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Original Mother’s Day Gift. Adopt some organic vines in France.

The annual quest to find an original Mother’s Day present is once again upon us.  If your mum is a wine lover, we might have the perfect gift for her.  Adopt some vines in France in an organic French vineyard, and she’ll get to follow the making of her own organic wine from the work in the vineyard to the bottling of her own personalised bottles of wine.

Original Mother’s Day Gift. Adopt some organic vines in France. 
The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is a great Mother’s Day gift idea that will let her in behind the scenes to learn all about the art of winemaking.  She’ll receive an adopt-a-vine welcome gift pack to have something to open straight away, and then thanks to the newsletters and photos from the winemaker, she’ll follow all the key stages in the vineyard and cellar, and will be able to personalise the labels for her bottles of wine.

And if you think she’ll enjoy a short break in France to explore one of France’s wine growing regions, and actually get involved in helping to make her wine, you can include, or she can add at a later date, a Discovery, Harvest or Vinification Experience Day at her chosen winery.  Each Experience Day is valid for two people, with a winemaker’s lunch of regional delicacies and wine tasting included.

All of our partner wineries are organically certified, and are selected for the quality of their wine and the enthusiasm of the winemakers to share their passion for wine and how it is made.  One thing is for sure.  At the end of her Wine Experience gift, your Mum will appreciate wine in a whole new light, once she has learnt about all of the hard work, skill, love and effort that has gone into making her personalised bottles of wine.

Our welcome gift packs are delivered within two working days in France and 2-5 days for the rest of Europe depending on the country and delivery option selected.  For those last minute Mother’s Day gifts, a personalised adopt-a-vine certificate can be emailed.

So go on, and spoil your Mum this year with her own mini plot of vines in France.  It’s sure to be a Mother’s Day gift that she won’t be expecting!

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A sunny weekend at Château Beau-Rivage

Accompanied by David, the Technical Director at Château Beau Rivage, on the Saturday, and Christine, the owner of the winery on the Sunday, we enjoyed two Discovery Experience Days in Bordeaux last weekend. The two days were dedicated to learning about the work of the winemaker in the vineyard, and so we headed straight out amongst the vines to get started.

Vineyard experience in Bordeaux, France

The winery cultivates 5 grape varietals in the vineyard, and we learnt how to tell each of them apart from the merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot. We saw how different pruning methods, guyot double and cordon, had been used, and we discovered the range of work such as de-budding, thinning the leaves, and working the soil, necessary to produce the best quality grapes at harvest time.

Wine making experience, biodynamic, Bordeaux

After the theory, time to get stuck in! We split into pairs and spread out among the rows. To help the vines grow and to facilitate the trimming, we ensured that each of the vine branches were supported between the training wires.

Wine lover gift at Bordeaux, unique experience, France

We then took a few minutes to relax and visited our adopted vines. The opportunity for some photos to be taken for the "My Vine" photo competition.

Rent a vine in France, Bordeaux

Good work is always rewarded, and at Château Beau Rivage, it comes in the form of wine! We tasted the Château Beau Rivage, Clos la Bohème, Benjamin, Clémentine, and Le Phare rosé and red wines over lunch. On Saturday, the rainshower didn't dampen the spirits, and the sun on Sunday made the rosé that much more enjoyable!

Wine experience gifts in France, Bordeaux

In the afternoon, we returned to the vineyard on Saturday and to the chai on Sunday, to learn about the key steps from now until the harvest, and to understand the reasons for working organically at the winery. We talked about the environment, the quality of the wines, production methods, and answered the varied questions.

Wine tasting gift in Bordeaux, France

Both days drew to a close around 4pm. Time to take a few last minute photos and to load the cars with wine as souvenirs of the weekend.

Thanks to all, and see you soon for the harvest!

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A sunny harvest in Bordeaux

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Training the vines at Domaine Allegria

Last Saturday, we had a magnificent and very hot day for the Discovery Experience Day. When the guests arrived it was already 27°C, and the thermometer would pass the 35°C level in the afternoon! We were at Domaine Allegria in the Languedoc region of Southern France to discover the profession of being a winemaker, and in particular, the work in the vineyard to produce the best possible quality of grapes

Vineyard experience in Languedoc, France

So, off we headed into the vineyard, in the direction of our adopted vines. We stopped for a quick photo shoot of our adopted vines, and spent some time learning about the terroir of the vineyard, and the work that has been carried out so far this year, including the organic treatments.

Rent a vine in Languedoc, biodynamic, France

We then had a free sunbathing session as we trained the Syrah vines in the Mazet vineyard. Training the vines is important work at this time of year, as the vines are growing very quickly, and we need to help them support the weight of the leaves and grape bunches that are starting to form well now. It was getting very hot in the vineyard!

Unique wine gift in Languedoc, France

Luckily, lunchtime quickly arrived, and we returned to the winery to enjoy the meal prepared by Delphine. Over lunch we tasted the wines made at Domaine Allegria; Dolce Vita, Tribu d'A, Carignan Gourmand, Cousu Main and La Belle Histoire.

Wine experience gift in Languedoc, red wine, France

After lunch, we had a tour of the fermentation hall and barrel room to have an introduction into the vinification side of things, before filling the cars with a few cases of wine and leaving the winery with lots of memories.

Many thanks to all those who shared the day with us!

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Harvesting the Syrah grapes in the Languedoc

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Training the vines in Chablis

The vines are growing very fast at the moment, and there is lots of work to be done in the vineyard to keep everything in order. We spent last Saturday at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis to learn a little more about the mammoth effort needed to produce the best possible quality grapes come harvest time.

Vineyard experience in Chablis, organic white wine gift

Following the introductions to the winery and the region, we walked to the Boissonneuse vineyard, the plot where our adopted vines are located. From here, we have a great view of the rolling Chablisien countryside, and we could identify the different terroirs that make up the Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis appellations. We took a few minutes to take a couple of photos of our adopted vines, and to encourage them to produce a good harvest this year!

Adopt a vine in Chablis, France

In the vineyard, we were accompanied by Frédéric from the vine management team. He explained the work carried out in the vineyard since last year's harvest, including the long task of pruning the vines.

Wine experience gift in Chablis, France

He had brought some tools with him to show us some of the equipment used to prune and attach the vines to the training wire.

Frédéric told us about how the soil is mechanically worked in line with the way that the vineyard is cultivated organically and biodynamically. He explained the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic farming. Julien Brocard joined us to explain what convinced him to work biodynamically at the winery.

At the moment, the vines are thriving, and grow several centimetres each day. The training wires are raised in line with the vines growth to help support the weight of the foliage. You have to also ensure that the branches are placed in between the wires, and Frédéric showed us how to do so. We then spread out among the rows, and got stuck in. It's an important job that helps the tractor pass more easily between the rows, and that also helps reduce the vines exposure to disease.

Wedding present gift at Chablis, white wine, France

After a morning spent in the vineyard, we had earned our wine tasting session. Back at the winery, Sébastien introduced us to the range of biodynamic wines produced at the winery, starting with the Petit Chablis ?Les Plantes? 2012, followed by the wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey, "La Boissonneuse" Chablis, also from the 2012 vintage. We then tasted two Chablis Premier Cru wines from 2011, the "Vaudevey" and "Côte de Léchet", before a blind tasting of a magnum of the Chablis Grand Cru "Bougros" 2003. The wine tasting continued over lunch.

Unique wine gift in Chablis, France

We returned to the vineyard after lunch to see the difference in terroir around the winery buildings compared to the vineyard where we had spent the morning. We also talked about the work that will be done during the coming summer months, and how the moment is decided when the grapes will be ready to be harvested.

Personalised bottles of wine, Chablis, France

The day finished in the fermentation hall where the oak casks are to be found. Here, the wines from last year are slowly ageing. We will spend more time here during the Vinification Expeirence Days.

Many thanks to all of the participants for this most enjoyable day.

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A good harvest in Chablis

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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.

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Holidaying in France? A good excuse to make a few gastronomic pit stops

With just a few weeks to go before the holidays, the Gourmet Odyssey team has toured France to put together a few suggestions of gastronomic and wine addresses to keep spirits up!

For those who are headed to the warmer climes in the south of France, the Bordeaux region is famed the world over for its wine-making prowess. In between visiting the numerous château, take the time to meander along the routes des vins. If you pass Macau-en-Médoc, stop off at the Tonellerie Nadalié, the cooperage owned by the family of Christine Nadalié, our partner winemaker at Château Beau Rivage. Making barrels is a truly fascinating sight, and a real art form. Whilst you're there enjoy a meal at the excellent 1902 restaurant.

Cooperage visit Bordeaux France Nadalié

Further south again, and you'll find yourself in the Languedoc-Rousillon region, steeped in history with its medieval villages and monuments, and vast mountainous landscapes. Surprise yourself by the depth and variety of its cuisine and wine, and if you're passing Pézenas, stop off for some wine tasting at Domaine Allegria, and admire the chai, which is a striking example of contemporary and environmentally friendly architecture.

Contemporary and environmentally friendly chai Languedoc France

Coming back up the Rhone Valley on the east side of France, you'll be seduced by the Provencal specialties such as truffles, olive oil, walnuts, and chestnuts, which perfectly match the wines of the region. And if you're looking for a relaxing place in the middle of nature, then Eric and Marie-Pierre, the winemakers at Domaine la Cabotte, have mapped out some trails through their vineyards to take in views of the Dentelles de Montmirail ridge, the Mont Ventoux and to discover the terroir of the Massif d'Uchaux.

Rhone Valley relaxing place and trails through the vineyard

You can't talk about gastronomy without mentioning Burgundy! The region is a must for all food and wine aficionados. If you are in the Cote de Beaune wine region, don't hesitate to visit Domaine Chapelle, situated in the picturesque village of Santenay. Further north, Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard will welcome you for a winemaker meal, wine tastings or can put you up in one of their gites.

Wine tasting Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis France

For history buffs, the Loire Valley is the perfect destination, but it's also highly recommended for its cuisine. Stop off in Chinon, and visit the caves dug in the 12th century to extract the stone used to build the fortress above. One of these caves is now home to the cellar of Château de la Bonnelière, who will be delighted to let you taste their latest wines.

Chinon fortress caves visit Loire Valley France

And lastly, for those you are looking for an early taster of the Christmas markets in Alsace, you won't be disappointed by the numerous local specialties. On the wine route from Eguisheim, one of France's prettiest villages, stop off at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Wettolsheim, where Céline and Stéphane, the owners, will be sure to let you know of all the best local events happening and of course to taste their wines!

For all of the proposed activities or if you would like to visit one of our partner vineyards, don't forget to contact them in advance to make an appointment and to check on opening times.


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Training the vines in Bordeaux

We were at Château Beau Rivage near Bordeaux last weekend for a wine Discovery Experience Day. With the winemaker, Christine Nadalié, by our sides the aim of the day was to learn more about all the work carried out in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes come harvest time.


Adopt a vine gift in Bordeaux to learn how to be a winemaker


The day started with a little walk in the vineyard, during which we made several stops so that Christine could explain the characteristics of the different grape varieties and the terroir. She brought us up to speed on the work already accomplished in the vineyard since last winter, and she showed us a plot that has recently been replanted with vines.

Since our last visit in May, the vines have grown lots and the flowering period has been and gone. This is a very important stage in determining the potential yield of the harvest to com, and generally it went well, with just a little bit of millerandage when the flowers didn't pollinate properly. Millerandage causes some of the grape berries to not develop to the normal size, and so smaller grapes are interspersed with normal sized grapes.

rent a vine gift in France


At the far end of the vineyard, we arrived at the plot of Merlot where the adopted vines are located, and so we took a few minutes to snap some photos. The vegetation continues to grow rampantly, and so it has to be managed and kept under control with the help of training wires. Christine showed us how to raise the wires, and then to place any falling branches in between them. We then split up into pairs to have a go ourselves. As we moved down the rows, we also removed any unwanted shoots and growth from the trunks of the vines, which otherwise waste some of the plant's energy.


vineyard experience in France

Back at the winery, we tasted some of the different wines and vintages and enjoyed the winemaker's meal. We continued the day in the chai where Christine explained how the grapes will be received during the harvest, and how the sugar is transformed into alcohol during fermentation.


Original wine gift

We then went through to the barrel room to see where the wines rest during the ageing period. Here, Christine explained the influence that the oak barrels have on the wine, and answered our questions on many topics ranging from blending to biodynamic wine-making. Many thanks to all of our participants and to Christine for having shared the day with us.

See you soon for the harvest!

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De-budding at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace

The yield at Domaine Stentz-Buecher is voluntarily kept well below the maximum authorised levels, something that the adoptive vine owners at the winery learnt more about last Saturday by getting stuck into some serious de-budding.


Vineyard experience


The Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience days teach you about all the work carried out in the vineyard from pruning right up until the grapes are ripe enough to be harvested.  Following the introductions from the winemakers, Céline and Stéphane, we headed off to the "Rosenberg" vineyard, where we paid a visit to our adopted vines.



unique wine gifts


Jean-Jacques, Céline and Stéphane's Dad, explained in detail all of the various stages in working the vines.


Original wine gift in france


He particularly showed us how to de-bud the vines, which involves removing the double buds and excess shoots that grow on the trunks of the vines.  If left, these take away some of the plants energy which can be better used to produce nice ripe grapes.


wine experience in Alsace


With extra care as it is the plot of vines which will be used to make our wine, we got stuck into the de-budding!


Wine making experience in Alsace


We then walked through the vineyard a little to admire the fantastic views of the Alsace landscape and we could even see as far as the Alps.  Back at the winery, we tasted some of the wineries wines over lunch.


Rent a vine in Alsace


In the afternoon, Stéphane explained his philosophy of making wines, and took us on a tour of the fermentation halls to introduce us to the principal stages of vinification.


Wine gift packs in France


A full day, and very instructive thanks to the many questions and enthusiasm of our participants, and not forgetting our passionate winemakers of course!   

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Pruning the Steingrubler Grand Cru Riesling vines in Alsace

Last Saturday we welcomed the adoptive parents of the new 2014 vintage to Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Wettolsheim for a Discovery Experience Day. The aim of the day was to learn about the work in the vineyard, starting during the winter and ending up at harvest time, when the grapes will have reached maturity.


Vines adoption in France Alsace


After the introduction of Céline, winemaker at the estate with her brother Stéphane, we headed off to the vineyard to meet our adopted vines. Having taken a few pictures, we then walked through the different vineyards until we arrived at the Steingrubler Grand Cru plot. Here, Céline and Stéphane had left us a few rows to prune!

Guyot pruning in the vineyard Alsace

Armed with a pair of secateurs, and under the instructions of Jean-Jacques, the father of Céline and Stéphane, we learnt how to prune the vines using the Guyot method.


Pruning Riesling vine Grand Cru Steingrubler in Alsace

It's not as easy as it would seem at first to work out which are the canes to leave or cut, but getting stuck and having a go is the best way to learn! Pruning is really important to help control the yield of fruit per vine.


Wine tasting at the winery Alsace France

At the end of the morning spent in the vineyard, we returned to the winery to taste some of the wines and to enjoy an Alsacien stew with the Stentz family.

Typical winemakers meal Alsace France

In the afternoon we visited the fermentation halls and the cellar for an introduction to the winemaking side of the things from the harvest, through the fermentation and the ageing of the wine. These topics will be covered in more detail during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

Winery tour Alsace France

Many thanks to all of the participants for your inquisitiveness, and to the winemakers for your passionate and fascinating explanations!

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Last minute Christmas gifts for wine lovers

Just one week left to go for your Christmas presents! If you haven't yet finished your Christmas gift shopping, not to worry. You can order the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience up to 12:30 on the 20th December depending on the delivery destination, or for the real last minute Christmas shoppers, you have until 12:30 on the 24th December to receive a copy of the personalised certificate by email. Here are a few ideas of original Christmas presents for wine enthusiasts.

More information on the Christmas delivery date limits

Turn you loved ones into an apprentice winemaker for a winemaking year! A very original Christmas gift that sees them adopted their own vines in a French organic vineyard. They'll follow all the key stages in making their wine from the work in the vineyard and cellar up to choosing the name for their personalised bottles of wine.

And to complete you Christmas gift, you can also include one of the Wine Experience Days at the winery. The Discovery Experience Day will allow them to get behind the scenes and learn about caring for the vines to bring the grapes to optimum maturity. The Harvest Experience Day will see them get involved in picking the grapes and following their path into the fermentation tanks. Or why not include a Vinification Experience Day to learn more about the work in the cellar and blending the wines.

Each Experience Day is valid for two people and lasts a whole day. You'll spend the day with the winemakers, get involved in one or more practical tasks, taste the estate's wines and share a meal of other local delicacies.

All of our partner vineyards are organically certified and the winemakers have been chosen for the passion that they share for their profession. They'll welcome you warmly and let you in behind the scenes to discover what it's really like to be a winemaker.

To have something to open right away in front of the Christmas tree, your recipient will receive a welcome pack containing a sommelier's apron, DropStop, personalised certificate and details regarding their chosen Wine Experience. A truly unique and hand's on experience to learn more about wine.

More information on the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Wine Discovery Experience Day in Burgundy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grapes Vines Vineyard

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

Wine Gift Burgundy Adopt-a-vine

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

Wine experience gift adopt-a-vine

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

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

Wine tasting, vines, Burgundy, vineyard, winemaker

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

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

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

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Summer work in the Bordeaux Vineyard

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

Vines Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey

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

Vines Wine Vineyard Winemaker Gourmet Odyssey Bordeaux

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

Vines Vineyard Château Beau Rivage

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

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

Adopted Vines Vineyard Bordeaux Beau Rivage

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

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

De-budding the vines

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

Winemaker Vineyard Vines

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

Adopted Vines in Beau Rivage Bordeaux

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

Wine Winery Vines Vineyard Gourmet Odyssey

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

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

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

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A rainy day in Chinon

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

Vines Wine Winemaker Vineyard Cellar

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

The cellar

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

Wine Tasting at Château de la Bonnelière

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

Winery Chinon Bonnelière Winemaker

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

Vines Grapes Wine Chinon Chai

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

Red Wines Winery Wine Tasting Grapes

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

Meeting with the adopted vines

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

Vines Vineyard Bonnelière

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

Debudding Biodynamic Winery Wine Organic cultivation

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

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Debudding in Bordeaux

Last weekend, we were at Château Beau Rivage in Bordeaux for a couple of discovery days with some of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients.

Discovery Experience Day at Château Beau Rivage

The main aim of the Discovery Day is to learn about the winemaking profession, and more specifically, about the work in the vineyard.  We therefore started the day amongst the vines!
We were accompanied by Florian and Mike, who explained the tasks that have already been completed such as pruning, and the work to repair the posts and training wires.

Vines Vineyard Beau Rivage

At the far end of the vineyard, we stopped in front of the plot where the adopted vines are located, so that the introductions could be made and the photos taken!

Meeting with the adopted vines

For the next few weeks, the principal work in the vineyard will be debudding. This involves removing the shoots that have begun sprouting too low down on the vines. There are two main reasons for doing so, the first so that the vine can concentrate its energy on the fruit bearing branches, the second to help lower the risk of rot. As soon as we had received our instructions, we split up amongst the row, rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in with some de-budding!


The vineyard at Château Beau Rivage was organically certified in 2011. Florian and Mike explained what being organic entails, and how it differs from conventional farming.
Back at the Château, we had earnt our wine tasting session, and with the rising temperature, the chilled clairet was most welcome! We continued to taste the red wines from the estate over lunch, which we enjoyed outside.

Wine Tasting

In the afternoon, we headed back into the vineyard to learn about the work that remains between now and the harvest, taking note that there is still much to be done!
The day ended in the fermentation hall and barrel room, where we will be spending more time during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

Visit of the fermentation hall and the barrel room

Read more blog posts regarding Château Beau Rivage.

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Home Straight to the Harvest

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

Understanding the vineyards and terroir of Burgundy

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

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

Visit of the Fermentation Hall

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

Wine Tasting of Burgundy Wines at the winery

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

Rent a vine in a Burgundy vineyard

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

Visit of the wine cellar

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

The Wine Labeling Room

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

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Biodynamic Wine Making in Chablis

We entered into the depths of the mysterious world of biodynamic wine making during the latest Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis, Burgundy.  
Bidoynamic winemaking using cow horns stuffed with cow dung

The Wine Experience days are a hands-on and practical way for our adopt-a-vine clients to learn more about wine making and the life of a winemaker in the main French wine growing regions.

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Chablis vineyards and terroir

To introduce us to the Chablis wine growing region, we stepped out onto the terrace at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard to survey the surrounding vineyards.  From this great vantage point Céline Brocard-Guegen, pointed out and explained the differences in terroir between the four local appellations, Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, and briefly explained the history of the winery that her father started some 40 years ago with a small plot of vines that were loaned to him.

Walking in the Cbalis Vineyards

We then walked to the Boissonneuse vineyard, home to the Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine plot.  This vineyard was the first of the winery's vines to be converted to organic and biodynamic cultivation.  We were accompanied by Yvonnick, head of biodynamics at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, who talked us through the various of stages of working on the vines from pruning to harvesting.   

Explaining De-budding

As always during a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Day, there is some work involved, and the task was to de-bud the vines (ébourgeonnage).  Yvonnick explained the importance of de-budding to improve the quality of the grapes by concentrating the growth and energy of the vines into the future fruit-bearing canes.  He showed us how to select the stems to detach, and which ones were to be left alone.

De-budding - Ebourgeonnage

Each client then set off to find their adopted vines, and began putting into practice what Yvonnick had just explained.  Luckily Céline and Yyvonnick were at hand to guide us, as it's not always as simple as you would think! 

We learnt about how the vines are treated organically, and were also introduced to the world of biodynamics.  The Experience Day was planned to coincide with one of the key biodynamic events that is undertaken at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, the digging up of cow horns, filled with cow dung, that have been buried for six months!  First impressions of biodynamic farming are often that it is all a bit of hocus-pocus and wizardry, so you need to keep an open mind and bear in mind the underlying principles of biodynamics, that is to improve the structure of the soil, and to strengthen the natural defenses of the plant from disease.

Unearthing the buried cow horns

The cow horns had been interred in the fertile grounds of the old priory in Chablis that also belongs to the Brocard family. During the six months the cow manure ferments to form a fibrous super concentrated compost, that when mixed with collected rainwater and spread amongst the vines, helps to improve the soil structure and enhance the life of micro-organisms.

Emptying the cow horns

Our job was to remove the fermented cow dung from the horns.  Not as smelly and dirty a task as you might think!  In fact the cow dung has a sweet and rich aroma!

Wine tasting Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru

Intrigued, amazed, disbelieving, no one was left indifferent as we returned to the winery to finally taste some of the wines from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, including the Petit Chablis Sainte Claire 2009, Chablis La Boissonneuse 2009, Chablis Premier Cru Vau de Vey 2009, Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2008, Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2008 and ending with the Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2009.


During the meal of local Chablis charcuterie and cheese, we continued the wine tasting with a Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2002 and the domaine's Irancy 2008 red wine.

Wine Tasting from the fermentation vats

The afternoon finished with a tour of the fermentation hall to see the mix of oak and stainless steel vats that are used to ferment and age the wines.  A final tasting was in store of the unfinished 2010 wines, direct from the vats!

Many thanks to Yvonnick and Céline for giving us an insight into the life at the winery, and for introducing us to the weird and wonderful world of biodynamic winemaking!

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