Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet 1982-2012
Many months in the making, this retrospective of Domaine de
la Romanée-Conti’s Montrachet spanned 21 vintages going back to 1982.
The wines were sourced from members of one of my local
tasting groups in New York City, with each person contributing 2-3 bottles,
including backups. The bottles were opened around 5pm and checked for
soundness, which is also when I wrote the accompanying tasting notes. Two
wines, the 2006 and the 2001, were quite reticent, and were given a quick
decant, but aside from that, the wines simply saw a few hours of air before
The small size of our group provided a rare
opportunity to follow the wines over several hours. Sommeliers Will Nazar and
John Slover did a fabulous job handling the wines and ensuring that service was
flawless. The epic dinner that followed at Dirty French was worthy of its own
write-up, but I will concentrate on the wines.
Some of my favorite vintages on this night included the
2010, which was absolutely stellar. I also thought the 2008 and 2007 were
fabulous, if young, while the 1996 remains one of the all-time greats. As is
often the case in a large tasting such as this one, there were a few
disappointments. Two bottles of the 2005 were oxidized, while the 2002 was not
up to par and the 1993 was corked.
But the single biggest takeaway from this vertical was the
consistently high level of quality the domaine has achieved with the Montrachet
beginning in the early 2000s. Several recent follow-up tastings have only
served to reinforce that view, although as mentioned above, we did have two off
bottles of the 2005. There is simply no question that the Montrachets from the
2000s and later are on an entirely different level compared to the wines of the 1980s and
Longtime cellar master Bernard Noblet credits a transition
to biological farming started in the late 1980s and early 1990s for the
improvement in quality. Trials with biodynamics began in 1996. By 2008,
all of the domaine’s vineyards had been converted to biodynamic farming, with
the parcels in Le Montrachet now plowed by horse.
In The Vineyard
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti owns three parcels in the Le Montrachet lieu-dit in Chassagne-Montrachet. The total surface area of the
domaine’s holdings here is just 0.68 hectares, making Montrachet the smallest,
and in many ways, hardest to find, wine in the collection of eight grand crus.
By comparison, DRC’s holdings in the celebrated La Tâche and Romanée-Conti monopoles are just above 6 hectares and
1.80 hectares respectively.
The domaine’s largest parcel in Le Montrachet, purchased in
1963, sits on the border with Puligny-Montrachet and runs the entire slope of
the vineyard, from top to bottom. Two smaller, contiguous parcels were purchased
in 1965 and 1980 and are more centrally located, starting on the road that
separates Le Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet and moving from east to
west along the natural contour of the slope. The domaine’s oldest vines date
back to 1936, while the average age of the plants is around 50 years.
See All Vintages of
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet
The Many Facets of Montrachet
One of the main attributes that makes DRC’s Montrachet so
singular is a level of textural richness that is compelling. Shot
berries (millerandage) are common and
give added concentration. The domaine picks the Chardonnays very late, usually
towards the end of the harvest and in some years even after the Pinots have
been brought in, as was the case in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2007.
One of the implications of picking late is that there is often some botrytis in the fruit. Yet even the most opulent Montrachets have
proven to retain excellent freshness, partly a characteristic of the soils but
also because since around 1990 the domaine has chosen to bottle the Montrachet
as early as possible.
Broadly speaking, the DRC Montrachets can be grouped into
two major categories; those where botrytis is evident and those where it is
less noticeable or essentially not present. In years where there is an
element of botrytis, such as 1995 or 2008, the Montrachet is unctuous, deep and flamboyant.
In other vintages, Montrachet can be much more focused and
brilliant, two qualities that abound in the 1996 and 2010, for example. While
these wines might fall out of the realm of what most Burgundy fans consider the
classic DRC Montrachet style, I personally find them every bit as appealing. In
the finest examples, the mineral-driven vintages capture both the energy and inherent
richness Montrachet provides on its own, an interplay of flavors and textures
that I can only describe as utterly breathtaking.
See all the wines in the order tasted (from oldest to youngest)
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-- Antonio Galloni