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THE MONUMENTAL 2009 WINES OF THE DOMAINE DE LA ROMANÉE-CONTI

John Tilson • 3/4/12        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

rc I recently attended the West Coast tasting of the 2009 Domaine De La Romanée Conti wines. This was the 33rd vintage to be represented by the importer Wilson Daniels. The tasting was held on January 23, 2012 at Quince Restaurant in San Francisco. A few days prior a similar tasting was held in New York.

This was my third opportunity to taste the 2009 Domaine Romanée Conti wines. The first was from barrel in October, 2010. (To read that article click here.)  The second was from bottle last year. (To read that article click here.) The evolution of the wines during this period is a classic representation of very great wines from a very great vintage. The vintage itself is compared to 1959 by Aubert de Villaine, co-director. For the wines from barrel, I saw similarities to the 1990s which I also tasted from barrel. I believed from the beginning that 2009 would be a very great Red Burgundy vintage and that DRC was, as usual, at the top. At the time of our tasting from barrel, Aubert de Villaine said it best when he summed up 2009 by saying: “We would like to make wines like 2009 every year. But, if we did, we would not be in Burgundy!” From barrel the wines had remarkable intensity and balance with incredible fruit. Tasted from the bottle last fall, this is what I had to say: “As for the 2009s that are now in bottle, they are simply sensational across the board. Having now tasted them from barrel and from bottle I find the wines showing virtually the same. This showing is quite remarkable. Therefore, I remain convinced that 2009 is one of the all time great vintages for DRC. Every wine is a classic example of the best of the respective vineyards. If the assorted 12 pack cases were still being offered, this would be the perfect year for them.”

And, now a few months later the wines have arrived and will be offered for sale shortly. At this tasting, the wines showed an evolution that emphasized elegance and harmony and impeccable balance. As might be expected, the wines were more subdued than at the Domaine last year. This is very normal considering the long journey. But, the most important thing for me was the evolution. I am convinced more than ever that this is one of the very greatest DRC vintages that will rank with 1978, 1990, 1999 and 2005. The thing that is really extraordinary is the consistency of each wine at a very high level.

The wines were tasted over a period of just over an hour. As is my customary procedure in tastings of this type, I first noted the colors of the wines, then the smelled each one, and lastly tasted each one in the order served. The Domaine De la Romanée-Conti now makes 9 wines. I smelled and tasted each wine 3 times and then turned to making comparisons of two wines at a time. And, after about an hour I repeated smelling and tasting each wine. This is, for me, an ideal way to taste and evaluate young wines.

Below are my notes on each wine which are listed in order of service:

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet. This wine was made from a blend of second harvest grapes from all the DRC vineyards and from the young vines in La Tache. The proportion was approximately 80-20%. This is the sixth vintage since 1999 that this wine has been made. It was first made in the 1930s and was named for Jacques-Marie Duvault-Blochet. Monsieur Duvault-Blochet purchased the Romanée-Conti Vineyard in 1869 when he was 80 years of age. He accumulated some 329 acres of Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards in the Côte d’Or including holdings in Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux, and Richebourg. These vineyards are the origins of the Domaine De La Romanée-Conti that exists today. This 2009 is a beautifully balanced wine of elegance and finesse. It is deep in color with lovely perfume showing floral notes with a faint tinge of spice. The wine has lots of supple fruit which is accented by floral and faintly exotic nuances. It is delicious and approachable now, but now doubt will repay aging for a considerable time – Outstanding. 3-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Corton. This is the first vintage for this wine and marks the first time that Domaine De La Romanée-Conti has made a red wine from the Côte de Beaune. In 2008 the Prince Florent de Mérode and his wife died just 6 months apart. The family approached the Domaine De La Romanée Conti about leasing some of the vines and in November of 2008 the deal was finalized. The parcel consists of about ½ in Corton Clos du Roi and the other approximate ½ almost evenly split between Bressandes and Renardes The vineyards have a large amount of old vines averaging about 65 years of age. There also some younger vines that are 15-25 years old. The decision was made to make only one cuvee  in 2009. The wine was aged in 50% new wood as compared with the 100% used for the other Domaine wines. Aubert said that for the Corton they may use less wood in future vintages and that in 15-20 years they may make 3 separate bottlings. This Corton will be long revered as an example of what can be done with great Corton vineyards in the hands of the top domaine in Burgundy. It is dark in color and has a deep perfume with floral berry undertones and faint hints of spice and earth. It is elegant, yet there is an underlying richness that shows structure and lovely fruit with a floral tinge and a bit of spiciness. This should evolve over many years – Outstanding Plus. 3-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Échézeaux. This is a wonderful Échezéaux that is loaded with fruit and has lots of richness and depth. The wine is dark in color and has a deep perfume of floral tinged berry fruit that opens over time to reveal a faint exotic nuance. It is rounded and full with hints of spice and a faint touch of green olive that also reveals an exotic spice element. Based on the way this wine has evolved from barrel to bottle, I would expect that over time this Échézeaux may very well give the other Grand Crus a real run for the money. Given its relatively lower price this is certainly a wine to buy – Outstanding Plus.  3-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Grands Échézeaux. This is classic Grands Échézeaux with lots of fruit and depth, impeccable balance, and great elegance. The wine is dark in color and has a stunning perfume of plums and berries with floral spice tinged nuances. With air there is a faint exotic spice quality that accents the fruit. The finish has impressive length and with time this Grands Échézeaux should be magical with great silkiness – Extraordinary.  4-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Romanée-St-Vivant. In previous tastings I have felt that this Romanée-St-Vivant would be one of the all time best.  For me, the 1966 has long been one of the best ever Romanée-St-Vivants. And, although I never tasted that wine until it was about 10 years old, I cannot help thinking that this 2009 may evolve in much the same way over a very long period of time. As in previous tastings, it was captivating and seductive from the beginning much like Romanée-Conti. In fact, after tasting through the range of wines 3 times, one of the first side by side comparisons I made over and over was the Romanée-St-Vivant with the Romanée-Conti. I was amazed by the uncanny similarity. Without question, the Romanée-St-Vivant showed many of the same characteristics as the Romanée-Conti. And, of the entire range, these were the 2 wines that I thought were the most similar. The wine is dark in color and with air the perfume intensifies to reveal exotic spice with hints of blackberry and violets. The wine has great purity and impeccable balance and is multifaceted in the interplay of fruit and floral notes accented by hints of exotic spice. The finesse and length on the palate are very impressive and the wine seemed to become even more seamless with 1 hour of air. This is a wine for the ages – Extraordinary.  4-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Richebourg. From the very beginning I said  “This is a profound Richebourg that shows the classic ‘ iron fist in a velvet glove’ character.” And, this character is now very much in evidence. The wine is dark in color and has a deep perfume of berry fruit accented by floral nuances and exotic spice. It is impressively rich with lots of fruit and great structure. There are faint floral exotic spice tinges, but the wine is most characterized by its profound richness and impressive length. Another classic in the making, time should reveal even more complexities. This is a great Richebourg – Extraordinary.  4-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti La Tâche. In every tasting I have felt that the 2009 La Tâche was much like the 1990. Early on I said “This is a La Tache that evokes memories of the young 1990 La Tache. Both are truly great wines. The 1990 still has a long life ahead and I think this 2009 will follow in its foot steps.” The color is dark and the wine has a deep perfume that opens with air to reveal black fruits, faint hints of oriental spice, and a touch of smokiness. It is deep and rich yet with lots of structure and backbone. There is impressive fruit that is tinged with exotic nuances and a faint spiciness and the finish goes on and on – Extraordinary Plus.  4-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti. Like the La Tâche, from the beginning I thought there was a great similarity between this 2009 Romanée-Conti and the young 1990 Romanée-Conti. I said then “It may very well evolve into a perfect wine as the combination of flavor, structure, depth, and texture is wrapped together in a seamless package that is really awesome.” This is the exact impression I had in this tasting. The wine is dark in color and shows a stunning perfume of violets, berry fruit, and exotic spice. It is impeccably balanced with a supple texture and extraordinary depth and balance. With air the wine opens to reveal more floral notes, hints of cherry, and a faint kiss of green olive. It is extremely hard to find words that do this wine justice. It is likely to be a perfect wine in time and establish itself as yet another legendary Romanée-Conti – Extraordinary Plus. 4-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Montrachet. At this tasting this 2009 Montrachet was giving a slightly different expression than when tasted at the Domaine several months ago. Here it was more restrained and showed more minerality. It doesn’t exhibit the opulence of the recent vintages of DRC Montrachet and does not have the Yin and Yang of the great 2008 Montrachet. It is, in a word, different. But having said that, I have no doubt that given enough time (10+ years) it will become lush and develop a degree of opulence with great structure and depth. The wine is light yellow gold in color and exhibits a mineral tinged perfume with hints of citrus, a touch of spice, and a faint suggestion of pineapple. It is very refined, yet structured with citrus and mineral notes and underlying fruit that again shows a very faint pineapple quality. After 1 hour of air, the wine opened a bit and showed more underlying fruit and a gorgeous pineapple complexity laced with citrus, mineral, and a kiss of spice. Over time, I would expect this wine to develop a great honied quality and evolve into a great Montrachet with complexity, depth, and finesse. But, remember, patience is required here – Extraordinary.  

This is without question a remarkable group of young wines. If you can afford them, they are wines to buy. But, unfortunately, the prices are likely to be very expensive. Reflecting world wide demand and limited quantities, there seems to be no end in sight for the pricing trend. The prices for the 2009s will be announced soon to the trade and offered to consumers soon thereafter. However, as I said, if you can afford them, all of these are all wines to buy. That includes the Vosne Romanée 1er Cru which should be the least expensive to the Romanée-Conti which will be the most expensive.

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