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Tagged articles : Wine

The benefits of shade in the vineyard


Sunshine is crucial for ripening the grapes sufficiently to make our precious wine.  A hot spell during summer doesn’t harm, and it’s well documented that warm years often produce some of the best vintages.  However, many winemakers are confronted with new climatic challenges, notably due to the vines being excessively exposed to the sun.
The problem is that the hotter it gets, the higher the sugar level and so the higher the alcoholic volume.  The vineyards most impacted are in the southern regions, where the alcoholic volume of the wines has increased by a degree per decade over the past 30 years.  It’s not such a problem for wines with a high sugar content like Sauternes, but other wines such as Pinot Noir, risk losing their intensity and acidic balance.
 
This is where shade can play a role in winemaking, a simple technique that offers several advantages to protect the vines and improve the quality of the grapes.  The shade will help regulate the temperature of the vegetative matter and reduce hydric-stress, and for the grapes, keep the sugar levels down and slow the ripening of the grapes.
 
Protection from excessive heat
 
The shade provides a natural protection from direct sun rays, keeping the temperature of the vines lower.  When vines are exposed to too much heat, they can be damaged from burnt leaves or grapes, as well as dehydration.
 
Several techniques exist depending on the region.  The first is to stop the practice of removing leaves from the vines.  Leaving more leaves on the plant will naturally protect the grapes from the sun and help avoid them from drying out.
 
Some winemakers choose to train the vines, using up to 5 or 6 training wires, in order that the vines reach 2m high, thus creating their own shade.
 
In the Rhone Valley, the vines grow around and are attached to large wooden stakes, or échalas.  The tops of the vines are weaved together with those from the vines on either side to form an arch.  This helps to create even more shade, a technique used effectively at Château Cohola.
 
Global warming in vineyard
 
Other winemakers are looking to vitiforestry, whereby the vineyards are surrounded by trees that help protect the vines from the heat, help retain water, and fertilise the soils.  It’s also a great way to improve the biodiversity in the vineyard!
 
Keeping the soil damp
 
Prolonged exposure to the sun means that water evaporates more quickly from the soil, which can cause hydric stress for the vines.  Some winemakers therefore choose to leave the cut grass around the vines to create a vegetal carpet.  The shade provides a protective layer that slows down the evaporation and keeps the soil damper.  By keeping better water reserves in the soil, the vines can better resist dry spells and remain in good health.
 
Controlling the ripening of the grapes
 
The grape maturing process is a delicate one, and needs particular attention paid to it.  The shade can play a crucial role by slowing the process down.  Exposure to too much sun accelerates how quickly the grapes mature, which can have a negative impact on their quality, particularly the development of aromas and taste.  By creating shady areas in the vineyard, the winemakers can help slow down the maturing process in the quest to improve quality.
 
The shade can provide numerous advantages to protect the vines and improve the quality of the grapes.  It can help protect the vines from heat damage, better maintain the humidity in the soil, and to control the rate of maturity. The techniques used to help create shade can be adapted to the specifics of each region and local climatic conditions.  With careful management, the winemakers can help create the optimal conditions for the vines to prosper and produce better quality wines.

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Get involved in the grape harvest in an organic French vineyard.


The harvest is the crucial time of year when the winemaker’s work throughout the year comes to fruition.

The date of the harvest depends on many factors; the weather, the grape varietal, the type of wine, but it fundamentally comes down to the maturity of the grapes, and finding that perfect balance between sugar and acidity.  The winemaker will then choose the optimum moment to harvest the grapes and make the wine to the desired taste.

Gourmet Odyssey offers Harvest Experience Days where you can get involved in the harvest at one of our 6 organic partner wineries.  The aim is to participate in and learn from the winemaker about the process to harvest the grapes through to putting them in the fermentation tanks.

Armed with a pair of secateurs and a bucket, the winemaker will show you how to cut the bunches and to select the best grapes.  Once you’ve finished the harvest, you’ll follow their journey back to the chai.

Harvest you own french vines

You’ll also enjoy a wine tasting session, because after the effort, the just reward!  And then you will sit down to the harvesters’ lunch, accompanied by a selection of wines, where you can talk with the winemakers and learn more about how they work organically and the challenges in doing so.  It’s a very privileged moment!

Then discover the work in the cellar during harvest time.  You’ll get involved in sorting the grapes and putting them into the vats, where you’ll learn about the fermentation process.  The day will be over before you know it, but you’ll be much wiser about all of the work and effort that goes into harvesting and making wine.

Perfect original gift for a wine lover

The little extra? Each Harvest Experience Day is valid for two people!  And what’s more, when you buy a Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, you also have some adopted vines included that you’ll get to meet when you go to the winery for the harvest.  You’ll follow the making of your wine, and will receive a bottle of wine for each adopted vine, using the grapes that you have helped to harvest.  So, are you ready to meet up for the harvest?

Discover more about the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

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A day spent with the winemakers to learn about their work in the vineyard


We spent an excellent Discovery Experience Day at Château Cohola in the Côtes du Rhône village of Sablet.  Accompanied by the winemakers, Cheli and Jérôme Busato, we learnt a lot about their efforts in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes, and we’ll be sure to better appreciate the bottles of wine that we open from now on!

Adaopt a vin in France

After the introductions to the winery, the winemakers, and the region’s wines, we headed straight out into the vineyard.  Our first stop was to visit our adopted vines!  Thanks to a small blackboard, we were able to find and introduce ourselves to our micro-plots of vines and take a few souvenir photos.

Cheli and Jérôme explained the work that they had carried out in winter and the start of spring to prune and de-bud the vines in order to reduce the quantity of grapes produced by each vine with the aim of improving the quality.

Original gift for a wine lover

The winery is made up of 15 terraced vineyards, and Jérôme and Cheli showed us the different grape varietals and pruning methods that they use.  The vines had grown lots over the past few weeks, and we stopped in front of a plot of staked vines.

Next to each vine was a large wooden stake, or échalas, to which the vine was attached to help support the weight of the grapes and leaves.  Our mission was to take the tops of the branches, divide them in two, and weave them together with those from the neighbouring vines to form arches. The arches make the vines more stable, protecting them from the winds that often blow hard in this region, and give some more shade to the grapes to protect them from the sun.

Participating to the elaboaration of an organic cuvée

Jérôme and Cheli showed us how to create the arches, and then we spread out between the rows to have a go ourselves.  At first, we were scared of damaging the branches, but we quickly learnt that they are stronger than you think, and we started to advance more quickly!

We continued our stroll through the vineyards until we reached the highest point of the estate, where we stopped to admire the wonderful view overlooking the village of Sablet and the plains of the Rhone Valley below.  Jérôme enlightened us as to how they work organically and the challenges of doing so, and he explained the work that remains to be done between now and the harvest.

Discover the winemaker job

Aperitif time had arrived, and so we made our way down to the village and met up in a local restaurant for a nice fresh glass of 2022 Sablet rosé from the winery which has the peculiarity of being a blend of press and bled rosé wines.

With the aubergine papeton starter, Cheli served us their 2022 Sablet Cuvée Fruit, a light and fruity red wine that she had made specially for drinking chilled. Absolutely fantastic!  With the chicken Provencal main course, we tasted the 2019 vintage of the Sablet wine that has been chosen for the clients of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience.

Participate in the summer work in an organic french vineyard

Cheli and Jérôme are also beekeepers, and so with the goat’s cheese, they honoured us by serving squares of honeycomb.  An unforgettable experience, accompanied by the excellent 2022 Sablet white wine.  And with the home-made cherry clafoutis dessert, we tasted the powerful TBF wine that had been aged in wood, clay, and steel cotenants.

Perfect gift idea for wine lover

After lunch, we went to the chai.  Jérôme showed us where the grapes will be received at harvest time and gave us a quick introduction to the work in ageing wine.  We’ll spend more time here in September during the Harvest Experience Day and in spring for the Vinification Experience Day.

Many thanks to Cheli and Jérôme for this fascinating day spent in this wonderfully relaxing spot. 

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Learn from the winemaker about the work in the vineyard to nurture organic grapes in Burgundy


Since March, we have welcomed groups of wine lovers to Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay for the Discovery Experience Days.  These hands-on Wine Experience Days aim to better understand the work of the winemaker in the vineyard to produce the best quality grapes for harvesting.

Wine Discovery Experience in Burgundy

After the welcome and briefing of the day’s programme, Jean-François Chapelle recounted the history of his family, his winery, and of Burgundy wines.

We then set out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines, whisper them a few sweet words, and take some photographs to immortalise the moment!

Adopt a vine with Gourmet Odyssey

We were joined by Jean-François’ son, Simon, who has been managing the vines and vinification process since 2021.  Jean-François is progressively taking his retirement and passing on the reigns to Simon.

Simon explained the whole vegetative life cycle from pruning through to the harvest, and we quickly learnt that the work carried out in the vineyard demands lots of manual effort.

Pruning is done between January and April, before the branches are arced and attached to the bottom training wire to delay the moment when the buds burst, with the aim of reducing the risk of being impacted by any frosts.  The participants of the Discovery Experience days in March were able to witness the complexity of pruning!

Elaborate your own organic wine in France

The buds burst in the second half of April, and the vines started to grow the fruit-bearing branches for this new season.

In May, the main job was de-budding the vines, which involves removing any double shoots and unwanted branches to limit the quantity of grapes that each vine can produce.  It’s a job that demands dexterity and some thought, as the participants of the May Discovery Experience Day found out by de-budding some vines for themselves.  There is always the fear of damaging the vines or choosing the wrong branch to remove, but it’s only by doing that you really learn.

Discover the winemaker job during a day

The branches grew rapidly in May, and so we had to return to each vineyard plot to raise the training wires twice, finishing by trimming the tops of the vines to stop the branches from becoming too intertwined.  Raising the training wires was the task we were set for the Discovery Experience Days in June and July.

Original gift for a wine lover

Domaine Chapelle has been adhering to the organic charter for 15 years now, working the soil mechanically and only using treatments permitted in organic agriculture.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to work they work organically at the vineyard and the challenges of doing so.

Learn all the work behind a bottle of wine

After these great mornings spent in the vineyard, we returned to the winery for a nice glass of fresh Santenay white wine, accompanied by the famous Burgundy gougères.  We then sat down to lunch with three food and wine parings: the fish terrine starter served with a Burgundy Aligoté, the Gaston Gérard chicken main course paired with the Clos des Cornières Santenay red wine, and the chocolate and blackcurrant dessert accompanied by a Santenay Premier Cru.

Discover how to make organic wine in Burgundy

Depending on the weather, in the afternoon, we went for a walk through the vineyards to see the different terroir and/or we visited the cellar to have a glimpse of what we’ll cover in much more detail during the Vinification Experience Days next spring.

But the next rendez-vous is to meet up for the Harvest Experience Days in September to harvest the grapes from our vines!

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Wine gift experience to discover the work in an organic vineyard in Saint-Emilion


The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Discovery Days at Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion are a great way to immerse yourself in the life of a winemaker and learn about all of the work that goes on in the vineyard.

We met up at the magnificent Château Coutet, a family-run winery, very close to the centre of this beautiful medieval town that is renowned throughout the world for the quality of its wine.  We were to spend the day with one of the winemaking owners, Alain David-Beaulieu.  The aim of the day was to discover the daily work of a winemaker.  The vines had already grown lots by the end of June, and we could already see the future grapes well formed on the vines.

Adopt organic vines in Saint-Emilion

After a quick tour of the estate and our adopted vines, Alain explained the different work that has been carried out in the vineyard since winter.  It all started with pruning the vines to control the quantity of grapes produced and to limit how much the vines spread.  Once the vines start to grow, the best fruit-bearing branches were selected, and any shoots that wouldn’t produce any grapes removed, so as to preserve the vines energy on producing better quality grapes.  Then came the raising of the training wires to keep the vines nicely aligned and supported between two wires.  This enables the tractors to continue to pass through the vine rows without hindrance or damaging the vines.

Alain had kept a little work back for us to do, and so after all the explanations, we got to experience firsthand what it’s like to work in a vineyard.

Dicover all the work behind a bottle of wine

Removing some of the leaves from the zone around the grapes is very important for the vines, as it improves the airflow, as they can bring dampness.  Spring was fairly wet and humid this year, increasing the risk of fungi such as mildew forming which can quickly destroy the work of a whole season by drying out the future grapes, which then can’t be used to make wine.

After having a go for ourselves, we soon learned that it’s a physical job, especially so if it’s done for many days and even weeks in a row!  Producing quality grapes demands a lot of effort!

But after the effort, the just reward!  We all ate a lovely meal together and delighted our taste buds with the wines from the estate under the shade of the tress in the garden.

Elaborate you own cuvée

In the afternoon, we visited the chai and talked more about the challenges of working organically.  We finished the day with a visit of the family cellar where the old vintage wines are stored!

This immersive day proved to be very interesting and we thank Alain warmly for his welcome.  We can’t wait to come back for the Harvest Experience Days in September!

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Discover the work of an organic winemaker in the vineyard


In May and June, we visited Château de Jonquières, a magnificent family-run winery in the Terrasses du Larzac wine-growing region, to spend a couple of Discovery Experience Days with the winemakers, Charlotte and Clément de Béarn.  The aim of these Wine Experience days is to learn about all the work that goes on in an organically certified vineyard.

Adopt an organic vine in the south of France

We were welcomed by Gaël, the Gourmet Odyssey wine specialist, and the winemakers who gave us an introduction to the château and its history that has been passed down through 32 generations.

The days were focused mainly on the work in the vineyard, but we had to be flexible in May to avoid the showers.  Charlotte and Clément were all smiles to see the rain because the winter had been very dry and the vines were desperately in need of water. Clément assured us that there would be enough dry patches to be able to do some work in the vineyard, and he was right!

Once in the vineyard, Charlotte and Clément explained the work that had been done during the winter and early spring, most notably to prune the vines.  In spring the vines need lots of care to keep them healthy, and accompany them in preparing them for an optimal harvest.  The vines had already grown quickly, so there were two tasks awaiting our help.

Make your own organic French wine

First we raised the training wires in a couple of rows of Cinsault to trap the branches between them.  This helps the vines to support the weight of the grapes and foliage.

We also de-budded the vines by removing the young shoots that had sprouted from the vine trunks and might transport disease from the soil to the vines.  We also removed any double-buds in a plot of Carignan, leaving the best branches to bask in the sun and to have a better airflow around them so that they dry more quickly, again reducing the risk of disease.

Discover all the work in a vineyard during summer

After the effort, we were rewarded back at the château with a well earned aperitif and winemakers lunch.  Charlotte and Clément had selected 5 of their wines to accompany the delicious meal which had been prepared by a local chef, Aubin Vie.

Participe in the winemaker job during a day

The meal is always a lovely moment when the participants get to ask lots of questions to the winemakers about their life, daily routine, and the differences between the wines that we were tasting.

Wine experience day withe Gourmet Odyssey in the Languedoc

In the beginning of the afternoon, we went on a little stroll to visit our adopted vines.  It’s a great spot, and the 70 odd year old Carignan vines that were planted by Charlotte’s grandmother are a sight to behold.

Disover the winemaker job during a day

The days finished in the chai where Clement enlightened us a little to his universe and the tools he uses to receive the grapes at harvest time.  We’ll see all of that in action when we return to the winery in September for the Harvest Experience Day!

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A day in the vineyard with the winemakers


We spent a great day in Alsace at Domaine Stentz-Buecher for a Gourmet Odyssey Discovery Experience Day.  These hands-on wine experience days at the winery enable wine lovers to discover all the work that goes on in the vineyard needed to make a great wine.

perfect gift for a wine lover

We were welcomed by Céline and Stéphane, the winemakers at Domaine Stentz-Buecher.  After the introductions, we headed straight out and made our way to the Rosenberg vineyard, where our adopted vines are located.

A little surprise was waiting for us!  A nameplate had been put in front of our adopted vines, and so we set out to acquaint ourselves with them, and take a few photos to immortalise the moment!

Discover the winemaker job during a day

To make good wine, you need good ingredients, and the choices that the winemakers take and the quality of the work in the vineyard will have a big impact on the quality of the grapes at harvest time.   The weather also plays its part of course, but let’s stay focused on the factors we can control!

Stéphane and Céline explained the work that has been done since the last harvest, notably to prune the vines and attach the selected branches to the training wire.

Elaborate your own french wine

The flowering period went well in early June, and now the vines are in full growth mode to form the grape bunches and grow the leaves needed to ripen them through photosynthesis.  There’s lots of work to be done and so our help was very welcome!

Be a winemaker during a day in Alsace

Our first task was to train the vines onto the trellis system.  When the branches grow, they fall into the middle of the row, and sometimes to the ground.  Without any intervention, two big problems are quickly encountered.  Firstly, the tractor won’t be able to pass down the row to treat and work the vines without breaking the branches.  And secondly, the risk of spreading disease from one row to another, or from the ground, is increased. 

Gift idea for wine lover

Stéphane showed us how to raise the branches and place them between the training wires of the trellis system.  Then in pairs, we spread out to start our newfound profession of being a winemaker!  At first we were a little hesitant, so as not to damage or break any of the branches, but we quickly understood that the branches are much more robust that you would think!

Stéphane also asked us to de-bud the vines as we went down the rows if we saw any shoots that had sprouted from the lower trunk of the vines.  These shoots won’t produce any grapes, so it’s best to remove them to concentrate the vine’s energy on the fruit-bearing branches.

Learn how to produce wine

When we arrived at the end of the row, it was with great satisfaction that we turned around to admire our work!

On our way back to the winery, Céline showed us a plot of young vines that had just been planted.  She explained how important it is to plan ahead and coordinate the replanting schedule with the other plots to best manage the continuity of production across the winery, as you need to allow for a good ten years from the moment you pull up the old vines, to the moment that you can start harvesting grapes that begin to be of an interesting quality.

Discovery Experience Day in Alsace

Back at the winery, we went down into the cool of the cellar and gathered in the impressive wine library where the old vintage wines are stored. And yes, it’s not just red wines that you can conserve!

Céline had prepared a great wine tasting session to reward us after our morning’s effort, starting with the fresh and crisp 2019 Muscat Rosenberg.  We then tasted the very aromatic 2014 Riesling Tannenbuehl cuvée Flavien, a wine that is already almost 9 years old and which can happily be kept for a fair few more years to come.  Next up was the 2021 Pinot Gris Rosenberg, the wine chosen for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, followed by the Brut Nature Crémant d’Alsace sparkling rosé wine to finish, accompanied by some savoury kouglof.

Taste organic french wine

We continued the wine tasting over lunch, the 2018 Who Am I? Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling blend pairing the baeackeofe, one of Alsace’s quintessential specialties.  With the local cheese board, we enjoyed the 2018 Pinot Noir Granit, and the 2019 Gewurztraminer Rosenberg with the blueberry tart.

Wine tasting in Alsace

After lunch, Stéphane detailed the work remaining to be done in the vineyard before the harvest, and how he will choose when the right time to harvest is.   We then retunred to the cellar to quickly visit the press, barrel room, and fermentation hall.  We’ll be spending more time in the cellar during the Harvest Experience Day to see how the grapes are received, and during the Vinification Experience Day to learn more about the work during the fermentation, ageing, and bottling phases.

Many thanks to Stéphane and Céline for sharing their passion for their profession with us. We can’t wait to come back for the harvest!

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Surprise your Dad with some adopted vines for his Fatherís Day gift this year


There are many wine-loving Dad’s out there, but you can’t get him yet another work-screw or bottle of wine for his Father’s Day present!  How about adopting him his own organic vines in France?  A really original Father’s Day gift that’s bound to make its mark.
The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience will get him immersed in the life of a winemaker.  Choose his favourite wine growing region from our 6 organic partner wineries in France and adopt his very own organic vines for a wine-making year.  The winemaker will send news of his adopted vines via the newsletters to follow their evolution and the key stages in making his wine.  Once his wine is bottled and labelled with his personalised labels, he’ll get to taste his delicious vintage that he’ll know all the secrets of!
 
We’ll send a welcome pack containing a vine adoption certificate, a brochure, and access to his own Customer Portal, as well as a few wine accessory gifts, so that you have something to give on the day.  And for the last-minute Father’s Day gifts, we can send the vine adoption certificate by email.
 
Adopt a vine in France during a vintage
 
The Wine Experience doesn’t stop there.  You can also choose to include one or more Wine Experience Days to your father’s present, so that he can meet and spend a day with the winemaker at the winery.  The originality of these Wine Experience Days is that they aren’t just simple winery tours.  You get to participate in the work in the vineyard or cellar alongside the winemaker who will explain all the key steps in making wine.
 
Wine gift for fathers day
 
There are three types of Wine Experience Day, it’s up to you to choose!  The little extra?  The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience Days are valid for two people and include wine tasting and a full sit-down meal.
 
It’s a Father’s Day gift that he’ll be sure to remember and one that’s sure to please!

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Wine making in Saint-Emilion, an art passed down from generation to generation


We headed to Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion for a Gourmet Odyssey Vinification Experience Day.  This hands-on wine course enables wine lovers to spend the day with the winemaker and learn about all the work in the cellar to ferment, age and blend the wines before they are ready for bottling.

Benoît, the Gouret Odyssey wine expert, introduced us to the day while we enjoyed a coffee and croissant.  Then Matthieu, who represents the 13th generation of winemaker at the winery, presented Château Coutet and its diversity of terroirs and grape varietals.  It’s an exceptional place where the vines, trees, and family have been living together in perfect harmony for over 400 years.

In the vinification hall, Matthieu explained the fermentation phases, something that those of us who had already participated in the Harvest Experience Day had touched upon last September.  Matthieu proved to be someone both very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject.

Organic wine-making experience gift Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We then went through to the barrel room, where the wine is laid to rest and age in oak barrels once the fermentation has finished.  Traditionally, wines are aged in oak barrels in Bordeaux.  At Château Coutet, the aim is to limit the amount of wood that can be tasted in the wine, so the percentage of new barrels used is fairly low.

Cellar tour and visit gift in an orgnaic Saint-Emilion winery

Back in the fermentation hall, Benoît then initiated us to the art of wine tasting, starting with a reminder of the basics, so that we were all talking the same wine language.  We blind tasted a first series of wines, a very interesting exercise that enables us to better concentrate on the aromas and tastes to analyse the wines by avoiding being influenced by labels and any preconceived ideas that go with them.

Organic wine tasting experience gift in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We continued with another blind tasting of the four grape varietals grown at the winery.  This enabled us to identify the characteristics of each before having a go at blending them together in different proportions to create our own wines like real Saint-Emilion wine-makers!

Wine blending gift in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

The morning flew by and before we knew it, it was time to sit down to lunch.  We continued the wine tasting with the Vertige white wine made by a cousin of the family at Château Grand Verdus, which accompanied the Landais salad for the starter.   The 2020 Château Coutet paired wonderfully with the beef brochette main course, ending with the magnificent 2018 Demoiselles wine, which has a long finish and complexity to it that matches the best of the Saint-Emilion wines.

After lunch, we made the most of the sun’s return to go and visit our adopted vines up on Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau, surrounded by Château Coutet’s prestigious neighbours.  We each found our vines thanks to a personalised slate that had been put out.  We marvelled at the wonderful view, and took some photos in the hope of winning a magnum of wine in the “My Vine” photo competition.

Organic rent-a-vine gift experience in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

We finished the day with a visit to the cellar where the bottles are stored.  Matthieu explained how the wine is bottled and labelled, the last remaining steps before the wine is ready to be sold and tasted.

Many thanks to Matthieu for his warm welcome, and to all the participants for this great day, that was as enjoyable as always.

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Wine Experience in the Loire Valley to learn about the work in the cellar


We welcomed some of the 2022 vintage clients to Château de la Bonnelière in Chinon for a Vinification Experience Day.  During this wine-making course, we discovered the work of the winemaker in the cellar from just after the harvest up until the moment when the wine is ready to be bottled.

The day started with a coffee and croissant to introduce ourselves to one another and discover the day’s full programme of events.  The objective of the day was to learn the decisions the winemaker takes in the cellar when making wine, and as we were to learn it’s a complex task!

We divided the group into two for the morning’s two different workshops.  One half started in the chai opposite the château with the winemaker, Marc.  This building is home to the fermentation hall, the bottling and labelling line, and the logistical centre.

Organic wine experience gift in the Loire Valley, France

Marc had the honour of transforming our guests into apprentice winemakers through his explanations.  He covered all of the most important steps from the harvest, through the fermentation and maceration phases, up until the wine starts the ageing process, which was to be our theme for the afternoon!

The other half stayed with Louise, Gourmet Odyssey’s wine expert, for a wine tasting workshop!  It’s all very interesting to learn about how wine is made, but it’s also good to know how to taste it properly!  We worked on the senses we use when tasting wines, in which order to use them, and the specificities of each step.  Before putting our new found skills into practice, we put our noses to the test!  Most of us are not used to paying close attention to the aromas that surround us, and we learnt that it is something we need to train to be able to better identify the subtle aromas and characteristic of different grape varietals.

Learn how to taste wines with the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

The groups were then swapped around before we all met up again for the aperitif and lunch, a good occasion to put into practice our morning’s work!

As always, Mme Plouzeau had prepared a wonderful meal, and we savoured the range of Château de la Bonnelière’s wines that we tasted.  So much so that it was difficult to pull ourselves away from the table afterwards!

There remained two important activities: meeting our adopted vines in the vineyard next to the château and visiting the cellar underneath the Chinon Fortress.

The vines were in very good shape.  They had recently been pruned and were impatiently waiting for the first warm days to burst back into life.

Adopt-a-vine gift for wine lovers to learn about the work behind a bottle of wine

We then headed into Chinon to end the day.  Marc has the very good fortune to own his own troglodyte cave, directly underneath Chinon’s fortress.  He uses the cave as a cellar to age his wines in oak barrels from anything between one and three years depending on the wine and the vintage.

Make your own FRench organic wine gift in the Loire Valley

It’s a precise and painstaking job that requires patience and skill to know when a wine is ready, and which need longer.  It took Marc years of trial and error to master.  To give our participants a notion, we had the honour of tasting different wines to better understand how they change during the ageing process.  It was a unique moment that everyone very much appreciated.

Before we knew it, the day drew to a close, and it was time for us to go our separate ways.  Many thanks to all of those who took part and helped to make the day so special.  Hopefully see you again soon!

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The impact of global warming on winemaking in France


Throughout the wine-making regions of France, the temperature is rising.  For example, in the Bordeaux region, the temperature has increased by around 2°C during the vine growth period over the past 70 years.  Climate change has been having a big impact in the vineyards for several years now, forcing the winemakers to reflect and change their working ways.
Together with warming, other extreme climatic conditions are threatening the vines.  First to mind is the heat and drought that had such a strong impact on the 2022 vintage in all of France’s wine-growing regions, which also produced devastating fires in Aquitaine.  
 
Milder winters cause the vines to burst into life earlier, increasing the exposure to spring frosts that can easily devastate the first buds.  Hailstorms in the summer can do much damage, as can floods which spread disease in the vineyards…  Each extreme episode hammers home the importance of protecting the environment.  The wine-making world is one of the economic sectors that is the least climate sceptic, because each vintage is directly shaped by the changes in climate.  The famous “normal year” that each winemaker talks about is becoming less and less normal.
 
Impact of global warming on the wine

How is climate change impacting the vines?

The development of the vines has evolved over the past few decades.  We’ve already mentioned that the warmer winter temperatures are causing the buds to burst earlier and earlier, meaning that the buds are more exposed to spring frosts and for longer.  The harvest period has also changed, and is now on average two to three weeks earlier than in the 1980’s.
 
Global warming doesn’t just influence the development of the vines, it also has an impact on the quality of the grapes and therefore how good the wine is.  Many factors can have a bearing on the quality.  For example, when there is a drought, the vines suffer from hydric stress.  This causes less exchange of gases during photosynthesis and transpiration, provoking the vegetative growth to stop prematurely.  It can cause the yields to be considerably reduced by having less grapes per vine and/or smaller grapes.
 
The increased sun and heat can also increase the sugar level in the grapes, making for less well balanced wines as they are more alcoholic and less acidic.  The wine tastes flatter, is more unstable, less likely to age well, and more difficult to keep.  Wines that are too strong in alcohol aren’t very well suited to today’s taste, and so wine-makers need to look for alternatives.  In the wine-growing regions, the wines have risen by between 0.5 and 1° in alcohol per decade over the past 30 years.  The wines are little by little losing some of their historic identity.

 

What solutions are available to fight against climate change in the vineyard?

The first solution is the change in wine-making practices that has already been evolving over the past few years.  The winemakers have been forced to look at new techniques for pruning, irrigation, and surface management.
 
Château Cohola, located in the Rhone Valley has understood.  The winemakers, Chéli & Jérôme, chose to structure some of their vines “en échalas”.  Each vine is supported by a 2m high wooden stake, allowing the vines to grow up them.  Once sufficiently grown, the tops of the vines are entwined with their neighbours, creating a natural parasol and providing shade to the grapes below from the sun.  It also helps the wind to better circulate and dry the grapes in case of rain, helping avoid the development of fungi.   
 
Technique for combating heatwaves in the vineyard

Regarding the frost, there are different methods available to protect the vines, but the most environmentally friendly way and simplest way is to delay the winter pruning.  Traditionally, pruning started around December, depending on the region and size of the winery, but pruning is often now pushed back until March to delay the buds bursting and to protect the buds from the first frosts.
 
Château Coutet in Saint-Emilion suffered from the drought in the summer of 2022.  Here another solution has been put in place.  The use of small grass-cutting robots which cut the grass in the vineyards.  This stops the soil from being too compacted  and allows the vine roots to better penetrate the soil, dig deeper, and better withstand the whims of the weather.  During a  very dry year, the grass will compete with the vine, forcing the roots to dig deeper in search of water.  During a rainy year, the grass will help limit soil erosion, and will make it easier for the water to penetrate into the ground thanks to its root system.  The use of these solar powered robots can be adjusted in relation to the needs of the climate.
 
Some winemakers choose to irrigate their vines during dry spells.  It’s not a very ecological solution, but some justify it by saying that its is necessary for the survival of their vines.  Opinion is very divided, and irrigation remains banned or very strictly regulated for regions in France’s AOP system.
 

Some of these solutions might work today, but are they viable in the long term?

A very interesting idea is to encourage the development of mycorhizien mushrooms in the vineyards.  The vines and mushrooms work together symbiotically.  The mushrooms collect water with their long filaments that can cover a surface area of between 40 and 100 m² pour each 1m² and transport this water to the vine roots.  In exchange, the vines give the mushrooms CO² from the photosynthesis.
 
Mushrooms to prevent drought in vines
Some winemakers want to take more radical action and are looking to find the equilibrium between the climate and the vines by using new grape varietals.  Sometimes long forgotten varietals, sometimes from another warmer region, or a hybrid to produce vines more resistant to warmer climates.  But careful reflection is needed.  It’s not as simple as it sounds because the AOP system doesn’t give much flexibility in the rules governing how a wine is to be made.  The AOP charters are very strict, and any changes take many years of study before being validated.
 
Legislation is bound to change though, and in 2021, the request from the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellations was validated by INAO to add 6 new grape varietals to the existing 13 Bordeaux ones.  This change will allow the winemakers to use varietals more adapt to resisting global warming and disease.
 
Here is the list of new grape varietals allowed.  (Source : bordeaux.com) :
 
Red grape varietals:
  • Arinarnoa (origin INRA, 1956): Made from a hybrid of Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Low sugar production, good acidity.  Gives well structured, colourful, and tannic wines with complex and lasting aromas.  
  • Castets (origin south west France): An historic grape varietal, forgotten in Bordeaux.  Resistant to grey rot, odium, and mildew.  Allows to make colourful wines for keeping.
  • Marselan (origin INRA, 1961): A hybrid between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.  A late developing varietal, resistant to grey rot, odium, and mites.  Enables making colourful wines with character, of good quality and the potential for ageing.
  • Touriga Nacional (origin Portugal): A very late developing varietal that is less at risk from spring frosts.  Resistant to fungal diseases with the exception of dead arm wood disease.  Makes very good quality wines that are complex, aromatic, full-bodied and good for ageing.  
White grape varietals:
  • Alvarinho (origin Iberian Peninsula): Marked aromatic characteristics that counterbalance the loss of aromas due to global warming.  Resistant to grey rot.  Medium sugar potential that enables the winemaker to produce subtle and aromatic wines with good acidity.
  • Liliorila (origin INRA, 1957): Like the Alvarinho, it has good aromatic qualities giving powerful and scented wines.
Many studies of new grape varietals are underway in other wine growing regions.  The changes will take many years, but the wines are set to change little by little.

 

What will happen if the climate situation doesn’t change in the next few years?

If the situation stays the same, we’re looking at +3 to 5°C between now and 2100.  Greenpeace conducted a study that shows that to continue producing wines, the vineyards should move 1000 km to the north in the northern hemisphere and 100 km to the south in the southern hemisphere. That means that some of the best wines could be produced in countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway and Denmark.  These countries are already producing wines, and in the last 40 years, the United Kingdom has gone from just a handful of wineries to over 700 today.
 
We hope that by 2050 the temperature rise will have stabilised below 2°C thanks to the engagements undertaken at the COP21 and that we will still be able to enjoy France’s great wines because the winemakers will have managed to adapt to the rising temperatures.

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What Christmas gift to give a wine lover?


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

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

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A great gift for a wine lover to get involved in the grape harvest in the Cotes du Rhone


A look back to the Harvest Experience Day at Château Cohola in the Rhone Valley on Saturday 17th September.  Joined by our apprentice winemakers, we helped Jérôme and Chéli, the wine-making couple at Château Cohola with the harvest.  The aim of this hands-on wine experience day is to accompany the winemakers throughout the day and follow the grapes from the vines until they arrive in the vat.  It’s a fun way for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience participants to understand the work of the winemaker during the busy harvest period.
Harvest day with gourmet odyssey
We started the morning with a coffee and brioche at Château Cohola, marvelling at the superb view down over the vines and the Rhone Valley.  Mark, Gourmet Odyssey’s founder, explained the programme for the day, and then Jérôme and Cheli introduced us to their winery, the winegrowing region of the Côtes du Rhône and Sablet, and talked a little about the organic methods they use and other more unusual techniques, such as playing music twice a day to the vines to help them resist disease.  A surprising method, but one that they believe has made a differenc over the last 4 years.
 
Wine lover gift in cotes du rhone
Before getting down to harvesting, we made our way to one of the lower terraces to meet our adopt-a-vines.  It was a fun moment, and we each took some photos with our adopted vines.
 
Wine experience day with gourlet odyssey
We then followed the winemakers to a plot of vines just a little higher up the hill, and the real work was about to get underway.  We each took possession of our harvesting tools of a bucket and pair of secateurs.  Before starting, Cheli and Jérome showed us how to cut the bunches of grapes without injuring ourselves or our partner.
 
adopt a vine in cote du rhone
We then paired up, and spread out among the rows, with one pair of harvesters at each end of the row, who would eventually meet up somewhere in the middle.  The buckets filled quickly, and we then emptied them into crates positioned every two metres along the row.
We rapidly perfected the cutting action, and the crates were soon full.
 
discover how to harvest with gourmet odyssey
Jérôme then passed down the central row, pulling a trailer behind his quad.  A few volunteers from our group, helped load the crates onto the trailer.  It was an energetic task as the crates were fairly heavy, but the team was very efficient. We then cleaned our hands and drank some cold water to refresh ourselves whilst Jérôme and Cheli congratulated us on a job well done.
 
Harvesting of organic vines at chateau cohola
It was a busy morning and we had managed to harvest all of the grapes from the plot of Syrah that had been set aside for us.  To capture the moment, we took a photo to celebrate the end of the harvest.
 
Adopt your own vines with gourmet odyssey
We then went down into the village of Sablet, where Château Cohola’s cellar is located, taking our precious harvest with us.  Lunch was fast approaching, so Cheli served us a glass of the 2021 Château Cohola white wine, a well-earned aperitif after our morning’s work.
 
Organic wine tasting at chateau cohola
After we had finished our glass, we sat down to a delicious lunch prepared by a caterer from the village.  And of course, we also tasted some of the other organic wines from Château Cohola.  Jérôme served us the 2021 Château Cohola rosé to accompany the lovely country pâté starter.
We compared two very different red wines over the main course.  The 2021 Cuvée Fruit Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet, a red wine that is to be drunk slightly chilled, and then the 2018 Château Cohola Sans Soufre Ajouté Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet with no added sulphites.  Two distinct styles, but both of which paired well with the chicken and wild mushroom fricassee. A delight for our taste buds!
Jérôme then served us some of the honey that he produces, cutting the honeycomb into squares before us.  The honey was served with some local goat’s cheese and a glass of the 2018 Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet red wine.  We finished the meal with a slice of pear tart, accompanied by another glass of the wine that we had each preferred.  It was a great moment shared, during which time we asked lots of questions to Jérôme and Cheli.
 
harvest day wat chateau coholo in cotes du rhone
After this generous lunch, we returned to the fermentation hall to put our grapes into the vat.  Jérôme explained the first stage of separating the grapes from the stems and showed us the machine that we would use.
We emptied the crates of grapes into the de-stemming machine.  Once the grapes had been separated, the machine crushes them
slightly to help release some of the juice.
 
Wine experience day with gourmet odyssey
At Château Cohola, some dry ice is added to the grapes to stop the juice from oxidising and the quality diminishing.  It also enables the temperature of the harvested grapes to be lowered, which delays the start of the fermentation process and will help improve the aromatic characteristics of the wine.  The grapes are then put directly into a vat or barrel to start the fermentation process.
 
Rent your own organic vines in cotes du rhone
We helped Jérôme clean all the material used, and once again, it was a great team effort!  We then tasted some juice that had been fermenting for a few days and compared this to the juice from the grapes that we had just picked.  We could all taste the difference and saw how it only takes a few days before the sugar in the grapes starts to transform into alcohol as the fermentation process begins.
 
Gift idea for all wine lovers with gourmet odyssey
Jérôme then explained all the rest of the work in the cellar during the harvest period to track and manage the evolution of each vat and barrel.  He told us about the different techniques used to extract the tannins and colour from the grape skins, and showed us the pigeage method, whereby the cap of skin that rises to the top, is pushed down into the juice.
 
harvest day in cote du rhone vineyard with gourmet odyssey
This thoroughly enjoyable day then came to an end, we said our farewells, and left with some bottles to replenish our wine cellars at home!

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Harvesting organic grapes in the Loire Valley


Last Saturday, we harvested lots of beautiful grapes under a sunny blue sky at Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley, in the expert company of our partner winemaker, Marc Plouzeau.  This hands-on day, organised by Gourmet Odyssey as part of the Wine Experience enables wine lovers to discover the work of the winemaker in the vineyard and cellar during the harvest.  We would quickly understand that it’s a very busy time for the winemaker!
Gift for wine lover in Loire Valley
2022 hasn’t been a simple year for the winemakers.  It looked as though it would be very early after rapid growth in spring, but finally the summer drought delayed the maturing of the vines and reduced the quantity of grapes which didn’t grow so big due to the lack of water.  But they were of a very high quality with a good level of concentration.
Once we had finished breakfast, over which we discussed the nature of this vintage, we headed to Les Roches St Paul.  It’s a wonderful little hamlet, typical of the Touraine region, with its lovely houses made of the local limestone and slate. 
 
Harvest day with Gourmet Odyssey in loire Valley
Marc has several small vineyard plots here.  We learnt which grapes to harvest and how to pick them, then equipped with a bucket and pair of secateurs, we spread out among the rows.
 
Wine experience day at chateau Bonneliere
The grapes were indeed a little smaller than usual, but were very good!  Our harvesters turned out to also be very good tasters, and we appreciated the lovely sweet grapes.
We put the grapes we had picked into our bucket, and once full we emptied it into the trailer.  It’s one of three ways of harvesting at Château de la Bonnelière.  We can also empty our buckets into crates, each weighing around 20 kilos when full.  The other method is to use porters who walk down the rows collecting the grapes from each harvester, filling up the basket on their backs, to then take to the trailer.  The porter’s basket can weigh up to 80 kilos, making it a fairly physical job.
 
Participate to a harvest day with gourlet odyssey
We harvested two plots of vines in the morning, one of 23 ares and the other of 12 ares (although Marc had fooled us into believing that we had 2 hectares to pick!)
Our harvesters for the day were very productive, and in 2 hours we had completed our mission!  We enjoyed an aperitif in this wonderful setting among the vines of the Roches St Paul priory, tasting the Perles Sauvages natural sparkling wine that Marc makes using Chenin Blanc grapes.
We then returned to the winery for lunch and to build our strength back up for the next stage of putting the grapes into the vat.
Taste organic wine in Loire Valley
We ate lunch in front of the winery.  Château de la Bonnelière has three different buildings, each dedicated to different functions.  There is the fermentation hall where the grapes are received at harvest time and put into the various stainless steel and concrete vats, the hangar dedicated to bottling and labelling, and the hangar used for storing and dispatching the deliveries.  We’ll learn more about these areas during the Vinification Experience Days
After lunch, we saw the first stages of transforming the grapes into wine.  First, the grapes are separated from their stems using a de-stemming machine.
 
Harvest day in organic vines at chateau de la bonneliere
The grapes then fall into a trolley below, which is raised above one of the vats using a forklift truck.  Once stable, the bottom of the trolley is opened little by little, to let the grapes fall into the vat.  It’s a very good way of doing so, as it ensures that the grapes enter the vat in as good condition as possible.
 
Gift for winelover with Gourmet odyssey
Once this important step has been completed we can then start the analysis of the harvest, measuring the sugar level to give us the probable alcoholic degree, and the pH levels to determine the acidity.  This will help Marc make the right decisions during the following fermentation stages.  We asked lots of questions, and saw how much Marc enjoys talking about his favourite passion!
We finished this great day by paying a visit to our adopted vines.  They hadn’t yet been harvested because the Clos de la Bonnelière is a little behind the other plots, and so the grapes hadn’t yet reached optimum maturity.  We’re all hoping for a magnificent 2022 vintage!
Many thanks to Marc and all of the participants.  We hope to see you again soon!

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The 2022 Gourmet Odyssey harvest gets underway in Burgundy


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

 

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

 

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

 

Meeting the adopted vines

 

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

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

 

The top quality grapes waiting to be picked

 

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

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

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

 

Our harvesters in action

 

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

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

 

Our lovely grapes in the crates

 

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

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

 

The 2020 Santenay Villages white wine aperitif

 

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

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

 

Sorting the grapes

 

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

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

 

The grapes are carried into the vat using the giraffe

 

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

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

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

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

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The key steps involved in wine tasting


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

Step 1 : The look

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

 

Analyse the robe

 

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

Step 2 : The nose

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

 

Smell the different aromas in the wine

 

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

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

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

Step 3 : The taste

 

Taste the wine

 

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

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

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

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The Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience

Adopt a Vine in France and Follow the Making of Your Own Wine !

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