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Tagged articles : Harvest

Harvest Experience Day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher


Last Saturday we were in Alsace for the Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  Our mission was to pick the pinot noir grapes located in the Steingrubler Grand Cru vineyard and learn about the work in the cellar during harvest time.

 

An original gift idea for wine lovers to get involved in harvesting the grapes

 

Domaine Stentz-Buecher is run by the brother and sister duo of Céline and Stéphane.  After a brief introduction to the day and the winery, we headed straight off out into to the vineyard, and climbed up to the Steingrubler vineyard, marvelling at the wonderful views on the way.  Céline instructed us how to pick the grapes, and how to choose which grapes to pick and which to leave behind.

We were then each given a pair of secateurs and a bucket and assigned in pairs to a row.  We started to pick the grapes, tentatively at first as we decided which grapes were worthy of putting into the buckets.  It’s been a complicated year for winemakers in Alsace, first because of the frost in spring that hit much of France’s wine-growing regions, and then due to the wet summer that saw mildew impact many of the vineyards.  These two phenomena have meant that the vines have produced far fewer grapes than normal, making the grapes we harvested all that more precious!

 

Adopt-a-vine and learn how to make wine in an award-winning organically certified winery in Alsace, France

 

Our buckets quickly filled up though, and we passed them under the rows to one of the waiting porters.  The grapes were then tipped into the basket on their back, and the empty buckets passed back for the next fill.

 

Great wine gift experience to get involved in the grape harvest

 

The porters then carried the grapes to the tractor and tipped them into the trailer.  It’s a physical job as the baskets quickly become heavy, and the Steingrubler vineyard is located on a fairly steep slope!

 

Learn how to harvest the grapes

 

Time flies by when you’re having fun, and before we knew it, we had arrived at the bottom of the vineyard and the end of the rows. 

We then headed to the Rosenberg vineyard where our adopted vines are located.  These had been harvested earlier in the week, because the grapes had reached optimum maturity and couldn’t wait any longer.  We spread out among the rows in search of the name plate designating where each of our micro-plot of vines started and took a few photos to immortalise the moment.

 

Rent-a-vine in an organic Alsace winery

 

We then followed the grapes back to the winery, where Stéphane was waiting for us to put the grapes into the vat.  We emptied the bunches of grapes into a de-stemming machine that separates the berries from the stalks.

 

Following the grapes on their journey into the cellar

 

The grapes then fall into a vat.  Stéphane explained how the fermentation process will transform the grapes into wine, and the work needed to extract the colour and tannins from the skins during the maceration process.

 

Harvest Experience Gift in Alsace

 

We then headed back into the courtyard for the wine tasting session that Céline had prepared to discover the breadth of the organic wines produced at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  After the Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine, we tasted the 2019 Pinot Gris Rosenberg, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, followed by the elegant 2016 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes, and the delicious 2018 Riesling Ortel.  Then came the intense 2018 Pinot Noir Old Oak, which is the wine made from the vines that we had picked.

 

Discovering the breadth of Alsace wines

 

Over lunch, we tasted the 2019 Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir Tradition wines, finishing with the aromatic 2018 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg.

Back down in the cool of the cellar, Stéphane then explained how the white grapes are pressed and left to clarify in the holding tanks for up to two days before being racked to separate the clear juice from the solid matter that has settled in the bottom of the vat.

 

Learn how grapes juice is fermented and tunred into wine

 

We finished the day in the room where the white wines ferment and age. Stéphane explained how he will closely monitor the wines through the fermentation stage as the sugar is transformed into alcohol.  We’ll be spending more time here during the Vinification Experience Days next year to learn about the rest of the wine-making process and to see how our wine is developing.

And so the day drew to a close.  Many thanks to Céline and Stéphane for a really enjoyable day.

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Participate in harvesting Saint-Emilion Grand Cru grapes


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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Learning how to harvest grapes

 

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

 

Grape harvest experience gift in France

 

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

 

Grape picking experience gift alongside the winemakers in Saint-Emilion

 

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

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

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

 

Enjoying lunch with organic wines from the winery

 

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

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

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

 

Selecting and de-stemming the grapes by hand

 

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

 

Learning about the work in the cellar at harvest time

 

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

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Adopt-a-Vine and participate in the grape harvest in Burgundy


We welcomed our apprentice winemakers to Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay on the 18, 19 and 20th September for the Harvest Experience Days.  The aim of this fun gift for wine lovers is to discover the work of the winemaker, and the agenda for the day to roll up our sleeves, get involved in harvesting the grapes and follow their journey through the sorting table and into the fermentation vat.  We also learn about the work in the cellar during harvest time during the maceration and first fermentation stages.  The weather wasn’t always fair, but for the rain didn’t dampen our spirit!

Adopt organic vines in Burgundy and get involved in the garpes harvest

After an introduction to the day, Jean-François Chapelle spoke with passion about his profession, winery, and winemaking in Burgundy.  We then got kitted up for the harvest in the Clos des Cornières vineyard, a plot of vines in front of the chateau where the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience are located.

Jean-François explained how the work at harvest time is organised and the importance of selecting which grapes to pick to ensure only the good ones are picked.  2021 has been a particularly difficult year.  In April, a huge frost across the Burgundy winegrowing region meant significantly less yields in many areas.  Then the heavy and frequent rainfall meant that it as impossible to treat and protect all the remaining grapes in time.  Mildew and odium set in, further reducing the quantity of grapes, so it’s a very small harvest this year.

Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle with Jean-François


It was then time to start harvesting!  We had to be careful when choosing which grapes to cut and put into the crates, having to remove any berries that weren’t up to standard.

Harvest Experience gift in Burgundy


It’s a long and hard job, as we soon learnt.  Once we’d removed the imperfect grapes, sometimes there weren’t many remaining on the bunch!

A great gift for all wine lovers.  Adopt-a-vine in Burgundy and harvest the grapes

 

Once we had filled a crate, we brought it back to the beginning of the row, but with the small bunches, we managed to fill far fewer crates than normal!

A great gift idea for two.  Harvest graes from your own vines in Burgundy


After a couple of hours of harvesting, the aperitif served in the garden or cellar depending on the weather of the day, was very welcome! To start, the 2018 Santenay Village chosen for the white Wine Experience clients, accompanied by the delicious cheese gougères.

Wine tasting gift with the winemaker at the winery in Burgundy


We then sat down to a lovely lunch, prepared by a local caterer in Meursault, accompanied by three other wines, the 2019 Burgundy Chardonnay, the 2018 Santenay Clos des Cornières (the wine chosen for the red Wine Experience clients), and the 2016 Santenay Gravières Premier Cru.

Harvest Experience Day and lunch at the winery in Burgundy


After lunch, we headed to the cellar to put the grapes we had harvested in the morning into the vats.

The grape bunches are first emptied onto a vibrating table that removes any grapes that had been shrivelled up by the sun, or water droplets if the grapes have been picked when raining.  They then move along sorting table on a conveyor belt for a final sort to remove any unwanted grapes or leaves that might have made their way into the crates.  At the end of the sorting table, the bunches fall into a de-stemming machine where the grapes are separated from the stalks, and then fall into a trolley, a floor below in the vinification hall.

Sorting the harvested grapes


The trolley is then pushed to another conveyor belt, that climbs up and lets the grapes fall into the vat.  After a year’s work, it very satisfying to be able to at last start the wine production side of things!

Follow the grapes on their journey into the vats


The grapes that are in the vat will be left to slowly macerate at a low temperature to keep the aromatic potential of the wine.  The fermentation will take around 15 days, at the same time as the colour and tannins are extracted from the skins during the maceration phase. Each vat will have the cap or skin and pips pushed down into the juice twice a day to help the maceration, which will last for about three weeks.

Then the wine will be racked to obtain the free-run wine, and the remaining solid matter of skin and pips will be pressed to obtain the press wine.  Then the ageing phase will start that will go on for the next 12 to 18 months!

There’s lots of work to produce a quality wine, but the effort will be well worth it once the bottles are ready to be tasted!  We’ll learn more about the work in the cellar during the ageing and bottling processes during the Vinification Experience Days.

And so the day, full of great exchanges and rewarding work, drew to a close.  We hope to see you back at Domaine Chapelle soon, or at one of the other Gourmet Odyssey partner wineries!

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Harvest Experience Day in the Languedoc


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Grape harvest experience gift for wine enthusiasts

 

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

 

Organic harvest experience gift in the south of France

 

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

 

Participate in the grape harvest

 

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

 

The de-stemming machine in action

 

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

 

Grapes at harvest time

 

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

 

Organic wine tasting experience gift in the south of France

 

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

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

 

Organic rent-a-vine gift and harvest experience

 

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

 

The fermentation vats in the cellar

 

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

 

Analysing the grape juice at harvest time through the fermentation stage

 

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

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

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Apprentice harvester for a day in Saint-Emilion


The vines had a particularly warm and dry summer for the 2020 vintage in the southwest of France.  The grapes reached perfect maturity and so we had a harvest of top quality grapes.  We met up at Château Coutet with Mathieu, Adrien, and Alain, all members of the David-Beaulieu family who have been the owners of the winery in Saint-Emilion for 400 years.  After a coffee and croissant, we got the Harvest Experience Day underway.

Origiinal wine gift. Get involved in the harvest in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, presented the programme of the day, and reminded us of the social distancing and protective measures put in place in light of the current epidemic.

We started the day by visiting our adopted vines which are located on the limestone plateau above Saint-Emilion, where the winery’s best plots are to be found, surrounded by the most prestigious of Saint Emilion’s Grand Cru Classé vineyards.

Adopt-a-vine gift at a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru winery

We each took some souvenir photographs of this magnificent setting, and some entered some pictures for the “My Vine” competition to reward the most original photo of their vines.

Walking through the vineyards gave us a good warm up before starting the harvest of the grapes.  After the safety reminder that we make better wine with grapes rather than finger tips, the sound of the secateurs snipping away resonated throughout the vineyard.

Harvest Experience Gift in Bordeaux

We put the bunches of grapes into a bucket which we then emptied into a crate which was carried to the awaiting tractor by some porters.  The grapes were in perfect condition, the first and most important indicator of a good potential vintage to come.

Wine picking experience gift in Bordeaux France

After our morning’s hard work, we returned to the lawn in front of the chateau for the aperitif, tasting the Clairet wine, which is either a very light red wine, or a strong rosé wine depending on your viewpoint.  During the vinification stage, the grape juice only remains in contact with the skins for a short time to extract less colour than for a red wine, giving the wine its light and fruity character.  It’s a very refreshing drink.

We then sat down to a delicious lunch prepared onsite by the caterer and accompanied by some other wines from Château Coutet.  The first wine was the 2017 Château Belles-Cimes made from the young vines which has a delicate tannic structure and paired perfectly with the winemaker’s salad.  We went up a grade with the 2017 Château Coutet Grand Cru, the winery’s signature wine.  Made using the grapes from the estate’s three different types of terroir and the four grape varietals, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is more powerful with a longer finish, making it a great match for the guinea-fowl farcie with morille and foie-gras sauce.

We discovered an exceptional Saint-Emilion wine with the 2017 Desmosielles, a limited edition wine made using the best vine plots that are worked by horse, without the intervention of the tractor and electricity.  It’s a real treat to taste this wine that has such depth and voluptuous soft tannins on the palate.  We finished the wonderful meal with a cheese platter and chocolate praline dessert.

In the afternoon we turned our attention to the work in the cellar to de-stem and sort the grapes.  We separate the grapes form the stalks and take away any grapes that aren’t ripe enough, which weren’t very many this year.

Sorting the grapes

We ended the day with a visit of the cellar to learn about the first stage of fermentation.  We’ll learn more about what happens next during the Vinification Experience Days.

Winery tour and experience day with the winemaker

Many thanks to the David-Beaulieu family for welcoming us so warmly during the harvest which is a particularly busy and stressful time for the winemakers.

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Getting invloved in the 2020 harvest in Alsace


A gorgeous sunny day welcomed us to Alsace for the Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher last week-end.  The harvest is early this year due to the warm and dry weather, and whilst we were all in lock-down, the vines were soaking up the sun and having a great time.  The vineyards around Wettolsheim received just the right amount of rainfall at the crucial moments, so the grapes were in perfect condition to be picked.  All they needed were a team of harvesters, so the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers were very welcome to give a helping hand!

Top wine lover gift to get involved in harvesting the grapes in Alsace

After the introductions we headed towards the Steingrubler Grand Cru vineyard, where the pinot noir grapes that we were to harvest were to be found.  Céline explained which grapes to pick and how to harvest them, then armed with a bucket and pair of secateurs we got down to the serious business of harvesting the grapes!

Harvest Experience gift in organic french vineyard


The Steingrubler vineyard is on quite a steep slope, so the tractor and trailer waited patiently for our grapes at the end of the rows. To avoid wasting time and energy by everyone walking to and from the trailer, a couple of brave people volunteered to be a porter, strapping a large hop on their backs.  Once we had filled our buckets, the grapes were then poured into the hop for the porter to then empty them into the trailer.  It’s a physical job at the best of times, particularly so when you have to contend with the slope of the vineyard!

Join the harvest and learn the hard work that goes into making wine


The buckets filled quickly, and as we picked, we asked questions about life at the winery to Céline, her father Jean-Jacques, and the winery harvest team who were also on hand to help with the harvest.

Once we had picked all the grapes from the plot, we made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard where our Pinot Gris adopted vines are located. They had reached optimum maturity earlier in the week, so had already been harvested.  Once the grapes are ripe, they need to be picked straight away to ensure the best quality wine possible.  We took a few souvenir pictures and some for the “My Vine” photo competition with our adopted vines before heading back to the winery.

Adopt-a-vine gift in an organic French vineyard

Our next job was to put the grapes that we had harvested into the fermentation tank.  We used a long-handled rake to gently pull the grapes out of the trailer and into the de-stemming machine below.  This machine separates the berries from the stalks, and then the grapes continue their fall into the waiting vat.  The winery building has been designed to use gravity as much as possible in preference to pumps, so that the grapes arrive with their skins as intact as possible in the vat or press, helping to preserve the aromatic concentration.
Learning about the work in the cellar during the harvest


It was now time for a well-earned aperitif.  Céline had prepared an extensive wine tasting session for us, starting with the fresh and floral 2019 Pinot Blanc Tradition.  We then tasted the lovely mineral 2014 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes, followed by the complex and aromatic 2016 Riesling Steingrubler Grand Cru.  Next was the intense 2015 Pinot Noir Old Oak, the wine that the grapes we had picked in the morning are used to make, and then the 100% Pinot Noir Crémant Nature Rosé sparkling wine, accompanied by a savoury Kougelopf.

Wine tasting session with teh winemaker in Alsace


We continued the tasting over lunch, starting with the 2018 Pinot Gris Rosenberg which perfectly paired with the “Bouchée à la Reine” and spatzlé.  With dessert we compared two different wines, the 2017 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg and the 2016 Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru.

We picked up after lunch where we had finished in the morning and descended into the cellar.  Stéphane described how the grapes for the white wines are treated differently, being emptied directly into the press, where the time and pressure are regulated depending on the quality of grapes ad thickness of the their skins.

Stéphane then explained the different processes and work needed for red and white wines up until the end of the first fermentation period.

Wine-making gift experience in Alsace

We visited the barrel room where the Pinot Noir wines are aged, and ended the day in the fermentation hall where the white wines were bubbling away as they start the fermentation process.  We’ll be spending more time here next year for the Vinification Experience Days to discover all of the work that is left to do between now and the time when the wine is bottled and conditioned.

Many thanks to Céline and Stéphane for a great day!

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Participating in the harvest of the Chenin grapes in the Loire Valley


2020 was a warm year for the most part, and so the harvest was early, taking place on the 19th and 20th September for the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers, which is almost a month earlier than usual.

Marc Plouzeau, the owner and wine-maker at Château de la Bonnelière, a few kilometres from the charming town of Chinon, had started the harvest with his team, a week earlier with the grapes used for the rosé and white wines, the red grapes needing some rain before being picked.  As with each year, this first week allows Marc and his team to warm up and find their marks again for the harvest, a gentle real-time training before the really busy period that follows as the quantities are much bigger for the Cabernet Franc red grapes!

Marc already had lots to do in the chai, so after the welcome coffee and introductions, we headed into the vineyard with Noémie, the vineyard manager, and Louise the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert.

After a quick visit of our adopted vines in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, we were ready for the harvest. 
Our grapes hadn’t yet quite reached optimum maturity, so we crossed the road to pick the plot of Chenin blanc.  Our mission for the week-end was to pick the entire plot!

Harvest Expeirence Day in the Loire Valley

Many people don’t know, but the Chinon wine appellation exists for red, rosé and white wines.  Made using the Chenin grape varietal, as for the nearby Saumur and Anjou white wines, the Chinon white wine has a very limited production, accounting for less than 2% of the total appellation.  10 years ago, it was even less, but thanks to the efforts of some winemakers, they have brought the white wines to life too.

Wine gift Box for harvesting your vines

In 2014, Marc replaced a plot of red with Chenin vines.  This half-hectare vineyard produces the grapes used for the Silice white wine.

Half a hectare in two mornings was a do-able but tough challenge, particularly with the weather not being on our side, especially on the Sunday.  

Harvest your own adopted vines in France

Leaving a few rows for Marc’s team, we learnt which grapes to pick, and which ones to leave.  The majority of grapes were in perfect condition, but some had been attacked by rot.  Noémie also gave us some tips on how to not have a bad back at the end of the day!

Visit and tasting at the winery in Chinon, France

After the harvest, it was time for the aperitif, followed by lunch to gather our strength for the work in the chai!  Amongst the wines we tasted, Marc opened a few bottles of the Silice wine from previous vintages, so that we could see the potential of our morning’s harvest.

Harvest Experience in the Loire Valley

Despite the good cheer at the table, we had to think of the grapes and get up to see to them.  With Marc, we discovered how to fill the press, and then Marc explained the different stages to follow; the settling, alcoholic fermentation, racking, ageing in barrels… There was lots to learn, and everyone hung off Marc’s every word.

Meeting an organic winemaker in France

As Marc is very talkative, the time flashed by.  Fortunately many of the group will be coming back soon to discover the work in the cellar during the Vinification Experience Days!

The Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, where the adopted vines are located, was harvested on the 1st October, as usual being the last vineyard to be picked. The grapes were perfectly ripe, so we should be in for a great vintage!

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Harvest Experience Day in the Rhone Valley


Last Saturday, we were at Domaine de la Guicharde in the Rhone Valley for the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Day. We were there to help pick the grapes for this year’s harvest and to learn about all of the work involved at the winery during harvest time.  As we were to discover there is more to it than just picking grapes!

The Harvest Experience gift in the Rhone Valley, France

After the introductions, we walked past the winery’s olive grove and up the hillside to the vineyard where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located.  The vineyard is one of the winery’s best plots, and the Grenache Noir grapes are used to make the excellent AOC Massif d’Uchaux red wine.  We took a few minutes to find our adopted vines, laden with delicious ripe grapes, and take a few pictures before we started the harvest.

Adopt a vine gift and personalised bottles of biodynamic wine

Laurence, the wine-maker at Domaine de la Guicharde, then explained which grapes to pick, and which to leave, and how to cut the bunches.  Equipped with a pair of secateurs and a bucket, we then spread out among the rows and started to pick.

Grape harvest gift in the Rhone Valley

The buckets quickly filled as the grapes were generally in very good condition, and so there was little to sort.  The dry and hot weather meant that there had been no mildew, the only damage being a few vines that had been too exposed to the sun, causing the grapes to burn and dry out.  Once the buckets were full, we emptied them into a trailer and then carried on picking.

Wine-making experience gift in an organic winery in the Rhone Valley

Laurence took the time to explain how she monitors the ripening of the grapes and decides when the best time to pick them is.  She has to plan and juggle resources between the different grape varietals and vineyard plots, as the grapes don’t all ripen at the same speed.

The terroir of the Massif d’Uchaux is unique amongst the different Côtes du Rhône appellations, the principal characteristic being that millions of years ago, in the Miocène era, all of the surrounding land was covered by seawater.  You can still make out where the ancient beach used to be, and if you look hard, you can find fossils of shell fish.

Domaine de la Guicharde is both organically and biodynamically certified, and so Laurence explained the difference between the two approaches, and how they influence the work in the vineyard and cellar.

After the morning’s hard work and effort, the aperitif was very welcome!  Back in the courtyard of the winery, Laurence served us a nice cold glass of her rosé.

Organic wine tasting gift with the winemaker

We then sat down to a delicious lunch, paired with other wines from the winery.  The rich and complex 2019 Côtes du Rhône “Autour de la Chapelle” white wine perfectly accompanied the Millefeuille of aubergines, confit tomatoes with fresh goats cheese and courgette coulis.  We enjoyed the fruity 2019 Côtes du Rhône “Pur Rouge” red wine with the main course of roast veal, mushroom and épeautre risotto, finishing with the more powerful and spicy 2017 Côtes du Rhône Massif d’Uchaux red with the cheese platter and chocolate cappuccino cream dessert.

After lunch we made our way to the chai, where the grapes that we had harvested were waiting in the shade.  Our next job was to put the grapes into the vat. To do so we emptied the trailer of grapes slowly into a hopper where the grapes pass through a de-stemming machine to separate the berries from the stalks.

Learning about the work at harvest time in the chai

The grapes are then pumped through a large tube into one of the vats.  Laurence explained how the fermentation process will transform the sugar into alcohol, and how the wine will extract the colour and tannins from the grapes skins during the maceration period.

Laurence explains the work and in the chai during the harvest period and the fermentation process

It’s an exciting year, because the 2020 vintage will be the first to be made in the new chai.  Building started in February, and despite a break in work during the lockdown period, the main shell of the building was completed and the fermentation hall equipped with the essential equipment just in time for the start of the harvest.  It was touch and go for a while, but the much larger space means that Laurence and her team will be able to work in much better conditions.

We finished the day by tasting the juice from the grapes that we had picked.  It was cloudy in colour and very sweet with the sugar that is needed to make the wine.  We then compared it with the grape juice from another vat that had already started the fermentation process.

Tasting the grape juice from our harvest

We’ll be back next year for the Vinification Experience Days to see how this year’s vintage has progressed and to learn about all of the work that still remains between now and the time that the wine is ready for bottling.  Many thanks to Laurence and her team for looking after us so well during the day.

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Harvest Experience Day in the Languedoc


Today was a special day at Domaine Allegria.  It was lovely weather for the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice winemakers to harvest, something that is not uncommon, but it was the first time that we were to harvest the new plot of Grenache vines that had been massally selected.  As opposed to buying young vines from a nursery, Ghislain and Delphine had chosen to take cuttings from their best vines.  This is known as massal selection, and helps preserve the genetic lineage of older vines, with the aim of improving the quality of the grapes and the vine’s natural resistance to disease.

After the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard and listened attentively to the instructions on how to harvest.  We carefully picked the grapes and put them into crates that could hold 15 kg of grapes, which we then stored in the shade of the vinification hall.  The temperature quickly rose, but we remained in good cheer.  The grapes that we tasted as we picked confirmed that the harvest was a very good one, and that we should be able to look forward to a good vintage from the wine made using this plot.

Harvesting the Grenache plot

As with many wine-growing regions of France, this year has been great weather-wise because the sun and summer heat allowed the grapes to reach optimum maturity, without being infected by any disease of rot.  This made our job of harvesting that much easier too because there was practically nothing to sort!

Sorting the grapes

Once we had finished the harvest, we followed the grapes journey into the vats.  First of all we removed any leaves that had inadvertently made their way into the crates, and some dried out and shrivelled grapes that had been burnt by the sun.  The remaining bunches were then put into a de-stemming machine that separates the berries from the stalks which, if left in the vat during the maceration period, would make the wine too strong and would bring unwanted herbaceous aromas. Sometimes, in certain conditions, we can choose to leave some of the stems during the maceration period, but that remains a choice for the winemaker to make!

After the morning’s hard work, the aperitif was very welcome, with a tasting of a magnum of the 2019 Dolce Vita rosé.  We then sat down to a nice lunch prepared by Delphine, which was accompanied by other wines from Domaine Allegria.

Visiting the adopted vines

In the afternoon, we headed back out into the vineyard, for a digestive walk, and to find our adopted vines in a plot of Syrah.  The grapes will be blended with some Mourvèdre grapes to create the Tribu d’A wine once they have sufficiently aged.  We’ll learn more about these stages of winemaking next year during the Vinification Experience Days!

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The 2020 harvest in Burgundy ends with the Pinot Noir


The Chapelle family and their team of harvesters awaited the Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine owners for three days of harvesting pinot noir vines in the Clos des Cornières vineyard in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay.  It’s the plot where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located to make the Santenay red wine of the same name, and as we were to find out, to produce a wine of this quality, there’s lots of work to do!

The harvest this year in Burgundy was very early, starting on the 19th August at Domaine Chapelle, and finished with the Gourmet Odyssey team on the 30th August. We were eagerly awaited, as we were the ones to pick the last grapes, put them into the vats, and close out the harvest of the 2020 grapes! As soon as Jean-François Chapelle had introduced us to the winery and the surrounding area, we headed out into the Clos des Cornières vineyard, which is located just next to the winery.

Harvest Experience Day Wine Making Experience Burgundy

It’s called a “clos” because the plot is surrounded by a wall on three sides. The clos has two distinct areas, each with different ages of vines. The winery’s team of harvesters picked the grapes from the younger vines in the lower part of the vineyard, whilst we took care of the older section. Jean-François explained that the harvest from the two areas would be kept separate in different vats and aged separately until the end of the ageing process, when they will be blended together to form the Clos des Cornières wine.

Adopt a vine and meet an organic winemaker

This year, the quality of grapes is exceptional thanks to the warm and dry weather. Even if the grapes are small as a consequence, they are in great condition and of a very homogenous maturity. Jean-François directions were therefore very straight forward; pick everything!

Harvest Experience Gift in Burgundy

We quickly got into the groove. Spread out among the rows we quickly filled up the crates, and once full, we brought them back to the beginning of the rows to exchange for an empty one. The crates were then loaded into the van to transport the grapes back to the winery.

Harvest your own organic vine in Burgundy

The winery harvest team used a person with a basket on his back to collect the grapes from each of the harvesters. The basket contains more grapes than the crates and gets very heavy. The porter then empties the basket into a trailer by climbing up a ladder and pouring the grape bunches over his head. The trailer is then emptied back at the winery. It’s a slightly different process, and we would see later that the grapes which arrive in the trailer are not treated in the same way as our grapes in the crates.
Once we’d finished picking the grapes, we went and had a look at our adopted vines in the Clos des Cornières vineyard for the clients of the Santenay red wine, and in the Les Crais vineyard on the other side of the road for the Santenay white clients. Jean-François then explained the different terroir that make up the Burgundy wine growing region and how that determines the lay out of the vineyard plots, before making our way back to the courtyard where we tasted a well-earned glass of Santenay white wine!

Winery visit and tasting in Santenay, Burgundy

We continued tasting the wines from Domaine Chapelle over lunch, before heading to the winery building where the grapes we harvested were waiting for us. It was now time to sort the grapes, and as Yannick, the Technical Director, said, the task was made relatively easy because we had worked so hard in the vineyard and the grapes were in excellent condition! To sort the grapes, we tipped out the crates onto the sorting table, which has a vibrating conveyor belt to shake off any water when it rains. We removed any damaged grapes or ones that weren’t yet ripe enough, as well as any leaves, snails or other stowaways from the vineyard!

Harvest and grape sorting exprience in an organic winery in France

The grapes then fall either into a destemming machine or directly into the vat. The grapes from the winery’s harvest team were separated from the stems before being put into the vat. The bunches harvested by the Gourmet Odyssey clients were put directly into a vat because the harvest took place over 3 days. If we had separated the grapes from the stems we would have pierced the skin of the grapes a little, the juice would have fallen to the bottom of the vat, and would have risked starting to ferment before the vat was full, which would be more difficult to control. Putting the whole bunches into the vat produces a stronger, more tannic wine. It will be aged separately from the other vats, and then blended with the other wines from the Clos des Cornières vineyard later to produce the final wine.

Organic winery visit and harvest course in Santenay, Burgundy

We also saw the press used for the white wines. The grapes used for the whites are sorted and pressed as soon as they arrive back at the winery. The juice is then put into a vat before the fermentation process begins. The grapes from the Les Crais vineyard were harvested on the 24th August, as the thinner skinned chardonnay grapes had reached their optimal maturity before the pinot noir. The fermentation had already begun for the Santenay Village white!
The fermentation period will also be the maceration phase for the red wines, where the wine will extract the colour and aromas from the skin and pips.

Wine-making and vine adoption experience in France

Jean-François explained how they manage the fermentation by regulating the temperature. The winery doesn't use any added yeast, relying solely on the yeast cells that are naturally present on the grape skins, so it is more difficult to predict when the fermentation will start and how it will evolve. If the temperature is too low, the fermentation has a hard job getting started, but if the must gets too warm, the yeast cells will die and won’t finish transforming the sugar into alcohol. The temperature is controlled using immersion heaters that are placed into the vats and have either hot or cold water pumped through them to heat or cool the must as needed.
Over the next few weeks, the team in the fermentation hall will be on tenterhooks as they monitor the progress of the different fermentations. The next step will be to rack the first wines to separate the wine from the solid matter of stems, skin and pips, but we’ll cover that in more detail during the next Vinification Experience Days at the start of next year.
Many thanks to all the team at Domaine Chapelle for welcoming us and for replying to our numerous questions with passion and good humour!

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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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Participating in the grape harvest in Saint-Emilion


The mornings had started to be a little cooler in the South West of France and the leaves had started to change colour… a sure sign that it was harvest time in Saint-Emilion.  We met up at Château Coutet to get involved in picking the grapes during the 2019 Harvest Experience Days.

Harvest experience gift for wine lovers in Saint-Emilion

We were introduced to Mathieu, one of the winemakers and a member of the David Beaulieu family that own and run the winery.  He recounted the passionate history of his family, and kept us mesmerized all day long.

Our adopted vines are located on one of the highest points in Saint-Emilion, in the Peycocut vineyard up on the limestone plateau.  From here, the Saint-Emilion church tower seems very close as the crow flies.  The dark blue grapes contrast with the surrounding landscape of green vine leaves.  The vines were as tall as us, and we could just make out a few heads bobbing up and down as we searched for our adopted vines.  

Rent-a-vine gift experience in Saint-Emilion

Harvesting seems simple, just cut all the bunches of grapes!  First of all, Mathieu gave us some safety tips to try and avoid cutting our fingers.  We were to harvest two per row, opposite each other, so we had to be careful not to cut our partners fingers!  We also learnt that the grapes that grow at the top of the vines are not mature enough and too acidic to be harvested, so these grapes were to be left alone to ensure a better quality wine.

Wine-making gift experience in Bordeaux

Having listened to our instructions, we started the harvest.  The foliage can be dense and some grapes are more difficult to find than others, and some were even forgotten altogether!

Once the baskets were full, the porters brought the grapes to the tractor.  This technique allows the grapes to arrive intact to the winery.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and convivial as we snipped away!

A fantastic wine gift. Adopt some organic vines and harvest your own grapes

Before we knew it, we had arrived at the end of the morning, and time for a well-earned aperitif of Claret on the lawn in front of the château.  The aromatic and fruity rosé was very refreshing, and sharpened our taste buds before we sat down to the winemaker’s lunch in the château’s dining room.

Organic wine tasting gift experience in Saint-Emilion

Lunch was accompanied with some of the wines from the estate, starting with the 2016 Belles Cimes which is made from the younger vines.  The stuffed guinea fowl was paired with the 2014 Château Coutet, which is one of the classical wines, revealing the finesse and complexity that is the signature of the winery.  Mathieu then treated us to the 2014 Demoiselle wine with cheese.  It’s a special wine made exclusively from vines that are around hundred years old and are located on the Saint-Emilion limestone plateau.  The soil is worked by horse and everything is done manually to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible.

After lunch, we set about sorting the grapes.  To ensure the best quality, the grapes have to be sorted so that only the best ones make it into the vat.

Grape harvest experience gift in Bordeaux

The grape bunches climb into the de-stemming machine with the help of a conveyor belt.  Here the grapes are separated from the stalks, and the berries then make their way along the sorting table, where any unripe grapes or leaves are removed.  The grapes that remain are then put into the vat to start the fermentation process.

Wine-making experience gift and winery tour, Saint-Emilion

The day ended with Mathieu explaining the different fermentation processes and the work that happens in the fermentation hall.  The work at harvest time isn’t just restricted to the vineyard!

Many thanks to Mathieu for his explanations and for sharing the love he has for his work.  We look forward to returning to the chateau next year to taste the fruit of our labour during the Vinification Experience Days.

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Picking the grapes in the Rhone Valley for the 2019 harvest


The 2019 grape harvest season continues, and last weekend, it was the turn of Domaine de la Guicharde, in the Côtes du Rhone region, to welcome the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients to participate in the harvest.  As we were to learn, there is much more work at harvest time than just picking grapes!
After the introductions to the winery and day, we headed out past the olive grove into the vineyard.  Our first stop was the Miocène vineyard, home to our adopted vines. We took a few minutes to find our micro-plot of vines and immortalise the moment with a few photos.
Organic vine adoption in the Cotes du Rhone vine growing area
It was then time to get down to the serious business of the day. We listened intently to the instructions of how to pick the grapes, which ones to pick, and which to leave. But as we could see, the quality of the grapes this year was excellent and the vines were laden with full bunches, so there were hardly any grapes that needed to be sorted.  
Equipped with a bucket and pair of harvesting secateurs, we split into twos, each pair taking a different row of vines.  To make picking the grapes easier, the first task was to remove the leaves from in front and around the grape bunches.  We then cut the stem just above the bunch, letting the grapes fall into our hand, before being put into the bucket.  
Harvest Experience in the Rhone Valley region
With the nice large bunches, the buckets soon filled up, and we then passed them from row to row to be emptied into the trailer.  We were harvesting Grenache Noir, the grapes that are the last to mature at the winery.  The harvest had started on the 31st August with the white grapes, and the harvest of the Syrah grapes had started two week ago.  The winery is nearing the end of the harvest, and all the grapes should be picked in the next couple of days.
Grape picking Experience in the Rhone Valley region
Before we knew it, we had reached the end of the morning, and we had managed to fill three trailers, which was a great effort from our team of apprentice winemakers!  Having washed hands and cleaned up, we enjoyed a nice refreshing glass of the winery’s 2018 white wine, “Au tour de la Chapelle”, in the courtyard.
We continued the tasting over lunch, the rosé 18 accompanying the millefeuille of aubergine, goats cheese, sundried tomato and courgette coulis starter.  The fruity 2018 Pur Rouge Côtes du Rhône red went well with the roast veal and mushroom risotto, before we tasted the 2015 Terroir de Miocène Côtes du Rhône Villages Massif d’Uchaux, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, with cheese.  Our tasting ended with the 2016 Genest  Côtes du Rhône Villages Massif d’Uchaux, served with the chocolate mousse.
Harvesters' lunch in a French Orgnic winery
After lunch we followed the journey that the grapes take to the fermentation hall.  We watched as our trailers were emptied and the grapes fell into the de-stemming machine.  Here the berries are separated from the stems, and the grapes then continue their journey into the vat.
Chai visit during the haarvest in the Cotes du Rhone area
Inside the fermentation hall, Laurence explained the process that will take place over the coming weeks to transform the grape juice into wine.  Laurence showed us the mustimeter that she uses daily to monitor the sugar density and temperature of each of the vats.  We also learned about the important role of pumping over the wines throughout the maceration period to extract the colour and tannins from the grape skins.
Wine and grape juice tasting during the harvest
We ended the day by tasting the juice from the grapes we had picked, and compared this to the juice from grapes that had been harvested a week earlier, and was now in its fifth day of fermentation.  It was impressive to see the difference that just a few days make.
We’ll be back at Domaine de la Guicharde next year for the Vinification Experience Days, where we’ll pick up from where we left off, and learn more about the rest of the fermentation process, blending, ageing, and bottling.  There’s still lots to be done, but for now the winemakers can sleep a little more soundly knowing that the harvest is safely in the fermentation hall!

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The 2019 harvest of Pinot Noir grapes in Burgundy


We were welcomed to Domaine Chapelle in Santenay on a gloriously sunny weekend for the Harvest Experience Days of the Clos des Cornières vineyard, the grapes from which will be used to make the personalised organic red wine for the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

 

Meet the winemaker of an organic winery in Santenay, France

In the garden in front of the chateau, Jean-François, the owner briefly recounted the history of Burgundy wines, and explained the evolution of the production and commercialisation of the wines over the last 100 years, focusing on the decisions that he had taken, notably in converting the winery to becoming organically certified.

Vine adoption in Santenay, Burgundy, France

We the made our way to the Clos des Cornières vineyard and the Crais plot opposite to meet our adopted vines that will make the red and white wines. Having taken a few photos and whispered some sweet words to them, we met up again in front of the vine rows that we were to harvest. We were to harvest the pinot noir grapes from the Clos des Cornières plot, the chardonnay grapes from the Crais having already reached optimum maturity and so having already been picked a few days earlier.

2019 Harvest quality in Santenay Burgundy

As with the team of professional harvesters, we listened intently to the briefing for the day, and the instructions of how and what to harvest.  Jean-François explained which bunches to pick, those that are found between the training wires near the bottom of the vines.  The smaller bunches higher up are not sufficiently mature to produce good quality wine. We were also to leave the bunches that had been attacked by mould, and those that had dried out and had no pulp inside them. With the extremely hot weather this summer, quite a few of the bunches unfortunately contained little or no juice.

Harvest Experience Day in Burgundy, France

Armed with a pair of secateurs and a harvesting crate, we started to pick the grapes.  In pairs facing each other we each took a side of the vine row to make sure that we didn’t leave any good grapes behind.  By the end of the morning we had finished our work and filled a fair few crates, some with a little plaster on their cut finger!  The work of a harvester isn’t always as easy as all that!

Grapes picking experience in Burgundy, France

The time for the aperitif beckoned, and well deserved it was too!  Back in the garden, we enjoyed the Saint-Jean Santenay white wine, accompanied by the famous Burgundy gougères.

Organic Burgundy wine tasting, France

We then savoured the regional lunch, accompanied by three red wines, the Burgundy, Santenay Clos des Cornières, and Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières.

Grape sorting Experience in Burgundy

After lunch we went to see how the grapes are sorted and put into the vats. The sorting table is a crucial step in ensuring the quality of the grape juice that will then start fermenting. At the beginning of the table, the crates are emptied one by one onto the conveyor belt.  Either side of the table, 6 to 8 sorters remove any grapes that aren’t of a good enough quality and any leaves that might be present.  At the end of the table the grapes are separated from the stems mechanically and then fall into the fermentation hall below, where a trolley catches them, before being trundled to a another conveyer belt that lifts them up and into the vat.

Chai visit and wine tasting in Burgundy

There is no pumping at this stage so that the grapes arrive in the vat intact, helping to keep a higher degree of freshness to the future wine.
The day ended with an explanation of the fermentation process which will start in the next few days, and the work involved during this time.  It will be the first stage in the vinification and ageing process, more of which will be explained at the start of next year.
So the time to leave arrived, Jean-François and Myriam thanking us and looking forward already to our next visit!

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The 2019 harvest of cinsault grapes in the Languedoc


We spent a very enjoyable day harvesting the grapes under the bue sky in Domaine Allegria’s plot of cinsault vines.  It was a plot that had unfortunately suffered from the heatwave on the 28th June, so the quantity was reduced, but there were still enough grapes to keep us busy!

 

Meet an organic winemaker in teh Languedoc area France

After the introductions and instructions on how to harvest, we were each given a pair of harvesting secateurs, and we started to pick the grapes and put them in the crates.

Grape picking experience in Languedoc, France

We quickly got into the routine, and by midday we had finished the plot. We had picked 1200 kg, compared to 2500 kg in 2017 for the same plot, less than half the quantity.

Harvest Day experience in Languedoc, France

We then headed back to the winery, where Delphine, the winemaker had prepared a delicious lunch, centred around the old variety tomatoes that had been grow in the winery’s garden, and of course tasted the different wines throughout the meal.

harvesters' lunch at domaine Allegria in Languedoc, France

After lunch, we headed to the fermentation hall to put our harvest into a stainless steel vat. We first emptied the crates into the de-stemming machine to separate the grape berries from the stems.

Wine-making experience in Languedoc, France

The grapes then continued their journey into the vat, and we then washed the emptied crates. In 30 minutes we had put all of the grapes into the vat and all of the materiel was cleaned, thanks to our enthusiastic and efficient team of apprentice winemakers that we would like to have with us every day in the cellar!

Harvest experience in the chai in Languedoc, France

The day ended with a walk in the vineyard and a visit to see our adopted syrah vines. The grapes from this plot will be blended with the neighbouring mourvèdre grapes to make the Tribu d’A wine. The grapes had already been harvested because they had reached optimum maturity, and once that has happened, you can’t wait any longer!

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