Tips on finding places to taste wines in Burgundy

Many people wonder which estates they can visit in Burgundy and ask the same questions…

Q. How do you know which ones I can enter?

A. You simply have to look for the word “Dégustation” (tasting) written outside the winery and you can go in.

Q. Can I go there any time?

A. No. There are specific opening times, like for shops & stores. If you keep in mind that they are closed for lunch and all day on a Sunday, you should be ok.

Q. Do I have to buy wine?

A. No, there is no obligation. You can taste and walk out, with a grateful “merci”, which should appease the owner. Of course they are there to sell wine…it’s their business. But as with every business, not every visit equals a sale.

Q. What if they give me a nasty look?

A. Well, you’ll probably never see them again, so I shouldn’t worry. Besides, almost all wineries are “client friendly”.

Q. Can I visit the most famous wineries?

A. Generally (99%) NO. Burgundy has a particularity in that almost all the wineries are small, family-run affairs that produce a small amount of wine. The most sought-after wineries have already pre-sold their wine to importers and clients around the world and therefore simply don’t have any wines to sell, let alone taste…!!

Also, wine tourism is less developped than say in Bordeaux, Provence, or in the southern hemisphere. The don’t have the space or budget to do a big “wine experience”, so you’ll have to be content with some good or great wine…which is the main reason you’re visiting, after all!

Q. Is it less expensive at the wineries than in the stores in town?

A. Yes, but not much. If you a looking for a broader choice and older vintages, then maybe a wine store is your best bet. Wineries tend to let you taste vintages over the last two years – which can be difficult to appreciate as they are still young and don’t reflect the Pinot Noirs or Chardonnays at their peak.

My favourite store  is Magnum, in Beaune (15 rue Monge). Friendly staff and a great choice of value-for-money wines.

Q. Where are the best value-for-money wineries? Burgundy seems very expensive.

A. I will give a list of what I believe are great VFM wineries in a future post. Yes Burgundy wines are generally quite expensive, especially in the Côte d’Or area (Côtes de Nuits & Côtes de Beaune). If you want some great Pinots & Chardonnays that don’t burn your wallet, then look at winerys in the Côte Chalonnaise or Maconnais (southern Burgundy). The Côte d’Or is known as the “Champs Elysee” of Burgundy wine and houses the most famous…and therefore most expensive…wines. But there are also some “great finds” in this area too.

Q. When is the best time to visit the region?

A. It depends what you want to experience. June / July is great when the vines have had their “bud -burst”. September / October is harvest time and there is a lot of activity in the vineyards. However, it is not as easy to meet the wine-maker as it’s their busiest period. In autumn (fall) period, the colour of the vines is worth the visit alone. They call this district “la Côte d’Or” or “Golden Slopes”, as the vine leaves ressemble a beautiful golden/red carpet.

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