Northern Wine Acadamy/La Madelène Rhone Wine Holidays –Southern Rhone Study tour 2009
Itinerary – Tour commences: Wednesday 30th September
Tour assumes guests take the 9.00am Liverpool-Nimes Ryanair flight. Guests are picked up from Nimes airport in our Mercedes Vito at 12.00pm, arriving at La Madelène for late lunch, on the terrace if weather permits. In the afternoon guests have the option of relaxing by the pool or going into Vaison la Romaine – explore the medieval old town, the bustling cosmopolitan new town, or the roman excavations.
Returning to La Madelene at 6.00pm, guests are eased gently into the tour, gathering in our degustation atelier for an initial tasting illustrating the styles resulting from red blends dominant in either one of the three principal varietals: Grenache, Syrah or Mourvedre. The tasting will be accompanied bu an overview of the tour itinerary and a very light “refresher” on the wines of the Southern Rhone.
7.30pm: 4- course Provencal dinner in La Madelene’s chapel dining room accompanied by fine wines.
Day 2: Thursday 1st October
“Getting the vendange in and the wine making started”
A day for guests to roll up their sleaves and get stuck in! Join in the “triage”, the “pigeage” and contribute to the quality of the 2009 vintage.
· 10.30. Visit to Domaine des Anges, aoc Ventoux, a 40 ha property in a magnificent setting at Mormoiron facing the 1912m high Mt.Ventoux. In the last week of September the Domaine is likely to be harvesting Syrah and early Grenache - guests will all play an active role in helping manager/wine maker Ciaran Rooney with the day’s tasks.
· The day starts with on overview of the history and key facts about the Domaine from Ciaran and a tour of the wine making facilities in the Cave
· Ciaran’s talk will emphasise the importance of rigorous selection during the harvest and guests will be instructed in the process of “triage” – the meticulous “sorting” of bunches when picking from the vine and also what to look for to reject from the “triage” sorting table.
· Guests will immediately apply their learning as they help the pickers bring in the grapes and sort them on the triage table.
· 13.00. A tutored tasting through the Domaine des Anges range will be followed by a picnic lunch with Ciaran’s wines to accompany.
· After lunch Ciaran will instruct guests in the art of “pumping down” the cap on the newly fermenting wine- a process known as “pigeage” - and carried out by hand at Domaine des Anges. All the guests will then have an opportunity to try their hand!
17.00 Return to La Madelène – leisure time, 19.00 - aperitifs on the terrace
20.00 Dinner at a restaurant tbc in Vaison La Romaine (eg Bistro
Du’O; Le Bataleur; Brin d’Olivier)
Itinerary - Day 3: Friday 2nd October
“ A different way – exploring Bio-dynamic wine production”
The issue of whether Bio-dynamic viticulture improves wine quality is one of the great debates of the wine world. Our third day allows students to hear from the practitioners, get involved in applying preperations, discuss and challenge freely, and most importantly, taste for themselves the wines…
10.30 Visit to Domaine Roche-Audran, near Buisson, bio-dynamic producer of Cotes du Rhone/Cotes du Rhone Village Visan.
· The day will start with an overview of the Domaine, the history, cepages, the wines they make, where they are sold - from Vincent Rochette and his assistant Mary Ann.
· The team then explain the principals of bio-dynamic production, it’s aims, its practice, how it differs from organic, and it’s benefits. Guests will each have a copy of the Maria Thun lunar calendar to refer to as Vincent and Mary Ann take them through the significance of the lunar, planetary and constellar cycles and the specific viticultural tasks recommended for each part of the cycle.
· Guests are then escorted on a walk through the beautiful vineyards and the cave - they will see for themselves how Vincent’s approach to vineyard management contrasts strongly with his neighbours.
· Biodynamic treatments: back outside the cave, guests will be shown the various bio-dynamic preperations used at Roche Audran and will be given an opportunity to help prepare one of them (the Maria Thun manure compost) and then operate themselves the wooden dynamisation machine – a specialist piece of equipment that spins the solution into a vortex, creating the “chaos” which “activates” the solution in such a way that it works more powerfully on the vines. This is a rare privilege.
· This sesssion will close with a little drama! Guests will help Vincent and Mary Ann with the other principal preparation used, which is cow manure compacted in cow horns (P500) and then help bury them underground for the winter as per the bio-dynamic recommendation
13.00 “Degustation” of the Roche Audran range followed by a picnic
lunch in a very picturesque setting by the old farmhouse amongst the vines.
16.30 Return to La Madelène, swim or play petanque on the dedicated pitch. Aperitifs at 18.30 on the terrace followed by a 4-course Provencal dinner in the chapel dining room served with a selection of Rhone wines from other Bio-dynamic producers
Itinerary – Day 4: Saturday 3rd October
“Whats happening in Chateauneuf du Pape?”
A day of exploring how new blood and new generations are changing the face of this very traditional appellation
· In the morning we visit the bio-dynamic Chateauneuf producer Domaine de Villeneuve located in the north of the appellation near Orange. This relatively small but dynamic estate of 8.4 ha has been in the hands of the Wallut family since only 1993. The dedication to bio-dynamic practice is unswerving and the results are to be found- in my view- in the glass.
· Commercial head Christophe Mingeaud as well as owner Stanislav Wallut will take us on a tour of the Domaine after which Christophe will give a talk on the Domaine’s philosophy, the terroir, the wine making practice and the commercial issues around being a bio-dynamic producer in a premium and highly traditional appellation.
· This is a great opportunity for guests to explore some of the trickier questions raised by the previous day: eg what is the scientific evidence for the bio-dynamic benefit? How much extra work is involved and what does that cost? Can the market sustain the premium that must be charged? Hopefully we should have a lively debate.
· The discussion will be followed by a tutored tasting of the range.
Lunch at Verger des Papes (www.vergerdespapes.com), a very popular Provencal bistro in a great setting at the top of the village just under the ruin of the Papal summer palace and with a panoramic view of the vineyards around the village, the Rhone river, the Dentelles and down river in the distance the Avignon Palais des Papes. We will have a 4 course meal, on their terrace weather permitting, including of course some Chateauneuf du Pape.
· 15.00 In the afternoon we make our final Domaine visit – to a famous Chateauneuf producer Domaine de la Solitude. At Solitude 28 year old Florent Lancon is being given his head by the Lancon family to drive new thinking and new cuvees…Florent has an oenology degree from Montpelier and has completed two work “stages” in Australia and New Zealand so has an unusually cosmopolitan view on wine making as well as lots of youthful energy.
· Florent will walk us up to his oldest pre-phyloxerra Grenache vines bordering the Le Crau plateau before showing us his maturation cellar. He will talk us through Solitude’s cooperage specification (one of his favourite subjects) before inviting us to take part in a tasting of the free run juice from the newly fermenting white Chateauneuf.
· Finally in Solitude’s superb private tasting room surrounded by oil paintings of Florent’s Barberini family ancestors (servants of the Avignon Popes) we will enjoy a fantastic tasting to end the tour. Through the “tradition”, the “Barberini cuvees” up to the super cuvee “Reserve Secrete” (recent vintages have been in Parker’s top 10 wines worldwide) these will be wines to remember. Furthermore, in line with our theme for the day of fresh thinking, Florent will tutor us through two wines entirely of his own design – the 100% old vine Grenache Chateauneuf “Cornelia Constanza” and an only just released barrique aged, vendange tardive, sweet wine, absolutely unique in the appellation.
18.0 We return to La Madelène. The final evening is at the guests’ discretion: we will recommend some excellent restaurants in either Malaucene or Vaison la Romaine according to budget, make reservations if required and help with transport to and from the restaurant of choice.
Itinerary Day 5 - October 4th : Transfer to Nimes airport to catch the 10.40am flight to Liverpool
Price: €750 inclusive of domaine visits, accommodation, meals with wine, transfers. The only extra is the restaurant dinner on the 4th night and any wine purchased.