Bourgogne Gold Tour owner Youri Lebault

Bourgogne Gold Tour's Youri Lebault makes good use of maps to show people around

Always a map at the ready …

Thinking of going on a wine tour? You’re not alone. Wine tourism is growing by leaps and bounds. I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips but, from Argentina to Azerbaijan, the ever expanding world of wine culture is driving a big audience. Even here in BC—still an infant by world wine standards—you can find a broad range of operators to escort you safely (and often knowledgeably) on your tour. They range from small group, limo or luxury van services to full sized coach tours and everything in between.

The key to a good tour

I’ve been on more than a few media wine tours, at home and abroad. Some were more memorable than others.  But all were worthwhile.

Knowing where you are is the first rule of getting to understand a region

Knowing where you are is the first rule of getting to understand a region

However, without exception, no matter how much planning has taken place, in the end, the key to any successful tour lies with one person: the driver.

Usually he or she not only knows how to get from winery A to winery B but also, hopefully, has plenty of local wine smarts to share. Not to mention a supply of bottled water on board to stay hydrated.

However, when I visited Burgundy last month, my perceptions and expectations of what a good wine tour guide can truly accomplish were forever changed.

Putting the Gold in the Côte d’Or

Enter Youri Lebault, who owns and operates Bourgogne Gold Tour.  Lebault is Burgundy born and raised. He really walks the talk, so much so that he’ went back to university to complete his wine studies. And he’s just been appointed a “Chevalier du Tastevin.”

Never a dull moment! Youri tries his hand at Pommard's 16th century press

Never a dull moment! Youri tries his hand at Pommard’s 16th century press

From the moment he picked me up in his immaculate Mercedes S Class to saying “au revoir” a few days later, Youri turned out to be an indispensable guide and wealth of information, who knew just how to take everything to the next level. He’s also recently invested in a Mercedes eight passenger Viano for small groups.

Burgundy tour - Clos des Perrieres

Hitting the high notes: Clos des Perrieres

I was hosted by BVIB, Bourgogne Wine Board, who regularly contracts Lebault, and who structured the main elements of the week. He used to work for them before leaving to start  his tour company.

Gold Tour Picamelot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé

Picamelot Cremant Brut Rosé—worth the find!

During the first day we spent together a lot of information was exchanged. I tried to explain what I do and he went to work, tweaking our program. For example, I expressed an interest in Crémant (sparkling wine) and Youri used his extensive contacts to work in last minute calls with two leading producers, including Maison Louis Picamelot. This small but significant producer has been a pioneer of Burgundian sparkling wine since the 1930s.

Hitting all the high notes: La Grande Rue

Hitting all the high notes: La Grande Rue

As we wove our way through Burgundy’s maze of Climats, Crus and Villages, Youri would pull over at an ideal spot, spread a map on the hood; and explain to me exactly where we were; who was who; and discuss the terroir, climate and so on.

By the last day we were flying.  And the program had grown further to fit in extra, quick appointments to make the most of the time…

If you’re Burgundy bound, you might just want to talk to him … In fact you should.

And if you’re a western Canadian wine agent looking to import some excellent crémant, I have some for you.