Tuesday marked a significant day in the New York wine world. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, one of Burgundy’s most prestigious estates, released its 2006 vintage in the United States with a tasting (my notes on each of the wines can be found below) and presentation by DRC’s codirector, Aubert de Villaine.
The event was also the 30th anniversary of the collaboration between DRC and its American importer, Wilson Daniels. Nearly 90 retailers, sommeliers and journalists gathered at the Metropolitan Club for the rare opportunity to taste all of these young wines together.
“The fact that we’re in such a historic place reminds us that in good times or bad, and I know how difficult the times are now, it is important to be constant, to maintain these relationships and our passion for wine,” began de Villaine.
All the wines were tasted non-blind. The pricing was estimated at the time of release and can vary considerably from market to market. Generally speaking, however, the 2006s are roughly 20 percent less expensive than the 2005s on release.
My colleague James Laube had the chance to taste these wines in Napa Valley and shared his comments last week.
Few domaines in Burgundy possess the breadth and caliber of vineyards under the ownership of DRC. It’s 62 acres of vineyards encompass the heart of grands crus sites in Vosne-Romanée, including sole ownership of the tiny, 4.5-acre Romanée-Conti, the source of some of the region’s legendary Pinot Noirs.
It is an historic estate and under de Villaine’s stewardship consistently makes some of the most compelling red Burgundies today. DRC also owns a little more than an acre and a half of Chardonnay vines in Montrachet.
The 2006s exhibit purity and transparence, both important attributes to transmitting the terroir, or soul of each individual vineyard. The 2005s, by comparison, bear the strong stamp of the vintage and will require more time for the vineyard characters to reveal themselves. The intense fruit flavors and big structures in these wines hide the terroir for now.
The 2006 vintage started out with good weather during the flowering, resulting in very little coulure or millerandage, two conditions that naturally reduce yield. A heat wave in July stressed the vines and August ushered in cold, rainy weather and an attack of botrytis. “After the easy growing season in 2005, it didn’t take long to return to more adverse conditions,” recounted de Villaine.
“The decisive factor was a complete turnaround of the weather from the first of September to the 23rd,” he said. Sun, good daylight and a north wind combined to halt any advance of botrytis and ripen the grapes.
“Each vintage has a threshold. The threshold in 2006 wasn’t very high,” he explained, referring to the challenges from nature. “It’s important to have soils that suppress vigor and this type of Pinot Noir vine from old vineyards in Burgundy that naturally fight heat and naturally fight botrytis and take the grapes to maturity at the right time.”
The harvest took place from September 20 to 27, with skilled pickers performing two harvests. The best fruit from the oldest vines were bottled under the grands crus labels. A second picking of good quality fruit allowed to ripen a few extra days went into the Vosne-Romanée premier cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet. The production from the youngest vines was sold in bulk.
I had the opportunity to taste these wines from barrel with de Villaine at the domaine in January 2008. Now that they have been bottled and shipped, the wines have tightened up somewhat. The purity and elegance of the vintage still shows, but the aromas were generally less obvious.
The Vosne-Romanée Cuvée Duvault-Blochet represents a link to tradition: It honors the founder of the domaine and continues an earlier practice of producing and selling this cuvée. It’s a wine that reveals the vintage character, rather than terroir, as it is a blend of grapes from the different grands crus.
As such, it was a good introduction to the vintage and the individual crus to follow. The wine was tight, with hints of spice and berry, opening up with air to rich, pure cherry-flavored red. Its tannins were a little rustic and it lacked the length of its grander cousins, yet delivered the charming fruitness that characterizes 2006 (90 points, non-blind; $225-$250).
The Echézeaux showed fine depth and length, exuding sweet cherry and strawberry flavors, intensity and better integration of its tannins than the Vosne-Romanée (92 points, non-blind; $330-$360). The Grands-Echézeaux was even more harmonious, with finesse and refinement as the floral and spice notes unfolded on the silky texture to a long aftertaste (94 points, non-blind; $550-$600).
The Romanée-St.-Vivant just keeps improving. Seductive and open when I tasted it from barrel approximately a year ago, it was more reticent now, especially aromatically. Nonetheless, it had richness and a slow buildup of berry and cherry flavors, turning more refined and satiny as it lingered on the finish (96 points, non-blind; $800-$925).
Asked about the increase in quality of Romanée-St.-Vivant, de Villaine replied: “I think we picked it at the right time. But that’s not the reason for the increase in quality. Certainly it’s a vineyard where there has been a lot of selection for the last ten years to identify the finest parcels in Romanée-St.-Vivant.”
The Richebourg (95, non-blind; $805-$895) was its opposite. Structured, even stern from barrel, it was immediately appealing yesterday, offering wild strawberry and spice notes, juicy texture and fine grip and length. The La Tâche featured black currant, licorice and sandalwood aromas and flavors. Though it was very structured, powerful and intense, there was also plenty of breed and finesse, coupled with a long aftertaste (97, non-blind; $940-$1,050).
The Romanée-Conti was another of DRC’s reds that was charming and precocious from barrel. At this stage, it was a little shy at first, but then the rose aroma emerged. Very elegant and refined, yet firm, it teasingly hinted at the floral, wild strawberry and cherry notes that will come to the fore in time (97, $3,100-$3,445).
That left the Montrachet, a monumental wine on its own, yet somehow overshadowed by the purity and serenity of the reds. Its nose announced toast, butterscotch and citronella notes. On the palate it was immediate and vibrant with lime, peach and mineral flavors, a both expressive and seductive white (96, non-blind; $2,080-$2,300). Last year, I gave the 2005 Montrachet a perfect 100-point score. The 2006 is more open and appealing at this stage and showed less of the intense mineral character of its predecessor.
The tasting offered an hour and a half respite from these difficult times. It provided a window into the soul of some of Burgundy’s most famous wines and a glimpse of the character of each vineyard through the lens of the 2006 vintage.
Glenn S Lucash — February 13, 2009 8:05am ET
Niall Cosgrove — Ireland — February 13, 2009 10:23am ET
David A Zajac — February 13, 2009 12:11pm ET
Italo T Lombardi — New York — February 13, 2009 2:52pm ET
Glenn S Lucash — February 13, 2009 4:55pm ET
Guenter Matthews — February 14, 2009 6:09pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — February 14, 2009 7:21pm ET
Glenn S Lucash — February 15, 2009 8:12am ET
Dennis D Bishop — Shelby Twp., MI, USA — February 15, 2009 10:07am ET
Claude Pope — Raleigh, NC — February 16, 2009 9:01pm ET
Doug Daniell — Ontario/Canada — February 17, 2009 6:56pm ET
David A Zajac — February 17, 2009 8:07pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — February 18, 2009 12:00pm ET
David Williams — Carlsbad, CA — February 18, 2009 2:34pm ET
Rob Dobson — Regina, Sask. — February 18, 2009 4:54pm ET
Glenn S Lucash — February 18, 2009 9:31pm ET
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — February 19, 2009 2:07am ET
David A Zajac — February 19, 2009 2:29pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — February 19, 2009 3:45pm ET
Glenn S Lucash — February 20, 2009 8:56am ET
David A Zajac — February 22, 2009 6:38am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions