Following are my comments on a vertical tasting of La Tache, Monopole du Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1966-1988, which I organized in Vancouver on September 14th, 2010, as well as a handful of other DRC wines tasted several days before and after this event (all in September). With the exception of the La Tache 1987 (contributed by a participant at this event), all the wines were from my cellar.
It should be noted that all the wines below were purchased immediately upon release, or shortly afterward, and have spent their whole life, unmoved, in my very cool cellar (10c/48f). All had excellent levels and appearances. The 1966 La Tache was acquired in May 1980 at a Heublein auction held in San Francisco, from the cellar of a very famous wine collector, and has spent the following 30 years in my cellar.
The tasting (in flights):
La Tache 1972, 1976 and 1987:
1972: This turned out to be an extraordinary La Tache! Purchased in December 1975. Explosive nose of lovely raspberries, some charred oak, great intensity and length. By now the wine has shed its hard edges (a characteristic of the 1972 vintage). Long, smooth, great complexity and class. Several tasters who have a lot of experience with DRC commented that this was the best 1972 La Tache they had ever tasted! (provenance is everything). An absolute pleasure to drink now (well-cellared magnums to 2020). Outstanding Plus.
1976: A drought year in burgundy, thick skins and tannic wines. Solid backbone. Darker than the 1972, solid structure (but now much softer than 10 years ago), evolved colour, Coarser than the elegant 1972, some noticeable spirity finish (high alcohol). Will not improve. Very good, but the 1972 stole the show in this flight. Highly Recommended.
1987: Clearly, the relatively “weak” wine of this event. Similar evolved appearance to the 1972, less intense, less complexity and a relatively simple finish. Of course, when tasted by itself, without the great competition from the other wines at this event, it would show better. Drink soon. Will not improve. Recommended Plus.
Flight #2, La Tache 1966 and 1988(the youngest and oldest):
1966: Sensational!! A complete and heavenly wine. Evolved, bright red colour, explosive complex nose of Pinot and raspberry jam, long, perfect balance balance, silky sweet fruit. Went on forever on palate. What
burgundy dreams are all about! Perfect 2 cm level. I gave this wine the only perfect 20 point score of any wine tasted this year. 44 years old and still at its supreme best. Perfection.
1988: Purchased in 1992. Very bright, deep colour. Youthful and not ready in any sense. Classic fresh, ripe raspberries on both nose and palate. Solid structure, full, excellent backbone. Very serious wine. Still tannic, hint of charred oak. If well-cellared, pity to drink this before 2018-2025. Outstanding Plus.
Flight #3: La Tache 1971 and 1978, the two great classics of the 1970’s in Burgundy in general, and at DRC in particular. Two rare treasures. Purchased the 1971 in 1976 and the 1978 in 1982 (both in full, 12 bottle cases). Excellent levels and appearances.
1971: A great La Tache that I have had the good fortune of tasting on at least fifteen occasions over the years, from bottles, magnums and jeroboam. Impressive deep colour,showing some evolution at rim. Classic, intense ripe raspberries and hint of charred oak on nose. Great extract, length, perfect balance. Very long finish and amazingly youthful. Magic! Most impressive feature: Amazing harmony combined with excellent fruit extract. At 39 years old, this is an almost ageless wine. Drink now to 2030 or beyond (provided, of course, that provenance is top notch). Extraordinary Plus.
1978: The other giant. This very great La Tache is at least 5-7 years away from its full potential…and should last well until 2030 or beyond. Very bright, youthful colour to rim. Excellent depth, fresh clean fruit. One of the characteristics of the 1978 vintage is also a hint of greenness (but in a positive sense). Oddly,this is also a characteristic of the top 1978 left bank Bordeaux (Latour, La Mission Haut Brion, Margaux, due in Bordeaux to the relatively low Merlot content in the wines that year). Superb extract. Tres Grand Vin! Extraordinary Plus.
Note: both the 1971 and 1978 are really perfect wines. The extra half point awarded the 1966 is due to drinkability. I have no doubt that both the 1971 and 1978 will get there soon!
Other DRC wines tasted during September 2010 (both before and after this event):
1971 Echezeaux, DRC: Bright colour, evolved rim. 3cm level. Quite forthcoming, much more evolved than the 1971 La Tache. Hint of black fruit, oriental spices. Generous ripe fruit, clean, long finish. Lovely wine that is drinking very well now. Highly Recommended Plus.
1985 Richebourg, DRC: Pure heaven! A beautiful wine from a beautiful vintage. What is there not to adore about this wine?! Evolved colour, superb complex, rich nose that lasted forever. Silky, perfection now. Rich, round fruit. Very long aftertaste. A wine to take to that special private island and contemplate life! Extraordinary Plus.
1988 Richebourg, DRC: Not ready!! Very bright, very deep and youthful colour to rim. Tight nose. Very serious wine. Solid, tight, not forthcoming at all. At least 10 years away from enjoyable drinkability. Rated 18 points but the potential, in my opinion, is there. Drink from 2020 and beyond. Outstanding.
1988 Grands Echezeaux, DRC: A superb wine that is just about ready now, but no rush. Black cherries nose. Rich, long, solid backbone (typical 1988), ripe tannins that are rounding up nicely. Lingering, spicy black fruit aftertaste. Drink now to 2025. Outstanding.
1989 Romanée Saint Vivant, DRC: Classic elegant 1989 and typical RSV elegance. Perfect drinking now. Silky, long, elegant. Excellent balance. The Margaux of Burgundy! Colour was slightly cloudy, due, probably, to rushed decanting. Perfect now. Outstanding.
Albert Givton is a long time friend and a Contributing Editor. He has been drinking and writing about wine for many years. He published the Wine Consumer newsletter from 1985 to 1992 and has authored two books including Carte Blanche in 1999. Carte Blanche is a chronicle of a quarter century of his wine tasting adventures from 1974 to 1999. It is extremely interesting, informative and very well written. I highly recommend it. To order the book, please call (604) 737-1312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is an excellent representation of Albert’s abilities. He is a very good taster and a very good writer – a rare combination. His style of writing is honest, very clear, and understandable. This is increasingly refreshing in a wine writing world filled with ludicrous hype.
Albert uses the 20 point rating scale. From 16-20 this scale corresponds exactly with the five star system, so we have converted his points to stars. For example, five stars equals 20, four and one half stars, equals 19 ½ , four stars equals 19, etc.
His evaluations of these wines are very close to my own experiences allowing for some bottle variation from time to time. It should also be noted that the wines tasted had received impeccable care and storage. This is absolutely essential to experience authentic old wines at their best.
In Vino Veritas,