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Buying wine in France---Be Careful!!!

This past summer we drove thru France for 2 1/2 weeks. We enjoyed daily bottles of wine, purchasing them from a wide range of merchants. Two of the wine merchants need special comment. The unsung small wine shop in St Julien was wonderful. The manager was knowledgeable and the prices were fair, with the Chateau Beychevelle marked below the chateau's own prices.

It was a different story with the Rick Steves recommended Vignobles and Chateau shop in St Emilion. The initially pleasant visit ultimately became unpleasant. There is no need to recount the circumstances, but be aware that both the Chateau Magdelaine and the Chateau LaSerre were significantly overpriced, the former priced more than 60% than that obtainable elsewhere [including the internet sellers] and the latter more than 40%. We can only recommend that Rick Steves surreptitiously re-evaluate this recommended merchant and that the wine buyer use their smart phone when in doubt. Don't be as trusting as us!!!!

Posted by
469 posts

It is also worth noting that the wine shops in St Emillion work in conjunction with one another . They are not separate, competing businesses as I had imagined they'd be. We started at Vignobles and found a bottle that interested us. We planned to walk around town, so I used that bottle as a benchmark at other shops. The first shop said they didn't have that label but made a call (back to Vignobles) and offered to get it for us (at a slightly higher price). Neither of the next two wine shops had what we were looking for, but I noticed that one of the salesmen was following us down the street. When we got down to the square, he yelled to us to try a certain wine store, then yelled in to the salesman there to tell him what we were looking for. This time the salesman asked us to wait while he left the store. After a short absence, he returned, saying he had located a bottle of the same label, but different vintage, at a much higher price.
Perhaps I do not understand French business practices, but it felt conspiratorial and creepy to me.

Posted by
9120 posts

Well, you need to consider that the owner of a wine shop in St Emilion also has significantly higher real estate costs than some Internet seller. You're paying in part for the experience of being there.