats and casks, the oldest of which dates from 1899!  He introduced us to the vinification side of winemaking, and we could even hear the gurgles of the wine that is currently still fermenting.

Winery visit gift Alsace

Many thanks to our clients who shared this first day at the winery with us with such enthusiasm and good humour, and of course to the Stentz family for welcoming us with such passion.  We look forward to coming back for the next day soon!

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A day in the vineyard at Domaine la Cabotte

We spent last Saturday in the Rhône Valley with Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet, the owners and winemakers at Domaine la Cabotte.  It was the very first Wine Experience Day at the winery, and this long awaited moment went very well.  But with such passionate winemakers in such a splendid setting, it would be difficult not to have a good time!

Wine experience gift. Adopt a vine in France and participate in the pruning with the winemaker

The aim of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is to discover more, not only about wine, but also about the multi-faceted profession of being a winemaker.  During the Discovery Experience Day, we spend most of the time in the vineyard, learning about the work involved in nurturing the vines to produce the best grapes possible come harvest time.

Adopt-a-Vine gift in France. Follow the making of your own wine in the Cotes du Rhone.

So off we headed to the vineyard, to start the day in the plot where the adopted vines of our clients are located.  We took a few minutes to take some photos with the vines, and to whisper sweet nothings to them.  Some people even started naming them!

Original gift for wine lovers. Rent a vine and get involved in the pruning.

Eric spoke to us about the different grape varietals that are planted in the vineyard, and showed us the various pruning methods used.  We're approaching the end of the pruning period at the winery, but Eric and Marie-Pierre had set aside a few rows for us to prune.After a few demonstrations on how to prune, we spread out, a large pair of clippers in hand, to give it a go ourselves.  It's not easy at first, but once we each had a few vines under our belt, we gained in confidence.

Original wine experience gift in the vineyard. Pruning the vines.

We pruned two rows of vines.  We weren't necessarily as quick as the professionals, but it's nevertheless very satisfying.  We had well earned our wine tasting!

Wine tasting gift at the winery in France. Visit the vineyard and taste the wines in the Cotes du Rhone.

The wine tasting began with the two Côtes du Rhône white wines made at the winery, before tasting the red wines.  First up, the AOC Massif D'Uchaux Gabriel, followed by the Chateauneud-du-Pape.

Only local products were on the menu for lunch.  Marie-Pierre had prepared small pieces of toast with truffles found by her dog the day before and drizzled olive oil from the winery's olive trees!  We tasted the wine chosen for Gourmet Odyssey, the Massif d'Uchaux Garance 2011, with the main course, and after some local goat's cheese, we were treated to a lemon desert served with biscuits made using almonds gathered from the tree outside.  Some even left with the recipes!

Organic vineyard tour in France.

A digestive walk amongst the vines was most welcome afterwards.  Eric described the work throughout the different seasons, and showed us the difference in vines in the different plots.

Winery tour gift in the cotes du rhone, France. Visit the cellar.

Back at the winery, we finished the day in the cellar.  We saw the vats used to ferment and age the wines, something that will be covered in more detail during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days..

Biodynamic wine gift. Discover how to make wine biodynamically.

The winery is biodynamically certified by Demeter, and so Eric explained the philosophy behind this environmentally friendly way of working.  We were even treated to smelling some of the fertilizer made using organic cow dung, which will help give more energy and strength to the vines!

Many thanks to our clients who participated in the day and to Marie-Pierre for sharing their passion for what they do with such authenticity and simplicity!

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Wine Experience Days in Burgundy

During the first weekend of March, Domaine Chapelle in Santenay welcomed two groups of apprentice winemakers for two different wine experience days.  For one group it was the last in the 2012 series, and for the other the first of the 2013 vintage.  In the warmth of the reception hall, Jean François and Yvette introduced us to the distinctiveness of the Burgundy terroir and working organically.


Wine Course Gift in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

Saturday 2nd March : Vinification Experience Day

On Saturday we concentrated on the ageing and blending of the wine. With Yannick and Yvette we learnt some wine tasting techniques with a series of workshops to develop the sense of smell and taste, and found out how the wine interacts and evolves in the oak barrels.

Gift for wine lovers. Wine tasting lesson in Burgundy, France

Far from just be contained in the barrels, the wine is very active, exchanging with the wood and the air, and the winemaker must remain attentive at all times.  With the large part of the work having been done in the vineyard, the room to manoeuver is limited.
A first series of tasting enabled us to discover the different influences that new and old oak can have on the same wine.

Tasting wine in the cellar

We headed out into the vineyard after lunch to visit the adopted vines, and gave us the opportunity to see the work that had been carried out since our last visit.  The pruning has now been done, and the contrast with the luxurious green from September is striking. 

Adopt-a-vine gift in France. Organic vineyard visit in Burgundy.

Back at the winery, we tasted a few glasses of the 2012 vintage.  It's still in the process of ageing, and will soften considerably by the time it is bottled later in the year.  We concluded the day by comparing wines from the different areas of the Clos des Cornières vineyard, which are from three different ages of vines.

Wine tasting of Burgundy wines in the Cotes de Beaune, France

Sunday 3 March: Discovery Experience Day

On Sunday morning, our new winemakers launched the new cycle of the Wine Experience for the 2013 vintage.  Delighted to reveal the secrets of his profession (or at least some of them!), Jean-François welcomed us to Domaine Chapelle, happily noting that at the start of the 4th year working with Gourmet Odyssey, he still had as much to say and to teach his guests.

Jean-François recounted the history of the winery, from the beginnings with the great great uncle, the local history of the Côte de Beaune region and the influence of the Cîteaux monks, the relationship between the commercial and agricultural sides of the business, the choice of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy, and the introduction of the appellation Contrôlée in 1935...  This overview enabled us to become acquainted with the region, and to learn that winemakers don't necessarily work in the same way from Bordeaux, Mondragon or Santenay!

We started to discuss the issues and choices that a winemaker is faced with.  The decision to work organically, the fruit of a personal decision concerning the wine and its impact on the surrounding environment, has consequences that you can immediately see in the vineyard.

The rest of the morning was spent in the vineyard.  We visited several plots of vines to see the difference in pruning methods.   Which branches to cut and leave?  We don't necessarily prune the same way in all the vineyards or for Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

Wine Experience day in the Vineyard

We then headed to meet our adopted vines.  Once again out came the cameras!

Rent a vine in France and visit the organic vineyard.

Then back to the winery to taste the wines from Domaine Chapelle and for lunch.

In the afternoon, we visited the fermentation hall and the cellars.  It was an introduction to the winemaking side of things, quiet now, but frenetic at harvest time!  Reception of the grapes, following of the fermentation, blending before bottling...  Despite appearances, this room is rarely truly quiet.

Visit the cellar and adopt your own vines in France

We then descended into the labyrinth of cellars under the winery buildings to discover the hidden treasures.  A nice way to end the day before returning for the harvest!

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Pruning in the vineyard

On the list of essential equipment for winemakers are a thick woolly hat, a good pair of gloves and some warm boots.  And last weekend we need all of these for the Discovery Experience day at Château de la Bonnelière!

Wine Experience Gift in France. Rent a vine and participate in wine experience days at the winery

We started the day in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, where the adopted vines are located.  Once we had taken a few minutes for everyone to find their vines and takes a few photos, we followed Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at the winery to the other side of the vineyard.

At this time of year, it's pruning season.  It's a very important step in controlling the growth of the wines and in assuring the quality of the harvest to come.  Marc showed us which branches to cut and which to keep.  In theory it's fairly simple, but you quickly understand that each vine isn't necessarily identical, and that there are many exceptions to the rule!

Pruning the vines in the vineyard

Once we had had a go at pruning ourselves, Marc then explained the rest of the work that will be done in the vineyard between now and the harvest.  We also visited the shed where he keeps all of the machinery and tools used in working the vines and the soil.

The tool shed

After a visit to the fermentation hall, we headed off to the winery's magnificent cellar, located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress.

The wine tasting had been well earnt!  The Perle Sauvage naturally sparkling wine to start with, followed by the winery's Chenin Blanc.

Wine tasting in the cellar

In the middle of the cellar and surrounded by the oak barrels, we continued the tasting of the red wines over lunch, including the Clos de la Bonnelière and the Chapelle wines that have both recently won medals at the Millésime Bio organic wine fair.

Meal in the cellar 

In the afternoon, Marc took us on a tour of the cellar, explaining its history and how the stone was extracted from the galleries to build the fortress overhead.

Tour of the cellar

Marc introduced us to the ageing side of wine making by showing us the oak casks and barrels, and also demonstrated the rotating machine used in making the sparkling wine.

Demonstrating how sparkling wine is aged

Many thanks to all who participated in this jovial and interesting day.

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Vinification Experience Day in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

The start of the winter holiday season in France was the occasion to immerse ourselves in the world of oenology and winemaking at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay.  During this Vinification Experience day spent at the winery, we learnt about all the stages in making wine from the harvest up to bottling.

Wine Experience Gift in France. Learn how wine in made at the winery.

The day started with a workshop to put our sense of smell to the test, by trying to identify some of the aromas to be found in Burgundy wines.  Primary and secondary aromas, floral, fruity...  There are many aromas to be found in wine.  If only it wasn't so hard to put a name to them!  By using small flasks containing different aromas, the aim of the exercise was to help us express in words what we experience when tasting wine.

Wine gift idea. Smelling the aromas found in wine

After a brief stop in the labelling room, we learnt how to recognise the sensations that wine can have on our taste buds.  Acid, salty, sweet, bitter...  How do you identify these different tastes on your tongue?

The morning continued with Jean-François in the fermentation hall, then in the cellar to follow the wine's evolution since the harvest.  We learnt about the richness that the different terroir brings to the wine and how the age of the vines impacts its quality.

We learnt more about the oak barrels and how they impact the taste of the wine.  He gave us an insight into the difficult task of trying to predict how a particular year will turn out, and how to marry the right type of barrel with the wine 

Through a series of wine tastings directly from the barrel we experienced firsthand the differences in terroir and barrels used to age the wines.

Wine tasting direct from the barrel

The morning ended in the fermentation hall with a tasting of the Santenay and Meursault white wines.  Jean-François and Yvette explained how the estate had converted to become organic.

Wine Tasting

After lunch, the weather finally warmed up a little, and so we headed out into the vineyard.  The vines are in the process of being pruned at the moment, and so we learnt how this is done and how the winery is trying to encourage the vines to develop their root structure.

Before visiting our adopted vines, Jean-François showed us the different terroir of the surrounding vineyards. 

Understanding the different Burgundy terroir

Back at the winery, a few people had not just stocked up on some wine, but also filled their cars with some of the used barrels!

An early taste of the 2012 that is still ageing

The day ended back in the fermentation hall for a tasting of the Clos de Cornières wine, harvested in 2012, and which is still going through the ageing process.  Another occasion to put our new found tasting skills to test!  We were able to taste the differences that the differing ages of vines from the same vineyard have on the wine, and to get a first glimpse of how the 2012 vintage might turn out!

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Original St Valentine Gift Idea for Wine Lovers

Short of gift ideas for an original St Valentine's present?  Give an unexpected gift to the special man or woman in your life that lets them discover the fascinating world of organic wine making.

St Valentine's organic gift. Rent-a-vine in France Wine Experience.

Short of gift ideas for an original St Valentine's present?  Give an unexpected gift to the special man or woman in your life that lets them discover the fascinating world of organic wine making.

Much more than the usual wine tasting gift or oenology course, Gourmet Odyssey offers you a much more authentic idea - adopt your own organic vines in an award-winning French vineyard!

The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience enables you to rent your own micro-plot of vines in a leading winery, located in one of France's main wine producing regions (Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, the Loire and Rhone Valleys).  By following each of the key steps in making your organic wine, you will become an apprentice wine maker for the wine making year.

The Wine Experience days are a great excuse to plan a romantic weekend break in France.  These hands-on and practical wine courses create a bond with the winemakers, let you discover their great wines, share their knowledge and passion for their profession, and enable you to explore the local area and cuisine.

You will receive the welcome pack to give as a gift on St Valentine's day.  Your loved one will follow the evolution of his vines and the making of his wine by newsletter.  At the end of the Wine Experience, he can choose the name of his wine, and will receive a personalise bottle of wine for each adopted vine.

The Wine Experience is the ideal gift for St Valentine's day for any wine lover, and is a present that is sure to be remembered for many years to come.
Follow this link for more information and to order your St Valentine's Wine Experience Gift.

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Oenology Course in Chablis

Last Sunday we were at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Burgundy for a Vinification Experience Day.  During this hands-on wine course, we learnt more about the key stages in making wine that happen between harvest time and bottling.

The day started down in the cellar where one of the walls has been left bare.  Here you can clearly see the strata of kimmeridgian soil and rock that help to give Chablis wines their unique taste.

Wine Experience Gift in Chablis, Burgundy. Visit the winery and discover the terroir

We then headed outside and followed the same path as the grapes take during the harvest to arrive at the fermentation hall.  Pierre showed us the presses that are used to extract the juice from the grapes, and explained how the juice in transferred to the vats, and the sugar turned into alcohol.

Original wine gift for a wine lover. Hands-on vineyard visit in Chablie. Wine Press.

The wine that is made from the Boissonneuse vineyard, the plot chosen by Gourmet Odyssey, is vinified in 3 different vats.  We stopped at each one to taste the 2012 vintage to see how it has been getting on since we harvested the grapes in October.  It's interesting to see how each vat has evolved differently, with one being much further behind than the other two.

Wine tasting gift Chablis, France. Tasting the wine directly from the fermentation tank.

In the next door hall, Pierre showed us the machines and the line that is used to bottle the wine.  After the wine is bottled, it is then passed through the labelling machine before being put into the cases and dispatched to the four corners of the globe.

The bottling line

Back at the winery, we started the first of the workshops.  Often, one of the most difficult things when tasting wine is to find the right words to describe the sensations that you are feeling.  We set up an exercise using flasks containing different smells to help us identify the variety of aromas that can be found in white wine.

Oenology gift. Nez du Vin aroma wine course.

The tongue also helps us when tasting, and different zones are sensitive to different tastes.  During the second workshop we tasted five different types of water; a control test, and one each that had had an acidic, bitter, sweet and salty flavour added to it.

By this stage, we had earned our right to start tasting some finished wines!  Pierre had prepared a few different series of wines to help us appreciate different characteristics.  We started with a blind tasting of the three different white grape varieties used at the winery, Aligoté, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine Tasting Gift in Chablis, France. Tasting the different styles of Chablis wines.

We tasted others series of wines to identify wines aged in stainless steel vats and in wooden casks, and how to identify a corked wine.

We continued the tasting over lunch with a Boissonneuse 2010 and 2003 to get an idea of how a wine ages, and we also tasted a magnum of one of the red wines made by the winery, the Irancy "Les Mazelots".

Some fresh air was in order after lunch, so we headed over to the Boissonneuse vineyard where the adopted vines are located.

Adopt-a-vine wine gift experience Chablis, France. Adopt a row of vines.

We finished the day with a visit of the old fermentation hall where some of the more prestigious wines are aged in oak casks and barrels.  We also had one last tasting in store - that of two lots of the Boissonneuse 2011 which will very shortly be blended and bottled.  We tasted each wine separately before blending the two together in a measuring cylinder.

Wine making experience gift in Chablis. Visit the oak casks in the fermentation hall.

So lots of discussion and lots of tasting!  We hope that the day taught gave a little more insight into the life of a winemaker and the important choices to be made during the winemaking process.

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Wine blending during the Vinification Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage

We spent last weekend in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage for a couple of Vinification Experience Days.  The aim of this hands-on wine course is to learn more about the vinification and ageing stages in winemaking.  Considering the amount of rain that had fallen during the preceding days, luckily it was planned to spend most of the time inside!

Original Wine Lover Gift Experience. Blend your own wines in Bordeaux

The day started in the fermentation hall.  Here, Christine, the winemaker and owner at Château Beau Rivage, explained to us how the grapes are received during the harvest, how the grape juice is transformed into wine during the first fermentation, and why the second malo-lactic fermentation is important to soften the taste of the wine.

Wine Making Experience Gift. Visit the winery and blend your own wine.

We then moved into the barrel room.  Christine's family have been coopers for several generations, and so Christine talked passionately about the influence that the barrels plays on the wine, and the large choice that the winemakers have in the choice of their barrels.

Visit the wine barrels in the cellar. Behind the scenes winery tour in Bordeaux

But the Wine Experience Days aren't just for listening and discussing.  We had organised several practical workshops to help us learn more about wine and winemaking.

Lots of wine tasting happens during the Vinification Experience Day, so to help us find the words to describe what it is we are tasting, the first workshop concentrated on the nose.  With the help of little glass flasks, we had to try and name the aromas found in wine that are brought by the fruit and the barrel.  It's often harder than you would think to correctly put a name to a smell!

Wine Gift for wine enthusiasts. Identifying the aromas found in wine.

For the first series of tasting, we tasted three wines that are still ageing.  Each wine was the same grape variety, picked on the same day, the only difference being the type of barrel it has been ageing in.  The difference is unbelievable - you would think that they were three completely different wines.  This exercise clearly shows the impact of oak on the wine.  The first barrel was made using Eastern Eurpoean oak, the second with American oak, and the third with French oak.

Wine Tasting Experience Gift in Bordeaux, France.

During lunch we savoured some South West French specialities, accompanied with different wines and vintages produced at the winery, including the "Château Beau Rivage" Bordeaux Supérieur, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients, and the winery's "Clos la Bohème" Haut-Médoc wine.

south west France delicacies during the winemakers meal

The afternoon was taken up with blending.  To start, we first tasted four grape varieties separately to better understand what each brings to the wine.  The fruitiness of the Merlot, more spice from the Malbec, the length of the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the acidity of the Petit Verdot.

Make your own wine gift. Blend your own wine.

In small groups, we each then mixed our own blends to see firsthand how the taste of the wine differs depending on the grape varieties and percentages used.

To finish the day, Christine gave us a taste of a blend that she had put together, which showed us that 20 years of experience in blending wines does indeed count for something!

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The Harvest 2012 Finishes in Chinon

The 2012 harvest has now finished at all of our partner wineries.  We had our final Harvest Experiences days of the year at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon last weekend.  The winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, had left us a couple of plots of vines to harvest, so come rain or shine, it was up to us to finish the job!

Original wine gift. Harvest Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière, Chinon, Loire Valley, France

On Saturday, we headed off to one of the oldest vineyards in France, the Clos du Maulevrier, where the vines survived the phylloxera disease that ravaged the vast majority of the French vineyards in 1860.  Here, all of the work on the vines is carried out by hand.

Harvester in action

After the distribution of buckets, secateurs and cases, we spread out among the rows to start harvesting!

On Sunday, we finished the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, where the adopted vines are located.  Each day we took some time to visit the vines and to take the odd photo or two!

Visiting the adopted vines

A morning harvesting makes for thirsty work, so the wine tasting session at midday was most welcome, starting with one of the winery's sparkling wines, Perles Sauvages.  We continued the tasting session with the red wines during the harvesters' meal in the old barn.

Wine tasting and harvesters meal

After lunch, we headed over to the chai to rejoin our harvest and participate in putting it into the fermentation tanks.  We took the crates out of the van and tipped the grapes into the de-stemming machine which separates the berries from the stalks.

Putting the garpes into the de-stemming machine

The grape berries are collected in a trolley which is then raised by a forklift truck and emptied into a vat.  This method of putting the harvest into the fermentation tanks ensures the maximum number of intact grapes enter the vat, which improved the quality of the wine.

Putting the grapes into the vat

We then set about cleaning the material to keep the chai and equipment hygienic.

Cleaning the material

Marc explained to us how the sugar in the grapes will be turned into alcohol during fermentation, and how he will work in the chai over the coming days to nurture the wines.

We finished the day with a final tasting, this time of two grape juices at different stages of fermentation to compare their evolution.

Tasting the grape juice

Many thanks to Marc for sharing his knowledge and passion with us, and to our clients for working so well despite the odd drop or two of rain!

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Harvest Experience Days 2012 in Bordeaux

We spent last weekend in Macau-en-Médoc for the Harvest Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage. We had to be flexible due to the changeable weather, but we managed to harvest three different plots of vines, merlot, malbec and cabernet sauvignon.

The days started with an introduction to the château and the winemaker, Chrsitine Nadalié, before heading straight out into the vineyard.

Original Gift for a wine enthusiast. Harvest Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage, Bordeaux

Before getting down to the real work of harvesting, we paid a visit to the part of the vineyard where the adopted vines are located!

Harvest your adopted vines in an organic Bordeaux vineyard

Then secateurs in hand, and having received our instructions on how to harvest, we spread out between the rows to start picking the grapes.

Harvest Experience Gift. Porter emptying the harvested grapes into the trailer

On Saturday we harvested using porters with baskets on their backs to carry the grapes between the harvesters and the awaiting trailer.

Harvesting the grapes into cases

On Sunday the weather forecast was for some showers, so we harvested the grapes into some crates to give us more flexibility.  And luckily we did too, because shortly after we started harvesting the second plot of vines, we had to rush back to take shelter in the chai!

Wine Tasting of the winery's bordeaux superieur and haut-medoc wines

We stopped at lunchtime to taste the wines from Château Beau Rivage and to eat the harvesters' meal.  After the morning's effort, it was most welcome!

Sorting Table

During the days, we also participated in putting our harvest into the fermentation tanks.  On Saturday, the bunches were pushed from the trailer into the de-stemming machine to separate the grapes from the stalks.  Then, gathered around the sorting table, we removed any unripe or rotten berries before they were pumped into the vats.

Emptying the crates into the de-stemming machine

We worked a little differently on Sunday, emptying the crates into the de-stemming machine which then placed the grapes directly onto an escalator to be put into the vats.

The cleaning team!

And we also had a few helpful volunteers who got stuck into cleaning the material afterwards!

Oxygenating the wine

In the chai, Christine explained how the grape juice will be transformed into wine during the fermentation stage.  We also saw how the juice is drawn from the bottom of the vats and pumped back into the top, a process which helps oxygenate the wine and extract more tannin from the grape skins.


Tour of the barrel room

We then went into the barrel room for an introduction into the vinification and ageing side of wine making.

Tasting the grape juice

The day finished with the tasting of a grape juice that has just started to ferment.  Very sweet and a little effervescent, but the first taste of the wine to come!

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Harvest Experience Day in Chablis

Last weekend we were in Chablis with some of our Wine Experience clients for the Harvest Experience Days.  We followed the grapes journey from the vine to the fermentation tank!

Adopt a vine Gift. Harvest Experience day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis, France

We started the day in the vineyard, where we received our instructions on which grapes to harvest and which to leave.

Harvest Experience Gift for wine lovers. Harvest your own grapes in the vineyard.

Having been issued with our pair of secateurs and bucket, we spread out in twos between the vine rows to start harvesting.  The grapes this year in Chablis are very healthy and the buckets were quickly filled.  It wasn't long before the cries of "Porter" started ringing out in the vineyard.

Porter emptying his basket into the trailer

We took it in turns to be a porter.  Carrying a basket on our back, we went back and forth between the harvesters and the awaiting trailer.

Wine Tasting session of the estate's Chablis wines

A few hours harvesting makes for thirsty work, and we had well earnt our wine tasting at lunchtime!  We started with a Petit Chablis, and then tasted a few different Chablis and Chablis Premier Cru before finishing with a Chablis Grand Cru Valmur.  The tasting of the estate's wines continued over lunch.

Photo session of the adopted vines

In the afternoon we went to the Boissonneuse vineyard where the adopted vines are located.  We took a few minutes to take a few souvenir pictures!

The harvesting machine

On the Saturday afternoon, some harvesting machines were in operation nearby, so went and took a closer look!

Loading the harvested grapes into the press

Back at the winery, we went to the cuverie to pick up the trail of the harvest.   The grapes are loaded into a press which then extracts the juice form the each berry.

The fermentation tanks

We then followed the pipes to the fermentation tank where the juice will start its transformation into wine.  Here we learnt how the sugar will be broken down and turned into alcohol overt the coming weeks and months.

Tasting the grape juice

A final tasting to end the day - this time the juice from our harvest.  At first sight, it's not the most appealing of prospects as you look at a murky brown liquid, but even those who hesitated to try were agreeably surprised! Sweet with a fresh taste, we just have to wait patiently until next winter until the wine will finally be ready!

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2012 Harvest in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle

This year's harvest at Domaine Chapelle is now over, and it was the clients of Gourmet Odyssey who finished it off!  The Harvest Experience Days were spread over four days, and with the exception of a few minutes worth of rain on one of the days, we miraculously avoided the worst of the very variable weather that Burgundy has seen in the past few weeks.

Wine Experience Gift for a wine enthusiast. Adopt a vine and harvest your own grapes in Burgundy, France

The Harvest Experience days each started directly in the Clos des Cornières vineyard, the plot where the adopted vines are located.  As is the custom, we took a few minutes so that everyone could introduce themselves to their adopted vines, and we have already received a few entries for the "My Vine" photo competition.

But to more serious matters - the harvest!  Once instruction had been given, secateurs and cases distributed, we spread out in twos among the vine rows to begin the harvest.  Our objective was to reach the wall at the far end of the clos, something that none of our clients had achieved to date.

Harvest Experience Gift in Burgundy

But 2012 isn't a year like the others.  In the vineyard it's been a very difficult campaign.  A mild winter followed by a few weeks of arctic conditions, cold and wet weather during the flowering season, and then the subsequent passing of three hailstorms have each played their part in lowering the yield.  In a normal year (if such a thing exists!), you would expect perhaps one of these events, but never all together.  As a result, there were considerably less grapes on each vine than normal, and our harvesters positively galloped through the rows.  Where several cases were filled per row last year, just one case was needed this year.  Fortunately with wine though, a lack of quantity doesn't necessarily mean a lack of quality, as those who tasted some of the grapes instead of putting them in the basket can attest to!

Back at the winery, the wine tasting was just reward!  For the aperitif, we compared a Santenay St Jean 2011 white wine with a Meursault 2010, accompanied by a few gougères, the local cheese puff delicacy.

Wine tasting session of the Burgundy white and red wines from the Côtes de Beaune

Over the harvester's lunch, we tasted some of the winery's red wines.  We started with a couple of different vintages of the Santenay Clos des Cornières to taste the red wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey cuvée, and to see how it develops over time.  We then finished with a fine Aloxe Corton.

Harvester's Lunch

From the vineyard, we picked up the trail of our grapes.  First stop the reception hall where the harvested grapes are delivered.  Here, we took up our station around the sorting table to remove any unripe grapes or bunches that had started to develop fungus.

Sorting the grapes on the sorting table

At the end of the sorting table the grapes fall into the de-stemming machine, which separates the berries from the stalks.  The grape berries then continue their fall by gravity down a slide into a waiting trolley below.

Inside the fermentation hall, we followed the end of the grapes journey into the fermentation tanks.  Here we learnt how the sugar will be transformed into alcohol, and how the tannins and colour are extracted from the grape skins during the maceration period.

Putting the grapes into the fermentation tanks

Then a quick tour of the cellar to see where our wine will rest during the malo-lactic fermentation and age for the necessary time in the oak barrels.

Cellar tour

We ended the day by sampling the grape juice that we had just harvested.  It's nice and interesting to taste, but the end product will be even better!

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Sunny Harvest at Domaine Allegria

And we're off again - the harvest has begun!  Last weekend saw us welcome our first harvesters of the 2012 vintage at our partner winery in the Languedoc, domaine Allegira.  We were blessed with sun and blue skies for the Harvest Experience Day, so the winemakers, Ghislain and Delphine d'Aboville, put us to work straight away!

We spent the morning in the vineyard.  Ghislain showed us how to harvest the grapes - which bunches to cut and which to leave on the vine.  Secateurs in hand, we then spread out among the rows to get stuck in!

Wine Lover Gift. Harvest Experience day in the south pf France at domaine Allegria, Pezenas, Languedoc-Roussillon

We harvested the plot of Carignan vines, a grape variety that is particularly liked by Ghislain and Delphine, placing the grapes in cases to later transport the harvest to the chai.

Wine Experience Gift. Harvesting grapes in the vineyard.

With the sun now directly overhead, the aperitif was particularly welcome!  We headed back to the winery to find some shade and sit down to the harvester's meal, accompanied by a tasting of the different wines that Allegria makes.

Harvester's Meal

In the afternoon, our task was to put our harvest into the fermentation tanks.  First we emptied the cases into the de-stemming machine that separates the grapes from the stalks.   The grapes are then gently pushed through a pipe into the tank where the fermentation begins to transform the sugar into alcohol.  Ghislain explained the fermentation process and talked about the different methods used in making white and rosé wines.

Putting the harvest into the fermentation tanks

A huge thank you to Ghislmain and Delphine for their welcome, and to our clients for their enthusiasm and hard work!  We harvested more than a ton of grapes!

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Wine Discovery Experience Day in Burgundy

The vines are growing and the grapes are forming, which also means that the winemaker's work in the vineyard hasn't finished yet! We spent last weekend at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy with some of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience Day clients. The aim of the days were to better understand the effort and time spent in the vineyard to assure the best quality grapes come harvest time.

Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle, Burgundy, Wine Experience Gift

In the garden overlooking the vines, Jean-François Chapelle briefly told us the history of the four generations of winemakers in his family, and explained to us the different appellations to be found in Burgundy.

When we start to talk about vines and terroir, it's always easier to understand when you can look around and see with your own eyes. We therefore headed to the Clos des Cornières vineyard where we could see the different terroir that make up and surround the estate, and are used for the regional, village and premier cru wine appellations.

Adopt-a-vine in Burgundy, Terroir, Wine, Vines

From pruning to de-budding, Yannick and Jean-François showed us all of the key work that has already happened in the vineyard. We learnt and could see that it is proving to be a difficult year so far. The winter frosts, the wet and cold weather during the flowering season, and the hail storms more recently have each reduced the quantity of grapes that will eventually be harvested. But all is not lost, as the next few weeks will help determine the quality.

Grapes Vines Vineyard

At the moment, the main work in the vineyard is to train the growth between the wires. As the vines grow, we need to raise the wires to better support all of the foliage, place the vine shoots between the wires, and ensure that they are well spaced by using clips and ties where necessary.

Wine Gift Burgundy Adopt-a-vine

We took a few minutes to become acquainted with our adopted vines. A small sign designated each micro-plot of vines, and as always the cameras started clicking away!

Wine experience gift adopt-a-vine

The vines at Domaine Chapelle are organically certified, and so we also learnt how the work and treatments differ compared to traditional farming methods.

The couple of hours spent in the vineyard had made us thirsty, so we returned to the manor house to start the wine tasting. Talking about the work needed to produce the best wine is all well and good, but you have to taste the end product too! We started with two white wines produced at the winery, a Santenay St Jean and a Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot.

Wine tasting, vines, Burgundy, vineyard, winemaker

The wine tasting continued over lunch which was served in the harvester's refectory. We compared three red wines, a Santenay "Clos des Cornières", which is the wine chosen for the Wine Experience, a Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire, and an Aloxe Corton.
In the afternoon, we were happy to find some cool in the fermentation hall and the cellar. Here we were introduced to the wine making side of things and saw where the wines are fermented, then aged in oak barrels in the cellar. We will be spending more time here during the Vinification Experience Days.

Fermentation hall, cellar, wine, wine tasting, vines, Gourmet Odyssey

Many thanks to Jean-François and Yannick for having shared their passion for their profession with us. The next day at the winery will be for the harvest.

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Summer work in the Bordeaux Vineyard

It did a whole lot of good to be out amongst the vines under the sun last weekend, and we finally felt like summer has at long last arrived! We were at Château Beau Rivage in Macau-en-Médoc for a couple of Wine Discovery Experience days to learn about the work that goes on in the vineyard. 

Vines Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey

Accompanied by Christine and Guillaume from Château Beau Rivage, we headed straight out into the vineyard. Here Christine showed us the differences between the 5 grape varietals that are grown on the estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. 

Vines Wine Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey Bordeaux

Since December, there has already been much work done. Christine explained how the vines have been pruned, the trellis repaired and the soil worked. 

Vines Vineyard Château Beau Rivage

The vines at Château Beau Rivage are cultivated organically, so we also learnt how to protect the vines from disease without the use of synthetic products.

At the far end of the vineyard, we arrived at the plot of Merlot, where the adopted vines are located. As is custom, we took a few minutes to whisper sweet nothings to our vines and to snap a couple of pictures! We have already received a few photos for the My Vine competition

Adopted Vines Vineyard Bordeaux Beau Rivage

But we were also there to work!  It's a very interesting time in the vineyard at the moment because the flowering is reaching the end and the first berries are starting to form. The vines are growing prolifically and must be kept in check. There's therefore a lot to be done, and Christine and Guillaume showed us how to de-bud, train and de-leaf the vines. We then rolled our sleeves up and spread out in pairs between the rows!

To start with; de-budding. We had to remove all growth from the vertical part of the vine foot, as this takes away energy from the rest of the plant. 

De-budding the vines

Next we made sure that any vine branches that were falling into the middle of the row were placed in between the training wires. This helps support the vine and makes it easier for the tractor to pass down the rows without damaging the vines, as well as helping to reduce the risk of disease. 

Winemaker Vineyard Vines

And finally we removed some of the leaves on each vine from around the grapes so that they will be able to ripen more quickly. It's a delicate operation because if there is too much sunlight and heat, then it's sometimes better to keep the leaves to provide some shade for the grapes. For this reason, we only removed the leaves from the east facing side of the vines, so that the west side is better protected from the stronger afternoon sun. Removing some of the leaves also helps reduce the risk of rot and mould forming on the grapes as better circulation of air dries them quicker after rainfall. 

Adopted Vines in Beau Rivage Bordeaux

After the work, the reward, and we had well earned our chilled Clairet rosé wine! We ate outside in front of the château and tasted several of the winery's red wines over lunch, including the Château Beau Rivage Bordeaux Supérieur and Christine's Haut-Médoc, "Clos la Bohème", which has just been selected as a Cru Bourgeois wine. 

Wine Winery Vines Vineyard Gourmet Odyssey

During the afternoon we were happy to find the relative cool of the chai. Christine showed us where the grapes will be received at harvest time and where they are put into the vats to begin fermenting.

We finished the day in the impressive barrel room where the wines are slowly aged in the casks that are made by the cooperage owned and run by Christine's family.

Many thanks to Christine, Guillaume and Pauline from Château Beau Rivage, and to our clients for two fun days. We'll now be leaving the vines alone for a while so that the grapes can ripen, before returning for the harvest in October!

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A rainy day in Chinon

The sun doesn't always shine in the vineyard as we well saw last Saturday! But a few drops of rain weren't going to get in the way of our Wine Discovery Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière.
To work around the weather as best as possible we changed the order of things slightly, so instead of starting in the vineyard like we normally do, we began the day with a visit to the cellar.

Vines Wine Winemaker Vineyard Cellar

The impressive cellar at Château de la Bonnelière lies directly beneath the Chinon Fortress. Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner, showed us the scars left in the rock from the picks used by the miners when the cave was dug by hand to extract the stone used to build the castle.

The cellar

Marc explained to us how the wine is aged in the cellar, and also how he makes his sparkling wine.

Wine Tasting at Château de la Bonnelière

We had our first taste of some of the wines from the winery in the cellar, enjoying a couple of Touraine and Chenin Blanc white wines as well as a Chinon rosé.
Back at the winery, we visited the shed where the tools and machinery used in the vineyard are stocked. Here, Marc told us what each piece of machinery is used for and why.

Winery Chinon Bonnelière Winemaker

In the chai, we saw where the grapes are received during the harvest and Marc enlightened us as to how the juice from the grapes is transformed into wine. We had the opportunity to taste the 2011 vintage of the Château de la Bonnelière directly from the vat. This Chinon red wine, still in the process of ageing, is the wine that the Gourmet Odyssey clients from last year will receive in a few months time.

Vines Grapes Wine Chinon Chai

We continued the wine tasting back at the château with the range of different Chinon red wines that the winery produces, and we sat down to eat in the old barn. 

Red Wines Winery Wine Tasting Grapes

The rain eventually let up a bit in the afternoon, allowing us to get out amongst the vines and finally meet our adopted vines!

Meeting with the adopted vines

Marc explained the work that has already been down in the vineyard and talked us through what remains to do between now and the harvest. The vines are growing quickly at the moment and are in flower. To help the vines support all of the growth, Marc showed us how to raise the training wires and place the branches between them. It was then time for us to work a few rows on our own!

Vines Vineyard Bonnelière

Marc also explained how to go about debudding in the adjacent plot of Sauvignon Blanc vines.
The day finished in front of the dynamizer that is used to prepare the biodynamic treatments at the winery. Marc talked us through the biodynamic philosophy and how it differs from organic cultivation.

Debudding Biodynamic Winery Wine Organic cultivation

So, despite the weather, we managed to cover many aspects of winemaking during the day. Fortunately we were accompanied by a passionate winemaker, and hardy clients well equipped with wellies and cagoules!

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Small tennants in the vineyard

First of all a huge "Thanks".  My wife and I spent an excellent wine experience day at Domaine Chapelle on the 10th June.

We received a very warm welcome from your team and the owners.  Mr Chapelle gave us simple and interesting explanations, and we learnt much about wine.  I'm attaching a photo for the competition.  Yes, you can also find some small tennants in the vineyard at Domaine Chapelle!

Small tennants in the vineyard

I hope that the sun shines on the vines.


Best wishes

Jean Marc Doussin

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