Tasting Cellars in Beaune

Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 12:28 PM
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Tasting Cellars in Beaune

Outside of the guidebooks, I am beginning to think from "real" people's comments that the Marche aux Vins in Beaune is actually cheesy and touristy with an inferior selection geared to tourists who "wouldn't know any better." Is this true?

Aside from that, are there any good wine shop/cave tasting locations in Beaune? I had seen mention of Caves Patriarche Père et Files and Caves de Couvent des Cordelier. Does anyone have an opinion on these?

Alternatively, would it simply be better to stick to the winery tasting rooms themselves such as Gevrey-Chambertin and Chateau du Clos-de-Vougeot?

On the one hand, we are rather serious, somewhat knowledgeable daily wine drinkers, but we are much less familiar with Burgundy as it's generally out of our price range. Our hope is to sample the widest range of Burgundy producers/vintages as economically as possible in a convenient location or two. If we stop at several individual wineries, we will encounter that obligation to buy at least one bottle from each. At $50-$300 or more a pop, that's just not feasible. Basically, I thought a local wine shop in Beaune might be the best way to do that, but am I way off base in my expectations? I realize France has a totally different approach to wine marketing than we do here in the U.S., but I note that there are many recommended cooperatives down in the Rhone area. I just can't seem to track down any in Burgundy. Is it because there are too many to mention, or too few?
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 01:29 PM
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Seek no more...we based in Beaune this past Otober...and we found that the Patriarche family right in Beaune was excellent in every way. We also visited a number of caves in the surrounding vineyard villages...we enjoyed being in Beaune as our base...here are the pix, about half way through you'll see the Patriarche cellar...we were the onlyguests and treated beautifully, only €10 per person. Three million bottles and we left a few for you!!

These pix might give you good idea of life in Beaune...sorry for the overload of Hospice pix, but there was no one there and I shot away..haven't had the heart to eliminate any as yet. (Pommard was one of our favorite towns in the area)

Beaune Saturday market is very complete and we recommend dinner at the pictured restaurant (La Grilladine")...exceptionally reasonable, excellent offerings.

Stu Tower [email protected]

http://picasaweb.google.com/stuartto...eBurgundy2009#
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 01:54 PM
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Marche aux Vins in Beaune was cheesy and touristy and we still had a good time doing it. We did not taste at any other wine shops, so no advice there. We did enjoy a day tour with Burgundy Discovery and a tasting lunch at la maison
d'Olivier Leflaive, where we learned so much about Burgundy wine making. Not an economical way to go, but loads of fun and we tasted a lot of different wines.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 01:57 PM
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There are zillions of opportunities for wine tastings.

If you go to a smaller, family-owned winery, it works like this:
Often, you will visit the cave and some of the machinery. The winemaker will tell you (usually in French) about his winemaking. You will be offered a couple of samples of the recent vintages, which are, of course, immature and of limited significance (only bad wineries have older vintages). The purpose of such tastings is to sell large amounts of wine (several boxes) to the customer. You will sip a just a small amount of wines. You are easily able to drive after such a tasting.

If you go to a larger dealer or consolidator, it works like this:
You will be in a tasting room. Often, you have to pay a fee for the samples. You will taste a wider array of samples in a less personal atmosphere.

If you go to Marché aux Vins, it works like this:
You pay a handsome fee and you are given a tastevin. Then you decend into a very romantic, candlelit cellar with wooden barrels and ancient tombs. There you find a couple of open bottles. You help yourself with your tastevin. You can drink as much as you want. But you should skip the first bottles. These are the minor qualities.
Then you walk up and find yourself within the ruins of a former church, sparsely lit and most romantic. There you find more bottles, the further you proceed, the better the qualities.
At the end, you will have tasted 15 or 20 samples, and the last wines have been pretty good. By now, you should be quite tipsy, and then you are supposed to buy a few bottles.
Now comes the caveat: most of Marché-aux-Vin's wines are overpriced and the quality is indeed not on the highest level. Tipsy or not, be careful.
However, I must say, when we had been to Marché aux Vins in 2003, I tasted a 1998 Premier Cru Pommard which was not bad after all and which was reasonably priced. I indeed bought three bottles and put them into my cellar. Just yesterday, I opened the first 1998 vintage and, yes, the wine was very agreeable.
Conclusion: Marché aux Vins IS touristy, yes. Cheesy, no. IMO, it is a very pleasant way to get stylishly drunk.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 02:05 PM
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Thank you, Tower. I think I'll keep the Patriarche caves on my list then and perhaps take a peek at Pommard also. Pics are great. Did you like your hotel? I'm still searching on that front.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 02:17 PM
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Thanks for your input Ninkette and Echnaton (try saying those names together fast). I just might keep Marché-aux-Vin on the list, as well, but save myself for the bottles toward the end. That's a great tip that I wouldn't have otherwise known! I wasn't sure whether that particular venue leaned toward slightly cheesy/touristy but fun nonetheless, or a downright rip-off. Sounds like it's the former. Pommard seems like a pretty good deal & I think the Wine Doctor mentioned that domaine could offer good value. I'll just have to be armed with a little info and try to squint at the labels by candlelight.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 02:35 PM
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Just to avoid misunderstandings: Pommard is a region, not a domaine. There are hundreds of winemakers who have fields in Pommard and there are consolidators like Marché aux Vins, Patriach or Hospices de Beaune which sell wines from different regions.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 03:15 PM
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Sap...we cheecked in to The Athanor at the suggestion of a banker at Paribas in Beaune. We liked it, good location, breakfast available at a farly steep cost, but several very good choices for breakfast very closeby...rooms are roomy and clean, we had a downstairs room right off the sitting room and bar..very quiet and spacious. I think it was the only room downstairs. There is an elevator.The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful, Free public parking is a short two block walk to a city parking lot. Very convenient.

We had originally booked a hotel in Levernois, a 15-minute drive, but did not like it at all, and the next day off to Beaune we went..a very good decision. Rate at the Athanor was about €90. Today that would be about $120.

Stu tower
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 03:25 PM
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>>breakfast available at a farly steep cost, but several very good choices for breakfast very closeby
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 04:15 PM
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Thanks, Echnaton. I did actually know it was a region and not a domaine, so that was sort of a dumb typo; but it was good to clarify just in case. I meant to say "those domaines." The domaines I have heard of in Pommard are Marquis d’Angerville, Michael Lafarge, Hubert de Montille and Pousse d’Or. Have any of you tried those producers? I hear the Pommard wines tend to be more full-bodied, which my husband definitely prefers.

I hadn't planned to necessarily eat the hotel breakfasts after reading the Fodorite boards, but I didn't realize one should actually confirm on check-out that it hasn't been charged anyway. That's another good tip I'll have to keep in mind. Thanks, Stu.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 07:41 PM
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Sap:

With not one, but two guys with the same name watching out for you, you can't go wrong. At the little park where the carousel is located there are two breakfast cafes. Grand Cafe is the better of the two.(they both appear in one of my pix)

Stu T...Hi Stu D.
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Old Mar 24th, 2010, 03:50 AM
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Two other ideas in Beaune for tasting and good prices are:

the Lycée viticole de Beaune (the wine high school)
16 avenue Charles Jaffelin
http://www.lavitibeaune.com/viti/

and the Caves des Hautes Cotes de Beaune (a cooperative)
Route de Pommard
21200 BEAUNE
http://www.vins-bourgogne.fr/connait...N0ZT0xfA%3D%3D
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Old Mar 24th, 2010, 04:08 AM
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Not sure if this would appeal to you but we stayed for a week in Beaune to use as our base for touring...fabulous apartment.
The owner of that apartment had some links on their website that lead us to a great wine tour run by a British expat couple. Six of us were driven in their van to small wineries that one would not have access to , lunch stop included. We usually are not the "tour" type when traveling but this was outstanding. If you want more info I can email the website for the wine tour.
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Old Mar 24th, 2010, 04:57 AM
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I guess you know the negociant is really king rather than the producer in this area, but the guys you are looking at are priced above most of that.

Might try the Haut-cote-de-beunne coop. Part fo a new super-cooperative they often sell off the lousy old wine that their producers have not managed to shift out of their cellars in the past 20 years or so. So guess what; you can buy 20 year old burgundy at dirt cheap prices that you can afford to drink in the shop (before you buy more)
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Old Mar 24th, 2010, 04:59 AM
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yes the marche is cheesy. Another cheezy one is Chateau Fixin out of town
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Old Mar 24th, 2010, 07:28 AM
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Thanks for the links, Louie. I will follow up.

lowcountry, I might otherwise be interested in a small tour like that, but we'll have our 13-year-old in tow. I'll keep it in mind for any future trips, though.

Bilboburgler: You really hit the nail on the head. That negociant power is exactly what I would like to somehow circumvent during the few days we're there. I'm wondering if there are any small but quality-driven vignerons who remain unenslaved. (The answer could be yes, but not in Burgundy.) Plus, I would also like an opportunity to taste some of the more reputable producers in a non-threatening, side-by-side type of situation -- to sort of bypass the long-manufactured mystique and judge for myself. I had heard rumors there were slow cracks in those historic roadblocks due to pressures from the increasing prestige of the world's other wine regions, but Beaune might be too touristy a place to find that opening. (I know, I know. . . I'm posting this question on a travel site, so what do I expect?)

I'm sure there is a wide range of co-op quality. Do they all sell inferior wine? I do know there is a real rift between some of the larger domaines and the co-ops. Then again, how much of this is snobbery versus merit? The negociants and the Big Boys arouse my suspicion and thus I want to see for myself while still avoiding the "lousy old wine" that couldn't be shifted. Sadly, I don't have any close, personal friends with aging, three-figure Burgundies they're looking to share. What does your average Frenchman drink?
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Old Mar 24th, 2010, 07:54 AM
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>>What does your average Frenchman drink?
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Old Mar 25th, 2010, 05:10 AM
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the "lousy old wine" that couldn't be shifted is often the good stuff.

The issue is, why to people let you into their facility?

to make money.

WHy do you want to taste these wines? to find great wines at low prices.

Kinda conflict here.

What I tend to do is chose a lesser AC (say Pernand Vergelese is my spelling is correct) and visit 20 degustation coop and non coop. Buy it if you like it.

The negociants should not raise your concern, you just need to find a good one with relliable quality.

You might prefer to go a bit further south to that nice guy (whose name I forget) who offers wine and food. (stu will remember) and have a 12 wine tasting.

Altrnativley find when the Beaunne wine school is next doing a competition
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Old Mar 25th, 2010, 06:34 AM
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Not exactly what you are asking but we spent a wonderful afternoon at a Olivier Leflaive wine tasting in nearby Puligny-Montrachet. It was paired with a fixed lunch and included a tasting of about 10 or 11 wines ending with some sublime offerings.
There was no pressure to buy.
http://www.ila-chateau.com/leflaive/
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Old Mar 25th, 2010, 07:26 AM
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Robjame, I think that Leflaive tasting lunch is the one bilboburgler was referring to. I had looked into that and am certainly very interested. However, we will have our 13-year-old son with us and I can't picture how he would fit into that venue as I'm sure it's a rather adult sit-down. I will bookmark it for a future visit and continue to explore more informal, unstructured possibilities for the time being. Thanks for the link.

Bilbo, you are right of course about the lesser ACs and the "finds" we seek will tend to be further south. I'll be in the Rhone and Dordogne areas after Burgundy & will probably have better luck. I did just want to "sample" the Burgundy hype, though. My husband's the real afficionado, so I think I'll put him on this trail as his contribution to the planning.

Stu, yes I remember hearing now that the average Frenchman drinks Beaujolais. While I would like to be more open-minded to grapes like Gamay, I must admit they make my husband shudder as he's a long-time Napa cab fan and we both favor Syrah. That being said, we were surprised by how much we liked the Mendocino Pinot Noirs after having avoided that area for years. Perhaps we can learn to appreciate those lighter French styles a little more on this trip.
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