France: Rhone Valley: Intensive Winemaking Course

An exclusive invitation into the captivating world of exceptionally fine wines at a private wine estate in the Rhone Valley.



Arrive at your leisure on the La Verrière Estate by private helicopter or by transfer from Avignon train station or airport. A drive of approximately one hour.* Enjoy the pool and the other facilities, or take a 4×4 drive around the estate.

Tucked away in the heart of Provence, this 35-acre luxury private wine estate is complete with a working vineyard and an ancient priory that has been meticulously restored by your hosts Xavier and Nicole Rolet. The estate is set in a mountain saddle with panoramic views of Mount Ventoux, surrounded by olive groves and lavender fields, yet it is only fifteen minutes from the market town of Vaison-la-Romaine.

Spend today relaxing and preparing for the start of your rigorous winemaking course tomorrow. Course instruction is in English and is conducted by highly experienced Masters of Wine and wine educators. Enjoy tastings of over 100 international benchmark wines, combined with lectures and Polycom video-conference link-ups with internationally recognized producers from California, Spain, Australia and the Isle of Islay.

Meet Chêne Bleu’s resident award-winning winemaker, Jean-Louis Gallucci.  Gallucci and his viticulturist wife, Bénédicte, invite you into the vineyard and state-of-the art winery to explore the vines, terroir and winemaking process and give you exclusive behind the scenes access and a chance to learn hands-on about the best and latest techniques in winegrowing and winemaking practice, including the art of blending.

Food and wine pairing is a fundamental element of this experience, and exquisite gastronomic creations are prepared by resident Chef, Jon Chiri, who has extensive experience at renowned establishments in Santa Barbara, Avignon among others.

The course concludes at the end of the week with an official WSET exam paper of 30 multiple choice questions, carried out under strict exam conditions. A pre-course reading kit will be received prior to departure, with an expected commitment of approximately 6 – 8 hours of study. It is highly recommended that students complete the pre-course reading.

This evening at 7:30 join your host and wine experience guide, Nicole Rolet, for a champagne reception followed by a gourmet welcome dinner prepared by Chef Jon Chiri.

*Additional arrival options include Marseille (2 hours), or Nimes (1 hour, 20 minutes) airports.



Your winemaking course begins this morning at 9:00am with an introduction to your course tutors. Begin with a detailed description of the WSET Intermediate Certificate Course covering the different styles of vinification around the globe. This week you will learn how great wines are born.

Your morning concludes with the first tasting session. Learn to taste like a master with an exceptional selection of non-European wines.

Lunch is an introduction to food and wine pairing. Discover the art behind the perfect partnership of food and wine, while enjoying a thoughtful meal accompanied by a flight of five specially selected wines.

This afternoon, join Bénédicte Gallucci for a tour of the Chêne Bleu Vineyard. Collect soil samples from the vineyard and observe differences in the terroir.

Later you will learn about Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, the classic white and red grapes of Burgundy.

End the first day of your course with a tour of the property’s state-of-the-art winery conducted by Jean-Louis Gallucci. You will learn about the vinification processes from harvest and fermentation through to aging the wine in barrels.

Dine this evening with celebrated Bio-Dynamic Châteauneuf du Pape winemaker, Bernard Duseigner of Domaine Duseigneur.



Following breakfast this morning, your day begins with an intensive consideration of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Sauvignon Blanc, the lifeblood of Bordeaux.

The morning concludes with a tasting session focused on discerning the quality and effect of age, and information on how and why to cellar your wines.

A food and wine pairing master class will accompany today’s lunch.

This afternoon join guest winermaker, Walter McKinlay, of nearby Domaine de Mourchon, to learn about the star varieties of the Rhône and Rhine: Syrah, Grenache and Riesling.

The afternoon continues with a discussion of factors affecting wine vinification and maturation. A tour of the winery follows, where you will learn the art of blending, or assemblage, arguably the most important skill of the winemaker.

A video conference call with Doug Margerum, celebrated restaurateur, winemaker and négociant from Santa Barbara, California, completes your day. Margerum will discuss the role of the négociant, a wine merchant who gathers and sells the products of small winemakers.

This evening’s gastronomic dinner is with celebrated winemaker, Paul-Vincent Avril, of Clos des Papes, Châteauneuf du Pape, who was voted winemaker of the year 2011 by Wine Spectator Magazine. The meal will be accompanied by a selection of magnums of award-winning Clos des Papes wines.



This morning you will depart at 8:30am for a guided exploration of the region including exclusive visits to two very distinct wine producers.

Your first stop is Gabriel Meffre in Gigondas. One of the first regional négociants, Gabriel Meffre developed lasting partnerships with local winemakers and wine brands which are now available in more than 50 countries and regularly win medals from the best international wine challenges.

Continue on to Châteauneuf du Pape, one of the most beautiful landscapes of Provence and home to the region’s celebrated Cotes du Rhone varietal. Visit Château la Nerthe, an ancient estate where 450-year-old caves, built deep into the stone and are still used by the current owners.  Join owner M. Christian Voeux for a private cellar tour.

Lunch in the Grand Salon at Château La Nerthe will be accompanied by a selection of magnums of Château La Nerthe exceptional wines.

Return to La Verrière with a terroir tour en route, driving through various villages to identify different terrains of the Rhône. Continue the tour upon your return with a blind wine tasting of Rhône classics from the north and south.

The late afternoon offers a discussion of the wines of Italy, Spain & Portugal followed by a blind wine tasting and wine-making assessment of Iberian and Italian classic wines.

This evening’s gastronomic Bandol Dinner will be with Eric de St Victor from Château Pibarnon. This young winemaker followed in his father’s footsteps, making probably the most celebrated Bandol in the world.



This morning your focus will be on sparkling and sweet wines, with a late-morning tasting concluding the session.

Continue on with a consideration of fortified wines, spirits and liqueurs. The tasting accompanying this will focus on port wine, sherry and Madeira.

Break for a light lunch and a video conference with Mark Reynier, Managing Director of Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay, accompanied with a malt whisky tasting.

This afternoon is devoted to a tasting of the assemblages, crafted on your first day from different grape varietals, vineyards and vintages

Today concludes with a Q&A session in preparation for tomorrow’s exam.

This evening, a bubbly buffet-style dinner will be prepared by Chef Jon Chiri. This relaxed early night will allow you time for a quiet evening to prepare for the exam.



A second review session follows breakfast this morning. You will be ready at 10:15am for your WSET Intermediate Exam followed by the Chêne Bleu Food and Wine Pairing Exam.

At the end of the test the list wines from the Chêne Bleu blind tasting exam will be revealed.

Lunchtime conversation will address becoming a sommelier, “without the attitude or platitude.” Afterwards you will learn about starting and building your own wine collection.

The afternoon is at leisure, with a pool party followed by a pétanque tournament and tennis or 4×4 driving on the estate.

This evening, get ready for the Gala! (Black Tie/Long Dress)

A cocktail hour beginning at 6:30pm will be followed by an awards ceremony for graduates of the Chêne Bleu Extreme Wine Experience. The celebration continues with a champagne fountain and “The Great Grenache Extravaganza,” a gala dinner, prepared by Chef Jean-Claude Altmayer.



Following breakfast at the inn this morning you will depart by private car transfer to Avignon, Marseilles or Nimes, or by pre-scheduled helicopter transfer, connecting to your departure flight or on to your next Willing Foot destination.




Culinary, Senses

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