Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – or DRC if you wish to sound like you drink them om an almost daily basis – is generally counted as the best wine producer in Burgungy, which makes this domaine one of the brightest shining stars in the heaven of fine wine. Their top wine Romanée-Conti, with a production of some 5 000 bottles per from a 1,8 ha vineyard a stone’s throw from the village of Vosne-Romanée, is one of the most expensive of all wines. (One prominent challenger for the title is Château Pétrus in Bordeaux.) DRC’s second most expensive red wine, La Tâche, from a vineyard another stone’s throw from Romanée-Conti (and over La Grande Rue), is often said to be in principle as good and of a very similar style as its most expensive sibling. Since La Tâche is slightly larger, 6,1 ha, the production is also larger, often 15 000 – 20 000 bottles per year, and the release price is something like one-quarter of the price of Romanée-Conti, which still makes it very expensive. Both Romanée-Conti and La Tâche (but not the other DRC grand cru wines) are monopole appellations, i.e. DRC is the sole owner, and only they produce wine from them. The “simplest” grand cru traditionally produced by DRC is Échézeaux, and form 2009 they have also added a Corton. With these wines we are down to a price level, although still quite expensive, when it starts to be somewhat realistic to include a bottle in an exclusive tasting at a wine tasting club, if you’re able to secure a bottle directly on release.
Despite the wines being quite expensive, the DRC wines are so sought after that directly after release, they will sell at a very much higher price at auctions than the release price, i.e. first line retail. This is in particular true for top vintages such as this year’s release, 2009, which was a top vintage for red wines all over France including Burgundy. Many of those who immediately lay their hands on these bottles are people who are actually not interested in drinking these wines, but rather in selling them on with profit. It has therefore become much more difficult for wine lovers/collectors without unlimited funds to acquire these wines at all. This is actually not primarily due to DRC’s own pricing, but rather due to the second hand market working like a “black hole” that quickly suck up all the bottles on release, after which they are traded at a price which is beyond the reach of reasonably well-salaried but only moderately insane wine lovers, some financial sector employees possibly excluded.
This phenomenon is actually of concern to DRC and their manager Aubert de Villaine (I’m not aware of any Bordeaux producers saying the same of the auction prices of their wines…), and he has voiced his distinct displeasure with customers who immediately sell their allocation at auction. So if you’re one of those who’re doing this: shame on you!
In August 2011 I had the advantage and pleasure of attending a tasting of DRC wines from the top vintage 1990 (oups! I see I didn’t make an English version of that blog post!), with La Tâche as the most expensive wine included. The wine club member who held this tasting had bought the wines in 1993. These wines were considered extremely expensive at that time as well, but were actually available for some time at their release price. So at that time, you could actually get your hands on them much easier than today.
When the possibility showed itself to taste most of the DRC lineup from 2009 – up to La Tâche – I of course took the opportunity. It was the official Swedish importer of DRC, Vinunic, that was behind this generous opportunity. We paid an approximate at-cost price for the wines (release price, not auction price) plus a dinner at Operakällaren (translates as The Opera Cellar), which for a long time has been counted as one of Stockholm’s finest restaurants among us indigenous people but which seems to have had recurring problems with the Guide Michelin inspectors, since they’ve gained one Michelin star and then lost it again a couple of times. Currently they don’t have a star, but the most prominent domestic guide (White Guide) rates them at place 8 in Sweden, ahead of several restaurants with one Michelin star.
And, without further ado, over to the wines:
A premier cru produced from grapes collected during a second round in the grand cru vineyards. A very limited production of 5 498 bottles in 2009, not produced every year.
Light to medium red. In the nose red and dark berries, some herbal character, some spice, a touch of mineral, some flowery notes, well integrated barrel aromas. Medium bodied on the palate, red and some dark berries, slightly balsamic, mineral, some spice, well integrated tannin, elegant. 91+ p.
Somewhat lighter in style than the vineyard-designated grand crus and rather accessible, but otherwise an obvious similarity in style.
60% new oak, completely destemmed grapes. 8480 bottles.
Medium red colour, rather dark and slightly blue-tinged. Powerful nose with dark berries, some mint and liquorice, clearly spicy, notes of toasted oak barrels, discrete perfume notes, some minerality. Elegant nose, but almost some notes reminiscent of a Grenache/Syrah blend. Slightly more than medium bodied on the palate, red and dark berries, high acidity, some mineral, some tannin, spicy. Long and rather spicy-acidic aftertaste. The palate is younger than the nose. 91+ p.
This wine is a little differently styled than the other grand crus. It is more blueish in colour and shows a slightly different nose, and has less strong mineral character. It’s interesting to note that it shows a more obvious oaked character although it actually has less new oak (60%) compared to the rest (95-100%).
Corton is a new wine in DRC’s lineup with 2009 as its first vintage. The vineyards originates from the previous producer Prince Florent de Merode. When the previous owners died, their children chose to sell the simpler vineyards and only keep their Corton holdings, which were rented out to DRC. This includes plots in several sites on the Corton hill, including Clos du Roi, but in this premier vintage they have been blended into an “unspecific” Corton. Eventually, we could see several different DRC Cortons, from different climats.
Light to medium red. Rather intense nose of red and some dark berries, a light touch of herbal character, rather obvious flowery notes (including violet), mineral, very fine spice and well integrated toasted oak notes. Slightly more than medium bodied on the palate, red berries, noticeable acidity, very present minerality with salinity, very long aftertaste. Young, 93+ p.
Échézeaux is a vineyard that often gives wines that count among the lighter grand crus, and it is often possible to find more powerful premier cru wines from e.g. Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-Saint-Georges. This wine, however, show precisely why Echézeaux, in the right hands, absolutely deserves its grand cru classification by showing fantastic elegance and precision, and with aromas that definitely are intense although the tannins may be light and the fruit notes goes more to red berries than darker fruit. Since Échézeaux tends to have lighter tannin, it is usually seen as the wine in DRC’s traditional lineup that can be drunk relatively young, which probably make some people underestimate how well this wine can develop in the cellar if give as much time as the others.
Light to medium red. In the nose red and dark berries, violet and other flowery notes, spicy, some toasted oak barrel, and some animal notes that emerge after a while. Initially more closed nose than Échézeaux, clearly darker fruit and other aromas, an impression of “hidden intensity”. On the palate red berries, noticeable minerality, quite present but fine tannin, spicy, good acidity. Long aftertaste with fine tannin, spice and minerality. Definitely young! 94+ p.
This wine showed the most obvious tannin of the flight.
Medium red colour. Intense nose with dark and red berries, spice, flowery notes with violet, very light hints at herbal character, well integrated notes of toasted oak barrels, very elegant. More open nose than Grands Échézeaux. On the palate dark and some red berries, some sweetness of fruit in the attack, noticeable mid-palate minerality, good acidity, finely polished tannin, long and mineral aftertaste. Young, 94+ p.
Despite showing darker fruit than the preceding duo from the village of Flagey-Échézeaux, it is considerably less tannic than Grands Échézeaux. Romanée-Saint-Vivant, “RSV” to insiders, has the reputation that it is the most elegant of the mid-range DRC wines. It is also the DRC wine that sometimes in the past has underachieved slightly compared to what it should be able to achieve, but this seems to have been corrected in more recent vintages.
Medium red colour. Dark and some red berries, noticeable minerality, some mint, discrete liquorice notes with hints of tar and animal notes, a touch of herbal character. Initially a closed nose that hints at hidden power, but it grew in the glass and then also showed more toasted oak barrel notes. Dark berries on the palate, some sweetness of fruit in the attack, very mineral mid-palate, powerful but well integrated tannin. Definitely young, great potential, 94+ p.
Today, Richebourg 09 is a little more “difficult” than Romanée-Saint-Vivant 09, but it could possibly have greater potential for development.
Incidentally, another vintage of this wine is known from the silver screen, or to be more specific, from Sideways. When Miles is at Stephanie’s place (Sandra Oh) there is a DRC Richebourg in her wine fridge, but this is actually the only wine there that he’s not allowed to pick. Unfortunately, I don’t recall that I’ve ever come across and DRC wines just laying around in an unlocked wine fridge at any of my friend’s places. And no Cheval Blanc 1961 either. Must be keeping the wrong sort of company.
Medium red colour. Intense nose, initially with some very traditional Burgundy notes of dung heap and animal notes, mineral, ripe dark berries, flowery and perfumed notes, noticeable spice and finely integrated toasted oak barrel notes with coffee and chocolate. Very elegant nose. On the palate dark berries, very mineral, noticeable spice, very finely polished tannin that are very well integrated into the fruit. Very elegant and very young, great potential. 96+ p.
La Tâche 09 demonstrates why La Tâche together with Romanée-Conti are considered the best wines in the stellar DRC lineup, by combining power, concentration and elegance. You could say that it combines characters from the two extra elegant and somewhat lighter wines (Échézeaux and Romanée-Saint-Vivant) and the two more powerful ones (Grands Échézeaux and Richebourg) in a one size larger package, that is also slightly more traditionally Burgundian in style. But this one will need time to develop fully.
In general, the wines were more accessible in the nose than on the palate, although they varied in how open or accessible they were. Since 2009 is a vintage characterised by ripe fruit, some of the wines are probably unusually accessible for a young DRC, the wines of which are traditionally styled and should be cellared for a long time for optimum performance. The vintage character showed up as rather dark fruit in some wines, but I was somewhat surprised at how high in acidity they were (compared to some other Burgundy 2009s I’ve tasted), which was very good and contributed to the wines’ elegance and freshness. This should also make them even more long-lived.
My guess as to when these DRC 09s will start to drink well, would be 10 years for Corton, Échézeaux and Romanée-Saint-Vivant, i.e., from 2019. I’d say 15 years for Grands Échézeaux, Richebourg and La Tâche, i.e., from 2024. That is, if you’re able to keep your hands off them for that long… 🙂
At the dinner, two other wines in the Vinunic range were also served, and they also deserve tasting notes.
Champagne, 55% Pinot Noir och 45% Chardonnay
Bready and toasted nose, elegantly perfumed, citrus, red apple, discrete notes of red Burgundy (must have been contagious…) On the palate red apple, citrus, high acidity, intense, slightly spicy, finishes with grapefruit. Elegant, young. 93+ p.
Chablissienne Château Grenouilles 2005
Chablis Grand Cru, served from magnum.
Bright yellow colour. In the nose ripe yellow fruit, some honey, mineral and some oak. Noticeable mineral on the palate, yellow apple, good acidity (but not extremely high), elegant. 91 p.
Considerably more “classically Chablis-styled” and elegant on the palate than in the nose, in my opinion.
In summary, a magnificent tasting, and I sincerely hope that they repeat the event with the 2010 vintage next year!
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.