Romanée-Conti 2001: The purest expression part 2

Update 9.9.2009(4.7.2004)billn

Subtitled: Marvelous Montrachet
Always nice to have a second bite at the cherry, particularly when the cherries concerned are the wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. This tasting was admirably run by Martel; agents for the Domaine in Austria and Switzerland. And what a tasting it was. Around four bottles of each wine consumed with relish by a much more boisterous crowd than the solemn event I attended in London.

Comparing these notes with my previous tasting it was obvious to see that the constituent parts of the wines showed with some continuity, but the overall presentation was in most cases different. The exuberant Échézeaux, Romanée-St-Vivant and La Tâche of the first tasting were more restrained, whereas the Grands-Échézeaux and Romanée-Conti were more forward. The disappointment from the first tasting, the Richebourg, was a little less exuberant, but a more balanced wine. The revelation for me came from my first taste of the domaine’s Montrachet – I had to make a second pass on the Échézeaux as I could only taste Montrachet for minutes afterwards.

Can the divergent presentation be put down to conditions? First of all the London tasting was 9:00 a.m. on a cold January day. The temperature in the tasting room (regulated by a large open window) was probably below 15°C. Almost 4 months later to the day, the Swiss tasting in St.Gallen was around 6:00 p.m. and a comfortable 20°C. On the positive side the constituent parts were consistent; the tannin, acidity, fruit and aroma profiles. The only meaningful changes were the Richebourg’s better integration of the wood and the wine and the improved colour of the Romanée-Conti. We can probably assume that time in the bottle was mainly responsible for the improvement of the Richebourg, I suppose I can’t be so charitable about the colour issue – but at least my bottle came from here 🙂

The 2001 wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Montrachet. 3,185 bottles produced – and we drank 4 of them! The colour is tending towards gold but I’d still describe it as medium lemon yellow. The nose is not obviously fruity, but shows amazing depth – you fall into a bottomless pit of butterscotch, fresh bread and faint vanilla. The nose really set me up for what I expected to be a very fat and powerful wine – I was only half right: the palate is neither fat nor in any way heavy. The very fine acidity carries the lace-like texture into an incredible finish – I had to go away and eat some bread as I could still taste this wine when I was supposed to be tasting the Échézeaux. An almost ethereal experience – I was truly impressed.
Échézeaux. 16,424 bottles produced. Medium, medium-plus cherry red in colour. The nose is of crushed cherry and raspberries that overlay a faintly spicy, subtle coffee-bean base. The tannin seems to show a little more grip than the last tasting, but frankly (despite chewing on bread for the last ten minutes) I keep getting ‘Montrachet-flashbacks’ as I taste. The spicy palate is silken with excellent acidity and a tinge of oak on the finish that’s reminiscent of the Montrachet – unless that’s still the Montrachet! Clearly a pure and distinguished wine, but doesn’t show that joie de vivre that was so evident in January.
Grands-Échézeaux. 10,475 bottles produced. Medium, medium-plus cherry red colour. The nose is a little less extrovert than the Échézeaux. It starts with powdery red fruit – no raspberry – but moves on to give a deeper and sweeter black cherry aspect coupled with a little earth. The palate gives the impression of more density and a blacker tone to the fruit. The acidity is first class and the tannins show a velvet touch. On the finish this shows less like the Montrachet/Échézeaux with pure fruit lingering well. Whilst still a backward wine, this shows much better than in January and you can easily see that although it is a little less ‘flashy’ than the Échézeaux, it also has more potential.
Romanée-Saint-Vivant. 12,352 bottles produced. Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose shows in a more restrained way than January – a little powdery at first – slowly becoming vanilla-tinged red fruit with a shade of pepper. The palate is a model of understated power; well covered, finely grained tannins. The nose is now starting to unlock a little, still mainly red berries, but we’ve moved up a gear. A real smoothie and whilst obviously outstanding it’s not such a stand-out as the last tasting.
Richebourg. 11,681 bottles produced. Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is of faintly alcoholic red cherry that overlays a spicy base. In the mouth, concentrated essence of dried fruits (shouldn’t write that – the next might be even more concentrated). The tannins are close to be completely covered by the fruit, the finish evidently more harmonious than the last tasting. Whilst this doesn’t quite have that ‘x-factor’ displayed by the Romanée-Saint-Vivant it now shows the makings of a super wine.
La Tâche. 19,789 bottles produced. Once more medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is surprisingly subdued, powdery red fruits, but after 15 minutes still didn’t get going. On the palate reminiscent of how the Romanée-Conti showed in London; understated but very pure. Despite wonderful depth, very reserved indeed. No La Tâche fireworks this time, but impeccably balanced and very long.
Romanée-Conti. 6,407 bottles produced. Unlike London, the bottles here consistently showed no ruby tones – virtually the same shade of medium, medium-plus cherry red as the other wines. Versus La Tâche there’s more obvious spice that goes together with a melange of red and black fruits. Given time in the glass there’s a higher-toned floral aspect. Sweet, concentrated palate that is a little understated, but continues to understate itself for over a minute on the finish! Slowly evolves a cedary aspect to the finish.

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