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Wine-making and blending course with the wine-maker in Saint-Emilion


After this complicated lock-down period, it was great to at last be able to re-start the Wine Experience Days at Château Coutet with the Vinification Experience Day.  The masks and hand gels were compulsory, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm and fun of the day.  We met up and introduced ourselves over a coffee and croissant on the lawn in front of the chateau.  Matthieu, who represents the 13th generation of this family of winemakers, presented Château Coutet and explained the diversity of soil and grape varietals that make it such an exceptional place where the vines, trees, and people live in perfect harmony for more than 400 years.

We then visited the cellar where Matthieu explained the fermentation cycles that have happened since last year’s harvest.  His passion and love for wine-making lights up his eyes and keeps us enthralled as he speaks.

Top wine lover gift. Learn how to blend wines in an organic winery in Saint-Emilion

Another room in the cellar is home to the barrels used to age the wines, as is tradition in the Bordeaux region.  At Château Coutet, the aim is to not give the wine too much of a woody taste, so the percentage of new barrels used is on the low side, older, used barrels being preferred.

We then regrouped on the lawn in front of the château for the blending workshop.  Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey oenologist, reminded us of the techniques used to taste wine, so that we could all speak the same language, and then we started to blind taste several different wines.  It’s always interesting to taste wines blind, so that we concentrate solely on the aromas and tastes that we perceive to analyse the wine, and not be influenced by the label.

We continued the blind tasting with the four different grape varietals that are grown at the winery.  Matthieu and Benoît then presented us with three different blends, giving us three completely different wines, using exactly the same ingredients, just in different proportions.  It helped us to better understand the complicated work to blend wines in Bordeaux, something that is an important skill for the wine-makers here.

Adopt-a-vine gift and learn the art of wine-making

After all of this hard work, we whet our thirst with the refreshing Claret de Coutet under the sunshine that started to peak out from behind the clouds.  It’s a vibrant and fruity wine, difficult to classify, as it’s between a red and rosé wine.

Tasting wines with the winemaker in Saint-Emilion

Over lunch, we discovered the estate’s red wines.  The 2016 Belle-Cimes, the château’s second wine, perfectly accompanied the revisited Landaise foie gras salad.  We then tasted two different vintages of the Château Coutet red wine, something that is always interesting to compare.  The 2017 is still young and a bit feisty, not yet having reached its potential despite being nice and fruity.    The 2014 is now starting to taste really good and we can see that the wine has started to mature nicely even if it can still be kept for a good 10-15 years.

We then had the good fortune to the taste the 2017 Demoiselles red.  It’s a select wine made from the best merlot and cabernet franc vine plots that are located on the limestone plateau and worked by horse.  A real treat.  The depth of aromas carries us afar, and the finesse of the tannins nicely wrap around the body of the wine.  A real journey of discovery!

After lunch, we headed out to visit our adopted vines in the Peycocut vineyard that overlooks the Dordogne valley.  It’s a magnificent setting from where you can also see the bell tower of Saint-Emilion’s church just 800 m away.  We each immortalised the meeting of our adopted vines with a few pictures, some of which were entered into the annual My Vine photo competition held by Gourmet Odyssey for the most creative photo with the vines.

Adopt organic vines in Saint-Emilion and make your own personalised bottles of Grand Cru wine

The day ended with a visit of the store room where the bottles are stocked.  Matthieu explained how the wine is bottled and the labels then applied, the last stages before the wine if finally ready for release.

Huge thanks to Matthieu for welcoming us and to Gourmet Odyssey for organising these days that are always such good fun and very informative.

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Learning the secrets of making and ageing organic wine in Burgundy


We were welcomed at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay for a Vinification Experience Day to learn all about the work of the winemaker in the cellar. The 2017 vintage has now finished its fermentation period and the wines have been racked and put into barrels to start their ageing process. The work is not yet over for the winemaker however, as there still remain a whole host of decisions and actions that must be undertaken to ensure that we end up with a great organic wine in the bottle.

 

Vine adoption and daay at the winery in Santenay, France

 

The sun was shining brightly, and so we made ourselves at home in the winery’s garden, overlooking the Clos des Cornières vineyard where our adopted pinot noir vines are located. 

Oenology lessons at the winery with Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy, France

Jean-François, the winemaker and owner at Domaine Chapelle introduced us to the winery and gave us a recap of the 2017 vintage. He also pointed out the different terroir found in the surrounding vineyards to get a better understanding of the geology and its impact on the hierarchy of the Burgundy AOC system. The surrounding area is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Wine gift box aromas masterclass at the winery

We then split into two groups, one of which went first with Jean-François for a visit of the cellar and to taste the 2017 vintage directly from the barrel, and the other group stayed with Yvette, Jean-François’ wife, to develop their senses that would be put to the test during the wine tasting to come. The groups then swapped over.

Wine experience and wine tasting in Burgundy, France

Jean-François explained how the sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol during the first fermentation phase after the harvest.  We also had the honour of tasting some of the 2017 wines that are currently still in the ageing process, drawing them by pipette directly from the barrel.

Yvette helped us discover and identify the aromas that can be found in Burgundy wines, and explained where they come from, whether it’s from the grape and quality of the grape, or from the vinification and ageing process. 

Vineyard visit box in Santenay, Burgndy, France

We then put our new found knowledge to the test as we tasted different wines from Domaine Chapelle, starting with a glass of the chardonnay AOC Santenay Saint Jean white wine.

During lunch we enjoyed some local dishes of jambon persillé, Gaston Gérard chicken, local cheeses and a chocolate and blackcurrant entremets desert, accompanied by three red wines from Domaine Chapelle, the 2014 Santenay Clos des Cornières, the 2011 Santenay La Comme Premier Cru and the 2013 Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot Premier Cru.

After lunch we headed out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines, and see how they are preparing for the 2018 vintage. We encouraged them to continue their good work, and passed the baton to the adoptive owners of the 2018 vintage!

Vine renting at Domaine CHapelle, Burgundy, france

Jean-François explained the three different ages of vines that are used in making the Clos des Cornières wine. The 2017 vintage will be the last for a while to use the three different aged vines because the oldest plot of vines was uprooted earlier in the year.  It will be replanted with young vines, but it will take a few more years before any grapes will be produced.

Vina adoption box for a perfect to wine lovers

Back at the winery, we tasted the wines that are currently ageing from these three different aged vines, and so could see for ourselves the difference in quality. Each of the three plots is picked, vinified, and aged separately before being blended when it comes time to bottle the wine.  We noted that the tannins were much softer for the oldest vines, whilst they were still marked for the youngest plot. The winemaker can balance these different styles when blending the final wine.

We had spent a very enjoyable day in Santenay at Domaine Chapelle and can’t wait to taste the 2017 Clos des Cornières wine when it is finished!

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Making and ageing Santenay red Burgundy wine at Domaine Chapelle


We were warmly welcomed to Domaine Chapelle last weekend by Jean-François, Yvette and Myriam, for the first of the Vinification Experience Days for the 2017 vintage.  The aim of these interactive oenology courses is to learn about the wine-making process and the decisions that the wine-maker takes in the cellar, picking up where we left off after the harvest through to the time when the wine is ready for bottling.

After a welcome coffee, we started the day with an introduction to the winery by Jean-François. He told us about the history of his family, how the Burgundy wines are classified using the Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) system, and the geology that defines the different Burgundy vineyards. We learnt that even before the grapes are transformed into wine, the terroir enters into play, differentiating the wine that comes from different vineyard plots. 

These precious nuggets of information set us up for the rest of the day that would be dedicated to learning about the wine-making process and tasting wines.

One group stayed with Yvette for a fun sensorial workshop to identify the aromas and balance on the palate of Burgundy wines. This was an important step in preparing for the wine tasting to follow.

Oenology lesson in a French winery in Santenay Burgundy

The other group went with Jean-François to visit the fermentation hall and cellar where the wines age in oak barrels. Jean-François explained the work in the cellar during the ageing process and to better illustrate the influence that the barrels play on the aromatic and gustative characteristics of the wine, we tasted the same Santenay Gravières Premier Cru wine, the only difference being the type of barrel in which it was ageing.

Wine aageing process in Burgundy France

Surrounded by the large wooden vinification casks, we enjoyed a Santenay Saint-Jean white wine accompanied by the famous local gougères for the aperitif. 

We then sat down to lunch with other local delicacies. Jambon persillé, poulet Gaston Gérard, a selection of local cheeses and chocolate desert, accompanied by three different wines, the Santenay Clos des Cornières, Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire and Chassgane Montrachet Premier Cru reds.

After lunch we headed out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines and immortalise the moment with some photos. Jean-François pointed out the different areas of the Clos des Cornières vineyard, planted with three different ages of vines, the grapes from which are used in the making of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience. The oldest plot of vines will shortly be cleared and replaced.

Having different ages of vines in the same plot is often used to manage the longevity of a particular vineyard so as to not have to replace all of the vines at once, and thus be deprived of the wine for several years. It takes roughly 5 years before the vines will produce grapes that can start to be used to make wine.

Wine gift Box with a daay at the winery in Santenay, Burgundy, farnce

We then returned to the fermentation hall for a final wine tasting to compare the impact that the age of the vines has on the wine. We tasted the wine from the three different plots that make up the Clos des Cornières vineyard. They are each made and aged separately, until they are blended, shortly before bottling. We could taste the difference for ourselves and also noted that tasting wines that have not yet finished their ageing process is not always the easiest thing to do!

Ageing is a very important phase for softening the structure of the tannins and developing the aromatic complexity. Patience is needed, and a little imagination to try and foresee how the wine will turn out after a few more months ageing.

The time had come to end this great day learning and exchanging about wine. We’d had a privileged insight into the secrets of making wine, and we can’t wait to taste the final result of this 2017 vintage!

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Learning how to blend wine in Bordeaux


Blending wine is a fine art as we were to learn during the Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage last weekend.  The winemaker chooses not only which grape varietals to use and in what percentages, but also chooses between different lots of the same wine, and notably at Château Beau Rivage, between the same wine aged in different types of oak barrel.  The possibilities are endless!

Adopt a vine gift.  Learn all about making and blending wines with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

After the introductions, we headed into the cuvier, or fermentation hall, to see where the grapes end their journey at harvest time.  Here we learnt all about the fermentation process to transform the sugar contained in the grapes into alcohol, and the work carried out to extract the tannins from the marc of grape skins and pips during maceration.  The first weeks after the harvest is a very busy time for the winemaker as the wines need to be constantly monitored to track the temperature, sugar content, and evolution of the wines.

Learning how wine ferments

Once the fermentation has finished, the wines are racked to separate the wine from the larger lee particles that are formed by the skin, pips, stems and other solid matter.  If it was left in contact with the wine, this would make the wine unstable and give undesirable aromas.  The wine that is drawn off is known as the “vin de goutte”.  The marc that remains in the bottom of the vat is then pressed to obtain the “vin de presse”, which is then aged separately to have another possibility during blending.  The vin de presse is much more tannic and concentrated than the vin de goutte.

At Château Beau Rivage, the wines remain in the vats until the malo-lactic fermentation has finished, a process which reduces the acidity and results in a softening of the wines.  The wines are then moved into the barrel room.

Learning about the interaction between wine and oak barrels

The barrel room at Château Beau Rivage is very impressive.  Chrsitine, the owner and winemaker comes from a family of coopers, and the family cooperage is just the other side of the village.  Here we were introduced to the influence that oak barrels play in ageing wine, and learnt about the different effects they have on the wine depending on the provenance of the oak and the way in which the barrels are made.  Barrel making is an art form in itself!

For the most part the wines are left alone in the barrel to age.  This takes time as the wines at Château Beau Rivage are made for lasting.  Each barrel is regularly tasted to check on its progression, and any wine that has evaporated is replaced to keep the barrels full, protecting the wine from the oxygen in the air.  After tasting, the winemaker will decide whether the finer lees that are present in the barrels need stirring in a process known as “battonage”.

It was then time to put our senses to the test.  At the cooperage, a series of workshops had been set up, the first of which was to identify some of the aromas that can be found in wine due to the grape varietal or from the ageing process in oak barrels.  A fun exercise that’s not as easy as you would imagine!

Workshop to develop the wine tasting senses

Now that we had the vocabulary in place, we started the first wine tasting session of the day.  We were served two different wines, and had to try and guess the singular difference between them.  Were they from different grape varietals, different years, or had they been aged in different types of container?  The difference aromatically and on the palate was striking, and tasting in this manner is the best way to understand the variables that a winemaker has at his or her disposal.

Tasting wines that are still in the process of ageing

Lunchtime was approaching and so we tasted some of the winery’s wines during lunch at the restaurant of the cooperage.  After the rosé wine, we tasted the Phare 2002 red wine with the foie gras and fig chutney starter.  We then tasted the Benjamin Bordeaux Supérieur 2010 red wine with the main course, and the Clos la Bohème Haut-Médoc 2010 with cheese, followed by the Château Beau Rivage 2007 with the chocolate mousse. This last wine is the cuvée chosen at the winery for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience gift pack.

After lunch, we had lots more wine tasting in store during the blending workshop.  At our disposal were samples of four different grape varietals from the 2016 vintage that are currently still in the ageing process.  To understand the different qualities of each, we started by tasting them individually.  We noted that the merlot was full of fruit but not so long on the palate, the malbec brought a touch of spice, the cabernet sauvignon had a long finish, and the petit verdot had more acidity than the others.

Wine lover gift to learn how to blend wines, Bordeaux, France

Then it was time to have a go at blending the wines together.  We tried several different blends to see how the wine changes with the different grape varietals and percentages used.   Even small differences can considerably change a wine, and some of the blends were more pleasing than others!  One thing that we were unanimous about was that it takes real skill to choose the blend, and to be able to project into the future about how the wine will be.

Many thanks to all who participated in this very enjoyable weekend and to Château Beau Rivage for giving us a great insight into the art of winemaking.  We now have to wait patiently as the 2016 vintage slowly matures and is ready in the winter of 2018/19.  The 2015 vintage will be ready at the end of this year, or beginning of next depending on its evolution over the next few months, and the timing of this year’s harvest.

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The 2016 harvest gets under way!


Now that September has arrived, harvest season is upon us once more. During the summer months, the grapes have been left to slowly mature, but now the activity in the vineyard and cellar is accelerating again as the harvest starts for some, and for others the preparation begins. The first of the 2016 Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days took place last weekend under the sunny blue skies in the Languedoc.

Last minute preparations

The wineries have been ramping up the work again over the last couple of weeks. The teams of harvesters are being put in place, and are now eagerly awaiting the starting orders. The harvest will generally last between 10 and 20 days according to the size of the winery, the weather, and how the grapes are harvested. Harvesting by hand takes considerably longer than by machine.

Cellar tour at the winery in the Languedoc area, France

The cellars and fermentation halls, or chais, have been cleaned and tidied to be ready for the new harvest. Many of the wineries have also been busy bottling previous vintages to free up space in the vats for the first fermentation of the new wine to come.

Oenology course in France with the winemaker at he winery

Our partner winemakers are now prowling the vineyards each day, observing and tasting the grapes to see how ripe they are. They also scrutinise the weather reports and combine these with their estimations of when the grapes will reach optimum maturity to try and predict a date to start the harvest.

The harvest dates differ from region to region

This year we are in a more usual cycle, and the first of our partner wineries to pick their grapes are Domaine Allegria and Domaine la Cabotte in the Languedoc and Côtes du Rhône wine regions, where the high summer temperatures and long hours of sunshine allow the grapes to mature faster.

Tours in the vineyard and wine-making experience in France

The wineries a little further north will then follow with our two Burgundy partners, Domaine Chapelle in Santenay, and Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis, hosting Harvest Experience Days the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October. Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux, Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace and Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley will then finish the round of Harvest Experience Days during the following two weekends.

Generally speaking, spring was cool and wet, but the beginning of summer was very warm, so the ripeness of the grapes is neither late nor early. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed for good weather right until the very last grapes have been picked! It's been a difficult year for some with hail storms, flooding, and some very hot spells in some regions, so it would be nice to avoid any further climatic challenges. And a little sun is always appreciated to welcome our adoptive vine parents to the Harvest Experience Days!

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The role of vats, barrels and other types of container in making wine


With all of the different Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Days taking place at the moment in our different partner wineries, we’ve been struck by the multitude of different methods and techniques used in the cellar to make and age wine depending on the different regions and partners. In this article we wanted to take a closer look at just one of these differences, that difference being the type of container used to produce wines. Here’s a quick overview of some of the different containers used to make wines.

After the harvest, the winemakers have to make a whole raft of crucial decisions in the cellar that will directly impact the quality, taste, and characteristics of their wines. Among them is the choice of container to age the wine once the fermentation has finished. Generally speaking, once the second fermentation has finished the wines are racked, and they are transferred from their fermentation tank to another container to continue their ageing process. There are lots of different types of container, but the most popular by far are either vats or barrels.

Vats

Vats come in all shapes and sizes, and can be made from different materials. The largest capacity vats can hold up to 1 000 200 litres, which is the colossal amount that the world’s largest oak vat holds at the Caves Byrhh. Vats of this size are far from the norm as there are very few wineries that would have the space to house them!

Unique wine gift, Alsace, France

The most common materials used to make vats are stainless steel, concrete and wood. Each has its own advantages. Wood and concrete vats are more porous and allow a micro-oxygenation of the wine which can be something favourable that the winemaker is looking for to make the wines softer and rounder. Wooden vats can also bring some extra tertiary aromas to the wine, particularly when they are new, to add to those present from the fruit and terroir. Stainless steel vats don’t allow these aromas to develop, but they can have the advantage of concentrating the aromas on the primary and secondary ones found in the must. All depends on what type of wine the winemaker wants to develop!

Wine making experience, Burgundy, France

When it comes to the shape, we often imagine that they are all more or less cylindrical, and that is indeed the case in the majority of wineries, but there are also less common forms such as cubic, ovoid, pyramidal, or rectangular. Each shape has its advantages. For example, an ovoid vat allows the wine to perpetually move, keeping the lees in suspension, without having to stir the lees at all. This results in fuller, more concentrated wines.

Original wine gift, Chablis, Burgundy, France

Barrels

When you think of wine ageing at the winery, more often than not you will think of it doing so in an oak barrel. The volume that a barrel holds varies from region to region, and in French, there are also different names for them depending on the region and the size of the barrel. For example, in Bordeaux, the typical Bordelaise barrel, a “barrique,” can hold 225 litres (300 standard sized bottles of wine). A Bordelaise “tonneau” is four times bigger, containing 900 litres, and it is this size of barrel that is used for pricing the wines. In Burgundy, the standard measure for a barrel of wine is called the “pièce” and has a capacity of 228 litres (304 standard sized bottles of wine). For much larger quantities there also the “foudres”.

Wine experience gifts, Loire Valley, France

There are two main reasons why the winemaker might choose to use oak barrels. The first is the micro-oxygenation that takes place as we mentioned in the section before on vats. The second is the impact that the interaction between the wine and the oak has on the aroma and taste of the wine. The majority of tertiary aromas found in wine are developed thanks to prolonged contact with the oak. Vanilla, cinnamon, hazelnut, toast, leather, etc – different aromas depending on the type of wood, its origin, and the way in which it was toasted during the manufacture of the barrels. Choosing the right barrel that will enhance the characteristics of a wine without overpowering it can be a difficult decision for the winemaker.

Vineyard experience, Bordeaux, France

Choosing the right container

Each type of container has its qualities and its supporters, the choice resting with the winemaker to help produce the desired wine. At our partner winemakers, we often taste the same wine that has been aged in different types of container. For example at Domaine la Cabotte, they have started to test using clay amphorae like the Romans used. They are trying to benefit from the porosity of the clay jar for the micro-oxygenation that is similar to a barrel, but without the exchange of tannins and development of tertiary aromas.

Wine lover gift, Rhone Valley, France

Whatever the choice of the container to be used, its impact will diminish as the volume increases, as the surface area becomes smaller relative to the volume of wine contained. The larger the container, the slower the ageing process will be. Controlling the temperature is also important, not just during the fermentation process, but during ageing as well to regulate the ability of the oxygen to dissolve into the liquid. Yet more choices for the winemaker!

 

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Blending wine in Bordeaux


We spent last weekend in Bordeaux for a couple of Vinification Experience Days to learn all about the winemakers work in the cellar to age and blend wine. On Saturday we were accompanied by David, the Winery Manager, and Pauline who is in charge of wine tourism, and on Sunday the owner of the winery, Christine, led the way.
Vineyard experience, Bordeaux, France

After coffee and croissants, the two wine experience days started with a visit of the fermentation hall. Here, David and Christine, explained the vinification process since the harvest. How the grapes were sorted and put into the vats, how the fermentation period transformed the sugar into alcohol, pumping over the wine, the malo-lactic fermentation phase...

Wine gift packs, Bordeaux, France

We then headed into the barrel room to talk more about how the wine is aged and the role of the wooden barrels in maturing the wine. We also covered a whole host of topics as varied as sulphites and organic wine-making, and saw the barrels where our 2015 wine is slowly going through the ageing process. Christine’s family also run a cooperage, and it is there that we went for our first wine tasting workshop. Before sampling the wines, we tried to familiarise ourselves with the aromas found in wines by identifying different smells.

Wine tasting gift, Bordeaux, France

We then tasted two Merlot wines which had each been aged in barrels, but one was made of French oak, and the other American oak. The difference between the two wines was really quite surprising!

Wne lover gift, Bordeaux, France

A glass of rosé followed, and then à table! We continued tasting the finished red wines of the winery over lunch.

Personalised wine gift, Bordeaux, France

Then back to work in the afternoon for the blending workshop. First we tasted each of the wines from different grape varietals separately, and then we tried our hand at blending. Measuring the wine, blending, tasting, and then re-blending! True budding winemakers with results that were more or less promising. We learnt that blending wines is a true art form!

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Wine-making Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


It was a full house for the first 2015 Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte. Eric and Marie-Pierre, the winemakers, were there as usual and this time were accompanied by their son Etienne, who joined the winery at harvest time last year. On the Gourmet Odyssey side, we also had the pleasure to welcome Jacqueline and Bertrand, both sommeliers, who will be running the next experience days.

At 9:30, once everyone had arrived and had finished their coffee and croissant, we introduced the day and Marie-Pierre presented the history of the winery, how it is named after the little “Cabotte”, a stone shelter for the workers in the vineyard, and how she and Eric became winemakers.

Vineyard experience, Rhône Valley

We then went to visit our adopted vines, and talked about the different grape varietals grown on the estate. The plot of vines where our adopted vines are located is planted with Grenache, and the Garance wine that we will end up with at the end of the experience, also contains Mourvèdre and Syrah.

Rent a vine in Rhône Valley, France

We then went to the chai to see what happens after the harvest. The grapes from the different vineyard plots are put into individual vats and go through two fermentation phases before being racked to separate the wine from the marc of solid matter such as the skin and pips. Eric explained how this part of the vinification process differs slightly for the white wines.

Throughout the vinfication period, there are many controls and decisions that the winemaker must make, but as Eric reminded us, much of the work is done in the vineyard before the harvest, especially for wineries like Domaine la Cabotte who work biodynamically.

After having answered lots of questions on organic and biodynamic wine making, and the work that they entail for the winemaker, we returned to the reception to put into practice our wine tasting skills. We started with a challenge to test our noses by identifying the primary and secondary aromas found in wine. It’s not such an easy thing to do!

And it’s a task that is even more difficult for the winemaker who must identify the aromas that are all intermingled following the blend of several wines and where tertiary aromas are also added depending on the choice of ageing the wine in oak barrels.

Wine tasting gift, Rhône Valley, France

Eric took us back to the chai to taste some of the 2015 wines that have been blended and are still in the process of ageing. Of the three wines, the first two had exactly the same age and the same proportion of different grape varietals, the only difference being that the second wine had been ageing in new oak barrels for a couple of months. We could already taste a big difference. The third wine had not completely finished its malo-lactic fermentation, and was measuring 10g of sugar per litre instead of the authorised maximum of 3g. More time is needed for this wine to finish fermenting.

Wine experience gift, Rhône Valleu, France

Once we had tasted these wines, it was time for lunch, which had been prepared by Marie-Pierre. We tasted some of the finished wines too, starting with the rosé with the starter. We then tasted the Garance and Gabriel 2014 red wines with the main course and cheese. We finished with a Château-neuf-du-Pape from a recently acquired vineyard which is worked entirely by hand and by horse.

We started the afternoon with a short walk around the vineyards whilst Eric explained the geology that makes the Massif d’Uchaux such a unique place, and gives the wine its special qualities.

Unique wine gift, Rhône Valley, France

We finished the day by learning what happens to the wine at the end of the maturing period and how it is bottled, labelled and packaged. Being biodynamic, this too is done in harmony with the lunar calendar that takes into account the position of the moon and the tidal coefficients. There are still a few months to wait until our 2015 vintage of the Garance wine will be ready, but as Eric said, you need time to become mature and wise!

Many thanks to all of the participants for your curiosity

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Wine-making Experience Day in Bordeaux


We started the Vinification Experience Days for the 2015 vintage last weekend at Château Beau Rivage in the Bordeaux region of France. We were welcomed by Christine, the owner of the winery, and Pauline and Corentin from her team. We then headed straight to the fermentation hall once we had finished our coffee and tea.

Christine explained how the grapes had been picked and put into the vats at harvest time, and then taught us all about the work during the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation processes.

Wine marking experience, Bordeaux, France

We then headed through to the cellar, where we discovered the fascinating world of barrels. They soften the tannins from the grapes, and bring smoothness and structure to the wine. This is where the 2015 wines, which our adopted vines have helped make, are currently resting and slowly maturing. We started to understand the benefit of ageing the wines in barrels and the art of blending wines in Bordeaux.

Unique wine gifts, bordeaux, France

We then made our way to the Nadalié cooperage that Chirstine’s family own and run, just a few kilometres away. After a quick visit, we settled around a table for the first practical session of the day. To help us to better describe the wines that we were to taste later on in the day, we put our noses to the test. We had to identify the aromas of different fruits, spices, leather and aromas emanating from wood, and they weren’t all easy to correctly guess!

Wine experience, Bordeaux, France

We finished the morning with the first wine tasting session. Christine and Pauline gave us two wines to taste from the same year. The two wines were of the same grape varietal, but from two different types of barrel. One was ageing in a French oak barrel and the other in an American oak barrel. The difference in taste and colour was amazing!

Personalised wine gift, Bordeaux, France

We then took a break in the restaurant of the cooperage for a cold buffet lunch of regional charcuterie, salads and cheese. Around the tables, we continued the discussion, and tasted the finished wines from the winery.

After lunch, it was back to work! We tasted samples of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot one by one. These are the principal grape varietals grown at Château Beau Rivage, and this exercise gave us the opportunity to identify the different tastes and characteristics they each have.

Wine tasting gift, Bordeaux, France

Split into small groups, we then tried our hand at being winemakers. Blending, tasting, testing, re-tasting, re-blending, re-tasting… A full afternoon creating wines, sometimes off-beat, and sometimes surprising!

We finished the days around 16:00 having had lots of fun, and having learnt a little more about the art of winemaking.

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Vinificiation and ageing of wine in Burgundy


We couldn't have asked for better weather for the latest Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle. The aim of the day was to learn more about the process of making and ageing wine, from harvest time until the wine is ready for bottling.
wine making experience in Burgundy, France

After a welcome coffee, the day started with a workshop in tasting wines, led by Yvette Chapelle. This session starts with an exercise to identify the different aromas that can be found in wine.

Original wine gift in Burgundy, France

We put our sense of smell to the test, first with the primary aromas of fruit and flowers, and then we tried to name a series of tertiary aromas that can be found in wines that have been aged in oak.

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy

The wine tasting session finished with a gustative test to identify the differences between sweet, saline, acidic and bitter solutions.

Personalised wine gifts in Burgundy

Jean-François Chapelle took us on a tour of the fermentation hall and the cellar. In the fermentation hall he explained how the wines ferment and worked in the period immediately following the harvest.

Wine making experience in Burgundy

In the cellar, we then learnt how the wines change when aged in different types of oak barrel. We tasted some wines direct from the barrel to see firsthand the differences in some of the 2014 wines that are currently ageing. Then it was time for the aperitif. A Santenay 2013 village white wine, accompanied by some gougères before sitting down to enjoy lunch.

Rent a vine in Burgundy

We headed out into the sunshine after lunch, and made our way to the Clos des Cornières vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found. Jean-François taught us a few more things about the local geology and the vines in general.

Wedding present wine in Burgundy

We finished the day back at the winery with a final tasting of the 2014 Clos de Cornières wine which is currently ageing in oak barrels in the cellar. The vineyard is made up of three distinct zones with three different ages of vines which are referred to as the Park, Young and Old. We tasted each of these wines separately, as the final wine will be made up of a blend of the three. Many thanks to the team at Domaine Chapelle for their warm welcome, and to our clients for their good cheer.

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Vinification Experience Day in the Languedoc


For the latest Vinification Experience Day, we were blessed with the first warm and sunny day of the year.  The first participants arrived at Domaine Allegria for a coffee taken outside around the big table.  A luxury for the month of February!

We started the day in the vineyard to see where the adopted vines are located.  On the way to the plot of Syrah vines, we saw how the pruning was progressing.  The view from the Mazet vineyard is great, and we could see all the way to the snow-capped Pyrenees.  The Canigou is beautiful with its blanket of snow.  For the participants it's a great sight.  For the winemaker, it's the indicator that bad weather will arrive within the next 48 hours!

 

Winemaking gift at the winery in Pezenas, France

 

Back from the vineyard, we visited every square inch of the chai.  The questions were varied; what's a wine without sulphites like, why do you use selected yeasts, why are the concrete vats lined with epoxy? The discussion also included bottling because the fermentation hall is currently bursting with palettes of bottles and cases.  On the 26th Februray the winery will be bottling wines all day, concentrating mainly on the 2013 rosé wines.

We then played a little game to try and identify the aromas present in wine.  The first series contained mainly floral and fruity aromas, the second series ones that are present due to the ageing in oak barrels.

 

Wine Lover Gift in France. Idetinfy the different aromas found in wine.

 

We then tasted two different Syrahs taht are still in the process of ageing, one that had been aged in a vat, and the other in oak.  The comparison helped us to better understand firsthand the influence of oak barrels on the structure and aroma of the wine.

We enjoyed lunch outside. For the aperitif, we tasted the Dolce Vita 2013 rosé, an avant premiere of the wine to be bottled the following week.  During the meal that was prepared by Delphine, we continued the wine tasting with the Cinsault Abuelo 2012, the Tribu d'A 2010 red wine, and the Cousu Main 2010 from a magnum.  We then tasted the first of the 2014 goat's cheese from our friends at the Mas Roland, with the Tribu d'A 2012 white wine.  The perfect match!  We then finished the meal with a chocolate fondant, accompanied by the Belle Histoire 2009 wine.

 

Wine tasting gift in Pezenas, Languedoc France.

 

After the meal, all the participants voted to make the most of the magnificent winter sun and to go for a walk in the vineyard.  So off we went, and continued our discussion, covering topics such as organic wine making, and different pruning methods.

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Cellar work in Chinon


We spent last Saturday in the Loire Valley for a Vinification Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière.   The aim of this day spent at the winery is to learn more about the work that is done in the cellar to age the wine and bring out the best of its potential.

In the chai, Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, explained how the grapes are handled during the harvest, and how the grape juice is then turned into wine.  Marc told us all about malo-lactic fermentation and the differences between ageing wine in vats and barrels.

 

Winemaking Gift in France. Blend your own wines during the Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day

 

Once the ageing has finished, which can take up to 18 months after the harvest depending on the year and the type of wine, the wine is then bottled in-situ at the winery.  Marc showed us the machines used to bottle and label the wine.

 

Adopt-a-vine in the Loire Valley and visit the winery with the winemaker.

 

We then sat down to a workshop to help us identify the aromas found in wine, something that is not as easy as it seems!

 

Wine tasting gift in France. Identify the aromas found in wines.
Before settling down to lunch, we tasted one of the sparkling wines produced by Marc, the Perles Fines.  During the meal, we continued the wine tasting with a Chenin white wine and two of the winery's red Chinon wines, the Clos de la Bonnelière and the Chapelle.

 

The cellar used to age the wines produced by Château de la Bonnelière is located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress, in one of the galleries formed from where the rock was extracted to build the castle above.  In this magical place, we saw where the barrels of wine will be brought to continue the wines maturing.

 

Wine blending gift in France. Blend wines in the cellar at Chinon
We tasted 4 wines from the 2013 vintage that are currently in the ageing process.  The first 3 were each from the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, home to the vines of the Gourmet Odyssey clients, but are ageing in either a stainless steel vat, old oak or new oak barrels.  To compare these wines with a different terroir, we also tasted a Chapelle wine that is ageing in oak.

 

The day finished with us each having a go at blending these four wines.  Using measuring cylinders, we blended several different wines to better understand firsthand the different characteristics that each can bring to a finished wine.

Many thanks to all of the participants and to Marc for sharing his passion of winemaking with us.

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Blending wines in Bordeaux


We spent the first weekend of February on the banks of the Garonne river for a couple of Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage.  After working in the vineyard and the harvest, this third day of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience picks up where we left off after the harvest and takes us through to the bottling of the wine, with particular attention paid to the art of blending.

Wine Making Gift in Bordeaux France.

We started the day in the chai with Christine Nadalié, the château's winemaker.  She explained how the grapes were received during the harvest and how the grape juice was transformed into alcohol during the fermentation process.

Vineyard Tour in Bordeaux, France.

Next door, in the barrel room, Chrsitine told us about the work done whilst the wine is ageing such as stirring the lees and topping up the barrels.  Christine comes from a family of coopers, and so she let us in on the fascinating world of barrels and the harmony between oak and wine.

Wine lover gift. Adopt-a-vine and get involved in making your own wine

Once we had visited the chai, the plan was to visit our adopted vines.  However on the Saturday it started to pour down with rain at that point so we changed the plan.  On Sunday, we got booted up and braved the mud to take a look at our vines!

Rent-a-vine gift in France.

The Vinification Experience Day is where we taste the most wine.  To help us describe what we are tasting, we organised a workshop to help us identify the aromas that we can find in the wine.  It's not as easy as you would think!

Original wine enthusiast gift.

We then tasted three wines that are still in the process of ageing.  Each wine was from the same grape varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, picked on the same day from the same plot of vines, but each had been aged in a different type of barrel.  It's amazing to smell and taste the marked differences between the three wines.

Hands-on wine tasting course in Bordeaux, France

To accompany the lunch, we tasted several of the Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut-Médoc wines produced at the winery.

Lunch and wine tasting at the winery in Bordeaux

 

The afternoon was dedicated to blending, using the four principle grape varietals grown at Château Beau Rivage; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec.  First of all we tasted each grape varietal separately to appreciate the individual characteristics that each brings to a blended wine.

 

Wine blending gift, Bordeaux, France.

In small groups, we then made several different blends to understand for ourselves how we can make completely different styles of wine.

At the end of the afternoon, each group chose their best blend to present to Christine and the rest of the group.

All in all a day rich in information, aromas and tastes!

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Harvest Experience Days at Domaine Chapelle


We spent three excellent days last weekend at Domaine Chapelle for the Harvest Experience days.

All week, the Gourmet Odyssey team anxiously monitored the weather forecast as Jean-Franois, the winemaker at Domaine Chapelle, was predicting rain for the weekend. In the end, the wet conditions didn't dampen the spirits, and we had a great group who were fully motivated to participate in the harvest. Those lucky enough to have chosen the Monday even saw some sunshine!

Wine Experience Gift in Burgundy, France 

Each morning we welcomed the adoptive owners of vines in the "Clos des Cornires" vineyard. After a coffee and a short introduction to the winery, we set off to the vineyard. With a few explanations from Jean-Franois and plenty of good humour, we set about harvesting the grapes.

Harvest Experience Gift in Burgundy, France 

We then followed the grapes to the reception hall to sort the grapes and track their journey into the vats.

Original wine gift for wine lovers. Get involved in the harvest in Burgundy 

Whilst some got stuck in around the sorting table, secateurs in hand, under the instruction of Yannick, the Technical Director, others watched the grapes climb the conveyor belt and fall into the vat. Jean-Franois talked us through the first stages of fermentation and how the grape juice will gradually transform into wine.

Wine course gift at the winery in Burgundy. Learn about the fermentation process 

After a busy morning, it was time to taste some of the estate's wines, accompanied by one of the local specialties, gougres, before sitting down to lunch in the harvesters' refectory. The conversation, food and wine flowed, and it was difficult to get going again afterwards!

Wine tasting gift in Burgundy. 

The days finished with a visit of the cellar, an impressive labyrinth of barrels and bottles.

Wine tour of the cellar in Burgundy. Original wine gift for wine enthusiasts 

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

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