Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Tagged articles : Experience

What Christmas gift to give a wine lover?


Give some bottles of wine, a wine subscription, or corkscrew to a wine lover for Christmas?  Not bad, but here’s a more original Christmas wine gift idea…  Adopt some vines in an organic award-winning French vineyard and you can be sure that you’ll be giving a great Christmas present that will be remembered for years to come!
 
Participate in the elaboration of your own wine with Gourmet Odyssey
Gourmet Odyssey enables you to get behind the scenes for a wine-making year and discover all the hard work and skill that goes into making wine.  Choose one of our organic partner vineyards located in the main wine-growing regions of France, adopt your vines, and let the adventure begin.
 
Meet your own wine and the winemaker and learn how to make wine
 
We’ll send your vine adoption certificate and welcome pack to begin the experience.  Follow the making of your wine via the newsletters and receive your bottles of wine made using the grapes from your adopted vines.  You even get to choose the name of your wine for your personalised bottles!  You can also choose to include up to three wine experience days where you get to visit the winery, spend the day with the winemaker, and get involved in the work in the vineyard and cellar.
 
What makes the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience so special?

  •  All of the wineries are organically certified and carefully chosen for the quality of their wines
  • The Wine Experience days last the whole day from 09:30 to 16:00, are valid for two people, and include lunch and wine-tasting
  • It’s the winemakers themselves that welcome you to the winery to share their passion during the day, accompanied by a Gourmet Odyssey wine expert
  • You have the choice of up to three Wine Experience days at the winery:
The Discovery Experience Day to learn about all the work in the vineyard to produce the best grapes and the challenges of working organically
The Harvest Experience Day to participate in the harvest of the grapes and discover the work in the cellar at harvest time to put the grapes into the vats
The Vinification Experience Day to better appreciate the winemakers’ choices in ageing, blending, and preparing the wines for bottling
The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is a unique and convivial Christmas present that is informative, fun, and sure to please all wine lovers! 
 
But don’t just take our word for it.  Here is some feedback from some of our customers:
 
Huge thanks for this harvest day at Chateau Cohola. Cyril and I really enjoyed ourselves. Cheli and Jerome were adorable and passionate about what they do. The organisation was top and fun thanks to Maeliss and Mark. The wine was very good and there was a really good vibe. Many thanks again! (Harvest Experience Day at Château Cohola, September 2022)
Elodie & Cyril
 
Thanks for sharing your passion for wine at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  The Vinification Experience Day with the adoption of your own vines is unique and original.  I spent a really interesting day with people who really love wine.  The day is very well organised with the discovery of our adopted vines, and the explanations from Stéphane in the cellar as to how he makes the wine.  I also appreciated the wine-tasting lesson to learn how to taste the wines and recognise the different types of aromas.
Thank you for this excellent day that I’ll remember fondly for a long time to come. (Vinification Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher, March 2022)
Laurent
 
We really appreciated and loved this day in the vineyard at Château de la Bonnelière.  It was absolutely fascinating, we were warmly welcomed by everyone, and the wine tasting and meal were both excellent too.
I got to realise how much technical knowledge is required, and also the artistry and continual attention that each vine needs.  Thank you so much! (Discovery Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière, June 2022)
Anne

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Participate in harvesting the grapes in a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru vineyard


We spent another great couple of Harvest Experience Days in Saint-Emilion at Château Coutet.  We were warmly welcomed by Alain and Matthieu, the father and son wine-makers at this family run winery who taught us how to harvest the grapes as we followed their journey during the course of the day from the vines and into the vats.  As we were to learn, there is much more to harvesting than just picking grapes!

Gift for wine lover with Gourmet Odyssey

After the introductions, we headed straight out into the vineyard, climbing the hillside to reach the famed Saint-Emilion limestone plateau, where the best plots are located, including the Peycocut vineyard, home to the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines.  We took a few minutes to each find our micro-plot of vines, take a few photos and admire the lovely scenery of sloping vineyards, châteaux and the church spire of Saint-Emilion.

Adopt a vine with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

We then made our way to the plot of vines to be harvested.  Here we were each given a basket and pair of secateurs and listened to the instructions of which grapes to pick, which ones to leave, and how to cut the bunches safely without cutting our fingers!

 

In pairs, we spread out among the rows, and started to harvest the grapes!  The grapes this year were of excellent quality, so our job was made much easier.  There was very little to sort, and virtually all of the grapes were for picking. 

 

Experience day gift in Saint Emilion

Once our baskets were full, we emptied them into larger crates which were then taken back to the beginning of the row.  It’s important not to squash the grapes at this stage, and the crates ensure that they don’t get crushed from the weight of the grapes above them.

 

Harvest day with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

Once we had filled all of the crates, we loaded them onto the trailer to be taken back to the winery and placed in the shade.  We followed behind and stopped in the garden in front of the chateau for a well earned glass of wine!

 

Adopt a Vine for a winelover
 
We then sat down to a delicious lunch of salade vigneronne, guinea fowl with a morille and foie gras sauce, and chocolate praline dessert, enjoying the 2019 Château Coutet and 2018 Les Demoiselles Saint-Emilion Grand Cru wines at the same time . 

 

In the afternoon, our mission was to put our harvested grapes into a vat.  First we had to separate the grape berries from the stems.  This is normally done by a de-stemming machine, but at Château Coutet, the grapes from the best plots are done by hand, including the ones that we had picked.  In fours, we gathered around some tables and removed each of the grapes by hand, placing them in a separate basket, and throwing the stems away in a bin.  The stems will then be spread in the vineyards to return some nutrients to the soil.  It also gave us the opportunity to remove any dried-up grapes or leaves that might have inadvertently made their way into the baskets.

 

organic harvest experience with gourmet Odyssey

The full baskets of grape berries were then emptied into a large bucket, and we then lightly crushed them using a wooden post to break the skins and release some of the juice.  Theses grapes were then emptied into a vat, where they will begin the fermentation process in a couple of days time once the yeast cells naturally present on the grape skins come to life and start to transform the sugar into alcohol.

 

Wine experience gift in Saint Emilion

Alain and Matthieu showed us the de-stemming machine and sorting table used for the majority of the grapes at the winery, explaining how they work and how the grapes are then pumped into one of the vats.
We then learnt about the work during the fermentation and maceration phases to monitor the transformation of sugar into alcohol, and to extract the colour and tannins from the grape skins.  At Château Coutet the extraction is done mainly by drawing the juice from the bottom of the vat and pumping it back into the top to filter down through the cap of skin and pips that has been pushed to the surface by the carbon dioxide released during fermentation.

 

Follow a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey

Alain and Matthieu will be kept busy over the next 3 to four weeks tracking and managing each of the vats until the fermentation has finished and the wine is ready to be transferred to the barrels.

 

We look forward to learning more about this work, and the rest of the wine-making process to age, blend, and prepare the wine for bottling during the Vinification Experience Days next year.

 

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Harvester for a day in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region



We spent two great Harvest Experience Days on the 3rd and 10th September at Château de Jonquières, a magnificent family-run winery in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region of Languedoc in the south of France.  We were there with some clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience who had come to get involved in harvesting the grapes and learn about how the grapes are turned into wine during the fermentation and maceration phases.

Charlotte and Clément, the young wine-making couple, are the 32nd generation of winemakers at the winery, welcomed us in the courtyard of the château over coffee.  Smiles beamed from each of their faces, which maybe hid a little bit of stress that this crucial period of harvesting in the wine-making year inevitably brings!

Equipped with buckets and secateurs, Charlotte explained how to harvest the grapes.

After a quick explanation of the winery’s history, the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, a recap of the 2022 vintage so far, and an overview of the day’s agenda, we were equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs.  We then made our way through the vineyards to a nearby plot of Syrah vines.  It’s important to pick the grapes early in the morning to preserve their full potential.

As we walked to the vines, Clément followed by tractor, pulling a trailer into which we would delicately put our harvest.
We were taught how to pick the precious grapes without damaging them or harming ourselves!  Sometimes we had to remove some of the leaves in front of the bunches to be able to get to the grapes more easily.

Getting involved in picking the grapes

The harvest was generous and of great quality this year despite the very hot spring and summer.  The vines were able to adapt to the climate and responded well to the treatment and care of the winemakers throughout the year.  Some of our apprentice winemakers had learnt this first-hand during the Discovery Experience Days earlier in the year.
Once the buckets were full, we emptied them into the trailer.

We emptied our grapes into the trailer

 In didn’t take us long to realise that it’s a fairly difficult job.  The positions we find ourselves in to pick the grapes can be uncomfortable at times, some rows are more abundant than others, and some harvesters are quicker than others...  But the groups remained supportive of one another and we had lots of fun.  In just over two hours, we had harvested the plot and had become real harvesters!

We had a quick refreshment break until Charlotte informed us that Clément was already ready to put out harvest into the vat.

We didn’t have any time to lose, and so we brought our precious gaped back to the winery to put them into the vat, but we had one last little job to do before then.  We set about cleaning the buckets and secateurs with water so that they were nice and clean for the next day, and once again the team spirit shone through!

Cleaning the buckets

  Clément carefully positioned the crates of grapes in front of the chai to then put them into the de-stemming machine.

This is in some ways the first step in making wine, and involves separating the grapes from the stems and any leaves that may have inadvertently fallen into one of the buckets.  This avoids the wine from developing a bitter taste.

Once the grapes are freed from their stems, they are put into a stainless steel vat to start the fermentation process.  
Charlotte then explained the differences in the process for white, red and rosé wines.  For example, the red wines are kept in contact with the skins during the fermentation and maceration phase which lasts around 20 days, whereas the white grapes are immediately pressed before the fermentation phase starts to separate them from their skins.   

Charlotte explains the work in the chai during the harvest.

 

 We tasted some of the grape musts that had been fermenting for 10 days, and Charlotte suggested that we put our ears to the vats to listen to the effervescence of the fermentation.

It was then time for lunch, and so we made our way back into the shade of the courtyard to taste 5 of the winery’s organic wines over lunch which had been prepared by a local caterer.  We took the opportunity to ask the winemakers lots of questions about a wide range of topics such as their way of life, their philosophy of being organic, and the differences between the wine that we had tasted.

Our adopted organic vines

  After lunch, we went to visit our adopted vines.  After a short walk through the village of Jonquières, we arrived at the vineyard where our vines are located, and spent a few minutes metting our vines, and taking some photos of them.

We then returned to the chateau to bring the day to a conclusion, and collect a few bottles of wine to take home with us and share with friends and family.

We look forward to welcoming you back to the winery next year for one of the Vinification Experience Days!

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The 2022 Gourmet Odyssey harvest gets underway in Burgundy


We welcomed our apprentice wine-makers to Domaine Chapelle in the Burgundy village of Santenay for the Harvest Experience Days on the 27th, 28th, and 29th August.  2022 is a very early year due to the high temperatures of the last few months.  Our objective for the days was to pick the grapes, follow their journey into the vat, and to learn about all the work in the cellar during harvest time.  There’s more to harvesting than just picking grapes!

 

The Gourmet Odyssey apprentice wine-makers participate in the Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

 

After an introduction to the day and the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and of Domaine Chapelle’s history, we walked to the “Clos des Cornières” and “Les Crays” vineyards, where the adopted pinot noir and chardonnay vines are to be found.  

 

Meeting the adopted vines

 

We took a few minutes to say hello to our adopted vines, and take some photos for the “My Vine” photo competition.  A magnum of Santenay wine is up for grabs!

After this fun start, it was time to get down to the more serious business of harvesting, and so we gathered in the Clos des Cornières vineyard where the beautiful bunches of grapes from this exceptional vintage were waiting.

 

The top quality grapes waiting to be picked

 

Climate-wise, the last couple of years have been challenging, and so we were delighted that the 2022 vintage had produced such good quality grapes, and of a normal quantity!

Jean-François and Simon gave us each a pair of secateurs and explained how to pick the grapes, which ones to harvest and which to leave on the vine.  The ripe grapes are located at the bottom of the vine and, as we quickly noticed, the vines in Burgundy are very low to the ground!

In pairs, we each took a row and started the harvest.  First we removed the leaves around the grapes to see them better.  This makes it much easier to cut the bunches without taking our fingers with them!

 

Our harvesters in action

 

We put the cut grapes into crates, which is the best way to harvest pinot noir due to their delicate skin.  The crates avoid the grapes being squashed by the weight of other grapes above them, ensuring that they arrive in the cellar in the best possible condition. 

Harvesting is a physically demanding job as our backs and legs could testify!  But it’s also very rewarding and satisfying to see the rates full of delicious grapes!  And to arrive at the end of the row!

 

Our lovely grapes in the crates

 

Once the crates were full, we brought them back to the beginning of the row to be taken back to the winery in the van.

After the effort, our reward was a lovely glass of chilled 2020 Santenay Villages white wine which we enjoyed in the garden, accompanied by the famous  Burgundy gougères.

 

The 2020 Santenay Villages white wine aperitif

 

We then sat down to enjoy lunch.  Poached egg on a bed of mushrooms, veal risotto and potatoes, and a framboisier to finish.  The courses were accompanied by a Burgundy Aligoté, a 2019 Santenay Clos des Cornières, and a 2016 Santenay Les Gravières Premier Cru.  All delicious!

In the afternoon, we made our way to the sorting table to participate in the process involved in putting the grapes into the vat.

 

Sorting the grapes

 

We learnt how the work is organised around the sorting table and we got involved.  The quality was so good this year that we didn’t have a very stressful job!  We did however have to remove some of the grapes that had been scorched and had dried out due to the drought, but fortunately there weren’t very many.

We then went down into the fermentation hall, one floor below. The grapes that had been separated from their stalks by the de-stemming machine fall into a trolley using the power of gravity.  Once the trolley is full, it is pushed next to the vat to be filled, and the grapes poured into a vertical conveyor belt, known as the giraffe, which carries the grapes up into the vat without the need for a pump.

 

The grapes are carried into the vat using the giraffe

 

This method of putting the grapes into the vat treats the grapes very gently, keeping each individual berry as intact as possible to start the maceration phase before fermentation starts.

For three days, the harvested grapes are kept cold during the initial maceration stage, and then the temperature is warmed to allow the fermentation to begin.  This will last for approximately 10 days.  At the same time, the maceration continues and the tannins and colours are extracted by pigeage and pumping over.  The maceration phase lasts for around three weeks.

Then comes the time to separate the wine from the solid matter, and to put the wine in the oak barrels to start the ageing process which will last for around one year.  We’ll learn more about the rest of the work in the cellar after the harvest and up until bottling during the Vinification Experience Days in spring next year.

And so the day drew to a close and having collected some bottles of wine for the most part, we parted company, promising to come back soon to discover more of the Burgundy terroir in Santenay!

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Become a wine-maker for the day in the Loire Valley


In May and June we welcomed some of our adopt-a-vine customers to Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley to discover the work of the wine-maker in the vineyard.  These hands-on wine experience days enable us to spend the day with the wine-maker and get involved in the seasonal work.   As we were to learn, it’s a very busy time of year in the vineyard, and so our help was very welcome!

 

Learning about the work in the vineyard during the Discovery Experience Day

 

Each of our days start with a short time for all of the participants and the wine-maker to get to know each other over a coffee and croissant, and to talk about our favourite subject – wine!

Once all of the participants had arrived, it was time to get down to more serious matters, starting with the programme of the day and the activities that we could look forward to.  At this stage of the vine’s lifecycle, we’re in the “green work” phase, and Marc was very pleased to have a few extra pairs of hands!

Before getting started, we headed out into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard where our adopted Cabernet Franc vines are located.  Cabernet Franc is THE grape varietal for Chinon red wines.  We checked that the vines were well, and that they hadn’t suffered from the frost or the more recent hail storm.  Fortunately the vineyards at Château de la Bonnelière escaped the storm which proved to be so severe for some of the nearby wineries.

After the photo shoot for the “My Vine” photo competition, Marc explained the work that had been carried out in the vineyard so far, and the work to be done. It was then time for us to get stuck in.

 

The wine-maker explains the work to be done in the vineyard

 

For the Discovery Experience Day in May, we removed the shoots that had sprouted from the vine trunks.  These young shoots take away energy from the vine, and won’t produce any grapes, so it’s best to remove them to improve the quality of the grapes on the fruit-bearing branches.  Our hands, a spade and sickle were the tools for the job!

 

Removing the shoots form the vine trunks

 

In June, the foliage had grown much more thanks to the warm and sunny days.  We then moved onto the next job to be done which was to remove some of the leaves from around the grapes.  This ensures that the grapes receive more sun and a better air flow around them to dry them after any rainfall.  Marc removes the leaves only from the side that is facing the rising sun, as it is softer in the mornings, whereas in the afternoons the grapes need some shade from the stronger sun to avoid being burnt.

 

Removing the leaves

 

These two jobs kept our participants busy until it was time for the welcome aperitif, enjoyed in the shade of the château’s walls in the inner courtyard.  We learnt more about the winery, the château, and of course the wines that we continued to taste and enjoy throughout lunch.  Marc explained his philosophy for making wines, and how he tries to capture the expression that each of his different vineyard plots gives to his wines. 

 

Tasting the wines over lunch in the old barn at the château

 

After the delicious lunch and with the warm sunshine, it was difficult to get up from the table, but the stroll in the vineyard was good for our digestion!  We visited a plot of young Sauvignon Blanc vines that had been planted last year to replace the existing plot that had suffered badly from a wood disease.  The young vines are developing well, and will start to be pruned and harvested next year.

 

Visiting the fermentation hall

 

The end of the day approached, and so we went to the fermentation hall for a quick overview of what happens to the grapes once they are harvested. 

We look forward to welcoming you back for the Harvest Experience Days in September or October, and the Vinification Experience Days next year!

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A Wine Experience day with the winemaker to discover the art of blending wines


We spent a fantastic Vinification Experience Day in Saint-Emilion at Château Coutet.  This hands-on wine course is the last of the days that Gourmet Odyssey offer and is focused on the work in the cellar to ferment, age, blend and bottle the wines.

 

A Vinification Experience Day in Saint-Emilion to discover the art of making wine

 

Our hosts for the day were Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, and Alain, the winemaker and owner at Château Coutet.  We shared a coffee and croissant to get to know each other, whilst Benoît explained the order of the day.  Alain then started to recount the family’s relationship with the winery.  It’s a magical place and full of history as Alain represents the 13th generation of winemaker there from his family.  The tradition is set to continue as his son and nephew joined him a few years ago.

We were then led into the fermentation hall to pick up where we left off during the Harvest Experience Day.  We learnt about the work during the fermentation and maceration phases, Alain replying to the many questions that arose.  We then went through to the barrel room where the 2021 vintage is currently in the ageing process.  Alain explained how he monitors the wines, and keeps the barrels topped up to replace the angle’s share that is lost to evaporation.

 

Learning about the fermentation of wine

 

To better understand the role of a winemaker, Benoît had organised a wine tasting session for us.  He taught us the basic principles to ensure that we had a common language to describe the wines, and then we set about tasting several different series of wines.  We honed our senses and gained in confidence to describe the sensations that we were experiencing.

 

The wine tasting workshop

 

We finished the morning with a wine blending workshop to better appreciate the characteristics that each grape varietal brings to a wine.  We then had a go at making our own blends and tasted our different wines!

 

Wine blending workshop

 

Our taste buds were fully awake for the tasting of the winery’s finished wines, and we started with the Claret de Coutet, a wine that is mid-way between a red and rosé, and refreshed our palate after tasting all those red wines that are still in the ageing process.

 

The organic Saint-Emilion wines tasted during lunch

 

We then sat down to lunch, where Benoît served us a glass of the 2019 Château Belles-Cimes with the Landaise salad.  It’s the second wine, made using the grapes from the young vines.  It’s not made every year and is a wine that can be drunk a little earlier than the winery’s first wine.  We tasted the 2017 and 2019 vintages of the Château Coutet wine with the magret de canard main course.  It was very interesting to compare the two vintages and see the difference that two extra years ageing in the bottle brings.    We finished lunch with the 2018 Demoiselles wine, which is a blend of two different plots on the limestone plateau that are worked by hand and with the help of a horse. The meticulous work, combined with the great terroir, gives a magnificently deep wine. 

In the afternoon, we returned to the vineyard to visit our adopted vines that are located in one of the winery’s lest plots up on the limestone plateau, just a few hundred metres from the bell tower in Saint-Emilion.  It’s a fantastic place, and we each took a few minutes to immortalise the moment and take some photographs. 

 

Visiting our adopted merlot vines

 

We finished the day in the storage cellar, where Alain explained the last steps involved before the wine is ready to leave to the winery, covering the bottling and labelling processes.

 

Visiting the cellar where the wine is labelled and stored

 

Many thanks to Alain for his warm welcome and for having given us such a deep and frank insight into his job as a winemaker.

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A day behind the scenes to learn about the work in an organic vineyard


We met up at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for a Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day.  The aim of the day was to learn about the winemaker’s work in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes.

 

A Wine Discovery Experience Day at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

 

Alain, the owner and winemaker, welcomed us with a coffee and some pastries.   Alain is the 13th generation of winemaker at Château Coutet, his family’s history there starting some 400 years ago.   He is now proud to work alongside his son and nephew who have joined him in running the winery. 

We started with a walk through the different terroir that make up the winery to better understand this prestigious Bordeaux wine, and the different grape varietals that are grown on the estate.

At the top of the hill that looks down over the Dordogne Valley, we stopped to take in the magnificent view and then learnt about the winemaker’s work in the vineyard during winter to prune the vines. It’s a fascinating job, but also very complex as we were to learn.

 

Meeting our adopted vines

 

The plot of Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines was located nearby, on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, rubbing shoulders with some of the most prestigious names.  We each found our micro-plot of vines, thanks to a slate nameplate that had been placed in front of them.  We all took some photos of this magnificent setting, and some came up with original ideas for the “My Vine” photo competition organised by Gourmet Odyssey in the hope of winning a magnum of wine!

It was now time to get down to some work.  The task of the day was to raise the training wires, trapping the branches between them in the process.  This ensures that the tractor can continue to pass freely through the vineyard to treat the vines and protect them from mildew and odium.  It’s quite an easy job, but the intense heat made us aware of how the weather can have a big impact on the winemaker’s work.

 

Raising the training wires

 

The Claret de Coutet wine was welcome refreshment back at the winery after our efforts in the vineyard.  We then sat down to lunch and continued to taste different wines.  The winery’s second wine, the 2019 Château Belles-Cimes gave us an introduction into the more classic Saint-Emilion red wines.  It’s made using the young vines and is less fruity and less tannic than the longer 2019 Château Coutet that we tasted afterwards.  We ended the tasting with the magnificent 2018 Demoiselles that is a truly great wine that will further improve with age.

After the delicious lunch, we regrouped in the shade of the old oak tree to listen to Alain talk about the benefits and challenges of cultivating the vines organically.  He also explained the work still to do in the vineyard before the harvest, at which time we will return for the Harvest Experience Days.

 

Visiting the private cellar containing the old vintage bottles.

 

We ended the day with a visit of the cellar which is one of the more rustic ones to be found in Saint-Emilion, and a tour of the family cellar that stores the old vintage bottles from the winery, the oldest of which dates back to 1945!

Many thanks to Alain for his good humour and his explanations of the vineyard, family, and his daily life of being a winemaker.

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A Wine Experience Day in the Côtes du Rhône to learn about the work in the vineyard


Chéli and Jérôme, the passionate winemakers at Château Cohola, welcomed us warmly to their organic winery for a Discovery Experience Day.  The aim of this wine experience day was to learn about the work required in the vineyard to nurture the vines and produce the best quality grapes possible.

 

A Discovery Experience Day in the Côtes du Rhône at Château Cohola

 

Perched in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail ridge, the winery has a stunning view over to the village of Sablet and the plain of Côtes du Rhône vineyards that stretch below.  This was our backdrop for the introductions to the day by Mark, the founder of Gourmet Odyssey, and Chéli and Jérôme from Château Cohola.

We then headed out into the vineyards, pausing on the way for Jérôme to explain the work done in the vineyards during the winter months, notably the different pruning methods used for different grape varietals, and the organic methods used to nurture and protect the vines.

 

Jérôme explains how to prune the vines

 

At this time of year, the vines grow rapidly, and it’s a very busy period to try and keep everything in order, and so the help of our winemakers-for-a-day was very much appreciated!  As always with a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Day, we had some work to do to attach the staked vines, or “échalas” vines.

The vineyards at Château Cohola are spread among 15 terraces, some of which are fairly small and unpractical for tractors and heavy machinery to access.  In such places the échalas system is used to provide support to the vines that would normally be done by training wires.  A wooden stake is positioned next to each vine that has been pruned using the goblet method, and once the branches have grown to around a metre in length they are bunched together and tied around the stake using a piece of raffia.  This will help the vine support the weight of the grapes to come and reduces the risk of branches being damaged by wind, something that is often present in the Rhone Valley.

 

Chéli and Jérôme show us how to attach the échalas vines

 

Chéli and Jérôme demonstrated how to attach the vines, and then in pairs we spread out in the vineyard to have a go ourselves.  Standing on opposite sides of the vine, we collected together all of the vine branches.  One person hugged the vine to keep them all together, whilst the other tied a piece of raffia around the stake and branches to keep them in place.

It took us a few vines to get the hang of it, but we were soon experts, and we became much quicker.  It’s also a very rewarding task, as you can instantly see the result of your work.  When we arrived in the vineyard, the branches were falling in all directions, but at the end everything was very orderly, and we could walk easily around the vines.  This also has the benefit of lifting the branches off the ground and from becoming entwined with the surrounding vines which would increase the risk of disease spreading.

 

Getting involved in the work in the vineyard

 

Jérôme then guided us up the hill, explaining the different plants along the way, until we arrived at another stunning viewpoint looking over the Rhone Valley below.  Here we enjoyed an aperitif of the Château Cohola rosé wine, with some local olives and cheese.

 

Enjoying the views, rosé wine, olives and cheese during the apertiif

 

Back at the winery, we sat down to lunch in the shade of the platane trees.  With the deliciously fresh crespou starter we enjoyed the Château Cohola Cuvée Fruit red wine.  To accompany the filet mignon and ratatouille main course, we tasted the 2018 vintage of the Château Cohola Sablet, the red wine that is chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience. The local goat’s cheese was served with the delicious honey made from the winery’s own beehives and the 2021 Château Cohola Sablet white wine. Lunch ended with a strawberry tart and two more wines.  First the Château Cohola TBF red wine, which is made using wine aged in a clay amphorae and oak and stainless-steel barrels, followed by the powerful and full-bodied Cor Hominis Laetificat Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

 

Lunch and wine-tasting in the shade

 

After lunch, we visited our adopted vines that will produce the grenache grapes used to make the wine that we will receive at the end of the experience. 

 

Visiting our adopted vines

 

Jérôme then explained the work that remains to be done between now and the harvest before we headed down into the village of Sablet for a quick tour of the chai. 

Chéli and Jérôme showed us the press used to extract the juice from the grapes for the white and rosé wines, and the vats where the grape juice will ferment, and then the barrel room where the wines are aged.  We’ll be spending more time here during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

 

Visiting the chai

 

Many thanks to all for a fantastic day! We’ll think a little differently and will appreciate the work that goes into making wine a bit more when we open that next bottle of wine!

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Discovering the work in the vineyard to nurture the grapes in Alsace


To make a great wine, you need to make sure that you produce the best possible grapes, and that involves lots of hard work and dedication in the vineyard throughout the year.  We spent a very enjoyable and informative day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace to learn about the different tasks involved, and by the end of the Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day we left with a much deeper appreciation of just how much there is to do to make organic wine.

 

A Discovery Experience day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher

 

After the introductions to the day, we headed out into the vineyard with Céline and Stéphane, the brother and sister duo who run the winery.  Our first stop was to visit the Rosenberg vineyard where our adopted vines are located.  We took a few minutes to find our vines, give them some words of encouragement and to take a few photographs.

 

Visiting our adopted vines in the Rosenberg vineyard

 

Stéphane then led us to a plot a little further along the track and explained the work that has already been carried out in the vineyard during the winter months to prune the vines and work the soil.  Pruning is one of the most essential jobs, as it helps the winemaker to control how many grapes each vine can potentially produce.  By reducing the quantity, you can increase the quality of the grapes and thus the wine that they will make. 

Stéphane explained how the branches left on the vine were then bent and attached to the training wire to slow the flow of sap and help the vines to produce more uniformly ripe grapes.
The buds had already appeared, and the shoots had started to grow from each of the nodes.  Each shoot will grow to form the fruit bearing branches for this year.  We could even see the first signs of the grapes to come.

 

The first signs of the future grapes on the vines

 

As always during a Gourmet Odyssey Experience Day, Stephane had left us some work to do.  Despite their endeavours during pruning, there are always some extra unwanted shoots that appear, whether from a double bud, or from lower down on the vine trunk.  The vines that Stéphane had brought us to were fairly young and vigorous, so they had lots of shoots that had sprouted on the trunks.  If left, they will take energy away from the vines and have a negative impact on the quality of the grapes, so our job was to remove them.  A simple job by hand when they have just appeared, so it’s important to do so before the shoots grow too much and become thicker. 

 

Removing the unwanted shoots form the vine trunks

 

We then returned to the winery, where Céline had prepared a tasting of some of the different wines that the winery produces, starting with the 2019 Muscat wine from the Rosenberg vineyard.  We then tasted the citrus and aromatic 2018 Riesling Ortel, followed by the 2019 vintage of the Pinot Gris Rosenberg that is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience. 

 

Tasting the organic wines in the courtyard

 

The tasting continued over lunch of a delicious baeckeoffe, local cheeses, and blueberry tart, which were paired with the 2018 Who Am I?, a blend of Pinot blanc, Pinot Gris  and Riesling, the 2020 Pinot Noir Tradition, and the 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg. 

After lunch Stéphane explained the work that is left to do in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and how to know when the right time is to pick the grapes.  We also talked about working organically and the importance of respecting the surrounding environment.

 

Visiting the wine cellar

 

We ended the day with a tour of the cellar.  Stéphane showed us where the grapes will be received during the harvest and gave us an overview of the fermentation and ageing process.  We’ll learn more about these two stages during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

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An experience day gift for wine lovers to discover the work in an organic vineyard


A summary of an excellent wine experience day in the vineyard at Château de Jonquières in the dynamic Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region in the south of France.  Our small group of wine lovers got together to spend the day with the winemakers and learn more about their job and the work that they get up to in the vineyard.

 

A Discovery Experience Day at Château de Jonquières in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region

 

Our young wine-making couple, Clément and Charlotte, welcomed us in the courtyard of the château, facing Mont Baudile.  The weather was perfect with a sunny blue sky and a gentle cooling breeze that blew down off the Larzac plateau, so typical of the terroir that brings freshness and balance to these Languedoc wines.

We headed straight out into the vineyard.  The winemakers showed us the different grape varietals and explained the work carried out during the winter to work the soil and prune the vines, cutting the branches to leave spurs with just two nodes.  In early spring, the spurs give birth to new buds, which grow to produce the grapes for the next harvest.

 

Clément explains the work in the vineyard

 

Clément and Charlotte brought us to a plot of chenin vines next to the château to show us how to de-bud the vines, the main job in the vineyard at this time of year.

De-budding is the removal of any superfluous buds or shoots, and is necessary to maintain the quality of grapes by limiting the number produced, and increasing their sugar concentration.

We spread out among the vines, one row per couple, and set about de-budding the vines.  Clément was close at hand to guide us, and help us to learn which shoots to keep and which to remove.

 

We all had a go at de-budding the vines

 

It’s a painstaking and time-consuming job, where you have to select the best shoots, and ones that are best positioned on the vine.  We removed those that were growing out into the row, and those that could hinder the development of the vine by taking away energy from the fruit-bearing branches.   It was a very important task, because we were selecting which branches would produce the fruit for the 2022 harvest for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients.

Clément and Charlotte then led us to a vineyard that had been recently replanted.  They explained how they had prepared the ground and how they manage the plots to rejuvenate the vines without having too much of an impact on the overall production levels. 

 

Planting new vines in the vineyard

 

After more than two hours in the vineyard, we had a much better understanding of the huge task that the winemakers face to nurture each and every vine in the vineyard.

Back at the winery, we had earned our lunch, which had been prepared by a local caterer and was accompanied by the château’s wines, starting with the 2021 Lansade rosé and Lansade white wines.  We then tasted the White Label N°5 100 % Carignan red wine which had been aged in oak barrels, and, paired with the beef main course, we enjoyed the 2020 Lansade red, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  The gourmand 2020 Baronnie white was a great match for the ewe’s cheese, and we finished with the 2020 Baronnie red with pudding.   

After lunch, we traversed the small village on foot to visit our adopted vines, located in a magnificent plot of Carignan which was planted 80 years ago by Charlotte’s grandmother.  We took some souvenir photos to mark the occasion.

 

Visiting our organic adopted vines

 

Clément then explained the remaining work to be done between now and the harvest, and how he will know when the grapes are ripe enough for harvesting.

The day ended back at the winery for a quick overview of the work in the cellar.  We see more what happens here during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

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Wine-making experience gift in the Terrasses du Larzac


We spent a fantastic week-end at Château de Jonquières in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-making region for a couple of Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Days.  The aim of these interactive wine-making courses is to learn about all the work in the cellar to ferment, age, blend, and prepare the wines for bottling.  There is a lot of work to be done, and many decisions that the winemakers must make along the way, as we were to learn.

 

Learning the art of wine-making during the Vinification Experience Day at Château de Jonquières

 

We were accompanied for the day by Charlotte and Clément de Béarn, who represent the 32nd generation of winemakers at Château de Jonquières.  Amazingly, the château has been in the same family for 900 years, and has always been a working château with vines, and in the past, other fruit and cereal crops. Charlotte introduced us to her family history at the winery, and the surrounding terroir that makes up the Terrasses du Larzac wine region. 

We then headed across the courtyard and down into the cellar.  Here we learned how the grapes are received at harvest time, and the different processes involved for the red, white and rosé wines, which grapes are pressed, and which are put directly into the vats having been separated from their stems.

 

Clément explains the work during the fermentation and maceration stages

 

Clément then explained in length the fermentation process that transforms the sugar in the grapes into alcohol, and the work needed during the maceration stage to extract the colour and tannins for the red wines.  We discovered the different types of vats that exist and how Clément uses hot and cold water in jackets or immersion heaters to warm or cool the wine, and so control the speed of fermentation.  During this phase each grape varietal from each vineyard is kept separately in different vats.

Once the wines have finished fermenting, they are transferred to the other end of the cellar to begin the ageing process.  Clément explained the virtues of the different containers used for ageing the wines.  Some are aged in vats, others in oak barrels of differing sizes, and this year they are testing an egg-shaped vat that keeps the lees in continual suspension with the aim of bringing more depth to some of the wines.

 

Clément explains the different types of barrels and vats used for ageing the wines

 

We then sat down to the wine tasting workshop to better understand first hand the structure and make up of a wine.  
Clément had organised a series of blind wine tastings so that we could better appreciate the distinct characteristics of different grape varietals and the change in aroma and taste brought about due to the choice of container used to age the wine.

 

Blind tasting different wines

 

We then started to blend the wines.  Our first blend was made up of 80% Grenache aged in a vat, 10% Carignan aged in an oak barrel, and 10 % Carignan aged in an egg-shaped vat.  We then changed the Grenache for Syrah and compared the two blended wines.  We learnt that the Grenache brings a fruity and soft tannic structure to the wine with some slightly floral aromas, whereas the Syrah dominated blend had a deeper colour, was spicier, and had a longer finish.  Interestingly, the Carignan, which hadn’t been so popular in the first round of tasting, was noted for bringing more freshness through its acidity to both the Grenache and the Syrah blends.  Blending wines is all about finding the right balance to enhance each of the individual grape varietals. 

 

Clément blends wines with us

 

The wine blending workshop ended with a tasting of a pre-assembled wine that will be used in the final blend of the 2021 Lansade vintage, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience. It was a made up in equal measure of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache, and gave us a sneak preview of our wine to come!

It was then time for lunch and to taste the range of the wines that Château de Jonquières produces, starting with the 2020 Lansade white wine for the aperitif, and tasting the 2021 Lansade rosé and 2020 White Label N°5  red with the selection of starters.  We savoured the 2020 Lansade red with the coq au vin main course.  Cheese was paired with the gastronomic 2020 Baronnie white wine, and lunch ended with the 2020 Baronnie red, accompanying the chocolate mousse.

 

Enjoying lunch and wine tasting

 

After lunch, we headed out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines, which are the pride and joy of the winery, and were planted over 80 years ago by Charlotte’s great grandmother.  We took a few minutes to take some photos of our vines and admire their majestically gnarled trunks.

 

Visiting our adopted vines

 

Back at the winery, we returned to the cellar to learn all about bottling.  Clément showed us the machine that fills the wine bottles and puts the corks in.  We spent some time discussing the different options to cork and their advantages and disadvantages.

 

The bottling machine

 

Clément then showed us the labelling machine that will be used to apply our personalised labels once our wine is ready.
Many thanks to Clément and Charlotte for welcoming us so warmly, and for giving us such a comprehensive insight into the art of wine-making.

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Learning to prune the vines in Burgundy


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

 

Visiting our adopted vines in Burgundy

 

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

 

work in the vineyard with Gourmet Odyssey

 

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

 

Adopt a vine in burgundy with Gourmet odyssey

 

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

 

Tasting the Santenay white wine with Gourmet Odyssey

 

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

 

Participate our experiences days Gourmet Odyssey

 

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

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

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tasting wines to better understand the decisions taken by the winemaker

 

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

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

 

Visiting our organic adopted vines

 

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

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

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Participating in the work in the vineyard in France’s Loire Valley


During the spring of 2020, whilst we were all in lock-down, the vines were soaking up the plentiful sun in the Loire Valley, growing rapidly and abundantly.  And so we were impatient to get back to Château de la Bonnelière for a Wine Discovery Day, to learn about all of the work that goes on in the vineyard to grow and nurture the best possible grapes for making organic wine.
Adopt an organic vine and follow how to make wine in Loire Valley

Even though the organisation of the day called for a few changes to comply with the current situation, we were still able to meet one another over the traditional welcome coffee, to start learning about the winery, the wine-maker, Marc, and the progress of the year so far.
The main tasks for the day were leaf removal and green harvesting, jobs that are more normally done in July, but the precocity of the vines has decided otherwise this year.  The 2020 winter was mild for the most part, causing the vines to start growing earlier than usual, and that, combined with the warm and sunny spring, has meant that the vines are at least 3 weeks ahead of the stage that they would normally be at.

The first task was simple. It involved removing the leaves from in front of the grapes, so that they can get more sun.  This also allows for a better airflow around the grapes to avoid rot setting in on the grapes. 
The second task to green harvest was more technical and impressed our apprentice winemakers of the day!  The sun and warmth had also meant that the vines had been very productive.  In fact too much so!  We therefore had to reduce the number of bunches, to avoid disease or rot setting in, and to improve the quality of the grapes left on the vines.
You have to be careful to only remove the grape bunches that are growing too high up the vine, or from where there are too many bunches growing on the same vine.  A detailed but decisive job!  But as usual, the mission was perfectly accomplished by our apprentice winemakers as you can see. 

Offer an original gift for wine lovers with an vine's adoption in Chinon
Learn winemaking with Gourmet Odysssey in Loire Valley

And what’s more, we finished just before the rain arrived!  We headed to the barn for lunch, a hearty beef and carrot stew that had been slow-cooked by Mme Plouzeau and was sure to recharge our batteries for the afternoon.

Discover wine french area for wine lovers

We enjoyed some of Marc’s delicious wines over lunch, including some of the older vintages of the Clos de la Bonnelière, where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located.
The weather cleared in the afternoon, and so we went for a little walk to see the young sauvignon blanc vines that have been recently planted.  Along the way, we discussed the organic and biodynamic methods used to nurture the vines.  The walk finished with a quick tour of the fermentation hall and the chai used for bottling and storing the wine.  These are both places that we will spend more time in during the Harvest and Vinification Experience Days.

Offer an experience wine for wine lovers with Gourmet Odyssey

We’re looking forward to returning in September for the harvest and to see whether the 2020 vintage turns out as good as it is promising to be at the moment!

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Harvesting organic grapes in the Loire Valley


Despite a cloudy sky, our adoptive vine owners were raring to go on the 5th October for the Harvest Experience Day at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon in the Loire Valley!

Pick your own grapes from your adopted vines with the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Wine

We were warmly welcomed over coffee and croissants by Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker and owner of the winery, who took the opportunity to give us a quick review of the 2019 season so far.

The weather hasn’t been kind to the winemakers in the region this year.  After two spells of frost in April and May, the rain fell during the flowering period, which meant that the pollination wasn’t as regular as it should have been.  Then the very hot summer caused hydric stress in the vines, where they stop growing to concentrate their energy on preserving their core.  All of these factors mean that the 2019 harvest is smaller than usual.

The team of Gourmet Odyssey harvesters were to close the harvest at Château de la Bonnelière for this year.  The harvest was spread out over three weeks, allowing each of the different vine plots that make up the winery’s 34 hectares to be picked at just the right moment.

It was now time to get stuck in after all of these explanations!  So, off we set for the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard where the organic adopted vines are to be found.

Fortunately it wasn’t the whole vineyard that had been left for us to harvest, but one end!  The grapes are picked and put into crates at the winery, so once we had filled up our buckets, we emptied them into the crates that had been placed in each of the rows.  We spread out in pairs, one either side of the vine row, and off we went.

Get involved in the French grape harvest in the Loire Valley

The group was very meticulous, and took care to just pick the good bunches of grapes, the ones that hadn’t been affected by the coulure or had been burnt by the sun.  And we also managed to escape any little injuries from the secateurs!

Discover the French lifestyle during the harvest in the Loire Valley

A couple of hours later, and after a welcome winemaker’s snack of some rillettes and wine, the job was done!  The crates were loaded into the van, the secateurs collected up, and then we headed for a well earned lunch!

Participate in the French grape harvest

Lunch was a great moment, enrichened by the explanations and answers to the many questions asked.  And of course we enjoyed the different wines produced by Marc throughout the meal!

But the day wasn’t yet over! We still had to put the grapes into the vat.  We headed to the fermentation hall, to de-stem the grapes before putting them into the vat.  Under the instructions of Marc, he explained the different jobs to be carried out. 

Adopt vines in Chinon and harvest the grapes with the winemaker

We ended the day with a tasting of the grapes juice from the Clos de la Bonnelière.  The juice is very promising and should make for a good 2019 vintage.  But first, patience is required, as there are still many stages left, as we will find out during the Vinification Experience Days next year!

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Grape Harvest Experience in Alsace


Domaine Stentz-Buecher welcomed us to Alsace last weekend to get involved in picking the grapes and learn about the work at the winery during harvest time to transform the grape juice into wine.  We were there with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients who have each adopted a micro-plot of organic vines at the winery.

Discover a French winery during the Harvest Experience gift experience day in Alsace

After the introductions, we crossed the picturesque village of Wettolsheim to visit the Rosenberg vineyard, home to our adopted vines.  A small slate had been put in front of the vines to indicate who the adopted owner was, and so we dispersed among the rows to locate our vines.

Discover the Alsace wine region with the Gourmet Experience Vine Adoption gift

Then it was time to get down to some work.  Céline, the winemaker, and her mother, Simone, supplied us with a pair of secateurs and a bucket each, and then explained which grapes to pick and how to pick them.  We were to pick the pinot noir grapes, which had reached their optimum maturity and were ready to be harvested.

Pick your own grapes from your adopted vines in Alsace with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience gift

We spread out through the rows, and started to pick the grapes.   The bunches were full and plentiful, meaning that the buckets quickly filled up.  Celine’s father, Jean-Jacques, drove a small tractor and trailer down the middle row, and when the buckets were full, we passed them under the rows to be emptied and then to be passed back to us.

The grapes are sometimes difficult to get to, so the easiest way to pick them is to first remove the leaves from in front.  This makes the access much easier, and also quicker to see where to cut the stalk from the vine.  The grapes to pick grow at the bottom of the vine, in between the first two training wires.  When you taste them, they are very sweet and packed full of sugar.  The pips are also brown, another indicator that the grapes are ripe and ready to make wine.  Some grapes also grow higher up the vine, but these are not ripe enough.  Firstly, they are much harder to the touch, and the colour is not as deep a blue.  Then, when you taste them, they are much less sweet and more acidic, and the pips are yellow in colour.  These grapes are left on the vines and will not be used.

Improve your knowkedge of wine-making by adopting vines and getting involved in the harvest in Alsace

Our speed increased as the morning passed and we managed to fill the second trailer in much less time than the first! 

We then followed the grapes back to the winery.  Here we watched the grapes being emptied into the vat, and we had a go at helping the grapes out of the trailer using a long fork.  On their way into the vat the grapes pass through a de-stemming machine that separates the berries from the stalks.

Learn how make wine in Alsace with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

It was now time for a well-earned aperitif, and Céline served us a nicely chilled glass of Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine.  We then sat down for the harvester’s lunch, accompanied by a selection of the organic wines from Domaine Stenzt-Buecher: The 2018 Pinot Blanc Tradition, 2017 Pinot Noir Tradition, followed by the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the 2017 Pinot Gris Rosenberg. We then finished the tasting and meal with the 2017 Gewürztraminer Rosenberg and the 2012 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes.

Get involved in a French winery's worklife during the harvest

After lunch we descended into the cellar to pick up where we had left off.  Stéphane showed us the press that is used for the white wines.  The grapes bunches are emptied whole into the press with no need for them to pass through the de-stemming machine.  The press contains a large airbag in the middle that inflates and crushes the grapes against the stainless steel, thus releasing the juice.  The pressure and time can be controlled depending on the thickness of the skin and the density of the pulp.  It is important to not press the grapes too quickly or too hard which can decrease the aromatic qualities of the wine.

Improve your lnowledge of white wine-making in Alsace

The juice then falls out of the bottom of the press and is pumped into a holding vat.  The skin, pips and stalks are then removed from the press and as the winery is organic, it is returned to the vineyard for composting.  In the holding vat, the juice is left to rest the time necessary for the small solid particles of skin, pips and stalks that might have slipped through to settle at the bottom of the vat.  The clearer juice is then drawn off and put into the vat or cask where it will start the fermentation process.

We also learned that the process is slightly different for red wine.  Having passed through the de-stemming machines, the grapes are collected in a vat.  The press isn’t used at this stage.  After a few days the yeast cells that are naturally present in the grapes will start working on the sugar in the grapes, transforming it into alcohol.  As it does so, the temperature will rise, and carbon dioxide will be released.  This gas will rise to the top of the vat, and in doing so push the skin and pips to the top.  The colour and tannins are held in the skin, so to extract them, the juice needs to be in contact with the skin.  To do so, the solid cap is pushed back down into the juice once or twice a day using a plunger.  This is known as “pigeage”, and is the same method used in Burgundy for their Pinot Noir grapes.

Adopt vines and discover white wines in Alsace

Once the fermentation has finished, no more gas is released and the solid matter then falls to the bottom of the vat.  Having done so, the wine is then drawn off and put into barrels to continue the wine-making process.  The solid matter is then removed and put into the press to extract the rich, dark coloured wine contained within it.  This is known as press wine, and the wine-maker will then decide whether to blend it with the rest of the wine or not.

The day had now reached the end.  We’ll pick up from where we left off during the Vinification Experience Days next year and learn about the ageing process and how the wines are prepared for bottling.  We look forward to tasting the wines and seeing how they are coming along!

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

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