Vigneron, Negociant and Cooperative are all elements of wine terminology that can confuse but are simple to demystify. In fact knowledge of each is often vital to finding the best tasting and buying opportunities because each is a different type of wine producer.
• Vigneron; a person who cultivates a vineyard for winemaking and often makes the wine themselves. An example would be Michel Rebourgeon in Pommard, a small producer.
• Negociant; a wine merchant who buys grapes from other growers to make a wine under their own name, not the growers name. An example would be Patriarche in Beaune.
• Cooperative; a group of vineyard owners who pool their grapes to make wines collectively and market them under the cooperative brand. An example is Nuiton Beaunoy in Beaune which has around 100 members.
When visiting a new wine region or area the first thing I do is to look for a local wine cooperative. They always represent excellent value, have good quality control, provide free tastings of ALL their wines and have enthusiastic and friendly staff. As above Nuiton Beaunoy in Beaune are my favourite in all of France, I always get fantastic service from Valerie, they have a full range of wines from basic varietal up to Grand Cru, and are most reasonably priced. To be balanced I also like the Cooperatives Chablisienne and Cave de Turckheim too. In all these cases tasting is free.
I’m not a big fan of LARGE negociants, but they have a place in wine tourism especially if you want to visit cellars, have guided tours, and are seeking labelled wines you recognise. I quite like Patriarche in Beaune who have the longest cellars (5 miles?) and an excellent range of high priced high quality wines to taste in their self guided cellars. Great value at €17 for the tour and 10 wines.
My favourite place to visit for tastings is at small to medium sized independent vigneron. Extremely hard working people, usually family businesses, and mostly dependent on sales from tastings by tourists. I have three favourites in Burgundy based on the last couple of years; Michel Rebourgeon in Pommard, Francois Gaunoux in Meursault, and Mestre Pere et Fils in Santenay. I have become good friends with the Rebourgeon family, each year welcomed by Steve, Delphine, and their son William as I get a tasting from the barrels of the previous years vintage pre bottling, then the usual tasting of several vintages of Pommard, Volnay and recently some Cremant that William is “creating” as a negociant. The Gaunoux tasting and sales is at The Pavillon near Volnay and Mestre are in the main market place of Santenay and you will get a great welcome and free tasting at all three.