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Tagged articles : Wine

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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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!

 

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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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Party wines – Champagne and other types of sparkling wines


The ends of year festivities are the perfect time to open a nice bottle of bubbly.  Champagne, cremant, cava, prosecco, sparkling wine... countries and regions throughout the world produce a range of different types of bubbly.  The characteristic that they all have in common?  Bubbles!  But do you know how the bubbles form, what the different types of sparkling wines are, and how to understand the different labels?  To reign in the scope of this article a little, we’ll just concentrate on the different forms found in France.

 

Adopt-a-vine gift in the French vineyards

 

What is a sparkling wine?

A sparkling wine is the opposite from a still wine.  You can see little bubbles that rise to the surface.  These bubbles are caused by carbon dioxide which is released when the bottle is opened.

The styles of the different sparkling wines can vary, but since 2008 they have been regulated at a European level.  There are:
- “Vins perlants” are the least bubbly.  The wine is said to be “perlant” when it has more than 1 gramme of CO² per litre of wine.  The bubbles are sometimes almost invisible.  Examples are a Gaillac wine or some Savoie wines.
- “Vins pétillants” contain between 2 and 4 grammes of CO² per litre.  For example a Cerdon or Vouvray.
- “Vins Mousseux” have more than 4.5 grammes of CO² per litre.  Champagnes and Crémants fall into this category.

The amount of fizz is therefore what counts in this classification system.  For the mousseux sparkling wines, there is then a sub-classification level, defining the wines as “Brut nature”, “Brut”, “Extra Brut”, “Extra Sec”, “Sec”, “Demi-Sec” or “Doux”, which describes the amount of sugar added by the “liqueur d’expédition”.   The liqueur is a mix of wine and sugar which is added when using certain vinification methods to replace the wine lost during the “dégorgement” or disgorging, as we’ll explain a little later on.

 

Wine tasting course as a Christmas gift

 

But where do the bubbles come from?

When we open a bottle, we can see bubbles for two reasons.

Physics first.  Before opening the bottle, the CO² gas is dissolved in the wine, and we can’t see the bubbles.  When we open the bottle the pressure inside dramatically falls to equal the ambient atmospheric pressure.  That is why the cork can also fly out.  And when the pressure falls, the volume of the gas increases, the molecules reform into gas and rise to the surface of the wine.

And secondly, we can see the bubble of gas form and rise because of the tiny bumps present on the inside of the bottle and in our glasses.  If we opened the same bottle in laboratory conditions with zero impurities in the containers, the gas would escape into the air without forming any bubbles.

 

Sparkling Wine and oenology lessons in France

 

How do you make different types of sparkling wines?

There has to be some gas initially in the bottle to get some fizz.  And in order to attain this, there are different vinification methods used.

The most famous is the “méthode champenoise”, also known as the “méthode traditionnelle” or traditional method, when not used for making champagne.  Since 1994, the term “méthode champenoise” is regulated and can only be used for wines from the Champagne region.  The vinification process is the same as for a still wine, and the wine is then bottled as usual.  Part of the wine is kept to one side to be used later to make the liqueur d’expédition.  Some of this wine is then added along with some sugar and yeast into each bottle.  The wine then starts to ferment again, this time directly in the bottle, and the gas that is produced during fermentation is trapped inside.  Once all of the sugar has been used by the yeast, the fermentation stops.  Lees are also produced in the process, so the wine is laid down on racks for a while to let them settle.  Then the bottles are placed with the neck pointing downwards and each day they are turned 1/8 to a ¼ of a turn, a process known as riddling, to try and collect all of the lees in the neck of the bottle.  The lees are then removed during the disgorging whereby the neck of the bottle is frozen before opening and taking out the ice that has the lees trapped inside.  The bottle is then topped up again with the liqueur d’expédition, before being sealed again with the final cork.

In the “méthode par transfert” or the transfer method, the process is the same for the fermentation period, but there isn’t any disgorging.  Instead the wine is completely removed from the bottle, the lees filtered out in a vat, and the liqueur d’expédition added before being returned to the cleaned bottles.

The “méthode ancestrale” (or rurale or artisanale) is when the first fermentation takes place in the bottle.  The wine is put into the bottles very quickly after the harvest so that the alcoholic fermentation occurs inside.

The “méthode de la cuve close” or Charmat method works on the same principle, but in the vat instead of inside the bottle for the fermentaion.  When the wine is transferred to the bottles, a little gas is lost, but which can be replaced by adding some CO².

And then there is also the “gazéification” or soda method which doesn’t use the gas released during the fermentation period, but simply adds CO² from a carbonator to a still wine before bottling.

Whichever style of bubbly you choose, enjoy the fizz, and have fun during the end of year celebrations!

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How to go about pairing food and wine?

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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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What wines will you drink during the end of year festivities?


The wine, food and cooking magazines are full of ideas for dishes to enjoy over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, and our taste buds are already getting excited as we start planning the meals that we will share with our friends and family this year.  And of course, which wines we will be opening?  We asked members of the Gourmet odyssey team to share a few ideas.

When it comes to pairing food and wine, we each have our own individual tastes, desires and convictions, even if there are a few basic rules to guide us.  The fun is being inspired by browsing the shelves of the wine merchants, meeting the winemakers at wine fairs or at the winery, or by researching in the magazines and blogs.  Here are a few suggestions that we will be trying out!


Myriam, our wine guide for Burgundy


Myriam, our wine guide in Burgundy


I love: A Saint Romain 2015 white wine from Domaine Franck Lamargue
To accompany: A pumpkin and foie gras velouté with gingerbread.  A great party dish.

I love: A Chambolle Musigny 2015 from Domaine Patrick Clémencet
To accompany: A dark chocolate and blackcurrant dessert!


Louise, our wine guide for the Loire Valley


Louise, our wine guide in the Loire Valley


I love: A Saumur red, Empreinte, from Domaine des Garennes, in Montreuil.
To accompany: Some game in a nice sauce, the perfect match for this powerful wine.


I love: A Touraine Sauvignon Les Devants de la Bonnelière white wine from Château de la Bonnelière, in Chinon.
To accompany: A lemon and cream chicken between friends.


Jacqueline, our wine guide for the Rhône Valley


Jacqueline, our wine guide in the Rhone Valley


I love: An Orto di Venezia 2011 from Michel Thoulouse, produced on the San Erasmo island in the Venice lagoon.  
To accompany: Some simple large Italian breadsticks, ideally as the sun sets revealing the wonderful winter twilight.
Comments: A very elegant wine with a nice amber colour.  The wine has a slightly smokey taste.

I love: A Beaujolais Nouveau 2016 from Château Cambon
To accompany: a vegetable and goat’s cheese quiche shared with friends.
Comments: This wine is a torrent of fruit and tastes that explode with joy on your palate.


Mark, the boss and our wine guide for Alsace, Burgundy and Bordeaux


Mark, our wine guide in the Alsace, Burgundy and Bordeaux


I love: A vin jaune L’Etoile from Domaine Joly, in Rotalier.
To accompany: A chicken marinated and slowly cooked in a vin jaune sauce.  A great winter dish after a good family walk.

I love: the Ante Phylloxera Chinon red from Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley.
To accompany: A capon stuffed with morille mushrooms.  
Comments: This very rare wine heralds from a tiny walled plot of vines that survived the outbreak of phylloxera in 1860.


Marie, the editor


Marie, our editor

I love: A Saint-Joseph red wine from Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne, in Mauve.
To accompany: Stuffed quails with the family during the holidays.

I love: A Petit Chablis from Domaine Laventureux, à Lignorelles.
To accompany: A cheese evening with friends.

I love: A Pinot Gris Rosenberg white wine from Domaine Stentz-Buecher, in Wettolsheim.
To accompany: Some asparagus verrines to have something a little lighter!


And there you have a quick tour de France (and Italy!) for a few food and wine pairing suggestions.  At the moment there are lots of food and wine fairs, so stop by one local to you and treat your taste buds!  Practice makes perfect


Other related articles

How to go about pairing food and wine?

Christmas and end of year celebrations. What are you serving this year?

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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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Winemaker profiles. Delphine, Ghislain d’Aboville and their tribe at Domaine Allegria


We continue our series of partner winemaker profiles, and this time we head to the Languedoc region in the south of France with our list of questions for Delphine & Ghislain d’Aboville at Domaine Allegria.  This young winemaking couple and their tribe were thrilled to share their joie de vivre and love of their work with us!

Adopt-a-vine experience in a French Languedoc vineyard

How long have you been winemakers?

We have been winemakers since 2008.  Domaine Allegria is the fruit of a Franco-Argentine friendship between the d’Aboville and de la Mota families.  Roberto de la Mota is one of the most respected Argentine oenologists, and he has accompanied us in realising our dream.

 

What is your best memory in the vineyard or cellar?

For Ghislain
A micro-vinification in 2011 of two rows of Muscat.  We harvested the grapes late and produced 50 litres of pure nectar that we never bottled because there was too little.  We keep this wine in a tiny little vat, and serve it to our friends and guests who come and visit.
For Delphine
It’s racking the vat of the last plot of red vines, which is always the mourvèdre.  Being in the vat and removing the marc of skin and pips that has been left behind with a shovel is a unique experience.  You’re in close contact with the grapes and it also signals the end of the vinification period.  I’m the one who always racks the mourvèdre, and so I am the one who marks the end of the vinfication.

 

For the 2015 vintage, what is at present your favourite wine and why?

For Ghislain
The Carignan Gourmand because since 2013 we’ve been reducing the percentage of this wine that is aged in barrels year on year.  In 2012, 100% was aged in oak and in 2015, 0%.  And I think that I’ve at last found the true style of this generous wine.  It’s got heaps of freshness, and at the same time has a magnificent length with a great potential for keeping.
For Delphine
Cinsault Abuelo because I love the roundness of this wine for the 2015 vintage, and because it is very thirst quenching!

 

What are your upcoming projects or challenges?

In 2017 we’re going to plant a lovely 1 hectare plot with Grenache. The peculiarity is that we’ll be using vines that from very old Grenache vines using massal selection.  We’ll prune the vines using the Goblet method as our ancient Languedoc ancestors did.  Our aim for this vineyard plot is to add some nice Grenache grapes to our blends from 2020!  We’ll have to be patient until then!

 

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

Our favourite way to take a break and relax is to leave the winery on foot, and wander through the scrub and garrigue until we reach our favourite restaurant, the Auberge du Presbytère, nestled in the small mountain village of Vailhan.  The food is as breath-taking as the scenery!

 

Interviews of our orther partners

Marc Plouzeau from Château de la Bonnelière in the Loire Valley

Eric, Etienne and Marie-Pierre Plumet from Domaine la Cabotte in the Rhône Valley

Jean-François Chapelle from Domaine Chapelle in Burgudy

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The 2017 wine guides reward our partner winemakers


With the recent launch of the 2017 wine guides, Gourmet Odyssey's partner winemakers have once again been selected by France's most renowned wine critics and rewarded for the quality of their wines. Here is an overview of the mentions that our partner winemakers received.

Château de la Bonnelière

Château de la Bonnelière, near Chinon in the Loire Valley, received a rating of 15.5/20 in the Bettane + Desseauve wine guide for the 2014 vintage of the Clos de la Bonnelière.  This is the red wine chosen by Gourmet Odyssey for the adopt-a-vine Wine Experience.

And many more of their wines were also mentioned in the guide, such as the Clos des Roches Saint-Paul 2014, the Chapelle 2014, and the Rive Gauche 2015.

 

Domaine Chapelle

Domaine Chapelle in the picturesque Burgundy village of Santenay had two of their wines selected for the 2017 Guide Hachette; Les Petites Lolières 2013 Aloxe Corton Premier Cru red wine and the Saint-Jean 2014 Santenay white wine who has “an intense nose of white flowers and yellow fruits, and a smooth, buttery finish on the palate with a good mineral freshness.”

 

Domaine la Cabotte

In the Rhone Valley, Domaine la Cabotte was also honoured.  Their Garance wine, the organic red wine also chosen by Gourmet Odyssey for the Wine Experience, was chosen by the Bettane+Desseauve wine guide, receiving a rating of 12.5/20 for the 2014 vintage. 

The wine was also selected for the Guide Hachette in which they described it as having “a harmonious nose with lovely black fruit, violet and spice aromas.  It is well balanced on the palate, at first smooth, but then becoming stronger with a lengthy finish.  Good potential.”

 

Domaine Stentz-Buecher

Domaine Stentz-Buecher in Wettolsheim, Alsace also had a number of their wines chosen for the Bettane + Desseauve 2017 wine guide.  The Who Am I? 2014 was rated 16/20, the Riesling Tannenbuehl Flavien 2014 received 13/20 and the Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2014 scored 16/20.

 

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard

In Chablis, the wines from Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard were chosen multiple times in the different guides.  The Bettane + Desseauve 2017 wine guide included the Chablis Côte de Lechet Premier Cru 2014 and the Chablis Montmains Premier Cru  2015 wines among their top picks.

In the Meilleurs Vins de France wine guide, the Chablis Sainte-Claire, which was recently selected by Gourmet Odyssey, was the star.  It was rated 14.5/20 and described as being “fine and distinctive with a nice freshness.”  

So another nice spread of awards this year to recognise the hard work and talent of our partner winemakers.  Well done!

Other related articles

Congratulations to our medal winning winemakers at Challenge Millésime Bio
Our partner winemakers selected for the 2016 wine guides

 

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Harvest Experience in the Loire Valley at Château de la Bonnelière


The sun was shining for the Gourmet Odyssey Harvest Experience Days at Château de la Bonnelière near Chinon last weekend. We were joined at the winery by some of the apprentice winemakers who had come to participate in the harvest and to help the winemaker, Marc Plouzeau, create two of the winery’s most prestigious wines, the Vindoux I’Intégrale 1929, and the Clos de Maulévrier Antéphylloxéra.

 

Vine adoption and grapes harvest experience in France

A couple of busy days were in store, so as soon as Marc had welcomed us and given an introduction to the history of his winery, it was time to head out into the vineyard.

Despite the frost in April and a rainy spring, the two vineyard plots had resisted well, and had managed to produce some excellent quality grapes.  After a briefing on how to harvest the grapes and equipped with secateurs and buckets, we got stuck in to harvesting.

inemaker experience in the Loire Valley France

Sunday’s group had the honour to harvest the only plot of Cabernet Franc vines in the whole of the Loire Valley that date from before the phylloxera period!  This vineyard has existed since the 15th century and so shares its history with one of Chinon’s most famous people, Rabelais!  The vines were spared the phylloxera disease thanks to the sandy soil and high walls that surround the walled vineyard.  One of the vines in this plot is over 200 years old and has 9 heads – a real sight to behold!

The vines that stop producing grapes in this vineyard are replaced using grafting from healthy plants or by using the marcotting technique, whereby a vine branch is buried in the ground whilst still attached to the original plant.  The underground part of the branch will then start to develop its own roots, and once this has been done, it is then separated.

Harvest Day Experience as wine gift box

The crates quickly filled up with the harvested grapes, and we returned to the chateau for the lunch which Marc’s mum had prepared.  During lunch we tasted different wines and vintages from the winery and the plots that we had harvested in the morning.

Wine tasting and winery tour in the Loire Valley France

To help lunch digest, we headed back out into the vineyard to find our adopted vines.  A good excuse to take a few souvenir pictures and some surprising ones for the “My Vine” photo competition!

Harvester meal and experience in France as wine gift

We then made our way to the chai, to follow our grapes progress.  We first emptied the crates into the de-stemming machine to separate the Cabernet Franc grape berries from the stalks.

Oenology course at the wineray in the Loire Valley France

The grapes were then put directly into the vats where they will ferment for the next 4 weeks or so.  The marc will then be pressed, and the wine will then be transferred to barrels for the ageing process.

Our day finished with a final tasting, not of wine, but of the grape juice from the vineyard plots that we had just picked!  A nice way to thank everyone for their hard work and to give a pre-taste of how the wine will have evolved once the Vinification Experience days get under way next year.

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Tasting wine…


From the 10th to 16th October, France celebrates the "Taste Week", or "La Semaine du Gout". The idea behind it is to better know the products from the terroir, to know how to recognise them, cook them, taste them and how best to appreciate them. Wine is an integral part of the French terroir and the country's culture, and has to be one of the most passionate and complex products to understand. So what exactly does wine taste like?

A short history on wine tasting

A long time ago, when someone "tasted" a wine, they did so primarily to look for faults. For example in "Le Sommelier" guides of the 1920's you can find mentions of "a rotten taste" conveyed from insects and disease, "slightly bitter and nauseous taste" due to the use of insecticides, or "earthy tastes" caused by harvesting in wet and muddy conditions.

Until the 1950's, it's the talk and language of the wine merchants that dominates the descriptions. Whilst the winemakers would prefer us to like their wines as they are, the wine merchants wish to offer wines that "please". The narratives don't really talk about the actual taste of the wine and whether it conveys the characteristics of the type of wine. Indeed at this stage, there is no real talk about appellations.

Wine tasting at the winery during a oenology stage in France 

The notion of taste, and more generally of objectively tasting wines, was born in the 1950's with the beginnings of trying to taste in an organised manner in order to compare and appreciate the different wines as objectively as possible. In France, Jules Guyot wrote in his Sur la Viticulture book that "it will be impossible to develop tasting as long as science hasn't given us the signs to use... the science of tasting still has to be completely developed."

How do you develop technical tasting?

So has science made any progress in helping define the taste of a wine? As those who have participated in one of the Vinification Experience Days at one of our partner wineries have discovered, when it comes to describing the taste of a wine, the perceptions can be very varied...

We taste for many different reasons. Just for the pleasure, or for wine professionals to compare styles of wine, their qualities, their faults, its value, or its provenance. The tasting gets even more analytical when it comes to determining a certain quality of wine, or to define and develop a new wine. Taste is a matter of perception, that much is very simple to understand. And yet the science around sensorial evaluation which studies the human responses to physio-chemical properties in food and drink is a highly complex subject. In between the sensation left by a wine and the perception formed by our different senses, there is a whole chain of signals and receptors, each of which can be influenced by the environment within which we are tasting, the weather, and many other external factors.

Wine tasting course and adopt-a-vine experience in France 

To try and keep it simple, our brain creates a global impression of a wine using the different receptors in the skin, mucosal lining, muscles and tendons that are present in our eyes, nose and mouth. When talking just about taste, there are three different types of taste buds spread all over our tongue to allow us to detect different tastes and temperatures.

And that is where we are not all equal when it comes to tasting. The levels to which our senses can detect the different tastes aren't the same for all of us, meaning that for some, a certain taste needs to be stronger before it is detected, whilst others will notice it at a much weaker level. We each have more or less receptors in our taste buds, and produce different amounts of saliva that affect our taste.

Appreciating wine

But no need to worry! We are all capable of tasting something, and the more regularly we taste, we are able to distinguish different tastes more easily.

Adopt-a-vine wine gift box including wine tasting 

So yes, we can say whatever we like when we taste a wine! Why not say your very first thoughts that come to mind when tasting a wine? And the more we try, the easier it becomes, and it helps make sharing a good bottle even more enjoyable.

Let's end with the wise words of one of our adoptive vine owners who recently joined us for the harvest, "Good wine with nice people. I think that that is the definition of happiness!"

Related article 

Wine defects. How to identify faults when tasting wines

 

 

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A great harvest at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy


We were welcomed to Domaine Chapelle in the charming Burgundy village of Santenay at the end of September for the adoptive parents of the 2016 vintage to participate in harvesting the grapes in the Clos de Cornières vineyard. The weather was exceptional, making the harvest even more enjoyable under the big blue sky and in the lovely warm weather!

 

Adopt-a-vine in Burgundy, France and meet the winemaker

Following a quick introduction to the agenda for the day and the idea behind Gourmet Odyssey's adopt-a-vine concept, the owner of the winery, Jean-François Chapelle, presented the history of the winery and his family, and where they fit in with the surrounding Burgundy wine-making landscape.

Wine-making experience at Domaine Chapelle, Burgundy, France

Then, secateurs in hand, we made our way to the Clos des Cornières vineyard. We took a few fun minutes to meet our adopted vines and take a few pictures before receiving our harvesting instructions from Jean-François. He showed us which grapes to pick and which to leave. An important part of sorting the grapes and thus ensuring the quality, takes place at the moment of picking the grapes by the harvesters directly.

Wine gift box for makking your wine in Burgundy France

After about an hour and a half of picking and a couple of minor cuts (we said to cut the grapes, not the fingers!), we admired our harvest neatly lined up in cases. As we advanced along the vine rows, we gradually filled the plastic crates that we dragged along with us. Once full, we brought them back to the beginning of the row to be then taken back to the winery, and took a new crate.

Harvest Experience at the winery in Burgundy France

The 2016 vintage will be a small one in terms of quantity, but the quality is looking very promising.

As we harvested, Jean-François answered our questions, notably concerning organic winemaking and the difficulties of being organic during the complicated spring that the region endured.

Oenology course at the winery learn how to harvest grapes

We then followed the journey of our grapes to the sorting table to understand how the grapes are received and put into the fermentation vats. We joined Yannick and his team, and participated in sorting the grapes by removing any unripe or dried berries as they moved along the conveyor belt.

Oenology course and vine adoption in Burgundy, France

At the end of the sorting table, the grapes are separated from the stems in the de-stemming machine, and then the grapes fall by gravity into a trolley below. Once the trolley is full, it is then wheeled in front of the vat, and the grapes are put into it using another conveyor belt. No pumps are used throughout this process to prevent the grapes being damaged.

Winery tour and wine tasting in Burgundy

By this time we had earned our rest. So we headed to the beautiful setting of the Chapelle's family garden to taste one of the winery's Santenay white wines, accompanied by the famous Burgundy gougères!

Wine tasting at the winery and meeting with the winemaker

We then sat down to eat in the harvesters refectory for a delicious lunch served with three of the winery's red wines. The Clos des Cornières 2013, Santenay Premier Cru Gravières 2013 and the Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru 2011 !

Well-fed and rested, we then visited the cellar and barrel rooms. Yannick introduced us to the work during the vinification and ageing periods, and talked to us about analysing the wines, topping up the barrels and how they taste the wines.

Chai and winery tour in Burgundy France

There's still much to be done before the beautiful 2016 grapes become wine, but we'll talk more about that during the Vinification Experience Days!

Many thanks to all of the participants for a couple of great days at Domaine Chapelle!

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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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Welcome to Château Coutet


A big welcome to Château Coutet, who becomes the latest winery to join the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, starting with the 2017 vintage.

Adopt-a-vine experience in Saint-Emilion France 

The winery came highly recommended from two different sources, and as soon as we arrived at the winery to take a look for ourselves, we could see why. It's a delightful château set in the middle of the vineyards, and just a stone's throw from the centre of Saint-Emilion. Its neighbours include some of the most famous Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé wineries.

Wine-making experience in Bordeaux France 

We were met by Adrien, who heads up the commercial side of things. A delightful young man, whose passion for his winery and the surrounding area are infectious. The winery has been in his family for over 400 years, and is steeped in history. As we tour the château and vineyards, Adrien explained the importance of the biodiversity and the preservation of the estate environmentally to the family. No chemical product has ever been used, and as a result, wild and even some exceptionally rare flowers also prosper. Part of the vineyard is worked by horse, but the family also has an eye to the future, and are experimenting with the use of robots to help with the work in the vineyards. The winery has been organically certified since 2012.

 Wine box gift in Saint-Emilion France

Our tour finished back in the wine boutique for a vertical tasting of the Château Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru covering the past few vintages. Another tick in the box. The wines are very enjoyable, and through the different years reveal deep ruby red, aromatic and elegant wines. The younger wines still need time to age and for the tannins to soften. The exceptional years of 2009 and 2010 reveal the potential that the wine has for laying down, and the 2008 is a delight, having opened up nicely and being ready for enjoying from now on.

Wine tasting at the winery in Bordeaux Saint-Emilion France 

Château Coutet is just perfect for the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience, and we're really excited about working together to provide you with a great wine-making experience. The people, place, and wine all come together to offer a fantastic location to learn more about the art of wine-making. We can't wait for the first Experience Days in 2017!

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Adopt a vine in France and let them follow the making of their own wine !

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