Grape escapes: four top crop winemaking experiences
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For any wine lover, blending one’s own barrel must be the height of vinous experiences.
Top offerings run the gamut from Fulham-based London Cru winery’s Winemaker for a Day (£130), an 11am-4pm session providing hands-on experience and practical understanding of the winemaking process, to the Personal Vintage service from Hatt et Söner. Select members of the Swedish-owned champagne house, which was founded in 2011, can create their own vintage and be involved in the process from choosing a vineyard (there are four options) to when they want the bottles to be disgorged. (The minimum order is 60 bottles at €90 a bottle.)
For fans of Bordeaux, there’s also Viniv, based next to and partly owned by Château Lynch Bages in the Médoc. This slick operation has been running since 2009, giving wine lovers the opportunity to make their own barrel of Bordeaux (from €16,000) from top sites across the region.
Recently, I was invited to try an experience from The Vines, a wine club whose members are referred to by founder and Mendoza-based vigneron Michael Evans as “a community of wine lovers that became winemakers”. Blending weekends are the core of The Vines’ activities; its first event took place last September in Tuscany, and this autumn’s series of sessions will be hosted by renowned winemakers in Napa, The Mosel, Montalcino, Priorat and Mendoza.
My taster blending session with Evans and Dominik Huber – a biodynamic winemaker of increasingly cult, limited-edition wines, who is hosting The Vines event in Priorat, Spain next month – took place, of course, over Zoom. But by experimenting with the various barrel samples I’d been sent – covering different vintages, grape varieties, vine ages and soil types – I eventually produced a pleasing concoction. Based on a peppery, sappy Grenache from the cool 2018 vintage and blended with equal amounts of spicy, herbal Carignan from slate-rich soils, and a younger Grenache planted on clay, it had sweet-cherry and star-anise notes.
As well as blending their own wine (barrels are from $8,000), The Vines members access a programme of events with acclaimed chefs, musicians, artists and authors – from a label-design masterclass with Cey Adams in New York to a tour of Spain’s top wineries and restaurants. Members also receive a bi-annual delivery of two to four cases of collectible wines chosen by The Vines winemakers, and access to exclusive virtual tastings and online wine content.