In 2011 the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti moved into the spacious surroundings of the newly refurbished cuverie of the monks of St.Vivant.
This (now) impressive building sits right across from the church in the centre of Vosne-Romanée and was for years the resting-place the domaine’s maturing barrels. The large courtyard is dominated by the sculpture of a winged angel, a gift from an artist who married into one of the owning families. I asked Aubert de Villaine if such a figure would have been entirely appropriate for the monks who once lived here, and with a smile he says “well I suppose it might have given them something to think about!” The refurbished building makes a good attempt at melding together architecture, both old and new; the airy interior is all glass and oak – though apparently this is the only oak in the place not from François Frères! The building provides a significant upgrade to the working environment of the staff, light pouring through multiple windows that face the vines of Vosne – a stark contrast to the dimly lit rooms of their older offices; Aubert de Villaine once-more jokes “In 1911 when my grandfather, Edmond Gaudin de Villaine, established our offices in Vosne-Romanée he said that they would only be temporary – in that he was correct, but it took one-hundred years for us to make the move.”
Despite its renown, the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti had always been a very discreet operation; in a way it is the same today – no nameplate adorns the gated entrance to these new offices – not yet anyway.
That said, it seems to me that, the times they are a changing. Like it or not, DRC bottles might be sold at auction for multiples of a modest annual salary, and like a piece of Louis Vuitton, an expensive watch or an iPad bought on a whim and never used, the domaine’s produce have become ‘luxury goods’ – they just need a ‘brand manager’ now! Although it won’t have been part of the planning (I expect) the domaine now has offices that are, perhaps, more appropriate to receiving such high-rollers!
A few wines
It was time to make aquaintance with domaine’s new grand cru – the much anticipated (by me at least!) Corton. I was in luck, or not, depending on your viewpoint; the day I visited most of the wines had just been assembled for bottling – cloudy and unreceptive they weren’t for tasting. But the cüvée Duvault-Blochet (a second pass through all the grand cru Vosne vineyards), Echézeaux and the Corton were still in their barrels. As an extra filip (perhaps to sate any disappointment) Aubert offered a taste of the 2010s – probably not a good idea; fizzy Romanée-Conti tastes just like fizzy anything…
Tasted in Vosne, 23rd March 2011.
The nose from this barrel has a hint of must – perhaps it is the glass. In the mouth this is both round and generous with a fine baseline of acidity.
The finally decidied to blend by vine age rather than climat as there would have been (for instance) only two barrels of the Clos du Roi Vieilles Vignes. The nose is clear, frank and direct – nothing fluffy or cute here. Full and round in the mouth with superb tuned muscle before a great finale. Wow. Really, really, my style of wine.
The nose is fuller and rounder and darker berried – very good as it is, versus the Corton I have the impression there is less focus. In the mouth, more of the same; fuller and rounder but less taut muscle and focus.
There is ripeness and some cooked fruit preserve on the nose – I was tempted to guess 2003. Fills the mouth with round, lingering flavours and still quite cunky tannins. Very long. Seems fresher than a relatively recent (2 years…) Romanée St.Vivant from the same vintage.
Deep and dark aromas, seems like tree-bark. Lots of structure yet there’s a nice interplay with floral notes in the mouth. After the 2000 this seems less ripe, the tannin still has much to say. Superb length – bravo!
The nose is floral with a beautiful core of red fruit. Still some tannin, effortless balance though certainly without the power and impact of the younger wines. A beautiful wine whose flavours linger, but not as long as the impression it makes!
The forward nose delivers a whiff of iodine over many savoury notes. Plenty of texture here, the acidity remains rather understated. Fruit seems to be of the preserved variety – some pear perhaps – that said, this is a savoury and very mineral wine which has little to do with fruit. Interesting but not a wine I would covet.