Meet the Fixer That’ll Get You Inside the Rarefied World of Burgundy

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With one of us sitting in the passenger seat of Youri Lebault’s Mercedes sedan and the other in the back, Burgundy’s preeminent tour guide asks if there was anything he could do to make our day better. “Everything is fine, but if I had a glass of Corton-Charlemagne in my hand right now I would be just a little bit happier,” one of us says with a chuckle. “Consider it done,” Lebault replies. We insist it’s a joke, but before we could say anything more, Lebault is on the phone with a contact in Beaune as he casually makes a U-turn and guides us to a wine boutique in the center of town. Someone appears from inside the shop, pulls away the “No Parking” signs and chain out front and ushers us to the store’s interior. A bottle is presented, two long-stemmed crystal glasses are procured, and we are back on our way to tour the vineyards of the Côte de Beaune in no time. That, friends, is the magic of traveling with someone who is connected. And in Burgundy, that magic is needed now more than ever.

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Just a few weeks ago at a wine tasting in New York, an acquaintance who imports several notable Burgundy brands mentioned that his producers are closing their doors to anyone but actual wine buyers, distributors, or importers. When pressed for a reason, he explained that due to arcane wine regulations in the U.S.A., many of the wineries he works with have different importers in each of 35 states, and that each of those importers expects to visit with clients two or three times a year. Add global importers such as those from the U.K., Germany, Scandinavia, China, Japan, and Singapore, and you understand why small wineries are too strapped for time to hold private tastings for individual buyers—no matter how wealthy they may be or whom they may know.

And that, friends, once again explains the magic of visiting a wine region with someone who is connected. Someone like Lebault, who started Bourgogne Gold Tour in 1999 at the age of 24. A Bourguignon through and through, Lebault is the great-grandson of a barrel maker in Gevrey-Chambertin and the son of a chef from Dijon, which he reminds us was the capital city of the Duchy of Burgundy. Since the days of his one-car, one-man show, Lebault’s empire has grown to include three Mercedes V-Class vans with panoramic sunroofs, one Mercedes GLE SUV hybrid that he says is very helpful to get out among the vines, and a newly added Mercedes camper van that he uses for picnics between the rows. He also has four other guides who work with him in high season, all of whom are Burgundy natives that have worked in the wine industry prior to joining his team. Helicopter tours of the vineyards are available as well.

Both the domains he has access to and his celebrity clients have requested anonymity and discretion, but it’s important to note that Lebault’s first book, Discovering the Vineyard Climats of Burgundy, opens with a preface written by Aubert de Villaine, proprietor of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and his second, In Climats Veritas, features a preface penned by Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, a onetime client of Bourgogne Gold Tour who was recommended to Lebault by a top end domain. The majority of Lebault’s clients spend one or two days with him, and each visit is a customized experience featuring the finest wineries and the rarest wines. He can even get his hands on what he describes as “extra secret bottles,” and birthyear or anniversary vintages are procured as needed.

Make your way around one of the world’s great wine regions in comfort.
Make your way around one of the world’s great wine regions in comfort.

Whether Lebault personally drives you or you spend your time with Fabien, David, Christine, or Nicolas, your day will begin in a notable vineyard with a glass of wine in hand and what is called the Bourgogne Wine Tour Classroom, an exploration of Burgundy’s history, grape varieties, geology, vinification, agronomy, and appellations with visual aids that include boards and maps. While you may be itching to get your hands around the stem of a glass filled with precious liquid in the barrel room of, say, Romanée-Conti, Méo Camuzet, or Henri Jayer, Lebault and his team are going to make sure that you truly understand why you are here. Only then can the fun begin, including exploration of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, visits to famous Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards along with photo ops at notable landmarks, tastings in cellars, lunch at local restaurants with impossible-to-believe wine lists, and meals at wineries with owners, winemakers, or France’s best sommelier. “Many special things are possible, as long as the customers lets us express our creativity,” Lebault tells Robb Report, “I have always created my private wine tours like an artist. I really believe that is an art.” Of course, the other reason you are here is to bring some bottles back home. Lebault can help with that, pointing out, “We are always happy to take care of the wine shipping, door to door to the U.S.A., which is a really convenient service. Our guests are always glad to buy a ‘souvenir.’”

Lebault is not merely a connected man. His expertise comes from a life immersed in wine. He has three separate degrees from the Université de Bourgogne in winemaking; wine, culture, and wine tourism; and viticulture and environmental issues. In addition, he holds the French Wine Scholar certification from the Wine Scholar Guild, level 3 WSET qualification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, certification from the École des Vins de Bourgogne in wine tasting and sensorial analysis, training in the geology of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, and certification as a guide from the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne. And on top of that, prior to starting his company, he worked at a variety of domains including Tissier, René Bouvier, Christian Gros, Cécile Tremblay, and Vincent Barbier, the last of whom is the master of ceremonies at the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin dinners at the Château du Clos de Vougeot. More recently, when there was no tourism in Burgundy or anywhere else, Lebault got back into the vineyards for hands-on work. He tells Robb Report, “In 2020, during Covid, I had the great opportunity to make the harvest at the most prestigious domain of Bourgogne, well known all over the world, in the center of Vosne-Romanée, for three weeks.”

Guests contact Lebault through his website, and he connects with them personally to craft their experience. And while he insists on not naming names, he adds that he can “contact certain domains where I do have the possibility, a couple of time a year, to open the doors for unforgettable experiences.” Like any fixer, he can get you where you want to go, but discretion is the name of the game. And whatever you do, try not to embarrass your guide and ruin it for everybody else. He tells the story of one guest who wanted tastings at only the best domains who swallowed every drop of wine poured and did not spit at all. Before the final tasting of the day had concluded, the client was asleep with his head on the table. The owner said, “Please never come here with these kinds of impolite guests,” and cautioned Lebault regarding future visits. Even the fixer can’t fix bad manners.

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