My 72 hour Burgundslipp adventure

© Mathias Harildstad

Sunday morning, on the 5th of February, I packed my backpack and headed down to Aker Brygge. And as of 9am that morning, I was officially in the Burgundslipp queue, 73 hours before the doors to Vinmonopolet would open. For those who have no idea what I am talking about, here’s a quick summary: I might have to explain what the Burgundslipp actually is. Which is not an easy task. Because this phenomenon only happens in Norway, and if we’re really being honest, it’s concentrated around Aker Brygge in Oslo. Here are the broad strokes: February 9th, at 10 am, the doors open at Vinmonopolet Aker Brygge. And inside, there are hundreds of rare wines from Burgundy. But they are not only rare; they are quite cheap, relatively speaking. And so once a year, it’s possible to get your hands on rare, expensive wines for a fraction of the price of anywhere else in the world.

But there’s a catch. You have to get in line. They let people into the store, one at a time, in order of appearance in the queue. And although the wines scattered around on the floor might be attainable for person number 57, it’s the wine behind the counter that’s got people lining up days, or even weeks in advance. And yes, it’s February in Norway. And yes, it’s cold. And yes, they live outside, at Aker Brygge, for days or weeks at a time, waiting for those doors to open. And, yes, it’s quite crazy.

Anyway, back to this year’s Burgundlslipp. It’s Sunday February 5th. I sat there, in my camping chair, waiting for the other members of the queue to wake up. It’s not like I was in a hurry to set up my bed and unpack. I literally had 73 hours to kill. But I wondered then, what would this year’s Burgundslipp be like? And who were the other people in the queue? I had already picked up on things being quite different this year. For instance, the first 10 in the queue were not the “regular” queue veterans. And as time went on, I would come to realize just how different this year’s queue would be.

Fight Club

I get a lot of questions about this Burgundslipp business. And some questions are harder to answer than others. One of the main reasons some questions are hard to answer, is because there are a lot of things I don’t know. The queue operates on a sort of unspoken “fight club” rule, as in we don’t talk about fight club. Or, in this case, the ongoings of the queue. So if you’re here to learn all our secrets, you might be disappointed. You might not get the answers to your questions. There are things that will be left unsaid.

Now, you might think that since I am a part of the queue, I would have all the answers. But I do not. It’s mainly because I don’t ask. Although I am pretty sure that if I did ask, my questions would go unanswered. Or they would give me a false answer. I mean, do we really think a member of the queue is planning on making the world’s best sangria with the DRC Romanee-Conti?

“Why spend 4 weeks in the queue if you don’t have the slightest interest in wine?”

That’s a (translated) quote I offered to Dagbladet. And let’s just let that sink in for a minute. Why would a 20 year old spend weeks out on then street, in the dead of Norwegian winter, in order to get their hands on wines from burgundy, when they don’t seem the slightest bit interest in wine at all?

Previous years, the vast majority of the participants of the queue were other likeminded wine lovers, with a great interest for wine. I recall elaborate conversations about vintages, vineyards, winemakers and wines in previous years, conversations from which I learned a great deal. This year, I found myself being the one imparting knowledge. And we’re talking very basic knowledge. In fact, it seemed many of this year’s top 10 didn’t know which grapes were used in the wines they were waiting to buy.

So where do all these bottles end up? I think we can draw a likely conclusion: they buy the wines, and then turn around and sell them. Now, I am not saying that no one in previous years sold any of the bottles. In fact, I am pretty sure many of them sold some of the more “lucrative” wines. (And by lucrative I mean the wines that have the highest ROI when you turn around and sell them.) However, I am also sure they bought a lot of wine for themselves. And I am certain of this because I know some of them. I know they are interested in wine. I have spoken with them, and listened to them talk, about wine. But this year, it seems an overwhelming majority of the participants were in the queue for the sole purpose of making money. And that made me a bit sad.

© Mathias Harildstad

The end of an era?

Like Merete Bø said to NRK, this might be the beginning of the end. If next year’s Burgundslipp is anything like this year’s, it’s likely the whole concept will be shut down. I mean, why release wines in Norway, when they (allegedly) end up in England, China or Singapore anyway? The winemakers ex cellar price is probably the same whether they sell to Norway, England or Singapore. So why not sell directly to those countries? Alternatively, just sell to HORECA. That way you know the bottles will stay in the country, and fellow wine lovers can enjoy these wines at local wine bars and restaurants.

I am very curious to see how things unfold. And if there is a Burgundslipp next year, I hope to see some of my fellow female wine lovers there. Among the first 50 I could count the women on one hand…

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you go to the bathroom?
Well, there are quite a few bathrooms to choose from at Aker Brygge. And if you have to go at night, there is a 24 hour bathroom we can use.

Can you leave?
Yes, you can. But for how long is regulated by the queue. I personally never strayed far from my spot, and made sure to tell at least one other person in the queue where I was going. I never left Aker Brygge in those 73 hours.

Do the queue participants sell the wines?
I refer to my earlier “fight club” comment. I can not with a 100% certainty answer this question. I never asked them, and they never told me. But sure, I have a strong feeling quite a few of this years’ participant sold the wines. In fact, I am pretty sure most of those wines have left the country.

Are you the only woman?

Pretty much. At least among the ones sleeping multiple nights out on the street. A few women arrive Wednesday night, Thursday morning. But I was the only woman who slept 4 nights in the queue.

What wines did I buy?
Red and white wines from Burgundy.

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