|Appellation||Various, Cote d’Or, Burgundy|
|Owned By||Société Civile du Domaine de la Romanée-Conti|
|Operated By||Aubert de Villaine and Henri-Frédéric Roch|
|Annual production||440 cases approximately|
|Typical blend||100% Pinot Noir|
|About||A legendary producer of some of the finest, rarest and most expensive wines in the world.|
The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, (frequently shortened to DRC), produces wine that are among the world’s most renowned and certainly among the most expensive. It is named after its flagship vineyard, a tiny 1.8 hectare plot of land marked by a tall stone cross dating back to the 14th century, of which DRC is the sole owner. This vineyard was originally known simply as La Romanée; it acquired its suffix from Louis-Francois de Bourbon, Prince of Conti who purchased the land in 1760 at a very high price in apparent recognition of its exceptional qualities.
The modern lineage of the Domaine starts in 1869 when it was purchased by a négociant named Jacques-Marie Duvault-Blochet who in doing so fulfilled a life-long dream at the age of 79. Ownership fragmented among family members over the decades and in 1942 one of Duvault-Blochet’s descendants ceded shares to a négociant called Henri Leroy who in turn passed them on to his daughters Pauline and Lalou. Ownership of the Domaine is thus split up between various members of two families: descendants of Duvault-Blochet and of Leroy.
The Domaine is run by two shareholder-managers, each one representing one of the families.
Aubert de Villaine, a descendant of Duvault-Blochet, joined the Domaine as joint-manager in 1974, having previously spent time writing about the nascent Californian wine industry in the 1960s. An intellectual and contemplative man, de Villaine has stated he would have quite liked to have been a teacher of literature or philosophy. Nevertheless he has been instrumental in pushing DRC to ever-greater heights of excellence. He has also tackled issues of the counterfeiting of his much-desired and highly-valued wines. Since the 2010 vintage a secret system has been put in place to verify bottles and in 2013 de Villaine testified at the trial of convicted counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. He also runs Domaine de Villaine, a separate winery he owns with his wife, producing white wine from the unusual Aligoté grape.
Lalou Bize-Leroy ran the estate with de Villaine from 1974 until 1991 when she was dismissed due to disagreements over the direction of DRC. She was replaced by her nephew Charles, though he died soon after and was succeeded by his brother Henri-Frédéric Roch.
Bernard Noblet has been the Cellar Master since 1985. Nicolas Jacob is the Vineyard Manager.
Alongside the Domaine’s flagship wine ‘Romanee Conti’ the following Grand Cru wines are of significance:
|La Tache||1,500 cases approx.||100% Pinot Noir||Investment-grade|
|Romanee-Saint-Vivant||1,130 cases approx.||100% Pinot Noir||Investment-grade|
|Richebourg||970 cases approx.||100% Pinot Noir||Investment-grade|
|Grands Echezeaux||815 cases approx.||100% Pinot Noir||Investment-grade|
|Echezeaux||1,235 cases approx.||100% Pinot Noir||Investment-grade|
|Corton||570 cases approx.||100% Pinot Noir||Investment-grade|
|Montrachet||265 cases approx.||100% Chardonnay||Investment-grade|
The Grands Vins
All the wines produced by DRC are from vineyards classified as Grand Cru, the highest designation available in Burgundy. Less than 5% of the total production of Burgundy is from Grand Cru sites, thus these wines represent the true elite of the region. Of the Domaine’s eight wines, six are from the Vosne-Romanée area in the Côte de Nuits, the section of Burgundy known for producing the most profound red wines.
Though the wines from each site vary, there is a family likeness among them, displaying finesse, spice and opulence. This is a result of the immense care with which the Domaine treats its low-yielding old vines, which are harvested only when fully ripe, as well as the exceptional vineyard sites it owns. The estate has been organic since 1985 and has since adopted biodynamic farming.
The Domaine’s flagship wine is the eponymous Romanée-Conti. DRC owns the whole of this tiny vineyard, a fairly unusual occurrence in Burgundy, so it is known as a ‘monopole’. It has the lowest average annual production of DRC’s red wines, making it both the rarest and most prestigious. Situated further west, La Tâche is also a monopole of DRC and produces a richer and more concentrated wine in higher quantities. DRC holdings in the nearby Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant and Grands Echézeaux vineyards also produce profound wines, while its Echézeaux is slightly less complex than the others. From the 2009 vintage a new red wine was introduced, made from three separate plots in Corton, the only Grand Cru for red wines in the Côte de Beaune region (which is known primarily for its excellent white wines).
DRC produces one white wine from the prestigious Montrachet vineyard, a perfectly-situated vineyard which produces, many would argue, the best white wine in the world. Unlike many dry white wines this develops amazingly over time and is best after around 10 years of bottle age. It has the smallest production of any DRC wine and due to its desirability reaches very high prices.
While many, no doubt, would like to believe that these wines and the prices they fetch are a case of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, given their critical reviews there can be no doubt that these wines are among the world’s most excellent and profound and accordingly most expensive.
Looking at the scores awarded by Allen Meadows (alias Burghound), a leading Burgundy critic, nine vintages of the Romanée-Conti between 2000 and 2011 have been awarded a score of 96 points or above out of 100, including particularly high scores of between 98+ and 99+ for the 2005, 2009 and 2010. His average rating for La Tâche is not far behind and he scored the same three vintages 98 points or above. Fellow critic Robert Parker (who it is worth noting is not generally considered an authority on Burgundy) considers La Tâche to be the Domaine’s ‘single most compelling wine’ and in good vintages ‘a wine fit for gods’.
Montrachet has also been scored highly by Meadows for the 2000–2011 vintages, as has the Romanée-Saint-Vivant and Richebourg. The Grands Echézeaux has achieved slightly lower scores (between 91 and 96) and the Echézeaux has usually been scored a point or two below its older brother.
Numerical scores, however, only tell one part of the picture as the language used to describe the wines of DRC often stray into the poetic, philosophical and transcendental. The word ‘ethereal’ crops up in so many descriptions of the Romanée-Conti. The well-known critic Antonio Galloni has compared the flagship wine to a complex and beautiful piece of music in that ‘some things remain beyond the full grasp of the human intellect. Romanée-Conti is the vinous equivalent.’
The detail below lists the critic scores, Allen Meadow’s (Burgundy specialist), drinking windows and the recorded highest and lowest Liv-ex Market prices for the last ten physical vintages only of this wine:
|Vintage||Critic||Parker score||First Liv-Ex Price listed (£)||Highest Price listed (£)||Lowest Price listed (£)||Drinking window|
|2011||Allen Meadows||95 – 98||87,600||138,000||75,000||–|
|2010||Allen Meadows||96 – 99||126,000||155,400||86,520||–|
|2008||Allen Meadows||95 – 97||94,740||162,000||69,432||–|
Source: Liv-ex – Market price at 16.01.18
|Denotes wines inside drinking window.|
The Liv-ex Market Price: The prices quoted above are the Liv-ex published Market Price at the date noted. This is based on the cheapest 6 and 12-pack prices advertised by leading merchants in the EU.