When you have exalted parcels, conscientious viticulture, attention to detail in the cellar and tradition on your side, in most vintages, you will make excellent wines.
But when you align all of the above with a superb growing season, such as 2009, the result can be magnificent. Such is the case with the 2009 Burgundies from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
"Seductive," "tender" and "pure," were words co-director Aubert de Villaine used more than once during the 90-minute presentation of the DRC wines in New York this week, the 33rd such event staged in conjunction with long-term importer Wilson Daniels.
"I think you will enjoy this vintage," de Villaine began, "It's been a long time since we have made such wines with femininity, so seductive."
"On the sorting table, we saw some of the best grapes you could dream of," he added.
Indeed, the wines were expressive, open and captivating, with perfumes of flowers and fruit, augmented by oak spice and, on occasion, mint or a green, leafy element indicative of their youth.
I was amazed at how refined and well-integrated the tannins were at this stage, yet they are present. On my first pass through the wines, it was all fruit, with the exception of Romanée-St.-Vivant, Richebourg and Romanée-Conti. These three were less forthcoming, revealing more structure, particularly the R-C.
As the wines sat in the glass, they tightened up, a good sign, as the structures and density will serve them well over their lifetimes.
"They have more density than the 1959s," explained de Villaine, comparing the 2.6 to 3 tons per acre harvested in 1959 to the 2 to 2.4 tons per acre in 2009. "So I think because of their purity, the '09s will age very well. The '59s are beautiful now at 53 years old and I'm sure these [2009s] will develop over 50 years."
Prices listed are the suggested retail range in the U.S. market.
The Vosne-Romanée Cuvée Duvault-Blochet 2009 shows high-toned aromas of kirsch, licorice and spice allied with an elegant frame, in a very forward, harmonious manner (92 points, non-blind; $232–$274). It's a blend of a selected harvest from all DRC's Vosne grands crus, labeled as a premier cru.
For the first time in the lineup was the Corton Prince Florent de Merode, a blend of parcels from Clos du Roi, Bressandes and Les Renardes that DRC leased from the Prince de Merode estate beginning in November 2008. Rich and dense, it reveals aromas of wet earth, wild berry and a touch of animal, with sweet fruit, density and muscle underneath. I was impressed, given that the DRC team only worked with these vines for a year (94 points, non-blind; $307–$362).
The Echézeaux is delightful, very harmonious at this stage, with forthcoming aromas of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and flowers. A wine of finesse and elegance, it's supported by supple tannins (94 points, non-blind; $377–$445).
By contrast, the Grands Echézeaux shows more substance and depth, boasting cherry, sandalwood and a green, leafy, youthful nose. It's packed with sweet fruit, very juicy and long, with a spice and licorice aftertaste (95 points, non-blind; $614–$724).
Over the past several vintages, the Romanée-St.-Vivant has really emerged with a singular voice. Incisive and reserved on the nose, it gives an immediate sense of its firm structure, which supports pure cherry, strawberry spice and mineral flavors, ending with excellent length (96 points, non-blind; $965–$1,138).
I found the Richebourg to have its usual flesh, sporting expressive aromas of cherry, sandalwood and a touch of mint. Often the most seductive of the range, it works in tandem with the 2009 vintage, a mouthful of cherry, berry, smoke, leaf and spice notes. Yet, it also has density and serious tannins that are less refined than its neighbors are at this point (95 points, non-blind; $940–$1,108).
The aromas of the La Tâche are noticeably oaky and darker, evoking black cherry, licorice and spice. On the palate, there's depth, concentration and a menthol note that persists through the long finish. The mouthcoating tannins will require some time to integrate (97 points, non-blind; $1,108–$1,307).
Typically, the Romanée-Conti stands alone. Pretty floral, black currant leaf, strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors exhibit fine intensity and my overall impression is one of energy. What sets the 2009 R-C apart is its power and assertive tannins. I liked the fact that it was a little reticent, and its potential will be revealed over time (98 points, non-blind; $3,496–$4,123).
Then there's Montrachet. Lovely aromas of lime blossom, citronella and peach introduce this rich yet elegant white. It's very pure and delineated, with a mineral essence and less opulence than recent vintages (96 points, non-blind; $1,977–$2,332).
De Villaine recounted the amount of vineyard work that went into the 2009 vintage. After an early budburst, April, May and June were warm and humid, with storms almost weekly. Vigilance was required in the vineyard to stem the advance of mildew, as well as attacks of oïdium and botrytis, the three fungal diseases prevalent in Burgundy, especially given that DRC farms biodynamically.
However, the humidity brought moisture to the soil, necessary when it turned dry in August. There was a storm Aug. 15, but the rest of the month was hot and dry.
The decision to pick was important because the prolonged flowering promoted uneven ripening and the yield was higher than average. "It was important to wait for everything to be ripe," said de Villaine.
The DRC team began harvesting the Corton Sept. 10, then waited until Sept. 13 to begin picking in Vosne-Romanée, finishing six days later. The Chardonnay was about a week behind during the season, but caught up quickly, and the Montrachet was picked Sept. 15.
In the end, the clusters and berries were small and a high proportion of millerandage resulted in flavors and tannins concentrated in the skins. There was almost no botrytis.
De Villaine noted that 2009 produced the best grapes since 2005. Tasting the wines, first in barrel in January 2011, and now in bottle, they are as good as the 2005s, but different in style. The 2005s are big, powerful, structured wines; the 2009s more accessible, charming and seductive. They are balanced and more elegant, slimmer in profile, yet do not lack substance or structure.
"[The 2009s] are very much in the style of '59," said de Villaine. "That was a vintage that put a smile on everyone's face for its quantity and quality."
Stephen Kahn Law Offc — Los Angeles, Cal USA — February 23, 2012 12:11am ET
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Bruce Sanderson — New York — February 24, 2012 9:57am ET
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