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Mar 3, 2014 02:54 PM

Wine tours in Burgundy and Rhone Valley?

My husband and I will be in France the middle of June. We've booked our hotels and are now searching for wine tours. We are staying 2 days in Levernois, then 2 days in Gordes and then 4 days in Saint Remy. I know we are jumping around, but so many dates were already booked.

Any recommendations for wine tours? Merci!

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  1. contact the offices of tourism in the places you're staying -- they'll have a list on hand.

    In that region, however, it's pretty laid-back. Just look for a sign that says "Degustation" or "Vin à Vendre" and pull in.

    1. There are organized tours there, but I doubt they will take you to the best vignerons.
      Burgundy's Cote d'Or is small. You could just pick out a few labels you like, call ahead and plan your own tour. You can drive from Mercurey to Fixin, hitting all the wine villages in less than two hours, including a little side trip right up into the widely spaced vines of the grand cru vineyards. I did it on a bicycle in two days 20 years ago.

      Or if you need some good names, just ask. We know the best ones.

      2 Replies
      1. re: collioure

        Thanks, I'll start doing my homework and query again. Our French is not even passable although we are studying daily. Will that be a problem if we try to set up our own wine tour? I thought we would need to make appointments as we do for the small vineyards in California. Is this not true?

        1. re: topeater

          I've done the Burgundy trip/tour thing and you will love it. But keep in mind that Burgundy, obviously as you know, isn't California. Some producers aren't set up for visitors. Some don't speak much or any English.

          So, an e-mail to the likes of Jadot or Drouhin might suffice. If you have a trusted retailer that sells the wine, or know someone who is in the wholesale/import business they are also good places to start.

          We had a great time and one of the producers we visited didn't speak any English. Or so he contended though I think he understood more than he represented. One of the people in our group spoke some French and everything was great. He poured 1er and Grand Cru wines and was very nice.

      2. Good suggestions here already. An overlying factor to be aware of is that the whole conception of visiting wineries varies by country and region. Thus some parts of California are all set up with "tasting rooms" and staffs for casual visitors, while some parts of Europe I've seen, including some of the important Burgundy estates, are appointment-only, appointments rarely given, except to the trade. Yet as sunshine pointed out, many other Burgundian properties encourage retail sales (visiting wine regions is a tradition among people in France, though it seems largely self-directed, I don't hear much about "tours" there). Burgundy is the European wine region I'm most experienced with, periodic visits for 30 years including to buy and ship wine.

        Glancing casually at the topics you've posted in, topeater, I couldn't tell much about how familiar you already are with the wines of Burgundy and the Rhône. That's a factor here, because if already familiar with some names and house styles from buying their products in the US, you already have a head start on reference points and what to look for.

        Also, I might have suggested asking your Beaune restaurants query here on the Wine board (though I don't know how well visited this board is by Bourgognophiles) because Beaune is more or less a wine-industry town, the interesting and good and good-value restaurants tend to be frequented by both local and visiting wine-industry people, and it's they, not most tourists, who really know the lay of the land.

        Jardin des Remparts is showy, the Poste hotel's famous restaurant is ancient but traditional; my recollection from last visits is that the foodies in the wine trade tend to congregate at Ma Cuisine and some other casual good-food places like Bouzerotte in the suburb Bouze-le-Beaune. (If you try the traditional marrow bone, in Beaune, at the Poste, doesn't it make sense to sample a little booze in Bouze? ;-) It seems Ma Cuisine's celebrated chef Fabienne Parra has married into the Escoffier family since I last talked to her -- a name well known worldwide, but Parra may be more respected around Burgundy. (First met her at her father's restaurant in Corton, 30 yrs ago, as the sommelieuse, who sold us a half of 1969 Faively Musigny, a wine she still remembered 20 years afterwards.)

        To reprise a side point zin1953 and I recently exchanged about, a fascinating background source is H. W. Yoxall's "Wines of Burgundy," available easily and cheaply in used paperback. Written 1968, reissued a decade later, it's useful not for current industry information, but for a couple of succinct chapters on things that haven't changed: "Some Optional History" and "Some Compulsory Geography." And for a few mentions of well-known restaurants still operating. Yoxall's is a unique wine book: he was a soldier in WW1 (1, not 2), and by the time he wine-wrote 50 years later, had acquired a certain store of life experiences and a wry impatience with nonsense and pretense in the world of wine and its literature.

        2 Replies
        1. re: eatzalot

          Thanks eatzalot for all the info. You are right, I'm not very familiar with Burgundy wines, but I'm taking an in-depth course before going, so hopefully, I'll know more! I'll check out your suggestions.

          1. re: topeater

            Good idea with the course. I think you will have a wonderful trip!

            IMO, or anyway within the limits of my own experience of these things (which has been fairly diligent since the 1970s), Burgundy produces about the best wines in the world, with diversity (albeit also a huge quality range, and even larger value range -- there are hard closed wines that will never be drinkable but still fetch serious prices) -- at their best they're breathtaking, and require no particular knowledge or past experience to enjoy. And some very satisfying food, too, which tends to be of the ancient, folk-cooking, comfort-food genre, and can tend toward richness or heaviness. But when Escoffier wrote his monumental Guide Culinaire a century ago to catalog the proud restaurant dishes of France, he omitted some famous Burgundian and other regions' specialties as outside "high" cuisine -- even though folk cooking includes many of the most widely known French dishes worldwide, and even though they are just the sort of dishes that French chefs themselves prefer, when they dine.

        2. I had some friends sign up for a wine tour of Sonoma County a few years ago. After they came back I saw their itinerary and there wasn't one place among the eight they visited that I'd recommend. I guess they had a nice lunch with a beautiful view at one place, but you have to wonder about the quality of these places that turn up on tours. I'll bet it's the same situation in France.

          6 Replies
          1. re: SteveTimko

            I'd bet it's not. Other than the fact that they all produce wine, I'd be hard-put to draw too many other comparisons between Napa/Sonoma and any of the French growing regions.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Total Wine sells some pretty horrendous wine bottled under the Burgundy and Rhone labels.

              1. re: SteveTimko

                not if they're AOC.

                I believe they might be horrendous to you, but if they bear an AOC, they're at least drinkable.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Well, you're proving my point. Who the heck goes on wine tours just to taste drinkable wine? Take a cab to a grocery store and buy a couple of boxes of wine and you are set.
                  I've had to drink these Total Wine imports at my monthly tasting group. They were horrendous to most everyone. They were direct imports by Total Wine.

                  1. re: SteveTimko

                    +1 Total Wines direct imports=horrendous!

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    "if they bear an AOC, they're at least drinkable."

                    Not true!!! I could go on for pages and pages about the corruption of the AOC system. It is entirely coopted by politics. Just yesterday, I had an entirely undrinkable glass of Chiroubles at a very fashionable, well-thought of restaurant in Paris.

                    Moreover, assuming for the sake of argument that what you say is true, given the price of Burgundy these days, who wants to pay $70-200+ for a wine that's only "drinkable?"

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