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A Wine Tasting Morning: Nuits-saint-georges

On a morning’s tasting we met some of the best, and friendliest, winegrowers on the Côte de Nuits. After a visit to Vosne-Romanée we motored down the road to Nuits-Saint-Georges to met Fabienne Bony. Through the luxury Land Rover’s open windows our guide David pointed out the Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Richebourg vineyards. Scenes from an oenological fairy tale, the two Australian couples with us gazed as David showed us how a strip of premier cru vines, Vosne Romanée Premie...

Burgundy, France, travel, maps, Holiday, Vacation & Tours, holidays, hotels, tour, wines, restaurants, events, gites

On a morning’s tasting we met some of the best, and friendliest, winegrowers on the Côte de Nuits. After a visit to Vosne-Romanée we motored down the road to Nuits-Saint-Georges to met Fabienne Bony. Through the luxury Land Rover’s open windows our guide David pointed out the Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Richebourg vineyards. Scenes from an oenological fairy tale, the two Australian couples with us gazed as David showed us how a strip of premier cru vines, Vosne Romanée Premier Cru Les Suchots and Beaumont, are surrounded to the left and right by grand crus. There are seven grands crus here, arguably the greatest of the Côte d’Or: Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, La Romanée, Romanée-Saint-Vivant and Richebourg in Vosne-Romanée cover 64.7 acres; Grands-Echézeaux and Echézeaux are in Flagey-Echézeaux and total 115.8 acres. Grand crus account for a tiny 2% of all wine produced in Burgundy.

The diminutive Fabienne stood beaming at us beside her enormous tractor as we drove into the yard. Gallant lawyer and banking men in our group reported after that they felt like leaping out to come to her aid. The huge high-clearance vineyard tractor towered over her like a praying mantis. But Fabienne Bony cannot use help from our soft office hands. She works the estate entirely on her own. Her husband is a full-time cattle and cereal farmer. Their one and three year-old daughters are cared for by grandmother while Fabienne is in the vines or busy in the wine cellar. She is of the new generation of Burgundy growers who have done so much to improve quality and have moved from largely bulk wine sales to bottles.

We gathered around her on the edge of a vineyard adjoining the house for a short lesson on the particularities of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. It’s not only the skin colours which differ. The shapes of the leaves, the load per vine, the vines’ behaviour in particular climatic conditions – all vary enormously. The grape explanations over, we bent our heads and filed down the stairs into the cellar. Fabienne syphoned a few centilitres from barrels, squirting dark ruby coloured tasting samples into each of our glasses as we progressed around the cellar. We noticed some decidedly marked changes in wines depending on the type of oak used, some seemed sweeter than others, some had a very smoky taste. She explained how her premier cru wines are aged in 100% new oak while the other wines are aged in two, three and four year old barrels.

From the barrel to the bottle; the bottle tasting was held in the Bony family kitchen. Comfortably installed around the dark oak kitchen table we were led through a maze of appellations, vintages and individual plots. Fabienne speaks fairly good English so Lynne’s translation services were rarely required. Tasting all the Nuits-Saint-Georges from parcels of vines only a few metres from each other but so different in flavour was a big learning experience. Lynne took us through some of the flavours and aromas to be expected in young Pinot Noir wines – raspberry fruit and cassis berry. After a discussion of the barrel ageing process David described aromatic characteristics in older red Burgundies. We tasted three different vintages of the single vineyard Nuit-Saint-Georges Les Damodes and found a gamut of mushroom and earthy farmyard aromas! One of our brethren from down-under asked Fabienne which wine she preferred. ‘It all depends on the dish which is accompanying the wine’ she smiled. On cue, we bid farewell to the lady winegrower from Nuits-Saint-Georges and head down to Le Morgan in Savigny-lès-Beaune for lunch.

An enticing menu of traditional Burgundy cuisine with special signature dishes of the chef kept us hovering before we could decide. Owner Jean-Pierre welcomed us, took our order, prepared the food and served it. And he looked after the other two tables of lunching winegrowers with as much care as he did us.

An Aussie accent rang out, “Rought, how mach time do we ‘ave for a snooze before going on to number three?”

 

What To Expect When Visiting A Winery Tasting Room

Most tasting rooms are similar in the way they operate. When entering the tasting room, a tasting room staff member will greet you. Walk up to the tasting bar and say you would like to taste some of the wines. Some wineries charge for tastings and others do not. Occasionally a souvenir glass is included when you pay a tasting fee. You may have a choice to taste all the wines you would like on their list, or to choose a certain number of wines to taste, such as five wines.

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wine, wine trail, travel, wine tasting, winery

Most tasting rooms are similar in the way they operate. When entering the tasting room, a tasting room staff member will greet you. Walk up to the tasting bar and say you would like to taste some of the wines. Some wineries charge for tastings and others do not. Occasionally a souvenir glass is included when you pay a tasting fee. You may have a choice to taste all the wines you would like on their list, or to choose a certain number of wines to taste, such as five wines.

Let the winery consultant guide your tasting. We have experienced consultants who pour the wine and tell us what we are about to smell and taste. Others will ask us what we observe about the wines. However, the latter is less frequent. There is a certain risk that winery staff takes if they ask your opinion. I recall a look of disappointment when one tasting consultant asked me what I thought a wine tasted like and I replied, “Leather.” The consultant thought it tasted like coffee. I do not drink coffee and now I have a sneaky feeling that it must taste like leather.

If you go to a tasting room on a less busy day (usually in the middle of the week), you will enjoy the opportunity to talk about the wine, winery and vineyards. Most tasting room staff members are knowledgeable about the wines they are pouring. A mere one percent of the wineries we have visited had a staff member who admitted that he just helps on the weekend and pours the wine. He told us he did not know anything about the wines he was pouring.

Most of the time, you will stand at the tasting bar. Some tasting rooms have bar stools next to the tasting bar. This is a very welcome addition if you are tasting at your third winery of the day. Some wineries use tables for wine tastings. At McGregor Vineyard and Winery along Keuka Lake in New York, you will sit at a table. The wine consultant will bring a plate of bite-sized food and will discuss the wine list with you. We also had a “sit down and be served” experience at Gloria Ferrer in California.

The “sit down at a table” theme continued at Schramsberg in California. After a tour of the caves at Schramsberg, the tour group gathered in a small dining room that had three tables set for a group of people. Our tour filled two of the tables. The wine consultant talked about the sparkling wines and then served us at the table. This afforded a great opportunity to talk about the wine with the other people at your table. This intimate approach occurred after group tours at Pine Ridge Winery and Quintessa in California.

Occasionally the winemaker will be on hand and may give a tour and conduct your tasting. Our most memorable tour was at The Lenz Winery on Long Island in New York. The winemaker had us taste his wines from the stainless steel tanks. He asked us what we thought and more often than not agreed with us. His tour proceeded to the barrel room and with thief in hand had us taste the wine from some of the barrels. Tasting wine from the barrels or tanks can give you an idea if the wine is ready or what more aging will do to it. The winemaker at Prince Michel Vineyards and Winery in Virginia has special barrel tastings. He discusses his wines and the stage they are at when you taste them.

One of our favorite tastings was during the tour at Del Dotto Winery in California. The tour led our group through the over one hundred year old candle-lit tunnels. Our guide stopped along the way and had us taste wines from the barrels. If we liked the wine, we took a ticket attached to the barrel. After the tour, we could order any of the wines we tasted. The wine would be bottled and shipped to many destinations.

Visiting winery tasting rooms is a great activity. Try to limit the number of tasting rooms you visit in one day. We try to visit two or three in a day. Tasting rooms are less crowded on the weekdays. Call ahead or check their times on the Internet before you start your adventure.

 

Wine Tasting Room Etiquette

Many small, boutique wineries are family-run businesses. Chances are quite good that you will meet one of the winery’s family members while visiting a winery. When visiting a wine tasting room consider yourself a guest. The owners and staff are proud of their facility and wines. They want everyone to enjoy their visit. Expectations in tasting rooms are different than at wine festivals or in busy bars. After visiting 125 wineries in the last nine months and talking with nume...

wine, tasting room, winery, etiquette, vineyard, travel, visit

Many small, boutique wineries are family-run businesses. Chances are quite good that you will meet one of the winery’s family members while visiting a winery. When visiting a wine tasting room consider yourself a guest. The owners and staff are proud of their facility and wines. They want everyone to enjoy their visit. Expectations in tasting rooms are different than at wine festivals or in busy bars. After visiting 125 wineries in the last nine months and talking with numerous wine hosts and visitors, we have created a selection of ideas to keep in mind when visiting a winery and vineyard.

The atmosphere in a winery tasting room is one of a subtle sophistication. While shorts and athletic shoes are acceptable so are semi-dress clothes. Do not arrive at the winery chewing gum. Gum will distort the taste of wine. Heavy perfume and aftershave will also not permit you or others near you to taste the wine effectively. Sense of taste is highly influenced by the sense of smell. Loud outside voices are not appropriate. Conversational tones are perfect and fit in well with talking about the wines you taste and meeting others who have common interests.

Tasting rooms can be crowded on weekends. Weekdays are generally slower and wine hosts have more time to talk about the wines you taste. In either case, if the tasting room is busy, do not elbow your way to the tasting bar. On busy days, some wineries will set up tasting tables or bars outside the tasting room. Give yourself plenty of time at a winery. Relax and enjoy the wine tasting and the ambiance of the tasting room. If the tasting counter is busy, consider stepping back to discuss wine with other like-minded people. This gives others room to step up for a tasting. Many wineries have gift selections to browse while tasting wines. Take your time tasting and browse the displays.

The tasting representative pours the tastings in a particular order based upon the style of wine. If you choose not to drink a particular wine that’s fine. Gently cover your wine glass with your fingers to indicate you do not want to taste a wine. It is so much more subtle than declaring, “I don’t like that wine.” Not all wine drinkers like all wines and wine hosts understand. Visitors do not need to announce to everyone that they dislike a particular wine.

Another major faux pas is to pick up a bottle and pour your own tasting. Allow your wine consultant to pour the wine. Many wineries will offer to sell you a glass of wine if you would like more. If you ask to taste a wine for a second time, it is a common courtesy to buy a bottle of the wine.

What should you do with the wine in your glass you have tasted? If you do not want to drink or taste the rest of the wine in your glass, you can pour it into a spit bucket. It is perfectly acceptable. In addition, it is a good idea to spit your wine into the bucket. Even though tastings are small, they do add up after a number of tastings. If you are unsure about spitting, practice at home. A frequently heard suggestion is to practice in the shower.

Do you think wineries are being stingy when they set out tiny crackers or tiny bites of cheese? Remember this is not your lunch. The purpose of the crackers, dips or cheese is to cleanse the palate and to help one decide how the wine pairs with food. Some wineries have restaurants, so if you want lunch visit the restaurant.

Do you want to enjoy a picnic lunch? Many wineries encourage visitors to bring a picnic lunch. Frequently picnic or patio tables are available. Ask in advance if it is okay to bring a picnic lunch and where to picnic on the grounds. Do not bring wine from another winery or any other kind of alcohol. Laws restrict wineries and many wineries are not permitted to have any other alcoholic beverage on their premises. Besides, if you were going to someone’s home for dinner, it would be tasteless to bring your own entrée. Staff and visitors always appreciate good manners.

If you have the opportunity to visit a vineyard, do not pick the grapes. If you would like to taste a wine grape at harvest time, be sure to ask a staff member. One winery we visited this summer mentioned how they don’t mind visitors walking through the vineyards and taking pictures, but one day a visitor walked out of the vineyard with several bunches of grapes to ask what they were. It did not dawn on him until an owner reminded him that the grapes would have made wine. The visitor tried to give them to the owner who replied, “They aren’t good now. They aren’t ready for making wine.”

The best motto to follow in a winery or vineyard would be the National Parks motto, “Take only pictures and leave only footprints.” When you visit a winery, if you like the wine and want to buy it that is great, but you do not need to purchase a bottle of wine. Do not buy a bottle of wine unless you like it. Participating in a winery tasting room can be delightful for everyone.




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