Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: 2000 Vintage

Update 18.8.2009(21.3.2003)billn

These were the now well-worn words of Henry Renaudot and Joseph Durand, dated 6th July 1794; two experts appointed by the revolutionary government of France to report on the vineyard then named ‘Romanée’, later to take the name Romanée-Conti. The aim of the report was to achieve the best possible price in the subsequent auction of confiscated properties – marketing is also a very old profession!

So, Romanée-Conti, the most expensive and occasionally the finest wine in the world; there is such a mystique about the domaine and it’s wines that it is almost with a sense of apprehension that for the first time you taste them – especially in the presence of Aubert de Villaine, co-director of the domaine since 1974 – imagine, what if you’re unimpressed?!

I suppose that it was with good fortune then that I was indeed impressed, the wines as a group can only be described as fantastic. If you then factor in the vintage itself, which was rather soft in character, these wines are nothing short of outstanding. Corney & Barrow in London were to thank for the opportunity to taste on this frosty January morning.

I was able to both congratulate M. de Villaine and to ask (whilst apologising for my terrible French) his thoughts on the 2000’s: Je suis très content was his response, and sparing you my equally bad French spelling, he went on to say that it was a year where there was not too much they could do to influence the wines, but they were saved by the quality of their vines and thus the fruit that was produced.

The Wines

2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Echézeaux
Medium-plus cherry colour, shading to ruby at the rim. An understated nose of pure cherries and faint vanilla. Nice volume in the mouth, showing good sap. There’s good acidity and very well covered tannin. There is a lovely length to this wine, also tinged with vanilla. A wine that is very ‘2000’ in its bright and pretty fruit profile and one you could certainly enjoy at a relatively young age, say in another 4 or 5 years. But I’m sure the more patient amongst you will be amply rewarded.
2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Grands-Echézeaux
Similar colour to the Echézeaux, though paler in shade. The nose is much broader and deeper than the Echézeaux, showing a significantly blacker fruit profile. The palate again shows good ‘fat’, perhaps a little more acidity and certainly more of the smooth tannin. The finish seems just as long, though on a much lower register and also shows a hint of vanilla. A more interesting and complex wine than the Echézeaux – leaves a smooth coating on your teeth.
2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Saint-Vivant
Cherry in shade and a deeper colour than the previous wine. The nose is more reticent, but certainly shows more complexity than the Echézeaux from a similar fruit profile i.e. red, rather than the black of the Grands Echézeaux. Shows coffee and faint vanilla in the mix too. Compared to the Grands Echézeaux, the palate starts explosively, the velvety tannin grabbing the inside of your mouth to attach the fruit. There’s nice acidity that pushes the persistent finish longer. Lovely.
2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Richebourg
Colour is perhaps, not so dense as the Romanée Saint-Vivant, but a similar shade of cherry. Beguiling and persistent, the deep red and black cherry nose shows just a little kirsch at the top end. There’s good acidity, and forward, though controlled tannins. There’s also a richness to match the volume you experience in the mouth, but somehow on tasting, this wine seems less involving than the others; gorgeous aromatics though.
2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche
Both the shade and depth of colour match that of the Romanée Saint-Vivant. The nose is at first disappointingly understated and faintly spicy, but with swirling; first red cherry, then black cherry, then blackcurrant, then kirsch, hints of vanilla, then orange – something new every sniff – then the nose goes deeper, showing a little plum and coffee – frankly stunning, who needs to drink this wine? A fat, sappy palate with very concentrated fruit, tannins that are more silk than velvet and a multitude of flavours playing over your tongue – fantastic texture. The maximum interest for me today comes from the aromatics, but this is exceptional wine by any measure.
2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti
Less deep colour than La Tâche – looks quite delicate in the glass. Like La Tâche, the nose starts in a very subdued way; but much more floral (how I’d expected the Romanée-Saint-Vivant might show) than the other wines. The next sniff shows much deeper tones, and again with each sniff the wine develops new aromas: kirsch, cassis, faint vanilla, then the floral element returns – almost lavender followed by coal-tar. In the mouth, perfect acidity and again, silk rather than velvet tannin. Once more I find the palate less involving than the nose, but a beautiful wine by any standard that leaves a smooth coating on your teeth to remind you of the experience!

Despite being very happy to have any of these wines in my cellar, I can confidently say that from this domaine in 2000, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti are on a different level to the other wines – regardless of the vintage these are frankly superb. I admit to being seduced by the showiness of the La Tâche, but the Romanée-Conti was just so fantastically understated that I guess this should be no surprise.

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