Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Tagged articles : Organic

What Christmas gift to give a wine lover?


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

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

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


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

Gift for wine lover with Gourmet Odyssey

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

Adopt a vine with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

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

 

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

 

Experience day gift in Saint Emilion

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

 

Harvest day with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

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

 

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

 

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

 

organic harvest experience with gourmet Odyssey

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

 

Wine experience gift in Saint Emilion

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

 

Follow a winemaker during a day with Gourmet Odyssey

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

 

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

 

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



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

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

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

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

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

Getting involved in picking the grapes

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

We emptied our grapes into the trailer

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

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

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

Cleaning the buckets

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

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

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

Charlotte explains the work in the chai during the harvest.

 

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

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

Our adopted organic vines

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

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

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

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The 2022 Gourmet Odyssey harvest gets underway in Burgundy


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

 

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

 

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

 

Meeting the adopted vines

 

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

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

 

The top quality grapes waiting to be picked

 

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

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

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

 

Our harvesters in action

 

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

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

 

Our lovely grapes in the crates

 

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

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

 

The 2020 Santenay Villages white wine aperitif

 

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

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

 

Sorting the grapes

 

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

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

 

The grapes are carried into the vat using the giraffe

 

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

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

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

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

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The key steps involved in wine tasting


Who hasn’t thought how great it would be to taste wine like a professional sommelier?  Gourmet Odyssey shares a few tips with you to amaze your friends with when you next share a bottle of wine!

Step 1 : The look

The first step is to place your glass of wine above a clear white surface, ideally in the light.  You’ll be able to judge how clear it is based on the number of particles that are held in suspension, and gauge its level of acidity.  If you can see thick tears form on the inside of the glass, it’s a sign that the wine is full-bodied, and inversely if the tears are finer and flow more quickly, the wine is likely to be more acidic.

 

Analyse the robe

 

You can also pick up some clues regarding the wine’s age to indicate whether the wine is likely to be young or old.  For red wines, the colour changes from bright red or purple for the youngest wines to a rusty colour for the older ones.  And for the white wines, from pale yellow or even green to a deep amber colour.

Step 2 : The nose

This phase is done in two parts.  Without moving the glass, place your nose over the glass and take in a big sniff. This is known as the first nose.  Then swill the wine carefully around the glass a few times to oxygenate the wine and liberate the less volatile aromas before sniffing again.  This is known as the second nose.  Often, there is a big difference between the first and second noses.

 

Smell the different aromas in the wine

 

There are different types of aromas; primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas.  The primary aromas come from the grapes themselves, and there are a wide range of smells such as floral ones (acacia, honeysuckle, jasmin, rose, lilac etc.), fruity aromas (pineapple, apple, lemon, mango, peach, apricot, raspberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, etc.), vegetal aromas (aniseed, thyme, grass, pepper, fennel etc.), or spicy aromas (cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, etc.)

The secondary aromas come from the fermentation, and we can find three distinct types.  There are those that are produced by the fermentation process such as brioche, yeast or biscuit.  There are also the milky aromas such as butter, yoghurt or milk, and the alcoholic aromas such as boiled sweets, nail polish, or banana.

The tertiary aromas develop during the ageing process, several months after the harvest.  Oak barrels give woody aromas such as cedar, oak, vanilla, and eucalyptus, spicy aromas such as pepper, cinnamon, and liquorice, or toasted aromas such as toast, coffee, grilled almonds, or tabaco.

Step 3 : The taste

 

Taste the wine

 

When finally getting to the tasting stage, take a small amount of wine in the mouth, breath in a little air between the lips, swill the wine around the mouth, then breath out of the nose to let the taste and aromas to develop, before swallowing the wine or spitting it out.    
There are three moments to take note of:
-    The attack.  What impression does the wine give the moment you take it into your mouth?  It can be weak, strong, or intense.  
-    The mid-palate.  Analyse the texture of the wine and the aromas.  Is it smooth, acidic, are there any new aromas that have developed since step 2?
-    The finish.  Once you’ve swallowed the wine, what sensation prevails, and how long does the taste last?  If there are lots of tannins present it will have a longer finish, and a wine that is fruitier is likely to have a shorter finish. 

Using our senses is very important in tasting wine, and by following these stages, you will be able to comment on a wine more easily, and to compare it with others.  Wine-tasting skills improve with practice and remembering the characteristics of the wines that you have previously tasted.  You can always use a notebook to write down your thoughts.  And remember the two most important things when tasting wine.  It starts with “I like the wine, or I don’t”.  And secondly, we all have our own perceptions of smell and taste, and so it is remains very subjective!

To develop your wine tasting skills further, you can participate in a Vinification Experience Day and learn directly from the winemaker and a Gourmet Odyssey wine expert.  Each of the partner wineries are organically certified, and the wine-making course teaches you about all that happens in the cellar from the harvest, right up until the moment when the wine is ready for drinking  During the day, you’ll see how the fermentation phases change the structure of the wine, participate in a wine-tasting workshop to help you develop your senses, taste wines that are in the ageing process, and get involved in blending different wines.   

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Removing the shoots form the vine trunks

 

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

 

Removing the leaves

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Visiting the fermentation hall

 

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

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

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Learning about the work in the cellar to make wine


We enjoyed hosting the Vinification Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière in the charming Loire Valley town of Chinon.  It’s the last of three types of day proposed in the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the theme being to discover the work of the wine-maker in the cellar to make, age and prepare the wines for bottling.

 

Wine Experience Days in the Loire Valley to discover the work in the cellar

 

The days started at the entrance to the winery’s cellar, located in the centre of Chinon, directly beneath the fortress.  It’s a breathtaking place, and we enjoyed a coffee and croissant outside in the warm sunshine.

Marc explained his family’s history and that of the winery, and then talked to us about the Chinon wine appellation and the vintage that is currently ageing in the cellar, bringing us all up to speed, ready to start the day!  The aim was to understand all that happens after the harvest, and the choices that the wine-maker takes to shape the taste, structure and aroma of the wine.

The cellar is used to age the wines in the barrels until they are ready for bottling and drinking.  Marc uses French oak barrels between 400l and 600l, which are larger than standard barrels so that the wine isn’t as marked by the wood.

The wines are made according to the vineyard plot and type of soil.  In Chinon, there are three principal soil types: sand, clay limestone, and flint.  Each type of soil gives a different style of wine, and so Marc adapts the choices he makes accordingly.  The wines from the sandy soil are aged in vats, the majority of the clay limestone wines are aged in oak barrels for 12 months, and the flint wines are aged in oak barrels for between 24 and 30 months.

 

Tasting wines from the barrel

 

We had the privilege of tasting some of the wines that are still undergoing the ageing process, which is something that is very rare to do.  As the wines weren’t yet finished, they held a few surprises for us!

It had been a full morning, and Louise added a few additional explanations on the history of the cellar and the Chinon Fortress.  We then made our way to Château de la Bonnelière, where Claudine, Marc’s wife, and the sun were waiting for us, along with a nice fresh glass of sparkling wine, in the château’s courtyard.

 

Tasting wines in the château’s courtyard

 

We then sat down to lunch in the barn, and revelled in the different courses and locally produced asparagus, goat’s cheese and strawberries, accompanied by Marc’s delicious wines.

Difficult afterwards to get up from the table, and as much as some of us would have liked to settle down to a nice siesta, we headed out to meet our adopted vines in the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard.  This is the historical plot of the winery and was planted in the 1980’s by Marc’s dad.

The fermentation hall was the next stop to see where the grapes are received at harvest time, and how they are transformed into wine during the fermentation and maceration stages.

 

The vats and barrels used in the fermentation hall

 

Marc explained his secrets for making good wine : Time, care, and love of what you are doing...

The day finished with a visit of the room used to bottle and label the wines, bringing to a close a great time spent exchanging knowledge, ideas, laughs and opinions.  We love spending these moments with you, and look forward to seeing you again in Chinon or at another of our partner wineries soon. 

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Learning about the fermentation of wine

 

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

 

The wine tasting workshop

 

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

 

Wine blending workshop

 

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

 

The organic Saint-Emilion wines tasted during lunch

 

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

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

 

Visiting our adopted merlot vines

 

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

 

Visiting the cellar where the wine is labelled and stored

 

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

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Meeting our adopted vines

 

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

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

 

Raising the training wires

 

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

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

 

Visiting the private cellar containing the old vintage bottles.

 

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

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

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Jérôme explains how to prune the vines

 

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

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

 

Chéli and Jérôme show us how to attach the échalas vines

 

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

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

 

Getting involved in the work in the vineyard

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Lunch and wine-tasting in the shade

 

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

 

Visiting our adopted vines

 

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

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

 

Visiting the chai

 

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

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Discovering the work in an organic Burgundy vineyard


We were blessed with a lovely summer day to welcome the apprentice winemakers to Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay.  This hands-on wine-making experience day is designed so that wine lovers can learn more about all of the work in the vineyard needed to produce the best quality grapes.

 

A wine Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle to learn about the work in the vineyard

 

In the château’s garden, overlooking the vines, Jean-François explained the history of his family, the winery and the development of Burgundy wines.  The terroir, the grape varietals, and the winemakers are the major influences on the quality of wine, something that was important to Jean-François to emphasise as an introduction to the day.

We made our way down into the vineyard to start the day by meeting our adopted vines, and giving them some gentle words of encouragement in producing a good harvest this year! There were lots of photos taken, some of them very original for the “My Vine” photo competition.

 

Meeting our adopted vines

 

Simon, the son of Jean-François, is now in charge of the production side of things at the winery, and he explained the work that is carried out in the vineyard throughout the year’s cycle, including working the soil, and the treatments used in organic winemaking.

The main work in the vineyard at the moment is de-budding, which involves removing some of the unwanted shoots to stop the vines from producing too many grapes and from wasting energy on non fruit-bearing branches.  It also helps to improve the airflow around the vines and grapes which will help reduce the risk of mildew setting in.  A good air flow is very important in organic farming to dry the leaves and grapes as soon as possible.

There are a few important details to take into consideration.  First we need to identify which branches are well placed to act as the spur during pruning and so produce the branches for next year.  We also need to be sure not to damage the fruit-bearing branches that we wish to keep for this year, and to clean the old wooden branches by brushing them to remove any potential buds that might yet sprout into life.

 

Simon explains how to de-bud the vines

 

It’s a delicate job that demands a skilled eye, and is something that needs to be achieved in 3 weeks throughout all of the winery’s vineyards, before the branches become too thick to be easily removed.  That’s why the winery hires an extra 10 seasonal workers during this period to bolster the team of permanent staff.

The help of our apprentice winemakers was therefore very much appreciated!  We each had a go, and despite our worries of not doing a good job, we soon gained confidence!

After our effort, we reconvened back at the winery for a nice fresh glass of Santenay white wine, accompanied by some gougères.  We then sat down to a delicious lunch which had been prepared by a local caterer from Meursault. We tasted three other wines from Domaine Chapelle, a Burgundy white, a Santenay Clos des Cornières red, and a Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières. 

 

Organic wine tastings at Domaine Chapelle

 

We started the afternoon with a walk through the vineyards to have a look at a plot that had recently been replanted.  Simon showed us the surrounding landscape and explained how the different terroir determines the quality of the wine.  He then shared with us how to plant new vines and the consequences of doing so.  

 

Simon showed us a newly planted vineyard

 

The old vines had been pulled out, and the vineyard plot left fallow for 3 years to regenerate the soil.  The new vines were planted in 2021 just before a severe frost, and around 20% of the vines perished as a result, so the winery has had to replace the dead ones.  For a further three years the vines will concentrate on developing their root system, and there will be no harvest, so the winery will have to wait around 7 years before the whole plot is productive again. The cost of replanting a vineyard is substantial for the winemaker, but is necessary to successfully transfer the winery on to the following generations.

After, this very interesting discussion in the vineyard, we returned for a quick tour of the cellar, which gave us a good introduction to the Vinification Experience Day for those that will be coming back or want to add the day.

It was a great day and we loved sharing it with you.  We hope to see you again soon at Domaine Chapelle or another of our partner wineries!

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Clément explains the work in the vineyard

 

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

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

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

 

We all had a go at de-budding the vines

 

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

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

 

Planting new vines in the vineyard

 

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

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

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

 

Visiting our organic adopted vines

 

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

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

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Wine-making experience gift in the Terrasses du Larzac


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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Clément explains the work during the fermentation and maceration stages

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Blind tasting different wines

 

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

 

Clément blends wines with us

 

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

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

 

Enjoying lunch and wine tasting

 

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

 

Visiting our adopted vines

 

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

 

The bottling machine

 

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

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Learning the art of organic wine-making in Alsace


Céline and Stéphane warmly welcomed us to Domaine Stentz-Buecher to learn about all the work in the cellar after the harvest right up until the moment when the wine is bottled, labelled, packaged and ready to be enjoyed!   This organic winery in Alsace is run by the brother and sister duo, and as we would learn from them, there is much more to making wine that you might at first imagine!

 

A Vinification Experience Day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher

 

After the introductions and welcome coffee, we made a quick visit to our adopted vines that are located in the Rosenberg vineyard, as it is after all here that the wine starts out.  Without the best quality grapes, it’s very difficult to make a good wine!  We took a few photos of our vines, and Céline explained the different terroir of the surrounding vineyards, a great foundation for some of the wines we would taste later in the day.

 

Visiting our adopted vines in the Rosenberg vineyard

 

Back at the winery, we followed the journey that the grapes take during harvest time.  Stéphane explained how the grapes are pressed for the white wines, and how the pinot noir grapes are separated from their stems and put directly into the vats for the maceration to take place during the alcoholic fermentation phase.
We visited the barrel room to see where the red and white wines that are aged in oak barrels rest.  Stéphane explained the benefits the barrels bring through the micro-oxygenation process, and how it’s important to keep the barrels topped up to replace the angel’s share that is lost to evaporation.

 

Pinot noir wines ageing in oak barrels

 

We then made our way into the fermentation hall where the vast majority of the winery’s white wines are stored.  Stéphane talked us through the fermentation phases and explained the differences between the ancient oak casks and the more recent stainless-steel vats.   
He gave us a taste of the 2021 Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine that is still in the ageing process and won’t be ready until later in the year.  It was very interesting to taste, as it’s very unusual to get the chance to taste a wine that hasn’t yet finished.  We then compared it to a wine that is still in the malo-lactic fermentation phase.  Straight away we could see that the second wine was cloudier, had a slightly yeasty smell, and fizzed a little in the mouth.

 

Tasting wine direct from the vat

 

Stéphane explained how the wines will change during the ageing process, and he passionately explained his vision of wine-making, and drummed home the importance to him of deliberately reducing the quantity of grapes produced to be able to make more concentrated and aromatic wines.  
We then headed out into the courtyard to make the most of the sun, and to start tasting some of the finished wines.   Céline had prepared a blind tasting for us to highlight the difference between grape varietals and the impact that different terroir can have. 

 

A blind tasting session of the range of Alsace wines

 

We then sat down to a traditional Alsace lunch of choucroute, local cheeses, and Black Forest gateau, all accompanied with more wines.  By the end of the meal, we had tasted three different Riesling wines including a Riesling Steingrubler Grand Cru, the 2019 vintage of the Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the 2017 Pinot Gris Pfersigberg Grand Cru, a Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wine, two Gewurztraminer wines including the 2019 Hengst Grand Cru, and the Who Am I? wine that is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.   The variety and range of wines was extraordinary.
In the afternoon, we headed back down into the cellar to learn all about the final stages of the wine-making process to bottle the wines.  Stéphane explained how the wines are filtered to remove any remaining lee particles and showed us the bottling machine that fills and corks the bottles. 

 

The labelling mchine

 

We then moved onto the machine used to label and put the capsules over the tops of the bottles, and the final machine that tapes us the boxes.

 

The wine library

 

The day ended in the wine library where Stéphane and Céline have an impressive collection of their old vintage wines.  Many thanks to all of the participants for helping make it such a fun day, and to the winemakers for opening their doors and talking about their job in such a no-nonsense and frank way.

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Learning about planting vines and the work in the vineyard in Saint-Emilion


We met up last weekend at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for a Discovery Experience Day with Gourmet Odyssey, the aim being to better understand all the work necessary in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes, because to make good wine, you need good grapes!

Adopt a vine in Bordeaux and get involved in making your own personalised bottles of organic wine

We started to get to know each other over a coffee and croissant with Adrien David-Beaulieu, one of the owners and winemakers of the winery.  His family have been running the estate for over 400 years, something that is very rare for this famous Bordeaux wine region that has attracted many investors who buy up family-run wineries to promote their brands. One of the peculiarities of Château Coutet is that it has always been organic.  We were privileged to be in a place that has been preserved from intensive farming techniques, and where each action is carried out with the respect of nature and the biodiversity in mind.

Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, introduced us to the programme and our task for the day, the planting of new vines.

After distributing the tools, we walked through the vines, admiring the rare wild tulips that thrive here.  The radii tulip, bright red in colour, and the yellow sylvestris tulip were both brought to the area by the Romans many years ago and are now extremely rare.  They have been preserved at the winery because no chemical weedkillers have ever been used in the vineyards. Instead, the grass is either mowed or ploughed to keep it in check.

 

adopt a vines in Bordeaux with Gourmet Odyssey

 

At the top of the limestone slope, Adrien stopped to show us the view and explain the different terroir that make up the Saint-Emilion wine region.  Merlot is the king grape varietal here, and thrives on the limestone plateau, accompanied by some cabernet franc, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon vines.

In front of our adopted vines, we understood a little better the life of our vines, and what work lies ahead in nurturing them up until the harvest.

Our adopted vines are located in the Peycocut vineyard up on the limestone plateau, just a few hundred metres away from the village and surrounded by the most famous Grand Cru Classé names of the Saint-Emilion appellation.  The view is fantastic, particularly on this nice day that heralded the beginning of spring.

 

Participate Discovery Experience days at Gourmet Odyssey

 

Our job for the day was to replace some of the missing vines.  When tilling the soil, sometimes the metal plough can damage the vines which then subsequently wither and die.  At the end of winter, they need to be replaced, before the buds start to burst.

In pairs, one person prepared the baby vines by trimming the roots to enable them to better take hold in the soil.

 

Prepare the vines for planting with Gourmet Odyssey

 

The other person dug the holes for the vines in the places that Adrien had pointed out.  Everyone then got their hands dirty by planting the vines and pressing down the earth around them.

 

Planting the vines with Gourmet Odyssey in Bordeaux

 

By the time we’d finished, it was the end of the morning and time for the aperitif!  We enjoyed a nice glass of the Claret de Coutet, a refreshing wine that is somewhere between a red and a rosé wine.

The Gourmet Odyssey caterer had prepared a delicious lunch for us, starting with some foie gras and port jelly, that had been paired with the 2019 Château Belles-Cimes, the second wine that is made using the younger vines and grapes from lighter terroir.

 

Participate to wine tasting with Gourmet Odyssey

 

The 2017 Château Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru was the next wine to be tasted, and is made up from the three different types of terroir at the winery; the limestone plateau, the clay hillside, and the more sandy plain, and the four grape varietals.  It’s longer finish and more pronounced aromatic intensity was perfect with the duck breast.  Our tasting ended with the fantastic 2018 Demoiselles wine, made from the oldest plots of vines that are worked by horse up on the limestone plateau.  A deep wine with lots of finesse, it went very well with the caramel desert.

After lunch, Adrien explained some of the advantages and challenges of working organically, and we then visited the chai and private cellar where the family keeps their old vintage wines dating back to the 1950’s.

 

Visiting the family cellar Château Coutet in Bordeaux

 

We’d spent a very enjoyable afternoon in Adrien’s company, and we look forward to coming back to this magical place for other Discovery Experience Days later in the season, and for the Harvest Experience Days in September time.

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Make your own organic Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet wine at Chateau Cohola


We’re delighted to present the wine-makers at the latest partner winery to join the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.  Cheli and Jerome are the owners and wine-makers at Château Cohola in Sablet and you can now adopt some organic vines in the Cotes du Rhone in the stunning setting next to the Dentelles de Montmirail.

Chateau Cohola is located on the slopes that make up the great terroir of the AOC Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet.  This boutique winery is organically certified and has 4 hectares of vines planted on 15 terraces, made up of Syrah and Grenache Noir for the red and rosé wines, and Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne for the white wines.  The vines take up half of the winery, the other half being used for the olive, truffle, and cherry trees, and the bee hives for producing the winery’s honey.

We met up with Cheli & Jerome to ask them a few questions for our wine-maker profile series and to get to know them better. 

Discover how to make organic wine in the Cotes du Rhone

Cheli and Jerome, how long have you been wine-makers?

Our journey has always been intimately linked to wine.  We studied wine related courses at university and then pursued careers with Bordeaux and Burgundy wine merchants before finally ending up in the Rhone Valley. After creating our wine merchant business in 2002, we decided to buy a winery in Sablet in 2013, and so Château Cohola was born.

What has been your journey since you took over the winery?

Since taking over the winery in 2013, we have developed the organic methods used, drawing on the natural habitat that surround us.  Over the years, we have painstakingly restored the 15 terraces of the vineyards.  Our other passion is beekeeping.  We have around a hundred bee hives that produce delicious lavender and wild flower honey. We also have olive and cherry trees.

What is your best memory so far concerning the winery?

A few instantly come to mind.  Perhaps the strongest memory, and one that was a turning point for the winery was meeting an exceptional shepherd which in turn led to us welcoming his flock of sheep to graze on the grass in our vineyards.  The complicity between the animal and the vegetal showed us that nature was in equilibrium.

We also get a thrill at the end of June when the vegetation is in full development and the photosynthesis in full flow as the cicadas sing.

The harvest period is also a very exciting time in the year, a physical period, but also very motivating as it’s the result of a whole year’s work.  It symbolises the unfaltering effort and diligence of each of us in nurturing the vines through to harvest time.

And more recently, welcoming the actor Jean Dujradin to film a scene in the vineyard for his latest film was an unforgettable experience.  We were very happy to have been able to share some time with him on the set of “Les Chemins de Pierre”.  One of the scenes was filmed just next to the plot where the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey apprentice wine-makers are located.

What are your principal projects or challenges for the coming months?

The main challenge that our wine-making region is facing is how to adapt to the changing climate and the chronic water shortage that is setting in.  Our organic vines are better prepared in periods of drought, but we need to go further in the research of the farming and wine-making techniques that we use.  We have had very little rain since the beginning of the year, and that has repercussions that can delay the bud burst and reduce the yield.  We need to study the use of irrigation, not to boost production, but to support the vines.  By evaluating the humidity, the water storing capacity of our soil, and studying weather patterns, we will be able to determine the irrigation system that is best adapted to supporting our vines.

On the wine-making side of things, we are very happy with the launch of our new, limited series, “TBF” wine.  It is a blend of our three types of ageing methods used.  T for “Terre” (earth) because some of the wine is aged in an earthenware amphora.  B for “Bois” (wood) and the 500 litre oak barrels from the Seguin-Moreau cooperage used for some of the wine.  And F for “Fer” (iron), and the stainless steel barrel used to age the remaining wine.  After blending and bottling, the bottles are sealed using the bees wax from our hives.

A question that our clients often ask. What do winemakers do when they have a little time to themselves?

Time is always short, but rest is always necessary.  To keep in touch with nature I do Nordic walking, and as a couple we regularly do pilates and yoga.  We also like to cook and receive guests.  Whether its family or friends, it’s essential for us to share our experiences and slices of life.

Learn more about adopting vines at Château Cohola

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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 € 169 154

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