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Tagged articles : Bordeaux

Wine gift experience to discover the work in an organic vineyard in Saint-Emilion

The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Days at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion are a great way to immerse yourself in the life of a winemaker and learn about all of the work that goes on in the vineyard.

We met up at the magnificent Château Coutet, a family-run winery, very close to the centre of this beautiful medieval town that is renowned throughout the world for the quality of its wine.  We were to spend the day with one of the winemaking owners, Alain David-Beaulieu.  The aim of the day was to discover the daily work of a winemaker.  The vines had already grown lots by the end of June, and we could already see the future grapes well formed on the vines.

Adopt organic vines in Saint-Emilion

After a quick tour of the estate and our adopted vines, Alain explained the different work that has been carried out in the vineyard since winter.  It all started with pruning the vines to control the quantity of grapes produced and to limit how much the vines spread.  Once the vines start to grow, the best fruit-bearing branches were selected, and any shoots that wouldn’t produce any grapes removed, so as to preserve the vines energy on producing better quality grapes.  Then came the raising of the training wires to keep the vines nicely aligned and supported between two wires.  This enables the tractors to continue to pass through the vine rows without hindrance or damaging the vines.

Alain had kept a little work back for us to do, and so after all the explanations, we got to experience firsthand what it’s like to work in a vineyard.

Dicover all the work behind a bottle of wine

Removing some of the leaves from the zone around the grapes is very important for the vines, as it improves the airflow, as they can bring dampness.  Spring was fairly wet and humid this year, increasing the risk of fungi such as mildew forming which can quickly destroy the work of a whole season by drying out the future grapes, which then can’t be used to make wine.

After having a go for ourselves, we soon learned that it’s a physical job, especially so if it’s done for many days and even weeks in a row!  Producing quality grapes demands a lot of effort!

But after the effort, the just reward!  We all ate a lovely meal together and delighted our taste buds with the wines from the estate under the shade of the tress in the garden.

Elaborate you own cuvée

In the afternoon, we visited the chai and talked more about the challenges of working organically.  We finished the day with a visit of the family cellar where the old vintage wines are stored!

This immersive day proved to be very interesting and we thank Alain warmly for his welcome.  We can’t wait to come back for the Harvest Experience Days in September!

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Learning how to de-bud vines in Saint-Emilion

May and June are very busy months in the vineyard.  Everything grows very quickly, and it’s a daily battle to keep on top of things.  To better understand first hand, we spent a day with the winemaker at Château Coutet for a Discovery Experience Day.  These hands-on wine experience days are designed to get involved in the work at the winery, and learn about all the work in the vineyard by the winemaker to produce the best grapes possible come harvest time.
Adrien, one of the owners and winemakers at the winery, welcomed us with a coffee and croissant.  Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey win expert, introduced us to the programme of this great day that we would spend together in this beautiful Bordeaux winery.
We listened attentively as Adrien presented the history of his family’s tenure of the vineyards and winery at Château Coutet, which goes back over 400 years.  He is a very passionate winemaker, full of unusual and interesting stories regarding the region and his winery.
We headed out for a walk through the different terroir of the winery to better understand this prestigious wine appellation and the different grape varietals grown at Château Coutet, each with their own distinctive leaf. 
Adopt a vine in Bordeaux
For example, cabernet franc leaves close at the top to create a hole, whereas the malbec leaves are open with a u-shape at the top.
Wine experience in Saint-Emilion
At the top of the hill, we admired the magnificent view over the Dordogne valley, and started to learn about the work in the vineyard from pruning through to the work currently being carried out.  It’s a complicated job!
Learn the winemaker job during a day
The Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located close to where we were, also on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, one of the best vineyards of the appellation.  We each found our adopted vines thanks to a slate nameplate that had been put in front.  We took a few minutes to take some photographs of our vines and the surrounding rolling vineyards.
Wine gift for wine lover
We then passed by the vineyard where the grapes are grown for the wonderful Demoiselle wine that we had the chance to taste at lunchtime.  It was then time to get down to some work, and see what being a winemaker is really like!  At the moment, the vines need to be de-budded to keep just the branches that are best positioned on the vines and those that will produce the fruit for the coming harvest.   It’s a long and difficult job, but one that is very important.
Wine experience in Saint-Emilion with Gourmet Odyssey
Back on the lawn in front of the château, we enjoyed a well earned aperitif of a lovely white wine made by Adrien’s cousin in the Entre-Deux-Mers wine-growing region, the Vertige wine from Château Le Grand Verdus.  We then sat down for lunch and continued the tasting with wines from the winery.  The 2020 Château Coutet was paired with the foie-gras starter, followed by the 2018 Demoiselles with the duck main course.  There is a complexity and length to this wine that admirably represents some of the mythical Saint-Emilion wines, and it’s one that will only get better with time.
Be a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey
After lunch, Adrien talked about the benefits and difficulties in nurturing the vines organically.  He also explained the work left to do in the vineyard between and now and the harvest, of which we’ll learn more about during the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days.
Original gift for a wine lover
The day finished with a visit of the fermentation hall, which is one of the most rustic in Saint-Emilion, and the family cellar where the old vintage wines are stored, the oldest dating back to 1945!
Many thanks to Adrien for his passionate recounting of life at the winery and giving us a really interesting insight into his job as a winemaker.

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A perfect Indian summer for the Harvest Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage

It was under a sunny blue sky that we gathered last weekend to participate in the Harvest Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage, near Bordeaux.

Adopt a vine in Bordeaux and get involved in the harvest of your grapes

After a nice hot coffee, Christine, the owner of the winery, accompanied by her team of Pauline, François and Guillaume, started by presenting the winery, vineyard and her path to becoming a winemaker.

We then headed out into the vineyard.  Saturday’s group started by discovering the plot of Merlot where our adopted vines are to be found.  Some of us were very creative in taking pictures for the “My Vine” photo competition.  A little bit of fun before getting down to the serious business of harvesting!

Rent-a-vine gift. Wine-making experience and harvest near Bordeaux

Having received our instructions on how to harvest and equipped with a pair of secateurs, we started to harvest the grapes.  The young Malbec and Petit Verdot vines, just 4 years old, gave us nice and sweet tasting grapes with plenty of colour.  Then, very motivated, we went to pick some Cabernet Franc grapes!

Harvest organic grapes gift for wine lovers

On Sunday, we took the road to Ludon-Médoc, a few minutes away from the winery.  Here some lovely rows of Cabernet Franc awaited us under the October sun.  These grapes will be used to make rosé wine, and are grown organically.

Grape picking experience gift in Bordeaux

We then headed back to the winery to meet our adopted vines, and once again the cameras clicked away!

Around 13 :00, we started to taste the wines.  First up, the Joly Rivage rosé wine from 2014.  We enjoyed this as we watched the harvest fall into Christine’s new wine press!  Once pressed, the juice will be left alone throughout the night to allow all of the sediment to fall to the bottom of the tank.  François’s team will then closely monitor the juice as it goes through the fermentation process to transform the sugar into alcohol.

Pressing the harvested grapes

We enjoyed lunch under the shade of the oak trees, and continued the tasting of the winery’s wines.

Wine tasting and lunch at the winery

As much as a siesta would have been welcome in the afternoon, we summoned our strength, and headed to the fermentation hall.  Christine explained what would become of our pressed juice, and how the wines are worked during the maceration period, and then in the barrel room during the long ageing process.

Both days finished around 16:30, and we hope that everyone enjoyed the days as much as we did!  We look forward to getting a first taste of the wines during the Vinification Experience Days!

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Welcome to Château Coutet

A big welcome to Château Coutet, who becomes the latest winery to join the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, starting with the 2017 vintage.

Adopt-a-vine experience in Saint-Emilion France 

The winery came highly recommended from two different sources, and as soon as we arrived at the winery to take a look for ourselves, we could see why. It's a delightful château set in the middle of the vineyards, and just a stone's throw from the centre of Saint-Emilion. Its neighbours include some of the most famous Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé wineries.

Wine-making experience in Bordeaux France 

We were met by Adrien, who heads up the commercial side of things. A delightful young man, whose passion for his winery and the surrounding area are infectious. The winery has been in his family for over 400 years, and is steeped in history. As we tour the château and vineyards, Adrien explained the importance of the biodiversity and the preservation of the estate environmentally to the family. No chemical product has ever been used, and as a result, wild and even some exceptionally rare flowers also prosper. Part of the vineyard is worked by horse, but the family also has an eye to the future, and are experimenting with the use of robots to help with the work in the vineyards. The winery has been organically certified since 2012.

 Wine box gift in Saint-Emilion France

Our tour finished back in the wine boutique for a vertical tasting of the Château Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru covering the past few vintages. Another tick in the box. The wines are very enjoyable, and through the different years reveal deep ruby red, aromatic and elegant wines. The younger wines still need time to age and for the tannins to soften. The exceptional years of 2009 and 2010 reveal the potential that the wine has for laying down, and the 2008 is a delight, having opened up nicely and being ready for enjoying from now on.

Wine tasting at the winery in Bordeaux Saint-Emilion France 

Château Coutet is just perfect for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and we're really excited about working together to provide you with a great wine-making experience. The people, place, and wine all come together to offer a fantastic location to learn more about the art of wine-making. We can't wait for the first Experience Days in 2017!

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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 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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A great Experience Day in the vineyard at Château Beau-Rivage

The sun and a warm welcome helped ensure that we spent two very enjoyable Discovery Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux. After breakfast, we gathered together to learn the programme for the day, which was to be spent mainly in the vineyard to learn about the work on the vines to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time.

The team at Château Beau Rivage introduced us to the winery, the Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut-Médoc appellations, as well as the different clay and gravel terroir that the different vineyards enjoy.

Wine experience gift in Bordeaux

In the 8ha plot of vines behind the château, we learnt how to identify the different grape varietals by the form of their leaves, and saw the difference in the two pruning techniques used in the vineyard, Guyot Double and Cordon.

Before getting stuck in with some work, we stopped for a few minutes in the plot of vines where our adopted vines are to be found, the time to take a few pictures of our vines.

Rent a vine in France, Bordeaux

It was the time to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in with two missions. Firstly to lower the training wires, and then to remove any unwanted shoots from the trunk of the vines. Under the watchful eye of Christine on Sunday, the owner of Château Beau Rivage, and of Sandrine on Saturday, the chai manager, we learnt about the importance of this work to help improve the quality of the future harvest, and hence the wine that will result from it. So, armed with a pair of secateurs and lots of good cheer, we each took a row in pairs, and lowered the training wires so that the weight of the foliage and grapes will then be better supported, and we removed the shoots that will not produce fruit, but will sap the energy and nutrients from the plant.

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

After the effort comes the reward! Back at the winery we tasted the Clairet rosé wine before moving onto the reds. We tasted the Benjamin, Château Beau Rivage, Clos la Bohème and Clementine/Le Phare wines over lunch. Honey tomatoes, melon and ham with the aperitif, followed by a salmon duo, tomato and mozzarella salad. For the main course we had some succulent chicken cooked at low temperature with a cep sauce, and potato and shallot fondant. We finished the meal with some basque cheese and strawberry and orange tartlets.

Wine lover gift in Bordeaux

Fully revitalised, we then headed back out into the vineyard.

In the afternoon, we picked up where we had left off, and learnt about the work that remains to be done in the vineyard from now until the harvest. We talked about working organically, and what that means for the winemaker in the work in the vineyard and chai.

In the fermentation hall, we had a quick introduction into the vinification and wine-making side of the profession. How the grapes are received during the harvest, how the wine ferments, is racked and the aged in oak barrels up until they are ready for bottling.

Original wne gift in France

A couple of days full of information. As well as leaving with a few bottles of wine, we hope that each of the participants learnt a little bit more about the work that goes on behind the scenes in making wine.

Many thanks to the team at Château Beau Rivage for sharing their devotion to their profession with us, and to all of our participants for a couple of thoroughly enjoyable days.

Other articles relating to the work in the vineyard

A review of the work in the vineyard for the 2015 vintage

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Wine blending workshop in Bordeaux

Last weekend saw us travel to Bordeaux for a couple of Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage. During these oenology courses, we learnt more about the work of the winemaker in the chai during the fermentation and ageing stages of wine-making. We also got the chance have a go at blending some wines, giving us a better appreciation of the complexity of this wonderful profession. 

Wine experience gifts in Bordeaux

The days began at the château, and after a coffee and the introductions, we headed over to the chai. Christine Nadalié, the winemaker and owner, started by explaining how the wine is worked in the vats during the weeks following the harvest.

Wine gift packs in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage

Once the fermentation has finished, the wine is transferred into barrels. Christine told us how the wine interacts with the oak, and of the different tasks that are performed in the barrel room such as topping up the barrels to replace the angels share and in stirring the wines to keep the lees in suspension. As Christine comes from a well-known family of coopers, she talks about her barrels with as much passion as she does her wines!

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux

The Vinification Experience Day is the day when we taste the most wines. When tasting wines, often the most difficult thing is to find the words to accurately describe what we think of it. So before getting down to the serious business of tasting, we took a few minutes to put our senses to the test in identifying some of the aromas that can be found in wines due to their grape varietal or due to being aged in wood. It's not always as simple as you would think!

Unique wine gifts in Bordeaux at Château Beau Rivage

Then to our first tasting. Two identical wines but each aged in different types of barrel to better appreciate the influence of the barrel on the nose and structure of the wine.

Personalised bottles of wine in Bordaux at Château Beau Rivage

During the meal, prepared by the chef of the 1902 restaurant, we tasted some of the different Bordeaux Supérieur and Haut Médoc wines that are made by Christine.

Wine making Experience in Bordeaux, France

The afternoon was devoted to blending the wines. We started by tasting 4 different grape varietals separately, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvingnon and Petit Verdot, each of which are still being aged. By tasting them in turn, we were better able to identify the distinct characteristics that each holds. We then blended several different wines to try and create the blend that is best suited to each of our tastes.

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux, France

Blending wine is a real art, and it's amazing to see the impact that a small change in the percentage of the grape varietal used can have on the wine. There are so many things to think of, to learn and to try and project into the future, that it's impossible to learn everything in one day. But fortunately, we have an expert winemaker to look after our wine! Many thanks to all of our participant for two excellent days spent in Bordeaux.

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De-budding the vines in Bordeaux

We spent last weekend in the Bordeaux vineyard for a couple of Discovery Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage.  With Christine Nadalié at our side, we headed out into the vineyard to learn more about the profession and work of a winemaker.


Wine Experience Gift. Adopt a vine in Bordeaux, France, and follow the making of your own wine.


The winery grows five different grape varietals in the vineyard, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Christine showed us the difference between the vines and talked to us about grafting.


Rent-a-vine gift. Learn how to make wine with the winemaker


Before getting down to work, we took a few minutes to visit our adopted vines, and to encourage them to produce a good harvest!  It was also a good occasion to pose for a few pictures!


Original gift idea for a wine lover. Adopt your own plot of vines and get involved in making your own wine.


Christine told us about all of the work that has been done in the vineyard during the winter, notably pruning.  The buds have already burst and the first signs of the future grape bunches are forming on the vines.  It's now time to de-bud and remove any unwanted shoots that have sprouted from the trunk or roots of the vines.  This will help the vines to concentrate their energy on the future fruit-bearing branches.  Christine showed us how to do it, and then we rolled up our sleeves to get stuck in!

During the morning, Christine also answered a flow of questions on a range of topics including organic and biodynamic farming, harvesting and the appellation system to name a few.


Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux at the winery.


By lunchtime, we had earned our aperitif, and we started with a nice cold rosé before tasting a range of the winery's red wines during lunch.


Winery Tour gift in Bordeaux, France.


In the afternoon, we visited the fermentation hall and barrel room to get an introduction into the winemaking and ageing side of things.  Christine told us about the stages of fermentation and explained the influence that the barrels have on the taste and structure of the wine.

Many thanks to Christine and to Guillaume for sharing their passion for their profession, and to all our participants for their enthusiasm and good cheer.

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Blending wine in Bordeaux

We spent a sunny weekend in Bordeaux for the last of the 2013 vintage Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage. The aim of this wine course is to better understand the vinification, ageing and blending of wine. As we were to find out, the work of the winemaker is far from over once the grapes have entered the chai at harvest time!

To start talking about the fermentation and vinification stages, there is no better place than the chai, and it was here that Christine Nadalié, the winemaker at Château Beau Rivage, explained all about the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation.

Wine making : alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation

Christine comes from a family of coopers and as she says, she fell into a barrel at a very young age! The barrel room at the winery is very impressive, and Christine talks with as much passion about her barrels as she does her wines. She explained the importance of the source of the oak used for the barrels and the different toasts that are used to influence the structure of the wine. With the stirring of the lees, topping up the angel's share, and racking the barrels, there's more than enough to keep the maitre de chai busy!

winery visit Bordeaux Château Beau Rivage

We then took a few minutes to venture into the vineyard and enjoy the sunshine. With a week to go before Easter, instead of hunting for the Easter eggs, we searched for the adopted vines!

vine adoption Bordeaux France

The Vinification Experience Day is the course where we taste the most wine. To better prepare us for the wine tastings, we organised a workshop to identify the aromas found in wine. When tasting wines, finding the words to describe our impressions is often the most difficult thing.

wine aromas tasting Bordeaux workshop

The first tasting was blind, and we had to find the difference between two wines. They were both however identical wines, the only difference being the type of barrel that they had been aged in. The comparison showed us the aromatic and difference in taste of a wine aged in French oak and a wine aged in American oak.

wine tasting at the winery in Bordeaux

At lunchtime, we dined in the 1902 restaurant, located at the family cooperage. During the meal we tasted wines from the range made by Christine.

Blending wines is a true art form, and we set aside the afternoon to better understand it. First of all, we tasted wines from four different grape varietals separately - merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot to appreciate the characteristics of each.

wine blending in Bordeaux France

We then made several blends to see how the wine changes when different combinations of grape varietals are used. Even a small change in percentage can have a big impact on the final wine. We gradually honed our blends to try and find the best wine.

Many thanks to Christine and Guillaume from Château Beau Rivage for sharing their passion for their profession with us, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm. We now just have to wait patiently as we give the wine the time to age sufficiently before knowing the blend that Christine will choose for our cuvée!

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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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2013 Harvest Experience Days in Bordeaux

Last weekend, we were at Château Beau Rivage in Macau-en-Médoc for the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days.  They were the last two days of the 2013 harvest at the winery, so we had to make sure that we got all the grapes safely into the chai!

Wine lover gift. Adopt-a-vine in Bordeaux and get involved in harvesting your own grapes

As soon as everyone was equipped with a pair of secateurs, we ventured out into the vineyard to receive our instruction on how to harvest, which grapes to pick, and which to leave behind.

On Saturday we started with a plot of Cabernet Franc vines to be used for making rosé wine.  We picked the bunches of grapes in cases, and once filled, we loaded them onto a trailer.

Harvest Experience Gift. Picking grapes in a Bordeaux vineyard

For the rest of the morning and for our Sunday team of harvesters, we harvested some plots of Cabernet Sauvignon.  On Sunday, we used a different harvesting technique, using porters to transfer the grapes from the harvesters to the trailer.

Original Organic Wine Experience Gift in Bordeaux

Once we had finished harvesting, we followed the grapes journey to the chai.  For the rosé, we emptied the crates directly into a small press to extract the juice.

Wine making gift in Bordeaux. Harvest the grapes and follow their journey to the chai

On Sunday, for the red wine, we first put the grapes into a de-stemming machine to separate the berries from the stalks.  Then, around the sorting table, we removed any unripe berries, leaves and even a few insects, keeping only the best grapes.

Harvest Experience Gift to participate in the harvest. The sorting table.

After all that work, the rosé wine was most welcome for the aperitif!  We continued the tasting of the estate's wines during the harvesters meal which we ate in the shelter of one of the barns.

Wine Tasting Gift in Bordeaux to taste wines during the harvest

In the afternoon, we visited the chai to understand more about the fermentation process and the work in the chai during harvest time. Christine took out her mustimetre to show us how the sugar level in the grapes is measured.

Wine gift for wine enthusiasts. Measuring the sugar levels with the mustimetre

We finished the day in the barrel room to see where the wine will rest and age once the first stage of fermentation has finished.

Many thanks to Christine, Guillaume and the team at Château Beau Rivage, as well as our clients for making it such a good weekend, and also for having worked so hard despite the odd drop of rain!

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Wine Discovery Experience Days in Bordeaux

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

Bordeaux Vineyard

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

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

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

Adopted vines

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


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

Protecting the young vines

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

Wine tasting

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

Winemakers meal

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

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


In the cellar

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

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Wine 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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Harvest Experience Days 2012 in Bordeaux

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

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

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

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

Harvest your adopted vines in an organic Bordeaux vineyard

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

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

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

Harvesting the grapes into cases

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

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

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

Sorting Table

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

Emptying the crates into the de-stemming machine

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

The cleaning team!

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

Oxygenating the wine

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


Tour of the barrel room

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

Tasting the grape juice

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

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Summer work in the Bordeaux Vineyard

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

Vines Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey

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

Vines Wine Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey Bordeaux

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

Vines Vineyard Château Beau Rivage

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

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

Adopted Vines Vineyard Bordeaux Beau Rivage

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

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

De-budding the vines

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

Winemaker Vineyard Vines

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

Adopted Vines in Beau Rivage Bordeaux

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

Wine Winery Vines Vineyard Gourmet Odyssey

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

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

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

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The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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

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