After the rigours of the Vinexpo Trade Fair and the 2010 Bordeaux En Primeur campaign, it was a welcome contrast to travel to Burgundy recently with some VIP clients. In particular, these individuals wanted to visit and taste at the incomparable Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
One of the great advantages of working with The Antique Wine Company is our ability to arrange this sort of exclusive visit. These special audiences are not simply ‘tasting trips’, but are instead personally guided pilgrimages to gain insight on (and pay homage to) the greatest wines on the planet.
Above: Driving through the vineyards on our way to DRC - Looking down on Morey-St-Denis
We were met on a shimmering, blazingly hot day in Vosne-Romanée by none other than Aubert de Villaine, owner, guardian and custodian of the mythic Domaine. In 2010, Aubert was named Decanter Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’, making him the only Burgundian to have received this extraordinary accolade.
Aubert was the epitome of warmth and humility upon welcoming us. However, he also had a long-standing prior engagement which he had to attend to. So, after a few minutes of chatting, Aubert introduced us to his trusted cellar-master Bernard, who conducted our private tour and tasting.
Our journey at the estate started in the cuverie where Romanée-Conti’s ultra-traditional winemaking process begins amidst its many oak foudres (large fermenting vats). From there, we descended into the cool, vaulted cellar to taste DRC’s liquid treasures from the 2010 vintage.
We began with the brand new Corton, made at the Domaine for the very first time in 2009. This new wine – at least the 2010 version - is absolutely breathtaking. This is definitely a wine which will be worth following upon release.
The Corton was an apt aperitif to the rest of the Domaine’s magnificent Pinot Noir portfolio. Comprised entirely of Grand Crus, this unequalled portfolio helps maintain the estate’s peerless reputation year after year. First up in this fabulous 2010 sneak preview (to be released in 2013) was the Échézeaux. Already, the wine is deliciously fresh, sweet and drinkable - resonating with raspberries and strawberry fruit.
We then graduated to the Grands-Échézeaux which, despite residing adjacent to Échézeaux, seemed to be a bit drier and a touch more concentrated, with substantially more smoke, structure and minerality. The Romanée-St-Vivant seemed lighter still, but equally more ethereal, with less toasty oak and a finer tannic backbone. The raspberry fruit and violet high notes in this were sublime.
The Richebourg was a further rung up the ladder, with a rich, sweet and creamy nose. Exquisitely delineated, the red and black fruits, toast, minerals, polished tannins and gorgeous acidity help create the ideal package. Everything was properly in place and perfectly presented.
Where do you go from there? To the epic La Tâche of course! Barely a hop, skip and a jump away, it is situated just to the south of Romanée-Conti and the 2010 version is already a wonderful work in progress – rich, spicy, deep, structured, complex and full. For fans of this great vineyard it will not disappoint.
Ditto the pièce de résistance, Romanée-Conti itself. Almost impossible to describe and certainly impossible to fault, this is the sine qua non of Burgundian refinement and class. The wine is another masterpiece in the making; already it is sweet, mineral-laden, juicy, deft, multi-faceted, elegant and extraordinarily long.
As if this wasn’t enough, Bernard next took us to the cave where the 2009s lie in preparation for shipment next year. Given how good the rest of Burgundy was in 2009, one can barely imagine what awaits those who were lucky enough to secure an allocation of DRC in this annus mirabilis.
However, one more treat awaited us as Bernard temporarily disappeared and then reappeared - holding an anonymous bottle. Our task was simple - guess the vintage. This game invariably sends shivers down my spine, but equally it is all part of the fun of being a wine merchant.
To be fair, Bernard gave us a slight clue to help us with our guesses. He informed us that the vintage was the third in a trio of great millesimes. However, we were told, the press were suspicious of the possibility of such beneficence and wrongly panned the vintage.
Four guesses ranged between us, from 1983 to 2002, with my opinion modestly shooting for 1987. In fact, the wine turned out to be a 1991 Grands-Échézeaux.
After thanking Bernard for the tour and tasting, we emerged blinking into the soaring heat of the afternoon and immediately made our way to where these wines are born – in DRC’s spectacular vineyards. It is only after you physically see the ideal slope, soil and aspect of Romanée-Conti that you come to appreciate what a perfect terroir this ancient vineyard really is – and just how small it is as well, producing a mere 450 cases per vintage. No wonder it is so sought after and so incredibly valuable.
The following day we headed north to Champagne for two more days of unique tastings. Check back shortly for accounts of our visits to Krug, Dom Pérignon, Bollinger and others...