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Tagged articles : Organic

Learning about the winemaker’s work in the cellar


The 2017 Wine Experience Days got underway last weekend in Burgundy at Domaine Chapelle with a couple of great Vinification Experience Days with the clients of the 2016 vintage.  The aim of this wine course spent at the winery is to learn all about the work in the cellar and the choices that the winemaker takes to make the wine between the harvest and the time that it is ready for bottling.  As we were to learn, the winemaker’s job is far from finished once the grapes have been harvested.

Organic wine-making experience gift in Burgundy France

The days were split into different workshops.  After the introductions, one group followed Jean-François Chapelle into the fermentation hall.  Here he explained how the grapes are received during the harvest and then put into the vats.  We learnt about the fermentation process and how the winemakers closely monitor and control it to ensure that it takes place in the optimal conditions.  Jean-François explained the difference between the “vin de goutte” and the “vin de presse”, and the differences in making white and red wine.

Original wine gift for a birthday, retirement or wedding.  Follow the making of your own organic French wine

After the first fermentation has finished and the wine has been racked, the majority of the red wines at Domaine Chapelle, including the Clos des Cornières red wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, are moved to the underground cellar to continue their ageing in the oak barrels.

Winery and cellar tour gift in Burgundy, France

Amongst the barrels, Jean-François explained how the wine loses some of its acidity during the malo-lactic fermentation and let us in on the choices that he makes regarding the different types of barrel used.  To better understand the role that the barrels play in making wine, we tasted some wines directly from the barrel to compare the difference between new and old barrels. The same wine had been put into the barrels, so the only difference was the barrel.  It’s amazing to see how the aromas and taste vary.  The questions abounded, and we covered many topics from chaptalisation, the levels of sulphites added, and the different methods used to close the bottles.

Wine-tasting experience gift in a French organic winery

Upstairs, another workshop run by Yvette Chapelle prepared us to better taste wine by putting or senses to the test.  Using small bottles containing different aromas found in red wine, we had a go at trying to identify the individual smells.  Not as easy as you would at first think!

Oenology gift for wine lovers.  Learn how to taste wines from the winemakers themselves

We then tasted four different cups containing a saline, sweet, acidic and bitter solution to appreciate how they feel differently in the mouth.

After the morning’s full programme, we made the most of the glorious sunshine and enjoyed a glass of Santenay St Jean 2015 white wine in the courtyard whilst Jean-François answered more of our questions.

Wine enthusiast gift

Over lunch, we continued the wine tasting with some of the red Burgundy wines, starting with the Santenay Clos des Cornières 2012, followed by the Santenay La Comme premier cru 2014, and finishing with the Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot premier cru red wine.
We started the afternoon in the Clos des Cornières vineyard to visit our adopted vines.  They were revelling in the sunshine and were only too happy to have their photo taken with their adoptive owners!

Rent-a-vine gift in an organic French vineyard

Jean-François then explained the different geology of the surrounding vineyards and how that determines the AOC classification system of Burgundy and Santenay wines.  He pointed out the three distinct areas of our Clos des Cornières vineyard, knowledge we needed for the final wine tasting of the day.

Back in the courtyard, we tasted the three different wines from the Clos de Cornières vineyard that are vinified separately and are only blended together shortly before bottling.  This enabled us to see the difference that the age of a vine plays, and to get a sneak preview of the potential of the 2016 vintage.  The wines were at different stages of the malo-lactic fermentation process, so also enabled us to see how they change.

Wine-making experience present in Burgundy, France

And so the day drew to a close.  Many thanks to Jean-François and Yvette for sharing their passion for winemaking with us, and to all of the participants for making it such a great weekend!

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Wine-making and blending experience day in the Rhone Valley


Last Saturday, we were welcomed by Marie-Pierre and Eric Plumet at Domaine la Cabotte in the Rhone Valley to learn more about the vinification process of the 2016 vintage.  For some of the participants it was their third wine experience day at the winery, having already participated in pruning the vines and harvesting the grapes last year.

Wine-making experience gift at the winery in France beside the wine-maker

The programme of the day was to talk about how the wine progresses through the fermentation and ageing stages once the harvested grapes arrive in the chai, and for this, we were in the expert hands of Eric.

Original wine enthusiast gift to learn about wine-making

At Domaine la Cabotte, whenever possible they blend the different grape varietals together to make each of their different wines.  Marie-Pierre and Eric prefer that the juice from the grenache, mourvèdre, carignan and cinsault mix and ferment together.  It’s not something that is easy to do, and sometimes they opt to vinify the grape varietals separately.  It’s all a question of the vintage.

They regularly taste the wines to determine the best moment to rack them and separate the wine from the solid matter of skin, pips, and stems that is deposited at the bottom of the vats.  The fermented juice becomes “vin de goutte”, and continues to be closely monitored to check that nothing untoward is happening.

Tasting the wines that are still ageing

Four to ten months after the harvest for the most part, the wine is then racked again, bottled, labelled and then enjoyed by wine lovers all over the world, including the adoptive parents, who have followed the birth of the vintage from first bud to the bottle.

We then returned to the caveau for a workshop that put our noses to the test.  We had to try to name a series of different aromas that can be found in wine.  Honey, lemon, pear… for the whites.  Raspberry, blackcurrant, liquorice… for the reds.

A couple of the participants were very good at this game, but all were agreed to step out into the sunshine to smell some real aromas from some real wine!

We tasted the Garance and Gabriel red wines and the Clairette white wine that had been aged in Italian amphorae.  A real treat.
To accompany the wines over lunch, we enjoyed a home-made salad, lamb tagine, and fruit cake.  And Jacqueline, the sommelier, recited ‘L’Ame du vin”, Beaudelaire’s tribute to the divine nectar.

Rent-a-vine gift in the rhone valley in a biodynamic vineyard

We spent the afternoon in the vineyard, amongst the plot of grenache vines that have been adopted by the Gourmet Odyssey clients.  Here, Eric recounted the geological history of the Massif d’Uchaux terroir, and explained the influence it has on the aroma and structure of the wine.

We finished the day in front of the chai, where we learnt a little more about the biodynamic philosophy, and the importance of respecting nature’s rhythm which help to create the balance in the wines at Domaine la Cabotte.

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The role the vine roots play


At the beginning of this year, and with particular reference to the cold spell that we have had over the past few weeks, the winemakers have been talking to us lots about the importance and the benefits of the vines resting during winter. During the cold winter months, the sap descends into the roots to help protect the vines. This article looks at the role of the vine roots, and their importance on the vegetative life cycle.

First of all, what are the roots?

A vine is made up of two parts.  The top part that is above ground is a graft of the vitis vinifera, and the part below ground that is a rootstock, often a hybrid between American and vitis vinifera species that are resistant to phylloxera, a disease that ravaged the European vineyards in the 1860s.

Since the phylloxera crisis, it is very rare that vines are planted “franc de pied”, that is without being grafted to a rootstock that is resistant to phylloxera.  The roots are the part of the rootstock that are under ground and bring the necessary nutrients to the plant.

What role do the roots play?

The vine roots have multiple functions.  Firstly, they serve to anchor the plant to the soil.  They also absorb water and the minerals necessary for the vines development.  And lastly, they also have a role to support the vegetative growth in spring.  After the harvest, photosynthesis continues, and carbohydrate reserves are produced and stored in the vine trunks and roots for winter and spring.  

Learnto protect the vine in a oenology course at the winery

  

How deep do the roots go?

A vine has three levels of roots that reach down 2 – 5 metres on average, and they can descend much further if needed.  The principal roots are those which already exist when the vine was planted.  Then the secondary roots form and from these the rootlets or very fine roots grow.  These rootlets are produced each year, and the rootlets which age then become secondary roots.

The depth to which the roots grow depends on many factors such as the type of rootstock used, the soil type which can be more or less compact and deep, the density of vines planted, and how the soil is worked by the winemaker.  And also the older a vine is, the deeper the roots generally penetrate.

Are the roots impacted by the weather?

We often hear that vines are robust plants, which generally speaking is true.  The winemaker must however help to protect them, particularly when they are young and their root system hasn’t yet developed deep enough to protect themselves.

To protect against the cold in the vineyards that are the most exposed, once the leaves have fallen from the vines, the winemaker will heap soil around the base of the vines to help the shallowest roots be better protected against the frost.  A short period of sustained cold temperatures during winter is one of the best protections against disease for the vines as many of the bacteria that reside in the soil are killed off.

Learn how to protect the vine from the cold with the winemaker

  

Vines don’t like too much humidity.  Some rain is beneficial during the growth of the vine and when the grapes are maturing, but it is best that they avoid being stood in water.  Too much stagnant water causes disease to form and spread through the soil.

Drought is less of a problem for vines, particularly if the roots are well developed and are deep enough to find water and the necessary nutrients.  Having said that, in certain southern vineyards, if it doesn’t rain enough in spring to replenish the underground water table, the winemakers can be obliged to irrigate.

And if drought strikes, it’s not the roots that suffer first, but the fruit, because the plant will always favour its overall survival over producing fruit.  Nature is well done, even if it sometimes disappoints the winemakers!

How do you protect the roots in organic or bio-dynamic wine-making?

As previously mentioned, vines are pretty resistant to the climate, but what they do fear is disease, particularly those that are spread throughout the soil.  Two of the most common are root rot, a parasitic disease, and phylloxera, a sap sucking insect that can cut off the flow of nutrients and water to the vine. These illnesses can cause the vine to die, and the symptoms only appear late, once the contamination has set in.

You therefore have to act preventively, particularly in organic or biodynamic winegrowing where you cannot easily treat the vines once the illness has struck.  To have as healthy a soil as possible, the surface is tilled regularly to aerate the soil and thus encourage the microbial life.

Learn how to grow and harvest a vine in a course at the winery

In biodynamics, the health of the plant is thought to pass directly from the soil, so in biodynamic winegrowing the general aim is to restore and enhance the organic life in the surrounding environment of the vines.  By improving the natural exchange between the soil and the roots, you can help to enhance the vitality and resistance of the plants.

The majority of winemakers who have changed to organic or biodynamic methods have noted the development of a better root structure, and better qualitative and quantitative results over time.

Winter is a time of rest for the vines.  Nothing happens in the part above ground where the sap no longer circulates.  The sap descends into the foot and roots to prepare for spring and to develop the reserves necessary for the future grapes.


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End of the winter holidays... for the vines
Bud burst of the vines in Spring
What is biodynamic wine?

 

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Spring 2017 calendar of wine fairs attended by our partner wineries


Our partner wineries will be giving tastings of their wines at a number of different wine fairs that are being held over the coming weeks and months.  Book some time in your diary to come and meet them, and to taste their great organic wines!

 

2017 Wine fairs Domaine Chapelle Burgundy
 

Domaine Chapelle – Côte de Beaune, Burgundy

  • 11 - 12 February 2017: Salon du vin et de la gastronomie wine and gastronomy fair in the town hall at Neuville de Poitou (near Poitiers).
  • 17 - 20 March 2017 : Salon Vivre Autrement Bio organic fair at the Parc Floral de Vincennes, Paris. Ask for a free entrance pass
  • 18 - 19 March 2017 : Salon des vins wine fair at Paray le Monial (near Moulins).
  • 25 - 28 May 2017 : Les 28èmes Journées Gourmandes du Grand Morvan gastonomy fair in the exhibition hall at Saulieu.
  • 3 - 5 June 2017 : Foire gastronomique in Mailly (near Roanne).
2017 Wine fairs Chateau Beau Rivage Bordeaux

Château Beau Rivage - Bordeaux

  • 17 - 20 February 2017 : Salon des Vignerons Indépendants winemakers fair in Strasbourg, Wacken - Place de la Foire Exposition, Stand C77
  • 17 - 19 March 2017 : Salon des Vignerons Indépendants winemakers fair in  Bordeaux Parc des Exposition de Bordeaux Lac, Stand E 15
2017 Wine fairs Domaine Stentz-Buecher Burgundy

Domaine Stentz-Buecher - Alsace

  • 3 March 2017 : Dîner Insolite unusual dinner in Wissembourg with Le Cheval Blanc  restaurant which has two Michelin stars. Reservations here
  • 29 April – 1 May : Fête des vins wine fair in Bomal, Belgium
  • 10 - 11 June 2017 : Open Day at the winery in Wettolsheim, Alsace
2017 Wine fairs Domaine la Cabotte Cote du Rhone

Domaine la Cabotte – Côtes du Rhône

  • 8 - 9 April 2017 : Printemps des Vins spring wine fair in Châteauneuf du Pape, Rhône Valley

Don’t hesitate to come and meet the winemakers and their teams at one of these events.  They’ll be delighted to welcome you and share a glass with you!

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New medals awarded at the Challenge Millésime Bio 2017 organic wine competition



The Challenge Millésime Bio organic wine competition took place last week.  It is the competition that is run by the Millésime Bio organic wine fair.
The Challenge Millesime Bio wine competition brings together professionals from the organic wine world

More than 1200 samples are entered each year into the Challenge Millésime Bio competition.  This year it was presided over by Joris Snelten, the CEO of Delta Wines, one of the most prominent Dutch wine importers.

The wine professionals taste over 1400 wine samples

On the 17th January 2017 the jury tasted 1413 wines, and awarded 413 medals:
  • 125 gold medals
  • 201 silver medals
  • 87 bronze medals

Two of our partner wineries won medals:

The Garance wine from Domaine la Cabotte in the Côtes du Rhône region
  • Domaine la Cabotte saw its Garance (Côtes du Rhône Village Massif d’Uchaux) 2015 red wine awarded a silver medal.  This is the wine that is selected by Gourmet Odyssey for its Wine Experience!
  • Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy won a gold medal for its Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Premier Cru 2014 red wine.

Congratulations to all those involved at these two wineries!

 

Related Articles

Award Winners 2016

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A unique wine gift to charm your Valentine


For an original St Valentine’s gift that’s sure to surprise, adopt some vines for your valentine and make your own organic wine together, complete with personalised wine labels.  You’ll get behind the scenes and learn the secrets of being a winemaker as you follow the making of your special vintage.

 

Adopt-a-vine experience to follow the making of your organic wine

Adopt-a-vine in one of our 8 organic partner wineries and give the perfect Saint Valentine’s present for a wine lover.  You’ll get to follow the evolution of your adopted vines by newsletters and photos, or by visiting the winery to get involved in the different stages of wine making.  At the end of the experience, you’ll end up with your own personalised bottles of organic wine to enjoy together!

Oenology course in a French winery for making your personnalised wine
You can also spend one or more days at the winery together to share a special day with the winemaker.  There are three different types of wine experience day. The Discovery Experience Day teaches you about and gets you involved in the work in the vineyard to learn about nurturing the vines to produce the best grapes come harvest time. The Harvest Experience Day sees you roll up your sleeves and participate in the harvest and follow your grapes to the fermentation tanks. And the Vinification Experience Day lets you in on all that happens in the cellar from fermentation, through the ageing and blending process, right up until the time when your wine is bottled.

Each of these hands-on wine courses are an immersion with the winemaker and their teams from 9:30 to 16:00, giving you the time to learn about and help them with their work, to share a winemakers lunch, and of course taste their wines!
Wine gift box to meet the winemaker and visit the winery in France
All of our partner winemakers are carefully selected for the quality of their wine and their desire to share the passion they have for their job.  They are all organically certified and will welcome you with open arms for a very enjoyable day spent learning about wine.  This Valentine’s present gives you the perfect excuse to get away for a romantic weekend wine break!

If your other half enjoys wine, then this personalised wine gift experience is a great St Valentine’s gift idea.  The welcome gift pack includes a wine cooler bag, a re-usable glass wine stopper, DropStop, personalised vine adoption certificate, and all of the details needed regarding the Wine Experience.

More information about the Wine Experience.

 

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Congratualtions to the winners of the 2016 My Vine photo competition


Many thanks to all of the participants in the 2016 “My Vine” photo competition, and also thanks to all of those who liked, commented or shared the photos taken during the Gourmet Odyssey Experience Days at our partner vineyards.
Voting closed at 17:00 yesterday and we have two winners.  The first winner was chosen by the Gourmet Odyssey jury, and the second winner was for the photo that received the most likes on our Facebook page.

The choice for the jury prize was long debated, and it proved very difficult to single out just one photo from all of the finalists!

Congratulations go to Maxime Baudry, who has been awarded the Gourmet Odyssey jury prize, and to Benoit Gaultier, the winner of the public vote on our Facebook page:

Adopt-vine experience in Burgundy, France

Wine gift box for Christmas, Birthday


Each winner will receive a magnum of wine from the winery where their adopted vines are located!

See you next year as the 2017 competition gets under way in February with the first Vinification and Discovery Experience Days!

 

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Winemaker profiles. Adrien David Beaulieu at Château Coutet


In our series of our partner winemaker profiles, we met up with Adrien David Beaulieu, who runs Château Coutet with his uncle, Alain.  The winery has been in the same family for 14 generations, and so has a long a passionate history!

 

Adopt-a-vine Experience at Château Coutet, Saint-Emilion, France

 

How long have you been a winemaker?

I have been a winemaker for seven years now, the last four of which have been full time.

 

What is your best memory in the vineyard or cellar?

The day when we learnt that our old bottle of wine that had been corked using a glass stopper, and that is still full, dated from 1750 (give or take 25 years). It is one of the oldest bottles of wine in the world!

 

For the 2015 vintage, that is still in the ageing process, what is at present your favourite wine and why?

We only have one wine, characterising the identity of our vineyard that is made up of four grape varietals and three distinct terroirs. It's therefore our favourite wine! And its name? Château Coutet!

 

For 2017, what are your upcoming projects or challenges?

Finishing the renovation of my house whose walls date from the end of the Middle Ages. It is located in the middle of the estate and is nestled next to our vineyards.

 

A question that our clients often ask. What does a winemaker do when he has a little time to himself?

He tries to get a little rest... !

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Adopt-a-Vine fun – finalists of the photo competition


The Gourmet Odyssey Experience Days for 2016 have now ended, and once again we've shared lots of great moments with all of the adoptive vine parents that have come to our partner wineries and have met their vines face to face! Many thanks to all of the great photos that we have received throughout the year.

We have selected 20 pictures for the final of the 2016 My Vine competition. There will be two winners. The public vote prize for the picture that receives the most "likes" on the Gourmet Odyssey Facebook page, and the jury prize for the photo selected by the Gourmet Odyssey team.

Discover the finalist photos and vote for your favourite on Facebook between now and 5pm on the 12th December. Take care to "like" the individual photo and not the entire album!

The two winners will receive a magnum of wine from the partner winery where they have their Wine Experience. See you back here on the 12th December for the results!

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A sunny harvest in the south of France at Domaine Allegria


On Saturday 3rd September we welcomed the Gourmet Odyssey adoptive vine parents to the winery to help harvest the plot of cinsault vines.

 

Harvest experience day at the winery, Domaien Allegria Languedoc

We were blessed with a beautifully sunny day to harvest this plot of vines that was planted in 1984. After explaining which grapes to pick and how to do so, the first snip of the secateurs got underway at about 10:00.

Wine gift box adopt-a-vine experience

The bunches of grapes were carefully picked and then transported in their crates to the shade of the vinification hall. The outside temperature rose quickly, and so it was important to keep the grapes as fresh as possible to help the start of the vinification process.

Harvest experience day in a French vineyard

Our harvesters were very enthusiastic, and by 11h30, the plot had been picked. It was a relatively small harvest, with a hundred or so crates picked. The dryness of the preceding weeks has meant that the grape berries that were formed were fairly small.

We then headed to another plot in the vineyard to discover where our adopted Syrah vines were to be found. The Tribu d'A red wine that we produce for the Gourmet Odyssey clients is made up of two grape varietals, syrah and mourvèdre.

Oenology course in a French winery in Languedoc

We then enjoyed a well-earned lunch in front of the winery, with home-made dishes from Delphine, accompanied by wines from the winery.

After lunch, we retreated to the cool of the cellar to put our harvest into the vat and learn about the first stages of fermentation that will start in a few days time.

We'll then pick up the next stages of the wine's evolution during the Vinification Experience Days. Many thanks to all of our apprentice harvesters!

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Conference – Threat to wine. The challenges of climatic change.


During the 12th Prix Régional du Livre Environnement, I listened a few weeks ago to a presentation in Lyon about the book "Menace sur le vin : les défis du changement climatique" (Threat to wine. The Challenges of climatic change), given by the authors Valéry Laramée de Tannenberg and Yves Leers. At this very moment in time, the wine growing regions of France are feeling the impact of climatic change, and its shaking the whole wine industry. The book attempts to shed some light on the socio-economic issues, and here is some of what I took away from their presentation.
Threat to wine.  The challenges of climatic change.

Never has the wine been so good and the situation so dire. The tone is set. For the two authors, both specialists in the fields of climate and the environment, the question is not whether climate change will happen, but how the French and global wine industry will deal with it.

The change is already happening, and the statistics and proof of climatic change abound. Since the temperatures in the vineyards have been recorded, the five years with the highest average temperature in the vineyards are 2000, 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2015. Worryingly recent. That supports the view that the climatic phenomena are accelerating, and the exceptional frosts a few weeks ago in the Loire and Burgundy will not stop the trend. The rainfall levels are completely disrupted and the temperature changes even more violent.

As Valéry Laramée de Tannenberg explained, the wine growing regions have encountered numerous climatic change events over the centuries, and that is notably why the culture of winemaking, born in Persia, has climbed further and further north to escape the mounting temperatures in the south. This was also enabled by the advancing Roman legions, known to be great wine lovers, as they expanded northwards. What is different today is the speed of the climatic change. During the COP 21, we talked about trying to stay below 2°C of temperature rise between now and 2100. If we continue as we are at the moment, we are already approaching a rise of 1.5°C.

And the impact for winemaking is already being felt. In the south of France, we're seeing wines touching 16°C in terms of alcoholic volume because of over ripeness. The heat is such that the grapes contain a sugar level that is too high. That is also posing problems for managing the harvest, which is starting earlier and earlier, and which sometimes calls for harvesting during the night to pick cooler grapes. It also has an impact on the vines themselves. In the Bordeaux region, researchers have shown that the merlot grape varietal has reached its optimum. Within the current conditions, it does very well, but a further increase in temperature will see yields decrease. The vines are also seeing new attacks from parasites and fungi which the heat encourages. The wine regions are continuing their advance north, and we are seeing a growth in the number of vineyards in England for example.

The wine growing regions are suffering and it's all of the industry that needs to adapt. Even if some of the changes haven't always been anticipated, there are currently a few paths to explore. The first attempts have been made to try and reduce the alcoholic volume in wine. Tests have been carried out to prune the vines differently and to leave more leaves on the vines to protect the grapes from the sun. Other tests have seen the orientation in which the vines are planted rotate or by planting vines at a higher altitude. In some of the wine growing regions outside of France, where it's authorised, the wine can be diluted with water or filtered when pressed to remove some of the sugar.

But the most impactful research for the long term will be that which is undertaken on the selection and diversity of the grape varietals. In the Bordeaux region for example, they are testing 50 or so new grape varietals which are not currently authorised in the Bordeaux AOC range of wines. Another promising avenue is the regeneration of the soil to develop the micro-bacterial activity as is already the practice with biodynamic winemaking. And another area of research is looking at genetics to create hybrid plants that mature later and are more resistant so as not to need phytosanitary treatments.

To conclude, not is all yet lost if we accelerate the change in cultural practices by using the advances in agro-ecology, organic and biodynamic farming techniques. To learn more about these proposed solutions, you can read more in the book « Menace sur le vin : les défis du changement climatique » (French language only for the moment).

The question that lingers as I leave the conference is the following. The winemakers will encounter some big challenges in the years ahead, but what can we, as consumers and lovers of wine, do? One solution that quickly comes to mind is to be more interested to better understand and better choose our bottles, favouring wines that are produced in an environmentally responsible way. And to talk with those close to us about our choices, so they talk to those close to them, and so that a tiny ripple becomes a wave big enough to force change upon the rest of the wine industry!

Marie Koch

 

Related articles

What makes French Organic Wine, Organic ?
What is biodynamic wine?
No to European Organic Wine?

 

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Just a few weeks left to find the perfect gift for Father’s Day


An original gift that is personalised, fun, organic and participative... If these are your criteria for an ideal Father's Day gift and your dad is a wine lover, then Gourmet Odyssey has the perfect wine present for you. Adopt some organic vines in France and give an unforgettable Wine Experience gift.

More than just a wine course or wine tasting gift. By adopting some vines, your dad will become an apprentice winemaker and follow the making of his own organic wine at one of our partner wineries in France.

Learning how to prune vines during a day at the winery

Our Wine Experience gift pack will allow your dad to keep up to date with the news and work at his winery, and keep track of what his happening to his adopted vines via the newsletters and photos. At the end of the wine-making year, your father will receive a bottle of wine for each adopted vine. He can even choose the name of his wine and personalise the wine labels!

Wine gift box to harvest one's own vines

And for an even more participative experience, include one or more of the days at the winery to meet the winemakers, see the adopted vines, and get involved in working in the vineyard, the harvest, or one of the wine-making workshops.

Adopt-a-vine gift for Fathers' Day

Each day is a full day, lasting between 09:30 and 16:00, and includes lunch and a tasting of the wines from the winery. They are each valid for two people, so your dad will get to share a good moment over a glass or two of wine!

All of our partner wineries are chosen for the quality of their wine, the passion of the winemakers in sharing and talking about the art of winemaking, and they are all organically or biodynamically certified.

To have something for your Dad to open on Father's day, each gift pack contains a sommelier's apron, a DropStop, and vine adoption certificate. Standard delivery takes two working days in France, and between 3 and 6 days for the rest of Europe. For last minute Father's Day gifts, we can also send a copy of the adoption certificate by email .

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Organic, biodynamic and natural wines


With all of Gourmet Odyssey's partner winemakers being organically certified, and some being also biodynamic, we're used to talking about what this entails during the wine experience days, and how the practices in the vineyard and cellar differ. But with the multitude of labels, and the plethora of information available, it's sometimes easy to get lost!

Wine lovers are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to the environmental impact of making wine on the vineyards and surrounding land, and in knowing what has been added to the wine before it reaches their glass. And so a number of labels and charters have been developed and applied to the world of wine, the most common of which are organic, biodynamic and natural wines.

Learning how to make an organic wine

 

The main differences

In this article we're going to set out the main characteristics of each practice, whether in the vineyard or cellar, but we it would make for far too long an article to be completely exhaustive. To dig a bit deeper, please take a look at some of our other articles on organic winemaking or biodynamic winemaking.

Conventional winemaking practices are currently being questioned because there is no longer the same importance put on forever increasing yields and the development of chemical products to enable it to happen. The use of synthetic substances to protect the vines from disease and produce more grapes per vine has seen opposition in the form of sustainable or integrated winemaking.

Whilst not organic, sustainable winemaking attempts to limit the deterioration of the soil and to better respect the environment by restricting the chemical treatments to the bare minimum, as the label for sustainable winemaking, Terra Vitis hopes to promote.

Integrated winemaking is a blend of sustainable and organic practices that also try to keep the use of chemical products to a bare minimum. The Tyflo label is used to signal this approach.

The Tyflo label for integrated winemaking

 

Organic winemaking is founded upon the suppression of chemical products that penetrate the vines, protecting them from within. As such, all chemical pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers and weed killers are banned. To receive the organic label, within the EU it's the green leaf logo made up of small stars, it takes three years to convert and receive the certification. In France, certification is controlled by independent organisations such as Ecocert or Qualité France. (See a complete list of organic certification bodies).

In organic winemaking, the winemaker uses natural products such as plants, copper or sulphur. These are all contact products and protect the vine from the outside. This is all well and good during dry weather, but has the disadvantage of being washed away when it rains, meaning that the vines need to be treated more often in wetter climates. Organic farming techniques have the advantage though of improving the quality and microbial life of the soil, and promoting a more natural environment in which insects and plants co-exist and compete.

The EU's label for organic winemaking

 

But it's not just in the vineyard that the difference can be found. Since 2012 making wine organically also means regulating what happens in the cellar, such as reducing the level of sulphites, using indigenous or organic yeast cells, and using organic sugar if chaptalising wines. That is why for vintages prior to 2012, a phrase such as "wine produced using organically certified vines" could be found on the wine lables, and it is only since 2012 in France that the words "Organic Wine" could be printed on the labels, once the whole of the production chain was controlled and certified.

Biodynamic winemaking is all about looking at the vines and wine in the context of their surrounding environment. In the vineyard, an equilibrium is sought between the plant and the soil based on the lunar calendar. It is sometimes compared to homeopathy and the treatments are created using plants, silex and animal matter.

It should also be noted that the levels of copper and sulphur used are considerably lower than with organic winemaking. To become biodynamically certified, the winery needs to first certify the vineyards concerned and wine-making process used as being organic, and then it needs to conform to the charter of a biodynamic organisation such as Demeter or Biodyvin.

Demeter's label for biodynamic winemaking

 

Natural wines have gained momentum over the past few years, and this term is used to describe wines that have been made from grapes having had the least intervention possible and where the juice has had nothing added to it. The idea is to let nature do virtually all the work and for the winemaker to act just as a facilitator. For example the grapes are harvested by hand, no yeast cells are added to start the fermentation, and no products are added to the wine to help stabilise and preserve it.

There isn't currently any official label or certification process for natural wines. Some organisations and associations who promote natural wines, recommend organic certification, but it's not an obligation, and none of their charters is bound by law.

 

How to recognise the labels?

So with the exception of natural wines, different labels exist to help the consumers of French wine to know whether a wine is certified as being organic, biodynamic, or sustainable.

But when looking for labels, you have to bear in mind that they only identify those winemakers that have taken the route to be certified. Many winemakers use organic, integrated or sustainable approaches without necessarily going through the certification process due to a lack of time, for financial reasons, or to be free from added bureaucracy and controls. Official certification however remains the best proof though that the winemaker has indeed respected the charter.

The important thing is to understand the approach used by the winemakers and to discuss this with them if possible when you taste their wines. Your beliefs and convictions will also be important when choosing a bottle, but of course the principal criteria when choosing which particular wine should always remain its taste. As with conventional wines, there will be wines that you like and don't like. Any label, whether it be organic, biodynamic or sustainable, isn't a guarantee of its perceived quality. The final step is to put faith in your senses to make the best pick!

 

Related articles

What makes French Organic Wine, Organic ?

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No to European Organic Wine?

 

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Learning about the work in the vineyard in Alsace


Much of a wine’s quality is the direct result of the work that is carried out in the vineyard to manage and nurture the vines, and as we were to learn during the Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Stentz-Buecher, there is much more to do than you would at first think!

Original wine experience gift.  Adopt vines in Alsace and make your own personalised bottles of wine

After the introductions to the Alsace wine growing region and a brief history of the Stentz-Buecher family, we made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are to be found.  We took a few minutes to introduce ourselves to our vines and to encourage them to work hard in producing a good harvest for this year’s vintage!

Adopt-a-vine gift in france for wine lovers.

But then time to get down to the serious business of the day and to learn about the key stages involved in preparing the vines for the harvest.  To do so, we were joined by Jean-Jacques, who passionately explained the different aspects of this complex, demanding, and, often, highly manual profession.

Organic wine gift.  Work in the vineyard alongside the winemaker

Pruning, de-budding, trellising, planting new vines, fighting against diseases and so on, the questions and topics covered were varied and numerous.  We also talked about the differences between organic and conventional farming methods used to weed the vineyards and treat the vines, and how the life of a winemaker and the local community has changed over time.  Jean-Jacques is extremely passionate about his profession and given the chance would have kept us in the vineyard forever!

We then headed back to the winery, making a quick stop at a plot of vines lower down on the plain that had recently been damaged by frost and which will have a severely reduced yield as a result.  Difficult to believe given the glorious sunshine and blue skies of the day, but a reminder that however good and dedicated the winemaker may be, Mother Nature can have other plans.

Wine tasting gift in Alsace at an organic winery

We tasted a range of the different wines produced by Domaine Stentz-Buecher, starting with an unusual wine, called Who Am I? that is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.  We then moved onto a more classic Riesling Tradition 2014, followed by the 2014 vintage of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, the Pinot Gris Rosenberg.  We then tasted a more complex Riesling, the Tannenbuehl 2011, and an unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011.

We tasted a Crémant d’Alsace “brut de nature”, made from 100% Chardonnay grapes with no added liqueur before sitting down to lunch which had been prepared by a local caterer.

In the afternoon, we visited the cellar to get a brief overview and appreciation of the wine-making side of things.  Stéphane showed us the wine press, and the vats and barrels that contain the wine during the fermentation and ageing processes.  We finished the day in the “vinothèque”, an impressive room used to showcase some of the older vintages.

Winery tour gift in Alsace, France

We’ll get to see the press in action during the Harvest Experience Day and will spend more time in the cellar during the Vinification Experience Days, but until then, there is still much to do in the vineyard, as the day hopefully taught us!

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Organic wine-making course in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher


Once the grapes are harvested, the work of the winemaker is far from over.  There is still much to do during the fermentation and ageing stages before the wine is finally ready to be bottled, and this is what we were gathered at Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Alsace to find out during the Vinification Experience Day.

The quality of the wine depends also on the work carried out in the vineyard, and so after the introductions, we headed to the Rosenberg vineyard, to see where our adopted vines are located and to get a better understanding of the local terroir. Céline pointed out the different plots of Grand Cru vines around us, and we also took a few minutes to take some pictures of our adopted vines.

Rent-a-vine-giftin Alsace, France

We were also accompanied by Jean-Jacques, Céline’s father, who founded the winery with his wife, Simone, in 1975.  With the hot weather of the past few days, the vines have sprung to life and Jean-Jacques briefly explained the work that will shortly be keeping them busy to de-bud the vines.

But the principal purpose of the day was to learn about the wine-making side of things, so we headed back to the winery.  To prepare us for the different wines that we would taste throughout the day, the first workshop was designed to develop our senses and help us describe our appreciation of the wines.  We talked about how the different senses can be used to help us identify the characteristics of the wines, and we put our noses to the test to try and name some of the aromas that can be found in white wine.  Not always as easy as you would think!

Oenology gift for wine lovers.

We then descended into the cellar with Stéphane, who manages the wine-making process at the winery.  He talked to us about how the grapes are received and pressed at harvest time and how the fermentation process then transforms the sugar into alcohol.

We had the chance to taste the 2015 vintage of our Pinot Gris Rosenberg wine directly from the cask, and to get a first impression of the potential for our wine.  The wine had finished its malo-lactic fermentation and was very concentrated both aromatically and on the palate.  Very promising t this stage!

Organic wine tasting gift experience in an organic Alsace winery

Stéphane then took us into the barrel room and talked to us about the difference in vinifying and ageing red wines.  We tasted a wine made from Pinot Noir grapes that those of us that had participated in the Harvest Experience Day had helped to pick.

Wine-making gift experience with the winemaker

Alsace is a wine-growing region where, for the most part, the wines are defined by their grape varietal and the terroir in which the vines are located.  To better understand these differences, there’s no better way than to taste the wines!

To start with, a blind tasting test of three different wines, where we had to identify three different grape varietals.  In the second series, we again tasted three different wines, but this time each were Riesling wines, the only difference being the terroir.  The first wine was a Riesling Tradition wine that had been blended from different plots, the second a Riesling Ortel that contains the grapes from one single vineyard, and the third a Riesling Steingrubler Grand Cru, from one of Alsace’s most sought after vineyards.

Wine tasting course in Alsace with the winemaker

We then tasted a Crémant d’Alsace with a savoury Kouglopf before sitting down to lunch where we tasted some more of the wines produced by the winery.

In the afternoon, we returned to the cellar, and saw the where the wines are bottled and labelled and talked more about the choices of the winemaker in using cork or alternatives.  Time for a few more questions, and the day drew to a close.

Winery tour and visit in Alsace, France

Many thanks to all the participants for a very interactive and lively day, and of course to the Stentz-Buecher family for welcoming us and sharing their passion for winemaking.

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A lesson in pruning vines at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis


Pruning is probably the most complicated and hardest of all the work that is carried out in the vineyard. It is probably the most important too, as it helps determine not just the yield of this year’s harvest, but also lays the foundation for the following year. It might sound simple in theory, but as the participants in last Sunday’s Discovery Experience Day at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard were to find out, it’s not quite as simple!
Vineyard experience, Chablis

The aim of this hands on wine course is to learn about all of the work that the winemaker has to do in the vineyard to ensure the best possible grapes at harvest time, so after the brief introductions, overview of the Chablis region and the history of the winery, we headed out into the vineyard.

We made our way to the Boissonneuse vineyard, which is where our adopted vines are located, and which was also the first of the winery’s vineyards to be organically and biodynamically certified. Here you have a great view of the rolling Chablis hills, planted with vines as far as the eye can see, and so we took a few minutes to take some photos of our vines in this wonderful setting.

Adopt a vine, Chablis, France

It was then time to get down to some serious business! We were accompanied by Fred, one of the key members of the vineyard team. He told us about what had been keeping him busy since the last harvest, most of the time which had been spent so far pruning the vines. The pruning at the winery has finished, but Fred had kept a few vines back so that we could have a go for ourselves. He showed us how to choose which branches to cut, and which to select to produce this year’s harvest. Easy!

Wine experience, Chablis, France

Secateurs in hand, we then had a go for ourselves. Hang on a minute. What did Fred say? Is this the right branch to keep? This vine doesn’t look anything like the ones he used for the demonstration... The first thing we learnt is that the theory is all well and good, but each vine has its own exceptions! However, after the first couple of vines, it starts to get a little easier, but we have a much better understanding of the complexity of what appears to be a simple task. And when you look at the hundreds of thousands of vines growing on the surrounding hills, you realise what a mammoth task pruning is.

Wine lover gift, Chablis,France

Fred then showed us how the branches are bent and attached to the training wire using a fantastic tool that ties and cuts some string at the press of a button, considerably speeding up the job.

Unique wine gifts, Chablis, France

We also had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics as varied as working the soil, grafting and planting new vines, as well as the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic farming.

We then made our way back to the winery for a well earned tasting of some of the Chablis wines produced on the estate. We tasted a Petit Chablis 2014 and Chablis Sainte Claire 2015, produced from the vineyard immediately around us. We then tried a Chablis Premier Cru “Butteaux” 2011, followed by a Chablis Grand Cru “Valmur” 2011. Over lunch we continued the tasting with a Chablis Boissonneuse 2013 and one of the few red wines produced at the winery, the Irancy “Les Mazelots” 2014.

Original wine gift, Chablis, France

After lunch and all those wines, it was good to get some fresh air! We headed out into the Sainte Claire vineyard, where we could see the notable difference in terroir from the Boissonneuse vineyard. Here we talked about the different tasks that lay ahead in the vineyard between now and the harvest, and how the winemakers will choose when the time is right to pick the grapes.

Adopt a vine france, Chablis

The day ended with a quick visit to the fermentation hall that is home to all of the wooden casks at the winery. It’s an impressive room, and is where part of the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey cuvée is aged.

Personalised wine gifts, France, Chablis

We’ll go into more detail about the winemaking side of things during one of the Vinification Experience Days. For now the attention swings back to the vineyard, as the next couple of weeks will be crucial as we hope that the last of the frosts are behind us, and that the buds continue to flourish unhindered.

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What to get the person that has everything ?

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

From € 159

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