La grande domaine

La grande domaine People & Places Articles
  • Thursday 1 August 2002

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti remains at the top of most Burgundy lovers' wish list. STEVEN SPURRIER was privileged to taste the 1999 vintage

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti remains at the top of most Burgundy lovers' wish list. STEVEN SPURRIER was privileged to taste the 1999 vintage

The tasting held by Corney & Barrow to show the seven red wines from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – six grands crus and a very rare premier cru – from the 1999 vintage, was the most uplifting I have ever attended. Subconsciously searching for perfection when tasting great wines, here it was staring me in the face, a revelatory, almost religious experience. Adam Brett-Smith, managing director of Corney & Barrow, described the crucial difference between 1999 and 1990, the vintage with which for power, richness and opulence it will inevitably be compared. 'The difference lies in 1999's uncanny purity and definition, allied with a finesse and elegance that borders on the unearthly: there is an effortlessness about these wines that is rather weird.' Aubert de Villaine, co-gérant of the DRC with Henri-Frédérick Roch, simply stated that 'the wines made themselves'.

For the past decade, de Villaine and Roch have concentrated their efforts, by a mixture of biological and biodynamic cultivation, in returning their vineyards to perfect health, so that they will produce perfect grapes. They acknowledge that in 1990, 1996 and 1997 the grapes were superb, yet agree that 1999 surpasses them all in finesse and maturity. 'Quite simply,' they say, 'this will remain our legacy to the Domaine.' Aubert de Villaine observed that 1999 provided 'the almost miraculous combination of high sugar content and consequent high degrees of alcohol, good acidity from very concentrated berries and perfectly healthy grapes. The combination of these three factors in the same harvest only occurs very, very rarely.'

Such was the quality of fruit from the young vines from all the grands crus, usually sold to favoured négociants, it was decided to create a Vosne-Romanée 1er cru, named Cuvée Duvault-Blochet after Jacques-Marie Duvault-Blochet, direct ancestor of Aubert de Villaine. Duvault-Blochet purchased the Romanée-Conti vineyard back in 1869 and built up the other vineyard holdings much as they are today. The last vintage that bore this label was 1934 and future vintages are not anticipated. The box below gives the picture of the age of the vines, production and yields for the vintage.

Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Cuvee Duvault- Blochet

Deep ruby with a purple rim, beautiful fruit on the nose, slightly spicy, pure and finely concentrated, great depth on the palate, marvellously ripe fruit, all elegance and length. From 2003.

£58.55 a bottle.

Echezeaux

Deeper, more intense colour, sublime nose of crushed red and black berry fruits and a touch of cinnamon spice. Velvety and voluptuous on the palate, finely concentrated, beautifully smooth tannins. From 2006.

£94.19 a bottle.

Grands Echezeaux

Intense colour, almost purple-black. Visible concentration on the nose with deep, old-vine richness, stuffed with fruit and power on the palate, almost the essence of blackcurrant, yet ripeness not sweetness. Great structure and strength, yet silky and elegant. A superb wine. From 2008.

£143.54 a bottle

Romanee-St-Vivant

Deep colour, almost opaque, very powerful nose, unexpectedly robust from this most elegant grand cru, with an exotic perfume showing through. Perhaps lacks the sumptuous flesh of Grands Echézeaux, yet shows a sheer, soaring, sculpted fruit reminiscent of the finest Gothic architecture, a wine of incredible presence and depth. From 2009.

£187.01 a bottle.

Richebourg

Intense, black-purple colour, the first wine to show the presence of oak already being absorbed by a majestic extraction and ripeness, an intense concentration of blackcurrant and spice, sumptuously fleshy behind the firm structure. A really great wine that shows to perfection the imperious fruit of this grand cru. From 2010.

£206.99 a bottle.

La Tache

Intense ruby, but less opaque, a pure, lissom, perfumed nose, seductively exotic yet crystal clear fruit on the palate, multi-layered, velvety, voluptuous yet intricate, fabulously balanced and totally uplifting. A wine that is so magical it is hard to believe it is actually real. From 2012.

£245.76 a bottle.

Romanee-Conti

The same intense rich ruby as La Tache, firmer, less captivating but completely arresting. Very old vines give a fabulous intensity and grandeur, an extraordinary wine that has all the power and finesse to outclass and outlast even its greatest three colleagues. A wine in a world of its own. From 2015.

£754.54 a bottle.

Drinking periods and prices supplied by Corney & Barrow in London. Tel: +44 20 7251 4051.

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