Adopt a Vine and Make Your Own Wine

with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

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Tagged articles : Organic

Working in an organic vineyard in the Loire Valley


Throughout June, we had the pleasure of organising the Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Days again at Château de la Bonnelière and to get to meet our adopted vines once more!  After this chaotic year, we were very happy to enjoy and share these fun times!

 

Rent-a-vine gift in the Loire Valley

 

The welcome coffee, taken in the château’s barn, enabled us to get to know the winery and its owner, Marc Pouzeau.  Château de la Bonnelière is a family run winery which Marc has been running since taking over from his father in 1999.

 

Wine-maker gift experience

 

To help get us acquainted, Marc explained the Chinon appellation system, and the location of the winery’s different vineyard plots, all of which are to be found on the left bank of the River Vienne.  He also explained his philosophy for working organically, and how he strives to produce wines that express the uniqueness of each plot of vines.

We then headed into the Clos de la Bonnelière vineyard, where our adopted vines are located. We started by taking a few photos to remember the moment by!

 

Organic adopt-a-vine gift experience in the Loire Valley

 

The aim of the day was to learn about all the different stages of work in the vineyard.  Marc brought us up to speed on what his team had been busy doing since the last harvest, with particular emphasis on the most crucial task of pruning which kept everyone busy at the start of the year.

 

Get invovled in working in the vineyard alongside the wine-maker

 

Marc then showed us our task for the day to remove some of the leaves from the vines, and to de-bud them.  De-budding is necessary to remove the small unwanted shoots that have grown, and won’t produce any grapes.  And to help the grapes ripen better, we take away some of the leaves east-facing leaves in front of the grapes on the side facing the rising sun.

 

De-budding the vines

 

One of the groups also had the pleasure of weeding a plot of young sauvignon blanc vines.  In May, Marc planted one hectare of vines opposite the winery.  Young vines demand much attention to water them and weed around them.  With the rain of the previous weeks, watering wasn’t a problem, but the weeds had grown rapidly and were starting to suffocate some of the vines.

 

Weeding in the plot of young vines

 

The morning finished, it was now time to taste the organic wines produced at Château de la Bonnelière, and sit down for lunch, which we enjoyed outside whilst continuing our conversation with Marc.

 

Wine-tasting gift experience with the wine-maker in the Loire Valley

 

As is often the case in Chinon, after a big wholesome meal, the urge for a siesta was strong!  But we still had some more to see and discover!  We made our way to the cellar for an introduction into the wine-making side of things, something that we will cover in more in depth during the Vinification Experience Days.  But before then, we’ll be back to harvest the grapes in October. Many thanks to Marc for these really interesting and informative days.

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Adopt vines in the Rhone Valley with Gourmet Odyssey


Another great discovery for Gourmet Odyssey Cheli and Jérôme Busato, winemakers at Château Cohola in Sablet, have welcomed us to their boutique organic winery and made their oldest and best plot of Grenache vines available to be adopted. Their winery is nestled on the foothills below the Dentelles de Montmirail in the southern Côtes du Rhône region, and they tend to it with all of the passion and enthusiasm of the other Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience partner winemakers.

Starting today, you can adopt organic vines at Château Cohola for the 2022 vintage on the Gourmet Odyssey website, discover the work of the winemakers, and follow the making of your own organic wine.  Keep updated with the developments in the vineyard and cellar through the newsletters and photos from the wine-makers, from the skill needed to prune the vines right through to the bottling of your wine, complete with your own personalised labels.  You can also choose to add some days at the winery to meet Cheli and Jérôme, and help them nurture the vines, harvest the grapes, or work in the cellar.  Follow this link to learn more about the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

Meet the winemakers in their winery and enjoy a tasting and visit

You can also learn more about Château Cohola, their wine and the region.  The winery produces a great range of red, white, and rosé Côtes du Rhône wines in Sablet, one of the 21 communes allowed to add their name to the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation.  They are regularly selected for the wine guides and produce award-winning wines.  For example, the Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience won a silver medal at the 2020 Paris Agricultural Show, won a bronze at the Millésime Bio organic wine fair, and was selected for the 2020 Bettane+Desseauve wine guide with a rating of 16.5/20.

Château Cohola in Sablet offers organic vine adoption
If you like Côtes du Rhône wines and are interested in organic wine-making, Château Cohola will be a real treat for your taste buds.  We can’t wait for the first wine experience days at the winery next year!

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De-budding the vines in Alsace


Céline, the wine-maker at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace, welcomed us to the winery for a Discovery Experience day to learn about the work carried out in the vineyard.  The weather was sunny and warm, as it had been in the region for a few days, meaning that the vines were flourishing, and so there was lots to do keep their growth under control.

 

Meet the winemaker in an organic French winery

 

We listened with great interest as Céline introduced us to the Alsace wine-growing region and the winery, which she took over with her brother Stéphane from their parents to become the 4th generation of wine-makers in the family.  

She then took us into the vineyard where she explained the terroir and layout of the plots of vines.  The winery has 12 hectares of vines spread out over 74 different plots.  It allows Céline and Stéphane to work with all of the 7 Alsace grape varietals on different types of soil, and to achieve a great diversity in their wines.  The winery has the good fortune to boast 3 Grand Cru plots in the Steingrubler, Pfersigberg, and Hengst vineyards.  But it also means that there is much more work for the wine-makers to do, as they are constantly moving around to manage the different plots.

Stéphane brought us up to speed with the work carried out in the vineyard since the last harvest, such as pruning using the guyot double method, pulling the cut branches away, and attaching the remaining ones to the training wire.  With a yield of just 45 hectolitres per hectare on average, and as low as 17 hl/ha for the old vines, compared to the 60 hl/ha authorised by the AOC, the winery voluntarily reduces the amount of grapes produced with the aim of producing exceptional quality grapes.

After pruning, the soil is tilled to loosen and aerate it, which also helps it to soak up the rainwater.  Despite a month of continuous rain in the spring, with the return of the high temperatures, some of the vines lower down on the plain have started to suffer from drought.

Vine adoption in an organic vineyard in Alsace, France

We then headed to the Rosenberg vineyard to see our adopted pinot gris vines.  The Rosenberg vineyard is fairly large, and is cut into lots of small plots.  The name means the rose hill, because traditionally lots of roses were planted at the beginning of each row to warn against mildew.  We took a few photos of our vines, and saw how the vines had grown so far.

The vines flowered some 3 to 4 weeks later than the last 3 years, but is more in line with a “normal” year.  The branches have grown lots, and so they have been placed in between training wires, and the unwanted non-fruit-bearing branches removed.

It’s important to ensure the vines are contained between the training wires to make it easy for the tractor to pass through the rows, to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis, and to reduce the risk of disease if the leaves remain wet.  At Domaine Stentz-Buecher the training of the vines is done by hand.  It can be done by machine as we saw in a neighbouring plot, but Stéphane prefers not to as it can break many of the young shoots.

Vine de-budding session in an organic vineyard in France

We remove the young shoots that won’t become fruit-bearing as they drain energy from the vines.  In a plot next to our pinot gris vines, there were some unwanted shoots growing from the vine trunks, and so that became our mission for the day.  Stéphane explained that we needed to remove any shoots growing from ground level up till around 20cm.  Above 20 cm, we leave the branches because they can be useful for becoming the new branch left after pruning next year, useful if a branch breaks or has become too old and unproductive.  Any branches that remain are held between the training wires so as to not fall across the row where it would be at risk from being damaged.

To remove the branch, we slide our finger into the hollow between the branch and trunk, and push downwards until it falls away.  We then spread out to de-bud a row each.  It’s not a very complicated task, but when you’re bent over under a blistering sun, we quickly understood why Stéphane prefers to do so at 5am, and how long it must take to do all of the winery’s vineyards with just 2 or 3 people!   Especially so at the moment, as the vines can grow a couple of centimetres a day, and in a month a whole new branch may have grown and so you have to start again.

adopt a vine and come to help the winemaker in the vineyard

We worked diligently and then returned to the winery for a very well earned wine tasting session.  To start with, Céline served a naturally sparkling Crémant, made using the same method used in champagne but without any liqueur added, making for a drier than normal Crémant.

Visit and tasting in an organic winery in Alsace

We then tasted a Riesling Ortel, a Muscat, and a Pinot Gris Rosenberg to appreciate the diversity of the Alsace grape varietals.  We finished with a Pinot Noir Granit, one of the red wines made at the winery.  We then continued the wine tasting over lunch of a traditional Alsace baeckeofe, regional cheeses, and blueberry tart.

After lunch, we headed into the coolness of the cellar.  It had been redesigned to work using gravity as much as possible from the moment the grapes are put into the press and vats.  We saw the grape press and the room where the wines ferment in century old wooden casks, and the barrel room where the red wines and some of the whites are aged.

Cellar visit and adopt a vine experience in France

The day ended in the wine library where the oldest vintages are stocked, before concluding the day.  We learnt much about nurturing the vines, the winery’s philosophy behind making organic wines, and we met some fascinating people.  Many thanks to Céline and Stéphane for this great moment shared.  We’ll be back for the harvest!

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Learning to de-bud and train the vines in Saint-Emilion


We were very happy to return to Saint-Emilion for the opening of the 2021 vintage Wine Discovery Days at Château Coutet at the end of May and beginning of June.  The aim of these days spent with the winemakers, is to learn about all of the work necessary in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes for the coming harvest. And as we found out, it’s a mammoth task!  Even more so, as we discovered the challenges of doing so organically!

 

Top gift idea for wine lovers.  Adopt vines in an organic Bordeaux winery

 

We got introduced to each other over a welcome coffee and croissant on the lawn in front of the chateau.  It’s a place steeped in history, and Adrien has a natural talent to recount it.

We started by wandering through the different vineyard plots to learn more about the various grape varietals and soil structures of the estate.  We were now experts in identifying the differences between merlot and cabernet franc, sandy and clayey soils!

On the top of the limestone plateau, we stopped in the plot were our adopted vines are located.  This is the best terroir at Château Coutet, and the vineyard is surrounded by some of Saint-Emilion’s most prestigious wineries such as Château Angélus and Beauséjour Bécot.  We each immortalised the moment and took a few pictures with our adopted vines.

 

Adopt-a-vine gift in a French organic winery

 

On one of the days, we watched a donkey tilling the soil, a method that respects this exceptional terroir as much as possible.

 

Organic wine experience gift in Saint-Emilion

 

There is always some participative work to do during the experience days, and we discovered how to de-bud the vines and raise the training wires, the two main tasks during spring.

The aim of de-budding is to select the branches best adapted to producing grapes on the vine.  It seems a little complicated at first, but Adrien’s explanations enabled us to quickly come to grips with it.  We each got stuck into the real work of a winemaker.

 

Wine-maker experience gift in an organic winery in France

 

Raising the training wires is an important job for several reasons, and is done by raising a wire either side of the row of vines, at the same time ensuring that the branches are spaced out and caught between the two wires.  Firstly, it helps to protect the vines from the wind by supporting the weight of the vegetation and grapes.  It also helps manage the shape and structure of the vines, making it easier for the tractor to pass through the vineyard, increasing the efficiency of the treatments, and improving the airflow around the leaves to reduce the risk of mildew.  After having listened to the instructions on how to do so, we spread out among the rows and started to raise the training wires.

 

Wine gift to learn about the work of an organic wine-maker

 

There isn’t much shade in the vineyard, and so the aperitif under the trees was very welcome.  After a few large glasses of water, we tasted the very refreshing Claret de Coutet, and its fresh fruit aromas awakened our taste buds for lunch.

The 2017 Château Belles Cimes, the winery’s second wine, is made principally from young vines, and is a Saint-Emilion wine with red and black fruit aromas that paired wonderfully with the foie gras terrine.

Food and wine pairings generally work best when matching a dish and wine from the same region.  The traditional south western French main course of magret de canard was enhanced by the 2017 Château Coutet, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, with a touch of Malbec.  We then compared the wine with the 2016 vintage, which was a little more refined thanks to the extra year ageing in the bottle.

The Demoiselle red wine concluded the tasting over cheese.  The wine is made from the oldest vines that are worked by horse, and are pampered at each stage.  It’s a wonderful wine that captured the relaxed moment enjoyed in the shade of the trees in front of the winery’s old chapel.

After the excellent lunch, Adrien and Alain explained the advantages and challenges of cultivating the vines organically.  It’s something that is very important to them, as the vineyards of Château Coutet have always been organic.

 

Organic winery tour gift in Saint-Emilion

 

We finished the day with a visit of the fermentation hall and the family cellar where the old bottles are stored.

We look forward to coming back for the Harvest Experience days in September to learn more about the next stage in the work of a winemaker, and to share other great moments with the David Beaulieu family.

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The work in the cellar to make organic Burgundy wine


We were at Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay the last two week-ends for the Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Days.  The aim of this wine experience day is to discover the decisions taken and choices made by the winemakers to transform the grape juice into wine, age the wine, and prepare the wine for bottling.  To best understand the impact that the different choices have on the wine, it’s a day when we do lots of wine tasting!

After the welcome coffee, Jean-François recounted the family history, and explained the origins of the Burgundy AOC system, the notion of the terroir, and his reasons for converting the winery to being organic.  We then split into two groups and alternated between the different wine-making workshops.

Learning the art of wine-making during the Vinification Experience Days at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

Myriam, the Gourmet Odyssey wine expert, and Mark, the company’s founder, explained how to taste wines, how to identify different aromas, and the impact that different choices made during the wine-making process have on wine.  We learnt why it’s so difficult to describe an aroma, and that it is necessary to train our nose to better identify and remember the plethora of different aromas that can be found in wines.  We also learnt the difference between the primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas to better understand why a wine smells the way it does.

During this time, Jean-François led the other group on a visit of the fermentation hall and cellar, explaining the different phases of making and ageing wine.  We saw the different machinery and equipment used to better understand the organisation, planning, and technical skill needed to end up with quality wine.

 Visiting the cellar to see where the wines are aged in oak barrels

We then met up again to taste different wines that are still in the ageing process, from different containers and different terroir, to learn about the impact that new oak has on a wine compared to a barrel that has already been used for two wines for example.

 Tasting wines to learn about the impact that different choices play

The time had come for the aperitif, and we enjoyed a 2019 Santenay white wine that accompanied the gougères, a local Burgundy delicacy.

The wine tasting continued over lunch of other Burgundy specialties, a delicious parsley ham, and chicken in a mustard sauce, paired with Santenay village and Santenay Premier Cru wines from the winery.

After lunch we headed out into the vineyard to meet up with our adopted vines.  We thanked them for the grapes that they had produced for the harvest, and took some photos to immortalise the moment!

 Visiting our adopted vines

To finish the wine-making cycle, we then learnt about the work to prepare the wine for bottling, and to label them.

 Learning about bottling wine

They were a couple of very enjoyable days, and opened our eyes to the complexity and dedication needed to make great wine.

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The perfect Fatherís Day wine gift


It can be difficult to find the ideal Father’s Day gift for a wine lover, when he already has all of the usual wine accessories, and a well-stocked cellar. But don’t worry, we have the perfect idea for you! Give him a wine experience gift that he’ll remember for years to come. It’s not just a normal winery visit or wine course, but the adoption of his very own organic vines in France, and the following of the winemaker through the key stages of making his wine.

 

A great Father’s Day wine present

 

Your father will end the experience with his own personalised bottles of organic wine that his adopted vines have helped to make. He’ll follow the making of his wine through newsletters and photos from the winery explaining the effort and skill that goes into making a great organic wine. He can also get involved in working at the winery alongside the winemaker and participate in one or more of the key stages, such as pruning the vines, harvesting the grapes, or learning about the blending of the wines.

For an ideal Father’s Day gift, adopt some organic vines in France

It’s a very original Father’s Day gift that also helps to support independent organic wineries. We only work with winemakers who are passionate about their profession and who love sharing their passion and know-how. Our partner wineries are located in the major wine-making regions of France. The Loire Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Languedoc, the Rhône Valley, and Alsace.

For an ideal Father’s Day gift, adopt some organic vines in France

When you place an order for one of our organic Wine Experience Father’s Day gifts, we’ll send out a welcome pack to you or directly to your father, containing some wine gifts, a personalised vine adoption certificate, the programme, and access code to activate his customer portal. For last minute gifts, we can also send you the certificate and programme by email. All your father then needs to do is let himself be guided through the different stages of the programme until his personalised bottles of wine are ready for tasting.

A great Father’s Day gift to share some great time together!

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De-budding the vines in the Languedoc at Château de Jonquières


We spent last week-end in the sunny Languedoc for a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Experience Day at the magnificent Château de Jonquières.  This winery, in the heart of the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, is the latest addition to the adopt-a-vine partner wineries of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and the wine-makers Charlotte and Clément gave us a very warm welcome.

 

Rent a vine and discover how to make organic wine in the south of France

 

Charlotte got the day underway with a brief introduction to the region and the winery, which has been in her family for over 900 years.  Together with her husband, Clément, they represent the 32nd generation!

The aim of the Discovery Experience Day is to learn about all of the work in the vineyard to produce the best possible quality of grapes for the harvest.  As we were to learn, there is lots to do that keep the winemakers busy.

The first plot we came to was planted with Syrah.  Here Clément explained how they had been pruned using the cordon de royat method.  Pruning is the most important of the tasks in the vineyard as it gives structure to the vines to make them easier to manage, and it improves the quality of grapes by limiting the number of bunches that each vine produces.

 

Original gift experience for wine lover to learn about making wine

 

Clément also showed us another plot, planted with chenin, a grape varietal used to make the white wines, and Charlotte explained how they had cleared a plot of old cinsault vines and had planted cereal to replenish the soil before they will plant new vines next year.  They have also planted a hedge of different types of trees to improve the biodiversity of the vineyard, and to act as a natural barrier to frost.

All of the wines at Château de Jonquières are organically certified.  We learnt the differences between conventional, organic, and biodynamic farming techniques.

The vines were at the start of the rapid growth phase when we visited.  Despite the hard work to prune the vines and limit their growth, there are always a few extra buds and shoots that appear, and so need to be removed to concentrate the plants energy on the fruit-bearing branches.  This is known as de-budding, and was the job we were tasked with for the morning.  Clément explained which ones to remove, those that grow low down on the trunk, from the roots, or the spurs that have more than two shoots.

 

Work alongside the wine-maker to help create your own organic wine

 

So we then spread out among the rows, and had a go ourselves.  At first a little nervously, but with the coaching of Charlotte and Clément, we gained in confidence.  It’s more difficult than you think because there are always a few exceptions to the rule, notably for shoots that are interesting to keep not for this year, but for next year’s pruning to help keep the balance of the vines.

We then visited two other plots that have recently been replanted to better understand the importance of planning for the future.

 

Wine Tasting gift experience in an organic French château, Terrassed du Larzac, Languedoc

 

Back in the courtyard of the château, we gathered for a well-earned aperitif.  Charlotte treated us to the 2019 Lansade white wine, followed by the deliciously pale 2020 Lansade rosé.  We continued the tasting of the wines over lunch, starting with the 2019 Terrasses du Larzac Lansade red, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, which we enjoyed with the trio of starters, a terrine de délices de porc aveyronnais, taboulé, and gazpacho.  The main course was a succulent royal de bœuf, which had been slowly cooked for 72 hours at a low temperature, which paired fantastically with the 2018 Terrasses du Larzac Baronnie red.  Charlotte and Clément served the 2019 Baronnie white with the cantal, chèvre, and bleu d'auvergne cheeses, and we ended lunch with the 2020 white label red wine which accompanied the dessert.

After lunch we walked through the village to the vineyard that is home to the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines, a vineyard of 80 year old carignan vines that were planted by Charlotte’s great grandmother.  We took a few minutes to find our adopted vines and admire the works of art that they each are.  Some even started to de-bud them with our new found skills learned in the morning!

 

Adopt a row of oragnic vines in the south of France and make your own personalised bottles of wine

 

Clément then explained all of the work that will be done between now and the time of the harvest.  The next stage will be the flowering that should happen in the next couple of weeks.

Back at the winery, we finished the day with a quick look at the chai to see where the grapes will be put into the vats and be transformed into wine.  We’ll be spending more time here during the Harvest Experience Days after the summer and the Vinification Experience Days next year.

 

Organic winery tour with the winemaker, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc, southern France

 

Many thanks to Charlotte and Clément for making it such an interesting and informative day.  We can’t wait to come back again!

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An original organic Christmas wine gift, personalised and delivered to you


Are you looking for a special wine-related Christmas present this year?  Adopt some vines in France and give a unique experience for a wine lover.  With the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience you can get behind the scenes, become an apprentice organic wine-maker for a year, and discover the work that goes into making your own personalised bottles of organic wine. And by doing so, you’ll also be supporting small, independent organic winemakers.

Special Christmas gift for wine lovers: adopt a vine

What’s included in the Wine Experience Christmas gift box?

Choose from the different options available and order your adopt-a-vine Christmas gift on our website. You can choose the region, the winery (all organically certified), the number of vines to adopt, and how many wine experience days at the vineyard to include.  We’ll send the welcome gift pack to you, or directly to the recipient to open on Christmas day, containing a personalised vine adoption certificate, some wine accessories, and an access code to the private customer portal to get the adventure started straightaway.

The recipient will then receive news, photos, and updates from the wine-maker as the vines grow, the grapes are harvested, and the juice made into wine in the cellar. At the end of the wine-making year, his or her organic wine, made from the grapes in the vineyard where his or her adopted vines are located, will be bottled, complete with personalised wine labels denoting the name of the wine that your lucky recipient chooses!

It’s also possible to go to the winery, meet the wine-makers, and participate in wine experience days to learn about the key stages involved in the making of your wine. The Wine Experience Days can be included in the Christmas gift pack, or added later.

Oenology gift for Christmas: rent a vine

The Wine Experience Days take place on the weekends from 09:30 to 16:00, with wine tasting and lunch included for two people. There are three different choices. The Discovery Experience Days concentrate on the work in the vineyard before the harvest, the Harvest Experience Days get you involved in picking the grapes and teach you about the first stages of fermentation, and the Vinification Experience Days are made up of practical workshops to hone wine-tasting skills, and to learn about ageing, blending and bottling wines. You also learn how the wine-makers work organically, and what’s at stake in doing so. They are fun, informative, and moments rich in sharing that make you think a little differently when you open your next bottle of wine.

What makes the Wine Experience an extra-special Christmas gift?

Not only is it an original Christmas gift for a wine lover, it’s a present that supports independent organic wine-makers and small business, something that’s appreciated even more during these challenging times!

rganic wine gift box for Christmas

We’ve chosen to only work with organically or biodynamically certified wine-makers, all of whom have had their wines selected and awarded by the leading wine guides and press. We picked them for their friendliness, and enthusiasm for sharing their knowledge and love of their profession, essential factors needed to ensure an exceptional and unforgettable experience.

But don’t just take our word for it, read the customer feedback. For over 10 years now, we have developed and delivered a quality service, creating strong bonds and friendships with our partner winemakers and customers alike.

And it’s a no risk Christmas gift, because if you’re not sure which Wine Experience to choose, the recipient can always change the winery, type of day, or vintage by contacting us. The Wine Experience Days can also be carried over to the following year if needed.

Order your Adopt-a-Vine Christmas Gift in a few clicks

No need to go to the shops! Order your Wine Experience Christmas gift online, and we’ll take care of the rest:

  • The welcome gift pack will be sent out within 24 hours, Monday to Friday
  • The vine adoption certificate and activation code will be sent by email to the buyer
  • Gift wrapping and personalised message option available
  • Option to pay in 3 instalments
  • Flexible. The recipient can change the options or carry days over if needed

The Christmas Wine Experience welcome pack will be sent to the address of your choosing, containing a few wine accessory gifts; a DropStop, re-usable glass wine stopper, wine cooling bag, vine adoption certificate, and a personalised guide to get the present started!

Find out more about the Wine Experience Christmas present

Visit our website for more information about the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience or to place an order.

Any questions? We’re available from 09:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday by phone on 01 46 27 05 92 within France, or on +33 1 46 27 05 92 from outside France, or through our contact page.

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Make your own organic wine in the Terrasses du Larzac vineyards of southern France


We’re delighted to add a new partner winery in the Languedoc region of the south of France. You can now adopt your own organic vines in the beautiful Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region as Château de Jonquières joins the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience!

The magnificent Château de Jonquières is one of the oldest family-run wineries in the Languedoc, and has been in the same family for over 900 years!  Charlotte and Clément de Béarn, the winery’s 32nd generation of winemakers, took over the running of the vineyard and wine-making operation at Château de Jonquières in 2014 from Charlotte’s parents, and continue to strive to make the best possible organic wines from the different vineyard plots that surround the listed château.  It’s the perfect place, with the perfect hosts, to learn more about all of the hard work and skill that goes into making great organic wines.

We got together with Charlotte and Clément to prepare this profile that we share with you so that you too can get to know our new partner winemakers.

New adopt-a-vine experience in the Terrasses du Larzac

Charlotte and Clément, how long have you been wine-makers?

Charlotte : I grew up here in Jonquières and then studied business in Paris, Ireland, Athens, Reims and then closer to home in Pezenas for the wine-making studies.

Clément : I grew up in Montpellier, where I also studied, before working in Marseille, Lyon and Sydney.
After a summer working together to manage the table d’hôte at Château de Jonquières, we decided to take over the wine-making operations at the age of 24, just after our studies ended. When we decided to do so, Clément had never stepped a foot into a vineyard, and it was less than two years that we had been together. When we announced our intentions to my parents, they were very pleasantly surprised and accompanied us as we set out on our journey, whilst remaining very flexible and letting us know that we would always back track if needed.

Looking back, we don’t regret for one second having started so young.  We were full of energy, even if we were definitely a little naïve!

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

We took over from Charlotte’s parents in 2014 by buying the vineyards, buildings, material, and stock. We live with our two daughters in the old estate manager’s quarters of the château. We’re completely independent of Charlotte’s parents, but all 6 of us live in the same place, together with the vines, our vegetable patch and chicken coup.

We became organically certified and produce 30 000 bottles or red, white, and rosé wines, which we sell to wine-merchants, restaurants, private customers and export.

We have introduced commented guides for the château and its history, the cellar and wine tastings. We also offer an ephemeral bistrot each summer for the last 4 years in the courtyard, and organise a concert or play every two years. We have also taken some bookings for corporate seminars.

What is your best memory so far concerning the winery?

We are already very fortunate to have a job that is varied and hands-on, where we don’t notice the time fly by. We’ve also successfully managed to create an environment that allows us to live independently, and to welcome our visitors and clients to the winery.

But our proudest moment is the first harvest from the plot of Grenache blanc that we planted in 2017.  A fantastic moment with our baby vines!

What are your principal projects or challenges for 2021?

We’re looking to further develop the White Label cuvée, a wine that is completely off the charts that we launched on a small scale two years ago. It’s a wine made using 100% Carignan grapes that were planted by my great-grandmother 80 years ago.  The wine is then aged in oak “demi-muid” 500 litre barrels, a type of large barrel that was originally used to transport wine. Like a vinyl record that is pressed in a very small number of copies, the White Label, is for the moment a very limited series wine.

We also have plans to replant a vineyard using massally selected vines, taking cuttings from our best vines to transmit their genes, rather than using cloned vines. We’ll use our older vines that are more than 40 years old, because they have a richer genetic make-up.  It will enable our vines to be hardier and to redevelop some of the characteristics that have been lost little by little with the use of cloned wines.  For example we’re hoping they’ll benefit from maturing more slowly, and being more resistant to coulure during the flowering period.

There are also a few challenges to contend with.  After two years with harvests 40% less than usual, we worry about the changing climate and what impact that will have.  We’re also worried about wine sales in light of the Covid-19 situation and the international market which is struggling.  But we’ll get through it, adapt, and continue to refine our wines to try and express who we are through them.

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

Clément : I like to cook. Bread, cakes, bœuf bourguignon, and other dishes that I like to pair with wines that I’ve discovered in other regions during my travels!

Charlotte : I started jogging a year ago.  I’ve done my first trail and want to do more!

Learn more about adopting vines at Château de Jonquières

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A year of climatic extremes for the 2020 vintage


2020 will be a year to remember for organic wine-makers in France!  As everywhere else, the virus impacted the human activity in terms of working conditions and sales. The vines also had an unusual year, with exceptional climatic conditions.
In the autumn of 2019, the heavy rain that fell over much of France enabled the vineyards and water tables to build up their reserves.  And thankfully so, because the vines would depend on this later on.  A very mild winter, and mainly dry for the most part of France’s wine-growing regions, followed by a hot spring. At Domaine de la Guicharde in the Côtes du Rhône wine region, we saw roses in bloom in January!
Vine adoption gift box in alsace France
As a result, the vegetative cycle started in January and February which is earlier than normal, and developed rapidly in springtime, giving the wine-makers some sleepless nights as they worried about late frosts that could be catastrophic for the young buds.  At Château de la Bonnelière, in the Loire Valley, the large candles that are used to keep the frost at bay were set up in the vineyards, but fortunately not needed.  Luckily, spring remained mild and warmer than usual, but by the end, we could sense that the vines were at risk from a lack of water.    

The south and south west of France were the only regions to have any rain during spring.  It wasn’t very heavy, but fell regularly, meaning that the organic wine-makers had to treat the vines more often to protect them from mildew, the fungus that thrives when the weather is both hot and wet.  At Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion, at Domaine Allegria in the Languedoc, and at Domaine de la Guicharde in the Rhône Valley, the tractor could be seen often in the vineyards treating the vines as the copper and sulphur based sprays used in organic wine-making are contact products that protect the vines from the outside and don’t penetrate into the plant, and so they are washed away and need to be replaced after each rainfall.
Vineyard discovery day in Burgundy
The vines flowered early during the warm spring, appearing as early as the 19th May at Domaine Chapelle in Santenay, Burgundy, something which usually happens around the beginning of June.  Fortunately it wasn’t too rainy, and the coulure was minimal for most of the vineyards, meaning that the flowers were for the most part able to fecundate and produce grapes normally.  The end of spring and summer was extremely hot and that was when the lack of water began to be felt with the veraison being blocked, which is the moment when the grapes start to change colour.  In some cases, the grapes were scorched by the hot sun, shrivelling and drying up.
Vine renting gift box in the Rhone Valley, France
As a result of the combination of all these factors, the grape harvest in France was on the whole very early.  The wine-makers needed to harvest before the grapes became too concentrated in sugar, which would lead to wines that are too strong in alcohol, and before the grapes started to dry up, reducing the volume of wine that would be made.  In Alsace, the vineyards around Wettolsheim and Eguisheim, including the vines at Domaine Stentz-Biecher benefited from some rain in August, allowing the grapes to finish maturing in the best conditions.
Harvest experience in an organic winery in Saint-Emilion
The first of our partner wineries to begin harvesting was Domaine Allegria in the south of France, who started on the 17th August.  It’s not unusual to start harvesting in August in the Languedoc, but it’s very rare to do so in Burgundy!  Domaine Chapelle in Santenay began on the 19th August, when they would normally do so in mid-September.  In the Loire Valley, Château de la Bonnelière started in mid-September instead of in October.
Adopt-a-vine gift box for wine lovers
The good news is that with the warm and dry weather, all of the wineries are in agreement that the quality of the grapes is excellent this year.  No infections, good levels of maturity, and apart from a few dried out grapes, nothing to sort!  For some wineries the harvest is a little smaller due to the summer drought which meant that the grapes were more concentrated, but the quality is very promising…

We’ll be following the next stages closely as all of the fermentations finish, the wines start the ageing process, and we get to taste them during the Vinification Experience Days next year!

If you’re interested in learning more about organic wine-making and want to get involved in next year’s grape harvest, adopt some organic vines and come and work with the wine-maker at one of our partner wineries with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

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Getting invloved in the 2020 harvest in Alsace


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

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

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

Harvest Experience gift in organic french vineyard


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

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


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

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

Adopt-a-vine gift in an organic French vineyard

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


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

Wine tasting session with teh winemaker in Alsace


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

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

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

Wine-making gift experience in Alsace

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

Many thanks to Céline and Stéphane for a great day!

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


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

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

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

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

Harvest Expeirence Day in the Loire Valley

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

Wine gift Box for harvesting your vines

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

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

Harvest your own adopted vines in France

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

Visit and tasting at the winery in Chinon, France

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

Harvest Experience in the Loire Valley

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

Meeting an organic winemaker in France

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

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

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Harvest Experience Day in the Languedoc


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

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

Harvesting the Grenache plot

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

Sorting the grapes

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

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

Visiting the adopted vines

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

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The 2020 harvest in Burgundy ends with the Pinot Noir


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

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

Harvest Experience Day Wine Making Experience Burgundy

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

Adopt a vine and meet an organic winemaker

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

Harvest Experience Gift in Burgundy

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

Harvest your own organic vine in Burgundy

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

Winery visit and tasting in Santenay, Burgundy

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

Harvest and grape sorting exprience in an organic winery in France

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

Organic winery visit and harvest course in Santenay, Burgundy

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

Wine-making and vine adoption experience in France

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

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Wine Discovery Experience Day in the vineyard in Alsace


It was a real pleasure to find ourselves back in the vineyard for the Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace.  Whilst we had been confined during the lockdown, the vines had been soaking up the sun and flourishing.  The past few months had been very busy for the winemakers in the vineyard as we were to find out.

Adopt some organic vines in Alsace.  The perfect gift for an organic wine lover.

After the introductions, we headed out into the vineyard, respecting the new social distancing norms of course!  Our first stop was the Rosenberg vineyard, where the Gourmet Odyssey adopted vines are located.  We took a few minutes to find the nameplate in front of our vines, take a few pictures, and encourage them to produce some good grapes for this year’s harvest!

Adopt a vine gift in Alsace to learn about how wine is made

 

We were accompanied by Stéphane and Céline, the brother and sister duo that have now taken over the running of the winery from their parents.  Stéphane explained the work that had been done in the vineyard over the winter to prune the vines and work the soil.

Vineyard experience gift

The relatively mild winter, and then the hot and sunny weather that has prevailed in France for most of the time since the beginning of the lockdown in mid-March, has meant that the vines have been thriving and have developed much faster than normal.  We could see that the grapes had already formed on the vines, and were at a stage that you would normally expect to see in July.  The flowering period had happened at the end of May in great climatic conditions.

Grapes appearing on the organic vines

We then headed to the neighbouring plot of vines, which had been replanted three years ago.  Stéphane explained the life cycle of the vines and how they are replanted.  This year will be the first time that the grapes will be harvested.  He explained how they have been pruned to form the desired shape.  Despite the pruning carried out in March, some of the vines had sprouted shoots from the trunk that are unwanted, so our job for the morning was to remove them, thus enabling the vines to concentrate their energy on the fruit-bearing branches, and to maintain their form.

We spread out amongst the rows and carefully removed the unwanted shoots.  The vines might be higher in Alsace than in other regions of France, but this job still involves lots of bending over!

Wine-making experience gift in Alsace

Domaine Stentz-Buecher, like all of the Gourmet Odyssey partner wineries, is organically certified, and Stéphane explained the organic methods that they use to work the soil and protect the vines from odium and mildew.

Back at the winery, we sat down to enjoy some of the wines from the winery.  The wine tasting session, guided by Céline, started with the refreshing Crémant d’Alsace pink sparkling wine.  This is the first year that the winery has made a rosé sparkling wine, and it received the thumbs up from all.  100% pinot noir, it has a good structure, whilst retaining the freshness and acidity that you expect from a sparkling wine.

 

Organic wine tasting gift and winery tour with the winemaker in Alsace, France

We then tasted the 2018 Riesling Tradition and the 2018 Muscat Rosenberg, before tasting the 2018 vintage of the Pinot Gris Rosenberg, which is the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine clients.  Céline explained how the grape yields are voluntarily kept well below the limits authorised in Alsace, which results in the very aromatic, rich, and complex wines that characterise those produced by Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  We then tasted the 2017 Pinot Noir Tradition, and concluded the wine tasting session with the delicious 2016 Gewurztraminer Hengst Grand Cru, with a slice of the local lardon and walnut savoury Kouglof.

We continued tasting the wines and local delicacies over lunch of the typical baeckeoffe, a selection of local cheeses, and blueberry tart, accompanied by the 2018 Pinot Blanc Tradition and the 2017 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg.

In the afternoon, Stéphane explained the work left to do over the summer in the vineyard, and how the date of the harvest will be chosen for each individual vineyard plot and grape varietal.

Stéphane then took us on a tour of the cellar, starting with where the grapes will be received and pressed at harvest time.  He showed us the barrel room where the pinot noir wines are aged in oak barrels.

Organic wine cellar tour in Alsace

We ended the day in the room where the white wines are aged, either in huge old oak casks, or smaller stainless steel vats.  Stéphane’s explanations were accompanied by the intermittent gurgling sounds of some of the vats where the wines were still fermenting!

Many thanks to all of the participants and to Céline and Stéphane for sharing the passion for their profession.  We look forward to coming back in September for the Harvest Experience Day!

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Pruning and attaching the vines in Saint-Emilion


Arriving at Château Coutet for the first time is always an adventure.  Depending on the route that the satnav sends you, you can take the main entrance or the bumpy side tracks, it’s the charm of being in the countryside!

Top wine gfit idea for organic wine lover

We started the Discovery Experience Day and our Wine Experience with a coffee and croissant, whilst Benoît, the Gourmet Odyssey oenologist, explained the programme for this day dedicated to learning about the work in the vineyard.  We were then introduced to Alain David Beaulieu, the owner and winemaker at Château Coutet for the last 30 years.  He is now helped by his son, Matthieu, and his nephew, Adrien.  Château Coutet has been in the same family for 400 years and Alain is proud that his son and nephew will keep the tradition going for at least another generation.

Having put on our boots, the ground being particularly wet after the very rainy winter in Bordeaux, we started to explore the estate.  Alain explained the different terroir and different grape varietals that make up the 16ha of the winery.  It’s a magnificent place, preserved from intensive farming methods, and a large part of the family still live there amongst the geese, ducks and the two dogs, Largo and Wolfy, who seem to be perpetually looking for more affection.  Wooded areas without vines are preserved to conserve the biodiversity, something that is very important in nurturing the vines organically.

We also discovered the latest invention from Alain’s brother, Xavier, the viti-rover.  This is a solar-powered grass cutting robot used to keep the grass in check in some of the vineyard plots whilst disturbing the microbial life in the soil as little as possible.  Grass is a fierce competitor for vines, and so it is vital to control its growth in order to make quality wines.  In organic winemaking, only two options are available; cutting of turning the soil over.

Learn how wine is made organically

Having seen some of the Saint-Emilion half marathon runners pass though the vineyard, including Alain’s son, Matthieu, we made our way to the Peycocut vineyard where our adopted vines are located.  It is one of the most prized spots in Saint-Emilion, lying on top of a magnificent limestone plateau.  You can see the bell tower of the village church a few hundred metres further on.  We searched for our adopted vines, in front of which Benoît had placed a name board.  Many selfies and photos were taken with the vines, the most creative of which will have a chance of winning a magnum of wine in the My Vine photo competition.

Rent-a-vine-gift in an award-winning organic vineyard

Time now for the serious business of the day as Alain explained vine pruning to us.  There’s nothing like seeing it done to fully appreciate and understand the intricacies of this most important task.  It will determine the future potential yield of the vines, and the shape that the plant will take as it grows.  It’s a long job that takes from December until March.  There is just a few hectares remaining to prune at Château Coutet, and luckily so, as the vines are starting to weep.  When we prune the vines, the sap flows from the cut, and so we say it weeps.  It’s also a sign that the sap has risen once again from the roots to the above ground part of the plant, and that the buds will soon start to appear.

Learn how to prune vines with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

After pruning the vines, the cut branches need to be pulled away, and the remaining branch attached to the training wire.  This was our task for the rest of the morning.  From the attached branch, the future fruit-bearing canes will grow, and the grapes will appear later on in spring.  It’s a delicate job, because depending on the position of the branch, it is more or less difficult to bend enough to touch the training wire.  We were afraid to break them and thus compromise the number of grapes produced.  In pairs, we made our way down the vine rows in the plot of merlot.  It’s rewarding work, and we even found some wild leeks which would make a welcome addition to the salad at dinnertime!

Get inolved in working in the vineyard to help make your own bottles of personalised wine

We then returned to the lawn in front of the chateau for the aperitif, just reward for our efforts!  Alain served his Claret which is a surprising wine that can be classified between a rosé and a light red wine.  It is obtained by drawing the wine off from the vat at harvest time after one day of macerating with the grape skins.

Organic wine tasting gift in Saint-Emilion

We continued the wine tasting over lunch.  The 2016 Château Belles-Cimes wine accompanied the foie gras starter.  It’s the winery’s second wine which is made mainly from the young vines on the estate.  Its lighter touch refreshes the taste buds between two bites of foie gras.  The 2016 Château Coutet, which is a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and cabernet sauvignon, is more powerful on the palate, but still with lots of elegance.  It is also a blend of the three different terroir found at the winery of sandy, clay, and limestone soils, and paired wonderfully with the duck breast to taste another local specialty.

We then discovered the amazing story of the Emery wine.  One of the oldest bottles of Bordeaux, found by Alain some 15 years ago in the earth floor of the family cellar.  A plot of vines on the limestone plateau is now dedicated to producing a wine using the ancient techniques.  No tractors roll across the vineyard, everything is done by hand or with the help of a horse to work the soil, and the very old bottle is reproduced by a master glassblower.  Alain let us taste the 2017 vintage of the delicious Demoiselles cuvée, which is the same wine, just served in a more standard bottle.  The limestone terroir and painstaking manual work bring a minerality and finesse to the tannic structure that you rarely have the chance to taste.

After lunch we set off for another walk, where Alain spoke to us about the organic methods they use to nurture the vines, and explained the different work that needs to be done on the vines during spring and summer before the harvest.

We finished the day with a visit to the family cellar which looks a little like Ali Babar’s cave with all of the old Château Coutet vintages.  “Is 1967 the oldest?”  “No, I think there are some 1953s over in that corner” replies Alain!

Winery tour and cellar visit

Many thanks for this really interesting day.  We look forward to coming back to the winery for the Harvest Experience Day to discover the work that happens during this busy period.

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