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The harvest season continues in the Loire Valley

The 2014 series of Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days came to an end last weekend under a magnificent blue sky at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon. We had a great day to finish the season.

After a coffee and a croissant, Marc Plouzeau, introduced us to his winery, and told us about the "Vin Doux" plot of vines that we were to harvest. Marc bought this vineyard of magnificent old vines a couple of years ago, and it is currently being converted to organic.

Harvest experience in the Loire Valley

Once in the vineyard, Marc and Noémie, the vineyard manager, handed out the tools we needed to harvest. Each equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs, we listened attentively to the instructions before spreading out in twos among the vine rows to start picking the grapes.

Harvesters at work in Chinon Loire Valley

We also had a few volunteer porters. Once we had filled our buckets, we called a porter and emptied our grapes into the basket that they carried on their backs. They then took the grapes and emptied them into the trailer at the bottom of the vineyard.

Porter for the harvest 2014 in chinon

Once we had finished our rows, we followed our harvest back to the winery to discover the sorting table, where we removed any unripe berries or leaves that had inadvertently added themselves. But due to the high quality of the grapes and the diligent work of our harvesters, there wasn't much to sort at all! At the end of the table, a de-stemming machine separates the stalk from the grapes which fall into a trolley below.

Sorting grapes for the harvest 2014 in Chinon

We then split our harvest into two parts. The first was put into a 600 litre barrel for an integral vinification, and the second into one of the vats. Marc explained what happens to the juice during the fermentation process that will last up to 3 weeks.

Once we had finished putting the grapes into the barrel and vat, we were rewarded with a glass of « Perle Sauvage », the natural sparkling wine produced at the winery.

Wine tasting at Château de la Bonnelière Chinon France

The harvesters' meal was served in the barn, where we continued the tasting of wines, including the Chinon blanc 2013, Clos de Bonnelière 2012 and Chapelle 2011.

Harvester's lunch at Château de la Bonnelière Chinon

After lunch, we headed out into the vineyard where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are to be found.

Vine adoption in Chinon Loire Valley

We then returned to the chai to learn more about the important work carried out there during the harvest, and to learn about the differences in making white, red and rosé wines. We finished the day by tasting some grape juice that had just started to ferment. Marc also showed us how to measure the density of the juice and estimate the potential alcoholic volume using the mustimetre.

Assessing the potential alcoholic volume of the wine

Many thanks to Marc, Marie-Rose and Noémie from Château de la Bonnelière for welcoming us and accompanying us during the Harvest Experience Days, and to all of our clients for their good cheer!

See you again soon for the Vinification Experience Days!

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A brief history of grape harvesting

Renowned for their conviviality and lively atmosphere, the harvest is a very special time for the winemaker that marks the end of a year's work in the vineyard. It is a crucial time in determining the quality of the future vintage, and has been a key stage in winemaking for thousands of years.
Wine course Harvesting the grapes in Rhone Valley


The French word for harvesting grapes, "vendanges", comes from the term "vendémiaire" which refers to the months of September and October in the republican calendar of 1792. But well before this, the first traces of vines being cultivated date back to the Bronze Age (around 2 200 to 800 years BC) in Israel and Palestine. At that time, the first known references appear of grapes being harvested by sedentary populations as opposed to nomads.

Later in France, the first traces of cultivating grapes date to the Iron Age (around 800 to 52 years BC) in the Vaucluse, Hérault and Gard regions in the south of France. At this time vines were cultivated and a harvest planned, all with the objective of making wine.

Harvest in the Rhone Valley

Historically, the date was set for the beginning of the harvest in each region, which marked the start of the harvest and often gave rise to lively parties to celebrate its beginning. However, once the start date had been set, it was always up to the winemaker to decide when to actually start the harvest depending on the acidity and sugar levels in the grapes in the different vineyard plots. There are still a few remaining annual harvest celebrations such as those in Montmartre, Paris or Banyuls.

A few sayings have been passed on down through the generations, such as the one that says the harvest will begin 100 days after the vines have flowered. Having asked our partner winemakers if there is any truth in it, it would appear that the start of the harvest is very close, but it rarely falls exactly 100 days later, the weather having being fairly fickle the last few years!

Harvest French course Rhone Valley

Another custom that has survived despite the mechanisation of harvesting in some wineries, is the arrival of seasonal staff to help out with the harvest. It is the team of harvesters that make the atmosphere so lively during this time. If you are looking to get involved in the harvest, many winemakers are looking for motivated and hard working people. You normally need to be available for the duration of the harvest, and be flexible about the days which you work, because the decision of whether to harvest or not is often taken on the eve of the following day.

Or if you prefer to start with just one day, why not participate in one of the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days!

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Original Wine Gift for Father’s Day

What's the ideal father's day gift to choose for a wine lover? This year, give more than a simple wine tasting gift, and adopt some vines for your Dad in France. It makes for a unique wine experience gift.

If your Dad is interested in wine but has never had the opportunity to get involved in making wine with a winemaker, the Gourmet Oydssey Wine Experience will enable him to learn first-hand about all of the work in the vineyard and cellar. He'll be the adoptive owner of his vines for a winemaking year and, thanks to the newsletters and photos, he'll follow all of the steps in making his personalised wine.

He can also get stuck in and learn by participating in working at the winery for one of the Discovery, Harvest or Vinification Experience Days. He'll visit one of our seven partner vineyards and spend the day with the winemaker.

All of our partner wineries are organically certified, and are chosen for the quality of their wine, and the enthusiasm of the winemakers in sharing their passion for their profession. It's an unforgettable experience that will enable your father to open his bottles of wine in good company and explain how they were made.

Our welcome gift packs contain a sommelier's apron, a DropStop, adoption certificate and a brochure that explains the experience. They are delivered within 2 to 5 days depending on the delivery country, and for any last minute gifts, we'll send a copy of the certificate by email ahead of the welcome pack.

And the little added bonus, is that the Experience Days are valid for two people to share the fun!

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Adopt vines in France for an original wedding gift

It's the height of wedding season, and with it comes the search for that original wedding present idea. If wine is a passion of the wedding couple, and you are looking for a personalised wine gift that lasts, adopt a plot of vines for them in France!

One of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience gifts will enable the newlyweds to understand all of the work that the winemaker undertakes in the vineyard and the cellar when making their personalised bottles of wine. They will follow all of the key stages via newsletters and photos as their vintage unfolds.


Wine making course as an orignal wedding gift

The newlyweds can roll up their sleeves and get involved themselves if you include in their Wine Experience one of the Discovery, Harvest or Vinification Experience Days. They'll get to visit one of our seven partner vineyards to participate in the pruning, de-budding, harvesting or discovering the art of ageing and blending wines in the cellar. The winemakers will be there to explain their work, share their passion, and of course to let you taste their wines during the winemakers meal.

All of our partner wineries are organically certified, and are chosen for the quality of their wines, and the enthusiasm of the winemakers in explaining the intricacies of their profession. This means that the newlyweds will embark on an unforgettable experience to follow the making of their wine, from the same year as their wedding.


Orginal wine making gift box for a wedding

The welcome gift packs are delivered in 2 to 4 working days depending on the country of delivery, and for any last minute gifts, we can email the adoption certificate ahead of the welcome pack.

The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience is an original idea for a wedding present for wine lovers and those curious to learn the secrets behind making a quality wine. An original wine gift that will last long in the memory.

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Pruning in Chablis

Last Saturday, we were in Chablis at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for a Discovery Experience Day. The aim of the day was to learn more about the work carried out in the vineyard to have the best quality grapes possible at harvest time. So after the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard to start the day.
vine pruning Chablis Burgundy


We met up with Arnaud from the vineyard management team in the Boissonneuse vineyard, which was the first plot of vines to be converted to organic and biodynamic farming. Arnaud talked about the work that was conducted during the winter, and showed us how the vines are pruned and then attached horizontally to the training wire.

Pruning has finished throughout the estate, but Arnaud had left us a few small rows to prune. After a few demonstrations, it was our turn to have a go. Secateurs in hand, we quickly learnt that pruning is not as simple as you would have thought. Each vine requires thinking about and it seems that there are as many exceptions as there are vines!

vine pruning Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis

Arnaud also showed us how to "pluck" the remaining branch to better concentrate the vines energy in the fruit-bearing branches.

The special vineyard tractors were also out working in the same plot, and so we were also able to see how they are used to turn the soil in between the vine stocks and the rows.

Vineyard work Burgundy Chablis

The Boissonneuse vineyard is also the plot where the adopted vines of Gourmet Odyssey's clients are located, and so we took a few minutes to find our micro-plot of vines!

vine adoption Burgundy Chablis

Our taste buds were fully awake after all the morning's fresh air, and so back at the winery, we began to taste different wines from the range of Chablis wines that are produced on the estate. We continued the tasting during the meal, which was prepared by a local Chablis caterer.

The afternoon continued with a visit of the winery building for an introduction of the work carried out in the cellar, something that we will explore in more detail during the Vinification Experience Days.

Winery visit Chablis Domaine Brocard

Many thanks to Pierre and Arnaud for having shared their passion for the professions with us, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm!

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Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte

A beautiful sunny day welcomed the clients of the 2013 vintage to Domaine la Cabotte for the Vinification Experience Day last Saturday! No working in the vineyard this time, as that is now the work of the next vintage, but instead a series of workshops to understand what has happened to the grapes since the harvest.


Vineyard visit Rhone Valley Domaine la Cabotte

To get us started, Marie-Pierre, the owner of the winery, explained to us how she arrived in the Massif d'Uchaux from her native Burgundy, and how she has planted and developed the lion's share of the vineyard with her husband, Eric, over the past 20 years. We spent a few minutes visiting our adopted vines, which have now been pruned during the winter months ready for the next campaign.

Vine adoption in the Rhone Valley

Back in the chai, we got down to the serious matters of the day. Marie-Pierre told us all about the vinification of red and white wines, both of which are made on the estate. She told us how the wines are then aged. Marie-Pierre showed us the different tools that are used in the chai, such as the plungers used to push the cap of grape skins and pips down into the wine, and the metal flags that are lowered into the vats to control the temperature. We then tasted some white wine from the 2013 vintage, directly from the barrel.

Wine tasting at the Domaine Rhone Valley

In the wine boutique Marie-Pierre showed us that to make a good wine, you must have good grapes, perfectly ripened, to obtain the most aromatic wine. She showed us how to estimate the alcoholic potential of the wine and how to measure the density of the wine to know if the fermentation has finished.

Wine tasting masterclass Domaine la Cabotte France

We then participated in a workshop to help us identify the different aromas that we can find in wine, whether from the fruit itself, or the choices made by the winemaker in ageing the wine. Next, we tasted the three red grape varietals grown on the estate, and then had a go making our own blends. Marie-Pierre prepared a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache used to typically make the "Garance" wine which the Gourmet Odyssey clients receive.

Wine blending masterclass France Rhone Valley

We tasted some of the finished wines from the estate over the lunch that Marie-Pierre had prepared, starting with the Colline and Sauvageonne white wines. We then tasted the Colline, Garance, Gabriel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape red wines.

After lunch, we headed back out into the vineyard, where Marie-Pierre explained what makes the Massif d'Uchaux terroir special, and how the soil has been worked since the last harvest to prepare the next one.

Vineyard tour at Domaine la Cabotte France

The day ended back in the chai for a few explanations of biodynamic winemaking, and Marie-Pierre also told us how the wines are bottled and labelled before being ready to be poured into our glasses!

Many thanks to all the participants for their good humour and curiosity

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Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte

Last Saturday we had our first Vinification Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte under a beautiful sunny sky and a little bit of wind from the mistral. The aim of the day was to learn about the work in the cellar to ferment and age the 2013 vintage until it will be ready for bottling next year.


Domaine La Cabotte


We were welcomed by Eric & Marie-Pierre, the winemakers at Domaine la Cabotte, who started the day by showing us around the chai. Here we saw the vats full of wine, and Eric explained to us the first stages of fermentation. We quickly got down to the practical side of things with a tasting direct from the vats of some of the 2013 white and red wines that are still in the process of ageing. We compared them to the 2012 vintage to give an idea of how they will develop over time. We also learnt how to spit out the wine, so as not to saturate our taste buds with all the wine to be tasted!


Tasting Wine La Cabotte


Back in the warmth of the tasting room, we put our senses of smell to the test with a workshop to identify the aromas present in the wines at Domaine la Cabotte. It's not always as easy as it would seem...


Tasting blending wine


We then tasted wines from the three different grape varietials, grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre that will be used to make the Garance 2013, which is the wine selected for the Gourmet Odyssey clients. Following Eric's instructions we each then had a go at making several blends to see how the taste of the blended wine varies according to the grape varietials and percentages of each used.


Vine varietals blending Cotes du Rhone


After all this wine tasting, we were ready to sit down to eat a delicious home-made meal prepared by Marie-Pierre with other local specialities such as the winery's own olive oil and some truffles that their dog had found the day before! During the meal, we tasted some of the estate's finished wines, the Sauvageonne white wine, followed by the Garance and Gabriel red wines. Eric also explained to us the fundamentals and his passion for biodynamic wine-making.

In the afternoon we headed out into the vineyard to visit our adopted vines. Eric took us on a little tour of the estate to show us the different vines and terroir.


Vineyard La Cabotte


We ended the day back in the chai, where Eric showed us the different preparations and tools used in biodynamic wine-making, and how the wine is bottled and labelled once it is finally ready to be sent out to the clients.


Bottling winery La Cabotte


We can't wait to see how the 2013 will age and mature over the coming months. Thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre for having welcomed us so warmly, and to all of the participants for their good humour.

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Original Christmas gifts for wine lovers

The days are getting shorter and the cold is setting in... winter is coming and with it Christmas! There's still a little time to go before the frenetic Christmas present rush begins, but why not get a head start and discover some original Christmas gift ideas?


Adopt-a-vine in France. Original Christmas gifts for wine lovers


Looking for something more inspiring than the usual good bottle of wine to give your Dad? Why not give him the chance to make his own wine this Christmas! Your father will be transformed into an apprentice winemaker for a year with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience! Adopt some vines for him, allow him to follow all of the key steps in making his wine, and he'll even be able to personalise the labels on the bottles of his wine that will be produced at the end of his Wine Experience.

Your father-in-law is hyperactive? With his Christmas gift pack, send him off to France for a Harvest Experience Day to pick his grapes and follow their journey into the fermentation tank. He'll learn from the winemaker about the work in the chai, and will end up with his own personalised bottles of wine at the end of his Wine Experience. He'll also get to share the harvesters' meal and taste the wine from the estate. What's more, each Experience Day is valid for two people, so your mother-in-law can make the most of exploring one of France's beautiful wine regions too!

Your sister loves wine but doesn't understand anything about it? The ideal Christmas gift for her is a Wine Experience gift pack including a Discovery Experience Day. She'll roll up her sleeves and get involved in the work carried out in the vineyard to produce the best quality grapes come harvest time. She'll learn all about the fascinating profession of being a winemaker, and will get to taste the wines and enjoy other local delicacies during the winemaker's meal.


Rent-a-vine in France this Christmas with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience gift.


Your brother is a fan of all things organic? All of our partner winemakers are organically certified and passionate about the sustainability of their vineyards. He'll discover the challenges or producing organic wine, and will learn about the organic treatments used to care for the vines. An original organic Christmas Gift!

Here are a just few ideas of unusual Christmas gifts for wine enthusiasts. Thanks to the unique and down to earth approach to wine of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, your recipient will appreciate one of the personalised Christmas gift packs.

And to have something to open on Christmas Day in front of the tree, the welcome gift pack includes some goodies such as a wine waiter's apron, a DropStop, a personalised certificate and details of the chosen Wine Experience. Who said that Father Christmas wasn't a wine lover?

More information on the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Harvest 2013 in Chablis

We spent two excellent days last weekend at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for the Harvest Experience days.  The grapes took their time to ripen this year, but with the rain at the start of October, everyone is now in the vines to gather the harvest in as quickly as possible.  Luckily we had some very motivated clients to help get stuck in!

Rent-a-vine gift wine experience in Chablis, Burgundy, France

After the introductions to the winery, we headed off to the vineyard to join Micheline, the head of the team of harvesters.  Equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs each, we spread out among the rows to start picking the grapes.

Original wine enthusiast gift. Adopt vines in Burgundy and get involved in the harvest.

As soon as we filled the buckets, we called for one of our apprentice porters to come so we could empty the grapes into the baskets they were carrying on their backs.  Our brave porters then had to empty the baskets over their heads into the awaiting trailer, something that isn't as easy as it looks!

Harvest Experience Gift

We then followed the grapes journey to the fermentation hall to look at the wine presses that receive the harvest.  Here, we listened to the explanations of how the presses work and learnt about the first stages of fermentation that will transform the grape juice into wine.

Wine lover gift in Chablis.

After all of the morning's works, the tasting of the wines produced by the winery was most welcome!  We started with a tasting of some of the biodynamic wines: the Petit Chablis "Les Plantes" and the  Chablis "La Boissonneuse", followed by the Chablis Premier Cru "Les Vaudevey" and "Vaulorent", before finishing with the Chablis Grand Cru "Les Preuses".

Once we had enjoyed the harvesters' meal, we went to see our adopted vines in the Boissonneuse vineyard.  As usual, out came the cameras to take a few souvenir pictures!

Organic rent-a-vine gift in Chablis, France.

Many thanks to all of our enthusiastic harvesters, and to Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard for having welcomed us.

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First Harvest Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte

Last Saturday was the first time that we ran a Harvest Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte, and here is a small resum of how it went:

09:30 For this first Harvest Experience Day at Domaine la Cabotte, the day was forecast to be cloudy, but thankfully there shouldn't be any rain before tomorrow. Ideal conditions for harvesting without getting too hot. Everybody looked motivated, we'd find out once we're in the vineyard !

  Domaine La Cabotte

Marie-Pierre, the owner of the winery along with her husband Eric, introduced us to the region and the history of Domaine la Cabotte, and explained why the harvest this year is 2-3 weeks later than in a normal year.

10:00 We started the day in the plot where the adopted vines are located to see and take a few pictures of our vines. Eric explained that the grapes are not as abundant as usual, and that they are not quite mature enough to be picked, so we headed off to another plot of white Grenache grapes lower down in the vineyard.

2013 Harvest La Cabotte 

10:30 The buckets and secateurs were awaiting us, and after Eric explained how to harvest the bunches, we spread out amongst the rows in pairs to get down to work! In the middle of the first row, the sun came out and it started to heat up. Would we get to the end?! Marie-Pierre kept our spirits up by making us think of the wine tasting and meal to come! After the first row and a quick refreshment stop, we set off to harvest a second row each - uphill this time! We must have started to get the hang of it, because we were getting much quicker, or was it in anticipation of the wine tasting?!

2013 Harvest La Cabotte

13:00 Mission accomplished in filling the two trailers with grapes. We followed them back to the chai where we emptied our harvest into the press and set it going for 2 hours of pressing. Eric reckoned that it would give about 1000 litres of juice. Whilst waiting for the press to do its thing, we quenched our thirst by tasting some of the estate's wines. We started with the Colline Ctes du Rhne white wine, made from the same plot that we had just harvested, but last year in 2012. We then tasted the Colline red and the Gabriel 2011.

Wine Tasting La Cabotte 

13:30 Under the shade of the trees, we continued the tasting with the Garance 2011, accompanied by the delicious home-made meal prepared by Marie-Pierre. We ended the meal with cheese and desert accompanied by the Sauvageonne 2012 white wine.
15h00 After the coffee and the meal, it was difficult to get going again, but the hard work was now behind us. As the press finished the last part of its cycle, Eric explained the differences between working with the harvest for white and red wines, and talked us through the first stages of fermentation. We then finished the day by tasting the juice from the grapes that we had harvested and that from another lot which had been picked a few days earlier. Having finished being pressed, the juice from our harvest was then put into a refrigerated vat. The discarded stems, skin and pips will then be taken to the distillery. Finally we had harvested enough to produce some 1500 litres of juice! 

Juice Tasting La Cabotte
Many thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre and to all of our guests for a thoroughly enjoyable day!


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Discovery Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher

And last weekend we were also at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace for a Discovery Experience Day in the vineyard.
Adopt your own vines and make your own wine with Gourmet Odyssey

Above is a photo of our apprentice winemakers in front of the Rosenberg vineyard, where their adopted pinot gris vines are located.

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Training the vines at Domaine la Cabotte

Last Saturday, we spent a very enjoyable and sunny day in the Rhone Valley with Marie-Pierre and Eric, the winemakers at Domaine la Cabotte.  We were there for a Discovery Experience Day to learn more about winemaking, notably the all important work in the vineyard.

Following the coffee and introductions, we headed to the area of the vineyard where the Gourmet Odyssey vines are located.  A small personalised blackboard identified the micro-plot of adopted vines for each client, and we took a few minutes to get to know them!

Rent a wine in France with Gourmet Odyssey

The vineyard at Domaine la Cabotte is organically and biodynamically certified, which means paying special attention to the vines and their environment.  Eric explained the difference between the conventional, organic, and biodynamic approaches to tending to the vines.

Adopt your own vines

We then walked to the lower part of the vineyard where Eric and Marie-Pierre had set aside some work for us to do.  On the way, Eric showed us the different grape varietals planted in the vineyard and brought us up to date with the work that has been already done during the winter and spring.

Make your own wine with Gourmet Odyssey in France

Our task for the day was training the vines, which involves raising the training wires and ensuring that each of the branches grow inside the wires.  This helps the vines by supporting the weight of the foliage and future grapes, and also helps to keep a clear passage for the tractors.
Eric & Marie-Pierre showed us how to pull the wires apart, raise them and then attach them together using a small clip.  We then spread out in the vineyard to get stuck in!

Wine tasting in France

Working in the vineyard is good for opening up the taste buds!  Back at the winery, we started the tasting with a fresh white wine from the estate, which was most welcome after the heat in the vineyard.  We then tasted the Côtes du Rhône Massif d'Uchaux Garance, which is the red wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, followed by the winery's Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Tasting Organic wines in France with Gourmet Odyssey

We continued the wine tasting in the chai over lunch.

Adopt your own vines and make your wine

In the afternoon, we went for a short walk, following the path through the wood and vines.  This enabled us to discover the different terroirs and Eric also showed us a plot that he had recently replanted.

Discovery winemakers and make your wine

The day finished back in the chai.  Here Eric introduced us to the vinification side of winemaking and talked more about biodynamic winemaking.

Rent vines in France with Gourmet Odyssey

Many thanks to Eric and Marie-Pierre, and to all those who came to share the day with us.  See you soon for the harvest!

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Work in the vineyard in Chinon

Last weekend we spent two thoroughly enjoyable Discovery Experience Days in the vineyard at Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon.  The winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, was with us to explain and show us what is involved in being a winemaker.

We started the day in the Clos de la Bonnelière, the vineyard where the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey clients are located. We took a few minutes to find our vines before getting down to more serious matters!

A couple of winemakers in the vineyard

Marc brought us up to date with all of the work that has already been carried out in the vineyard during the winter to protect them from the cold, and to prune them in time for this year's campaign.

The vines are presently about three weeks behind a normal year, so we are still in the process of de-budding and raising the training wires. Marc explained the importance of de-budding to ensure better quality grapes come harvest time by removing the canes that won't produce any fruit or those that will just sap energy from the plant. Then it was time for us to get stuck in!

Marc the winemaker of the Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon

Marc also showed us how to raise the training wires to better support the vine branches and the weight of the grapes to come. We raised the wires and attached them together using clips.

Raising the training wire

And for the more courageous, we also used some hoes to remove the weeds from around the feet of the vines that the plough blade couldn't get to. It's a physical job, but helps to open up the taste buds for the wine tasting!

Removing the weeds from around the feet of the vines

As an aperitif, Marc opened his delicious "Perle Sauvage" sparkling white wine. It's a natural wine with nothing added to it... 100% pure fruit!

During the meal, we continued the tasting with a range of the organic white and red wines that the winery produces, including the "Clos de la Bonnelière", which is the wine selected by Gourmet Odyssey and which won gold medal at the Millésime Bio organic wine fair this year.

Wines tasting during the winemaker meal

After lunch, we headed to the vinification hall, where Marc showed us the fermentation tanks, and introduced us to the work in the chai.

In the vinification hall

The day finished in the winery's cellar which is located directly underneath the Chinon Fortress. In this magical place, we discovered the barrels used to age the wines, the thousands of bottles that are resting, and the machine used to turn the bottles of sparkling wine.

In the cellar
Many thanks to Marc and to all the clients who shared this happy moment with us.

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Discovery Experience Days in the Chablis vineyard

We spent a sunny weekend among the Chablis vines at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.  It did the world of good to have the feeling that summer had finally arrived!  We were there for two Discovery Experience Days, which are designed to find out more about the profession of being a winemaker, and principally, the devotion and work carried out in the vineyard to obtain the best possible grapes come harvest time.

Chablis vineyard

Following the introductions to the winery and the Chablis region, we headed straight out to the Boissonneuse vineyard, which was the winery's first plot to be converted to organic and biodynamic culture.  Each client had adopted some vines, and it is here that they are to be found.

Adopt a vine gift

We took a few moments to take some pictures and so that each person could acquaint themselves with their vines!

Arnauld, who is a member of the vine team, accompanied us to explain the detailed work that is carried out in the vineyard throughout the year.

Working in the vineyard

The vines are currently two to three weeks behind a normal year.  We are still therefore at the stage of de-budding.  Arnauld showed us how to reduce the number of branches on each vine to encourage better quality grapes for the coming harvest.  It was then down to us to roll up our sleeves and start de-budding!

De-budding is almost as complex as pruning, because you always have to keep in mind how to rejuvenate the plant and to think of which branches will be best for the following year.  But the best way to learn, or at least appreciate the complexity of the task, is to get stuck in!

Debudding in the vineyard at Chablis

Arnauld also showed us how to raise the training wires to better support the weight of the vine foliage and grapes to come, and to better space the growth.
A large proportion of the winery's vines are treated biodynamically.  This approach to working means that the winemaker has to be very attentive to the health of the vines, and to treat them in harmony with the surrounding terroir and environment.  Arnauld explained the different preparations that are administered using cow dung, and plants such as stinging nettles.  They are used as preventative treatments for the vines against diseases, and to give them more strength.

back at the winery, we tasted the range of biodynamic wines.  To start, the Petit Chablis "Les Plantes", followed by the wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey, the Chablis "Boissonneuse".  We then moved on to the Chablis Premier Cru "Vaulorent" and the Chablis Grand Cru "Les Preuses" before sitting down to lunch with a few other Chablis and Irancy wines.

Wine Tasting in Chablis

The afternoon started in the cellar where Pierre presented us the exposed cut of earth that shows the uniqueness of the Kimmeridgian stone that Chablis wines gain much of their characteristics from.

In the cellar

We then headed to the cuverie.  Here, we saw the different types of vats that used to vinify and age the wines.  Pierre introduced us to some of the choices the winemaker must take to age the wines, something that we will go into much more detail during the Vinification Experience Days.

Fermentation Hall

Very many thanks to all our clients who participated in the days.  We hope that you left appreciating a little more about the fascinating and passionate profession of winemaking!

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Wine Discovery Experience Days in Bordeaux

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

Bordeaux Vineyard

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

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

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

Adopted vines

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


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

Protecting the young vines

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

Wine tasting

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

Winemakers meal

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

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


In the cellar

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

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Vinification Experience Day in Chinon

Last weekend, we were welcomed by Marc Plouzeau, the winemaker at Château de la Bonnelière, for two Wine Experience Days covering the vinification, ageing and blending aspects of wine making.

Wine Making Gift Experience in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The day started at the winery with a hot drink and some croissants to get to know each other.  Marc Plouzeau then introduced us to the winery and its history, the different terroirs of the region and his vision of organic wine.  It was then time to start the practical side of proceedings!

Adopt your own vines in Chinon, France

The first workshop concentrated on our senses.  One of the most difficult things to do when tasting wine is to find the words to describe it and to explain why we like it or don't like it.   To help us, we had to identify the aromas contained in small flasks.  Some were easy to name, whilst other proved more subtle and difficult to pinpoint.  We identified the aromas in wine that are the result of the fruit and terroir, and those that are obtained when the wine is aged in oak barrels.

Gift for making your own wine in France, Loire Valley

We then headed to the chai to see the vats and some of the barrels.  Marc explained the choices he takes to produce the wine to the high standards he expects, and we learnt that it's a very detailed process where a small error can have a large impact on the quality of the wine.  He talked us through the fermentation process, when the sugar in the grapes is transformed into alcohol, and the malo lactic fermentation, when the wine becomes rounder by decreasing some of the acidity.  He also explained the difference between a wine aged in the vats and that which is aged in oak barrels.

Rent-a-vine Gift in France.

Then off to the vineyard to get some fresh air.  We stopped off to say hello to our adopted vines and to take some photos!

Wine tasting gift, red wine in Chinon, Loire Valley, France

The morning now finished, we set off for the cellar to begin the wine tasting and to enjoy our meal.  The cellar, located under the Fortress of Chinon, is a very special place and was dug out by hand a couple of hundred years ago.  We started the tasting with a sparkling wine that has no added sulphur, the 'Perles Sauvages' 2011, and is perfect for an aperitif.  We then sat down to eat amongst the barrels in the cellar.  During the meal we tasted some of the different red wines, including the 'Clos de la Bonnelière 2011', which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey clients.

Oenology course in France with Gourmet Odyssey

A short tour of the cellar to digest the meal and wines, and then it was time to start the final workshop of the day to learn how to blend wine.
We split into groups and tasted 5 different wines from the 2012 vintage that are still in the process of ageing.  The wines were chosen to show the specificity between different Chinon terroirs and the choice of ageing in a barrel or vat.  There was also a press wine to bring more structure.  We then started to blend our own wines.  The aim was to find the best harmony by mixing different wines together.  Not as easy as it sounds, but when done right, the blend can make something much more interesting than any one of the wines on its own.

Many thanks to Marc Plouzeau for letting us in on his fascinating profession, one that is rich, varied and very interesting.  Thanks also to our apprentice winemakers for getting stuck in and we hope that you has as enjoyable day as we did!

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What to get the person that has everything ?

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

From € 159


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