Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

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Tagged articles : Adopt-a-vine

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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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 to prune the vines in Burgundy


We welcomed some of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience apprentice wine-makers to Domaine Chapelle in the Burgundy village of Santenay.  The objective of the day was to learn about all of the work in the vineyard to produce the best grapes come harvest time.
After a short introduction to the history of the family and the Burgundy wines from Jean-François, the owner of the winery, his son, Simon, led us out into the vineyard.  Simon is in the process of taking over the reins at the winery as Jean-François approaches retirement.

 

Visiting our adopted vines in Burgundy

 

The first contact with our adopted vines brought many smiles, laughter, and some great photos to be entered into the “My Vine” photo competition!
It was then time to get down to more serious matters, and Simon began to explain the work carried out during the various vegetative phases of the vines growth.

 

work in the vineyard with Gourmet Odyssey

 

At this time of year, we are busy with the last of the pruning and pulling away the cut branches that have remained stuck between the training wires.
Simon showed us the two different pruning methods used in the vineyards.  The cordon de royat used for the pinot noir vines involves keeping three or four spurs, each with two nodes, from one of last year’s branches.

 

Adopt a vine in burgundy with Gourmet odyssey

 

And the Guyot pruning method is used for the chardonnay vines, leaving just one long branch with 5 to 6 nodes, that will then be folded and attached to the lower training wire.
In both cases, this year’s fruit-bearing branches will grow vertically from the nodes, and will be supported between the training wires once the growth is sufficient around May time.
Pruning is a very technically demanding task, and is only carried out by the winery’s permanent staff.  A team of seasonal workers will then pass through the vineyards, pulling away the cut branches caught between the wires and burning them as they go.
We had a go at pulling away the old branches ourselves, and quickly understood the difficulty of this manual job.  As the vine is from the creeper family, it has lots of tendrils that wrap around the training wires, making it hard to pull them free.  The not so clement weather added to the difficulty, as we found out!
We were happy to return to the shelter of the cellar after our vineyard experience, and enjoyed a typical Burgundy aperitif with a glass of Santenay Village white and some delicious gougères!

 

Tasting the Santenay white wine with Gourmet Odyssey

 

A typical Burgundy lunch of boeuf bourguignon followed, paired with Ladoix, Santeany Clos des Cornières, and Santenay Gravières Premier Cru wines
Lunch is always a very convivial moment, and it’s always a little complicated to get going again in the afternoon!  We altered the programme slightly due to the weather, to visit the cellar where Simon explained the different vinification and ageing phases.  We also visited the magnificent vaulted cellar underneath the winery that is typical of the Burgundy region.

 

Participate our experiences days Gourmet Odyssey

 

It was a good introduction to the Vinification Experience Day that some of the clients will be following up with.  And for those who wish to, it’s also possible to add the day.

We had a great day, and hope to see you again soon for another wine experience day.

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Learning about planting vines and the work in the vineyard in Saint-Emilion


We met up last weekend at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for a Discovery Experience Day with Gourmet Odyssey, the aim being to better understand all the work necessary in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes, because to make good wine, you need good grapes!

Adopt a vine in Bordeaux and get involved in making your own personalised bottles of organic wine

We started to get to know each other over a coffee and croissant with Adrien David-Beaulieu, one of the owners and winemakers of the winery.  His family have been running the estate for over 400 years, something that is very rare for this famous Bordeaux wine region that has attracted many investors who buy up family-run wineries to promote their brands. One of the peculiarities of Château Coutet is that it has always been organic.  We were privileged to be in a place that has been preserved from intensive farming techniques, and where each action is carried out with the respect of nature and the biodiversity in mind.

Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, introduced us to the programme and our task for the day, the planting of new vines.

After distributing the tools, we walked through the vines, admiring the rare wild tulips that thrive here.  The radii tulip, bright red in colour, and the yellow sylvestris tulip were both brought to the area by the Romans many years ago and are now extremely rare.  They have been preserved at the winery because no chemical weedkillers have ever been used in the vineyards. Instead, the grass is either mowed or ploughed to keep it in check.

 

adopt a vines in Bordeaux with Gourmet Odyssey

 

At the top of the limestone slope, Adrien stopped to show us the view and explain the different terroir that make up the Saint-Emilion wine region.  Merlot is the king grape varietal here, and thrives on the limestone plateau, accompanied by some cabernet franc, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon vines.

In front of our adopted vines, we understood a little better the life of our vines, and what work lies ahead in nurturing them up until the harvest.

Our adopted vines are located in the Peycocut vineyard up on the limestone plateau, just a few hundred metres away from the village and surrounded by the most famous Grand Cru Classé names of the Saint-Emilion appellation.  The view is fantastic, particularly on this nice day that heralded the beginning of spring.

 

Participate Discovery Experience days at Gourmet Odyssey

 

Our job for the day was to replace some of the missing vines.  When tilling the soil, sometimes the metal plough can damage the vines which then subsequently wither and die.  At the end of winter, they need to be replaced, before the buds start to burst.

In pairs, one person prepared the baby vines by trimming the roots to enable them to better take hold in the soil.

 

Prepare the vines for planting with Gourmet Odyssey

 

The other person dug the holes for the vines in the places that Adrien had pointed out.  Everyone then got their hands dirty by planting the vines and pressing down the earth around them.

 

Planting the vines with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

 

By the time we’d finished, it was the end of the morning and time for the aperitif!  We enjoyed a nice glass of the Claret de Coutet, a refreshing wine that is somewhere between a red and a rosé wine.

The Gourmet Odyssey caterer had prepared a delicious lunch for us, starting with some foie gras and port jelly, that had been paired with the 2019 Château Belles-Cimes, the second wine that is made using the younger vines and grapes from lighter terroir.

 

Participate to wine tasting with Gourmet Odyssey

 

The 2017 Château Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru was the next wine to be tasted, and is made up from the three different types of terroir at the winery; the limestone plateau, the clay hillside, and the more sandy plain, and the four grape varietals.  It’s longer finish and more pronounced aromatic intensity was perfect with the duck breast.  Our tasting ended with the fantastic 2018 Demoiselles wine, made from the oldest plots of vines that are worked by horse up on the limestone plateau.  A deep wine with lots of finesse, it went very well with the caramel desert.

After lunch, Adrien explained some of the advantages and challenges of working organically, and we then visited the chai and private cellar where the family keeps their old vintage wines dating back to the 1950’s.

 

Visiting the family cellar Château Coutet in Bordeaux

 

We’d spent a very enjoyable afternoon in Adrien’s company, and we look forward to coming back to this magical place for other Discovery Experience Days later in the season, and for the Harvest Experience Days in September time.

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A great last minute Christmas gift for wine lovers


For a fun and enlightening Christmas present idea for wine lovers, adopt-a-vine in France with Gourmet Odyssey in one of our award-winning wineries, all of which are organically certified!

Wine Experience gift in France to follow the making of your own wine

Receive a welcome pack, follow the making of your own wine from the vineyard to the bottles, visit the winery and get involved in working alongside the wine-maker to learn about the art of wine-making.  At the end of the Wine Experience, you can even choose the name for your organic wine, and we’ll personalise the labels for the bottles made using the grapes from your adopted vines!

Adopt-a-vine gift pack went to start the Wine Expeirence

A last minute Christmas gift?  We’ll send the personalised vine adoption certificate by email whilst waiting for the welcome pack to arrive for all orders received before 16:00 Paris time on the 24th December.

Need gift wrapping? We can wrap your Christmas Wine Experience gift up for you and you can include a personalised message by ticking the gift wrap option when ordering.

Thrill a wine lover, and adopt some organic vines for Christmas!

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Wine making course in Burgundy to discover the work in the cellar


In October we welcomed some of the apprentice winemakers to Domaine Chapelle in the charming Burgundy village of Santenay for a couple of Vinification Experience Days. These wine courses are dedicated to the work in the cellar to learn about the fermentation and maceration stages, how the wines are aged, and then prepared for bottling.

 

Learning how to make wine during the Vinification Experience Days at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

 

François Chapelle, the winemaker at the winery, explained the history of his family, his journey as a winemaker, and his philosophy behind making organic wine.  We were then ready to immerse ourselves into the intriguing world of all that goes on in the cellar.
The first workshop with Jean-François enlightened us about the fermentation and maceration stages, and the subsequent ageing process of the wine in oak barrels.

We learnt that making wine requires a lot of technical skill, coupled with experience.  The choice of barrels, where they come from, their age, and how they were toasted can have very different impacts on the characteristics of the final wine.

The ageing stage is very important to produce a well-balanced wine on the palate, and to harness the aromatic potential.

 

Visiting the cellar to learn the impact that oak barrels have on wine

 

The second workshop with Myriam, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, enabled us to better understand the sensorial characteristics that are so important to enjoying wine, and to find the equilibrium between acidity and soft tannins.  
We also spent time exploring our perceptions of different aromas, classifying them into primary, secondary, and tertiary depending on the grape varietal, terroir, fermentation techniques, and ageing methods used.  The aroma of a wine is in constant evolution.
It was time to put our newly honed theoretical knowledge to the test, and so the next workshop centred around the tasting of various wines at different stages of the vinification and ageing process.  We were able to identify the impact that different types of barrels have on the wine.

 

Tasting wines to better understand the decisions taken by the winemaker

 

We continued tasting some of the winery’s finished wines during the aperitif and meal of traditional Burgundy dishes, comparing the Santenay Villages and Burgundy Chardonnay white wines, and the Santenay Clos des Cornières and Santenay La Comme Premier Cru red wines.

After the excellent lunch, we headed out to meet our adopted vines in the Clos des Cornières vineyard for the red wine clients and Les Craies vineyard for the white. It’s always a fun moment and lots of photos are taken to immortalise the moment!

 

Visiting our organic adopted vines

 

Before ending the day, Jean-François explained the work that is done to prepare the wines for bottling, the process of doing so, and how the bottles are corked and labelled. So after a great day, full of information, we now knew a lot more about what goes on in the cellar and the process of wine-making.

We thoroughly enjoyed the day and hope to see you again soon for one of the Discovery Experience Days next year, when we’ll learn about all that goes on in the vineyard to nurture the vines and grow the best possible grapes for next year’s harvest.

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Harvest Experience Days in the Loire Valley


We had beautiful sunny days last weekend to welcome the participants of the Harvest Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley.  We were there to discover the work of the winemaker during the harvest, and we learnt that there is much more to do than just pick the grapes!

 

Lovely blue skies for the Harvest Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley.

 

For many, it was their first day with Gourmet Odyssey.  Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner of the winery, welcomed us with a coffee and croissant, introduced us to the history of his winery, and brought us up to speed with the 2021 vintage so far, one that has been far from easy.
The late frosts and wet summer have meant that it’s been a nervous time for Marc leading up to the harvest.  Fortunately, the old saying that “September makes the wine” has indeed come into effect this year!  The good weather in September allowed the grapes to ripen and be ready in time for the harvest, even if it is slightly later than usual.
On the Saturday, Marc had kept one of his most special vineyard plots for us, one with an exceptional history.
Hidden in a small village on the left bank of the River Vienne, lies a small chateau which even Rabelais talks about in his writings!  Behind the chateau is a tiny walled vineyard, less than half a hectare in size.  This vineyard has the amazing peculiarity of being spared from the phylloxera disease that destroyed almost 80% of the French vineyards around 1890.  The vines are not grafted and are reproduced by taking cuttings from the old vines.
It’s a treasure and demands particular care throughout the year to nurture the vines and grapes, involving lots of manual work and the use of horses instead of tractors.
On Sunday we harvested a section of the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard which is home to the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers.

 

Secateurs in hand, we participated in the harvest

 

After receiving our instructions as to which grape bunches to select and how to cut them, we accepted our mission and started to harvest the grapes.  There were less grapes than usual, making those that we picked that much more precious!
We filled our buckets with the grapes, and then tipped them into the crates.  Thanks to the good cheer and motivation of our teams each day, we successfully accomplished our missions!

 

We emptied the grapes into crates

 

Back at the winery, it was already time for the aperitif and lunch!  The work in the chai would wait.  The meal was the ideal time to taste the wines that Marc makes, covering a range of sparkling, white, rosé, and of course red wines, for which Chinon is most well-known.  It’s always a much-appreciated time for the guests and it was difficult to get up from the table afterwards.  But our day wasn’t finished, and we had to put the grapes into the vat.

 

Enjoying the aperitif before the harvesters lunch

 

Marc makes different wines from each of the different vineyard plots, not blending grapes from different terroir together.  We therefore did the same for our respective harvests.
We sorted the grapes by hand to remove any leaves or unripe grapes that had inadvertently found themselves in the crates, before putting the grapes into the vats by gravity.  Marc uses a forklift truck to lift a trolley which he can then open the bottom of to let the grapes fall into the vat below.  It avoids damaging the grapes as much as possible.

 

Sorting the grapes

 

Marc then explained the work of the winemaker in the chai during the harvest over the maceration and fermentation phases.  It’s important to closely follow the transformation of sugar in the grape juice into alcohol to regulate the speed, in order to keep the maximum taste and aromatic qualities.  Through the pumping over and piegeage, Marc and his team extract the tannins and colour from the grape skins to give the wine more body and structure.

 

Explaining the winemaker’s work in the chai during harvest time

 

The day finally drew to a close after a thorough cleaning of all the equipment that we had used!  Our fantastic harvesters for a day had participated in all the stages with much professionalism and enthusiasm.  Many thanks to all and we hope to see you again soon!  The next step in this wine-making adventure will be the Vinification Experience Days next year, when we’ll learn about all the work in the cellar after the harvest up until the time that the wine is ready for bottling.

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Participate in harvesting Saint-Emilion Grand Cru grapes


At the end of September we joined the winemakers at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Harvest Days.  The aim of these days is to get involved in picking the grapes and following their journey into the cellar to discover the work at the winery during the harvest period.  It’s a busy time for the winemakers and really exciting to be a part of!

 

A great gift idea for wine lovers.  Adopt aome organic vines and get involved in harvesting the grapes

 

Over coffee and croissants, we started to get to know Mathieu, Alain and Adrien, the winemakers at Château Coutet, and Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert.  The amazing family history at the winery started several hundred years ago in this beautiful wine-growing region on Bordeaux’s right bank.

We started the day by visiting the vineyard where our adopted vines are located.  They grow in the best area of the Saint-Emilion vineyards, up on the famous limestone plateau.  The vines are old, and produce some of the estate’s best grapes.  The view is marvellous, and we could see across to the bell tower of Saint-Emilion’s church, just a few hundred metres away, and down to the Dordogne valley below.  We each took a few minutes to visit our adopted vines.

 

Rent a vine in Bordeaux, harvest the grapes and follow the making of your own personnalised bottles of wine

 

We then got equipped to start the harvest.  The winemakers explained which grapes to pick and which to leave on the vines.  The good bunches are found where the vegetation starts to grow, close to the bottom training wire.  The bunches that grow higher up appeared later and are not at the same level of maturity, so it’s better to leave them as they would diminish the quality of the wine.

 

Learning how to harvest grapes

 

A pair of secateurs in one hand and a basket in the other, we were then ready to start harvesting the grapes.  We picked a plot of merlot grapes, one of the main grape varietals grown at the winery, located on the clay-limestone hillside.  We were two to a row, one on either side, but not exactly opposite each other to avoid cutting the fingers of our partner!

 

Grape harvest experience gift in France

 

Once our baskets were full, we emptied them into a crate that we then carried and put on the trailer behind the tractor.

 

Grape picking experience gift alongside the winemakers in Saint-Emilion

 

The grapes are low to the ground and at times are well hidden behind the leaves. You need to pay attention to not leave any behind or to cut your fingers!  Having harvested a few rows, we finished the morning by following the tractor back to the winery to clean the material and tidy it away.

The glass of Clairet wine served for the aperitif was very refreshing and awoke our taste buds for lunch and the tasting of the other wines produced at Château Coutet.  It’s an unusual wine, between a red and a rosé, which was at first made just for the private consumption of the family, but has proved to be very popular with the clients as well, and now has firmly established its place alongside the range of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru wines.

Once seated, we started lunch with a winemaker’s salad, accompanied by the 2019 Château Belles-Cimes, the winery’s second wine.  It’s made from the young vines which give a fruitier wine that can keep for around 10 years.

 

Enjoying lunch with organic wines from the winery

 

The stuffed guinea fowl with foie-gras and morille sauce paired delightfully with the complexity of the 2017 Château Coutet.  It’s a blend of the four grape varietals grown on the estate; Merlot, Bouchet, Pressac, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and of the three soil types. A real treat!

We finished lunch with the Demoiselle wine made from the oldest vines grown on the limestone plateau.  They are nurtured by hand and horses are used to till the soil.  It’s a very elegant wine that takes you back in time to how wines used to be made centuries ago.

The afternoon was devoted to the second stage of work during the harvest to sort the grapes and put them into the vats and barrels.  We manually sorted the grapes, as is done for the Demoiselle wine, separating the grapes from the stem by hand.

 

Selecting and de-stemming the grapes by hand

 

The day ended with a visit of the fermentation hall where the winemakers explained the work done during the maceration and fermentation stages to transform the grapes into wine.  We’ll pick up from here during the Vinification Experience Days next year, when we’ll get the chance to taste the wines during their ageing phase, and better understand the work of the winemaker in the cellar.

 

Learning about the work in the cellar at harvest time

 

Many thanks to the winemakers for their warm welcome, for taking the time to explain their work, and for sharing their passion for their profession.

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Harvest Experience Day in the Languedoc


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Grape harvest experience gift for wine enthusiasts

 

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

 

Organic harvest experience gift in the south of France

 

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

 

Participate in the grape harvest

 

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

 

The de-stemming machine in action

 

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

 

Grapes at harvest time

 

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

 

Organic wine tasting experience gift in the south of France

 

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

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

 

Organic rent-a-vine gift and harvest experience

 

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

 

The fermentation vats in the cellar

 

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

 

Analysing the grape juice at harvest time through the fermentation stage

 

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

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

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Wine Discovery Experience Day in the vineyard in Alsace


It was a real pleasure to find ourselves back in the vineyard for the Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace.  Whilst we had been confined during the lockdown, the vines had been soaking up the sun and flourishing.  The past few months had been very busy for the winemakers in the vineyard as we were to find out.

Adopt some organic vines in Alsace.  The perfect gift for an organic wine lover.

After the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard, respecting the new social distancing norms of course!  Our first stop was the Rosenberg vineyard, where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located.  We took a few minutes to find the nameplate in front of our vines, take a few pictures, and encourage them to produce some good grapes for this year’s harvest!

Adopt a vine gift in Alsace to learn about how wine is made

 

We were accompanied by Stéphane and Céline, the brother and sister duo that have now taken over the running of the winery from their parents.  Stéphane explained the work that had been done in the vineyard over the winter to prune the vines and work the soil.

Vineyard experience gift

The relatively mild winter, and then the hot and sunny weather that has prevailed in France for most of the time since the beginning of the lockdown in mid-March, has meant that the vines have been thriving and have developed much faster than normal.  We could see that the grapes had already formed on the vines, and were at a stage that you would normally expect to see in July.  The flowering period had happened at the end of May in great climatic conditions.

Grapes appearing on the organic vines

We then headed to the neighbouring plot of vines, which had been replanted three years ago.  Stéphane explained the life cycle of the vines and how they are replanted.  This year will be the first time that the grapes will be harvested.  He explained how they have been pruned to form the desired shape.  Despite the pruning carried out in March, some of the vines had sprouted shoots from the trunk that are unwanted, so our job for the morning was to remove them, thus enabling the vines to concentrate their energy on the fruit-bearing branches, and to maintain their form.

We spread out amongst the rows and carefully removed the unwanted shoots.  The vines might be higher in Alsace than in other regions of France, but this job still involves lots of bending over!

Wine-making experience gift in Alsace

Domaine Stentz-Buecher, like all of the Gourmet Odyssey partner wineries, is organically certified, and Stéphane explained the organic methods that they use to work the soil and protect the vines from odium and mildew.

Back at the winery, we sat down to enjoy some of the wines from the winery.  The wine tasting session, guided by Céline, started with the refreshing Crémant d’Alsace pink sparkling wine.  This is the first year that the winery has made a rosé sparkling wine, and it received the thumbs up from all.  100% pinot noir, it has a good structure, whilst retaining the freshness and acidity that you expect from a sparkling wine.

 

Organic wine tasting gift and winery tour with the winemaker in Alsace, France

We then tasted the 2018 Riesling Tradition and the 2018 Muscat Rosenberg, before tasting the 2018 vintage of the Pinot Gris Rosenberg, which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine clients.  Céline explained how the grape yields are voluntarily kept well below the limits authorised in Alsace, which results in the very aromatic, rich, and complex wines that characterise those produced by Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  We then tasted the 2017 Pinot Noir Tradition, and concluded the wine tasting session with the delicious 2016 Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru, with a slice of the local lardon and walnut savoury Kouglof.

We continued tasting the wines and local delicacies over lunch of the typical baeckeoffe, a selection of local cheeses, and blueberry tart, accompanied by the 2018 Pinot Blanc Tradition and the 2017 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg.

In the afternoon, Stéphane explained the work left to do over the summer in the vineyard, and how the date of the harvest will be chosen for each individual vineyard plot and grape varietal.

Stéphane then took us on a tour of the cellar, starting with where the grapes will be received and pressed at harvest time.  He showed us the barrel room where the pinot noir wines are aged in oak barrels.

Organic wine cellar tour in Alsace

We ended the day in the room where the white wines are aged, either in huge old oak casks, or smaller stainless steel vats.  Stéphane’s explanations were accompanied by the intermittent gurgling sounds of some of the vats where the wines were still fermenting!

Many thanks to all of the participants and to Céline and Stéphane for sharing the passion for their profession.  We look forward to coming back in September for the Harvest Experience Day!

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A day pruning the vines in Burgundy


We gathered under a glorious blue sky at Domaine Chapelle in the Burgundy village of Santenay on the 8th March for a Wine Discovery Experience Day to learn more about the work that the wine-maker gets up to in the vineyard.

The day got underway with an introduction in the garden, where Jean-François, the owner of the winery, told us briefly about the family history and their part in making Burgundy wines.  He explained his work philosophy, and the journey he undertook to converting the winery to being organic.

Original wine lover gift. Adopt organic vines in France and get involved in making your own personalised bottles of wine

We then made our way to the Clos des Cornières and the Crais vineyards, where we met up with our adopted vines.  It was the chance to take a few souvenir photos and participate in the “My Vine” photo competition in the hope of winning a magnum of wine.  Jean-François then started to explain the work in the vineyard, starting with pruning and covering all the main aspects up to when the grapes will be ready for harvesting in the autumn, something that is possible to participate in, during one of the Harvest Experience Days organised by Gourmet Odyssey.

Vineyard experience gift in an organic Burgundy winery

We then learnt how to prune the vines and the differences between the cordon de royat and guyot pruning methods.  The principal aim of pruning is to limit the potential yield of the grapes that each vine produces, and the winery looks to achieve yields of around 35 hl/ha.  Lowering the yield, means that the vine is more likely to be able to produce nice ripe and concentrated grapes for the harvest.  Pruning takes around three months, from January to March, and is the most highly skilled of the tasks.  Theoretically, it’s fairly easy to understand which branches to cut and which to keep.  But we quickly learnt that each vine is an exception to the rule, and so we have to adapt the approach slightly for each one, which doesn’t make the task any easier!

After pruning, the cut branches need to be pulled away from the vines.  After receiving our instructions, we spread out among the rows and started pulling!  It’s a fairly pleasant and rewarding job at first, but which we appreciate could become more difficult and repetitive day after day!

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Jean-François then finished explaining the jobs to come during spring to de-bud the vines, attach them to the training wires, remove the leaves, and treat the vines organically to protect them from fungi.

By this time, we had well-earned our aperitif, and so we headed back to the winery courtyard to taste the Santenay Village white wine, accompanied by the traditional Burgundy gougères cheese appetisers.

We enjoyed the delicious and wholesome lunch of pike-perch terrine, beef bourguignon, some of the famous local cheeses, and a pear and blackcurrant chocolate entremets.  All enjoyed of course with three of the winery’s red wines, including the Clos des Cornières Santenay red.

The stroll through the vineyards was most welcome to enjoy the lovely scenery and to help with the digestion!  We were able to talk in more depth about the different surrounding terroir that make up the Burgundy landscape, and distinguish the wines from this mythical region.

Winery tour experience gift

This lovely day ended with a quick tour of the cellar.  We’re looking forward to coming back to the winery to participate in the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days to further our learning and understanding of the wine-maker’s work.  We all left with some great memories to recall when we open our next bottle of wine from Domaine Chapelle!

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De-budding the vines in Alsace


We spent last Saturday in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher for a Discovery Experience Day.  The objective of the day was to learn about all of the work in the vineyard needed to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time, and as we were to find out, there is lots to do!

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After the introductions to the winery and family history by Céline, we made our way through the vineyards.  On the way, Céline showed us the different terroir, and pointed out the Hengst and Steingrubler Grand Cru vineyards slightly further up the hillside.

We arrived at the Rosenberg vineyard, home to our Pinot Gris adopted wines.  We took a few minutes to take a few pictures of our vines and to say a few words of encouragement for this year’s harvest.

Rent-a-vine gift experience in an organic vineyard in Alsace

Jean-Jacques, Céline’s father and founder of the winery, joined us and brought us up to speed on the work that has been carried out in the vineyard during the winter.  He explained the importance of pruning the vines and how it is done, the need to protect the vines during the colder winter months from the frost by heaping soil around the vine stocks, and the laborious task of repairing the training posts and wires.  He also showed us the plot next to our vines which was replanted 4 years ago, and will produce the first grapes this year.

Learn how to de-bud vines alongside the wine-maker

The buds burst on the vines at the end of March, and since then the shoots have sprung to life.  A little slower than the last couple of years when the harvest was very early, but in line with a more normal year.  This time of year is principally taken up with de-budding, and after pruning, it is probably the most important task in controlling the yield and improving the quality of the grapes.

Jean-Jacques demonstrated how to select which shoots to keep and which to remove.  Remove any shoots that have sprout from below the head on the trunk, and remove the weaker branch from any double shoots.

Hands-on vineyard experience gift

Sounds easy in theory, but once we had spread out among the rows and started having a go ourselves, we quickly learnt that there are many exceptions to the rule!   To keep the growth at the same height among the vines, we are always trying to keep the growth as low as possible.  This means that sometimes we leave a shoot lower than this year’s branch, so that we can use it next year.  As with pruning you always have to think at least one year ahead!  After a few tentative tries, and clarifying questions, we gradually gained in confidence!
We then headed back to the winery, where Céline gave us a wine tasting session, starting with the delicious 2015 Riesling Ortel. We then tasted the 2017 vintage of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Experience, the Pinot Gris Rosenberg, followed by the 2012 Pinot Noir.  Next up, a 2015 Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru, followed by a surprisingly full bodied 2015 Pinot Blanc Vielles Vignes white wine.

A local caterer had prepared a delicious baeckeofe for us, and we continued the wine tasting with the  2017 Who Am I?, a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Céline served a 2016 Gewürztraminer Rosenberg with cheese, and the meal ended with a tasty blueberry tart.

Organic wine tasting with the winemaker in Alsace

After lunch we had a tour of the cellar where we were introduced to what happens to the grapes once they have been harvested.  We’ll be learning more during the Harvest and Vinificiation Experience Days.

Cellar tour with the winemaker near Colmar in Alsace

The day ended back in the vineyard, where Jean-Jacques explained the work yet to come in the vineyard between now and harvest time, and how they will monitor the grapes to choose when is the best time to start harvesting.  The next critical phase should happen within the next couple of weeks, when the vines flower.  How well this goes will set out the potential yield of the harvest, and will give the first indication of when the harvest is likely to start.  The old adage says that the harvest will be 110 days after flowering. We will be closely monitoring the vines over the coming days.

Many thanks to the Stentz-Buecher family for sharing their passion for wine-making with us.  We’ll be back again at the end of June for the next Discovery Experience Day.

Find out more about adopting vines in Alsace.

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The work of the winemaker in the cellar to make and age the wines


We spent an excellent week-end in Chinon for a Vinification Experience Day where we would learn about all of the work and skill that enables the winemaker to transform the grape juice collected at harvest time into wine, and then age it until it is ready for bottling.

An original experience gift for wine lovers.

After a welcome over coffee and croissants, Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner of Château de la Bonnelière, took us to the fermentation hall.  Here he explained how the grapes are received at harvest time and put into the vats.  At Château de la Bonnelière, the grapes from each vineyard are kept separate for the most part to make a range of wines that express the different terroir.

Learn how to make organic wine in the Loire Valley

We discussed how the grape juice ferments to produce wine, and how Marc monitors and controls the process to try and produce the best quality wines.

Marc then took us to the hall next door where we saw the bottling and labelling machine that is used at the end of the process, once the wines are finally ready.

The wine bottling and label machine

The Vinification Experience Day is a fascinating day when we get the chance to taste wines that are still in the ageing process.  To help prepare us, we participated in a workshop to develop our wine tasting skills, which included a fun game to try and identify different aromas that can be found in wine.

Wine tasting course in the Loire Valley

We then headed outside to the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard that surrounds the château.  This is where our adopted vines are to be found, and so we took a few minutes to find them and take some photos!

Rent some organic vines in the Loire Valley

The wines at Château de la Bonnelière are aged in the cellar that is located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress in one of the galleries where the stone had been extracted to build the castle above.  So we transferred to the cellar, where a glass of the winery’s Perle Sauvage naturally sparkling white wine was awaiting us.

Wine tasting gift with the winemaker

We then sat down to a delicious lunch prepared by a local caterer and friend of Marc’s, during which we tasted the 2017 Silice Chinon white wine, and the 2018 La Roche, 2017 Clos de la Bonnelière and 2016 Chapelle Chinon red wines.

Lunch and wine tasting in Chinon with the winemaker

After lunch Marc explained the role of the barrels in ageing wine, and the perfect conditions that his cellar provides.  He also explained a brief history of the cellar, and how it was excavated, entirely by hand.

Learning the art of wine-making in the Loire Valley

We ended the day with a tasting of different wines to better understand the work of the winemaker in ageing and preparing the wines for bottling.  The first wine was the same La Roche 2018 wine that we had tasted over lunch, the only difference being that it had been drawn from a vat, and had not yet been prepared for bottling.  We could taste that it wasn’t quite as polished, and still had some residual gas in it that Marc will remove before it is bottled.

We then tasted a second wine that was richer and more complex.  The second wine was the 2018 Clos de la Bonnelière, which is the wine that the 2018 vintage Gourmet Odyssey clients will receive next year.  The main difference between the first two wines was the way in which they are aged.  The former in stainless steel vats, and the second in oak barrels.

Wine cellar tour and tasting with the wine-maker

The third wine, the Chapelle, is aged in the same way as the Clos de la Bonnelière, but was darker in colour and more intense, the difference arising from the terroir where the grapes used for the Chapelle wine are grown.

The fourth and final wine was different again which a much more tannic structure.  This wine was the Vindoux Intégrale, a wine that Marc makes whereby the grapes are put directly into a large barrel at harvest time, the wine staying in the barrel throughout the fermentation and ageing phases.

All of the wines were made using the same grape varietal, Cabernet Franc, but it’s amazing the range of tastes and aromas that can be found depending on the different terroir or choices that the winemaker takes when making and ageing his wines.  A fascinating day and a great insight into the life of a winemaker.  Many thanks to Marc for sharing his passion with us.

Follow this link to find out more about the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Learning what goes on in the cellar to make wine in the Côtes du Rhône region


Wine-making can be summed up as the art of producing the best quality grapes from the terroir and climate for a given year, and then taking the necessary decisions and actions to transform the juice from those grapes into wine.  We spent last Saturday at Domaine de la Guicharde in the Rhone Valley for a Vinification Experience Day to learn all about the work in the cellar from harvest time through to when the wine is ready for bottling and labelling before being sent to customers and restaurants all over the world.

Renta a vine wine experience in the Rhone Valley, France

After the introductions, we sat down for a workshop to better understand the different senses that we call upon when wine tasting, especially the importance of our nose.  We had to identify different aromas that can be found in red and white wines, and we learnt the ones that are most typical for different grape varietals, and some of the aromas that can be attributed to ageing in oak barrels.

Wine tasting course with the winemaker

We then headed to the fermentation hall, where the wine-maker, Arnaud, described how the grapes had been received at harvest time and explained their different journeys into the vats depending on whether they were destined to make white or red wine.

The grapes for red wine are separated from their stalks, and then put whole into the vats.  Côtes du Rhône wines are generally a blend of at least two different grape varietals, the ratios varying depending on the different appellations.  The Massif d’Uchaux appellation selected for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience at Domaine de la Guicharde has to have at least 50% Grenache and can be blended with other regional grape varietals such as Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan or Cinsault.

There are two main schools of thought for blending.  You either blend as soon as possible after the harvest or you wait until the just before bottling.  Arnaud is a proponent of the former, and the grapes from different plots and grape varietals are selected and mixed together at harvest time or shortly afterwards.  This, he argues, gives a more harmonious wine because the wine has fermented and aged together for the whole of the wine-making process.

Make your own organic wine experience gift in France

The human aspect and skill of the wine-maker is important and as Arnaud reminded us, if left on its own, grape juice will naturally transform itself into vinegar!  Arnaud talked about how the grape juice is turned into wine during the fermentation process and showed us the analysis that is carried out for each vat to track measurements such as the sugar density, alcoholic volume, and temperature.  He also explained how the carbon dioxide that is released during fermentation, pushes the solid matter of pips and skin to the top of the vats.  The skins contain the pigment and tannins necessary to give the wine structure and colour, and so we learnt how the wine is drawn from the bottom of the vat and pumped back into the top to extract more of the tannins and colour.

The grapes made for making white wine are treated differently.  The whole bunches are put into the press, where the juice is separated from the skin and pips, placed into a vat, and left to settle.  Once the remaining solid particles have fallen to the bottom of the vat, the juice is drawn off and put into another vat to go through the fermentation phase.

Tasting wines that are still in the ageing process

Arnaud then drew off some of the wines from the vats, and we tasted them to better understand how they change during the ageing process.  It’s a really interesting experience as we don’t normally get the chance to taste unfinished wines.

Lunch and wine tasting at the winery with the winemaker in the Rhone Valley

After this full morning, it was time for lunch, so we headed to the courtyard and sat down to an excellent lunch of chicken terrine, 7 hour cooked lamb shank, cheese, and chocolate tart, which had been prepared for us by a local restaurant.  We tasted the range of white, red and rosé wines over lunch, including the Terroir du Miocène Côtes du Rhône Massif d’Uchaux Village red wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

Vineyard guided tour with the winemaker

Arnaud took us on a walk through the vineyards after lunch, describing the different soil types and showing us the remnants of a beach on the way.  At the top of the hill, we arrived at the vineyard where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located.  We took a few minutes to take some pictures with our vines, before making our way back to the winery.

Visiting the rented vines

We ended the day back in the chai, where Arnaud explained how the wine is prepared for bottling, and we then saw the labelling machine in action and learnt about the different regulations for labels depending on where the wine is to be sold.

Putting the labelling machine to work

Many thanks to Arnaud for a very informative day.  We’ll think a little bit differently the next bottle of wine we open!

Interested in participating in a Vinification Experience day in the Rhone Valley or giving an adopt-a-vine gift?  More information on the Wine Experience.

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Learning to prune vines in Saint-Emilion


A new year starts and so the work in the vineyard for the new vintage gets underway.  We met up at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion to learn more about the work of the winemaker in the vineyard during a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience day.

Original wine present for wine lovers.  Adopt a vine and participate in making your own wine

We made our introductions over a coffee and croissant.  Mark, Gourmet Odyssey’s founder, and Benoît explained the programme in store and presented the winery that we would roam through during the day.

The passion of the winemaker, Adrien, was plain to see from the outset as he recounted the long history of his family that have cultivated the vineyards organically ever since their arrival at Château Coutet several hundred years ago.

We made our way through the vines up to the limestone plateau, the terroir that is home to all of the greatest wines from this legendary appellation.  On the way, Adrien showed us the three types of soil that the winery’s vineyards cover.

The weather has been glorious since the beginning of February in the Bordeaux region, the temperatures rising to 20°c at times.  We can feel spring itching to get started, and the flight of cranes coming back from Africa can once again be seen in the sky.  These are signs that the winemaker must hurry to finish pruning the vines before the buds start to burst and the vegetative cycle begins again.

Vine pruning gift experience in a French organic vineyard

Pruning is the starting point of what we will find a few years later in our glasses, and particular care needs to be taken during this crucial phase.  The choice of which branches we keep will determine the amount of grapes that are produced this year, and you also have to carefully choose the branches to make spurs that will prepare the pruning for next year.  We quickly learnt that pruning isn’t as easy as it would at first appear!

Once the vines have been pruned, the cut branches need to be removed.  This is a task that is much more physical and enabled everyone to warm up, as the sun was being a little shy in the morning.  The tendrils in the plot of Cabernet Franc were particularly tough, and we had to use all our strength sometimes to prise them away from the training wires and leave the vineyard tidy for this years’ growth.

Vineyard Experience Gift in Saint-Emilion

We placed the branches that we had pulled away from the vines in the middle of every other row.  They will then be crushed to return nutrients to the soil.

Our adopted vines are located in the Peycocut vineyard, surrounded by the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé vineyards.  The view is magnificent in this picture postcard landscape, and the photos that we each took in front of our adopted vines will be a nice reminder of our day.

Rent a vine gift.  Visit the winery, meet the winemaker and make your own personalised bottles of wine

Some of the vineyard plots at the winery are worked by horse to produce the grapes that are used to make a very special wine at Château Coutet.  As Adrien talked about this wine, everyone listened attentively and the taste buds started to salivate in anticipation of tasting it.

The sun finally broke through, and so we enjoyed our first wine tasting on the lawn in front of the château.  A nice fresh Claret de Coutet rosé wine to set us up for lunch.

Oragnic wine tasting gift experience in Saint-Emilion

We started the meal with a foie gras starter, accompanied by the Belles Cimes 2015 wine, which is the winery’s lighter second wine, produced from the younger vines.  We then climbed the grades with the 2014 vintage and the excellent 2015 vintage of the Château Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, which paired very well with the duck.  With cheese, we rejoiced with the 2014 Demoiselles wine which hails from the limestone vineyard on the plateau that is worked by horse.  The extremely delicate and velvety tannins swirled around our mouths as we gave our taste buds to a real treat!

After lunch, we returned to the vineyard to learn about the different steps that will be taken to nurture the vines between now and the harvest.  We also took the time to discuss what is involved in working organically, and the problems that that causes in a region such as Bordeaux where the relatively wet climate is heavily influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic ocean.

Cellar tour and visit in Saint-Emilion with the winemaker

We ended the day with a visit of the fermentation hall, barrel room, and family cellar, to gain an insight into the work that is in store for us once the grapes are harvested at the end of the summer.

Many thanks to Adrien for this great day.  We look forward to coming back soon.

 

Discover the range of wine-making courses organised by Gourmet Odyssey.

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The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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

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