Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Burgundy as he previews the 2011 vintage. Some of the wines he is tasting have yet to be racked, while others have been assembled in barrel but not yet bottled; consequently, scores are given in ranges as these are unfinished wines that will continue to be refined before being bottled.
The range of 2011s in barrel at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti were very accessible and flattering during my visit. Indeed, these could be almost as good as the 2010s at this address, though very different in character and most likely not as ageworthy.
"It's a vintage [that tastes] like 2009—very easy," said DRC codirector Aubert de Villaine. "What surprises me is the volume. I never thought they would have this volume," he added.
All the crus are still in barrel, awaiting racking before bottling. "They behaved so well there was no need to rack," explained de Villaine. In 2011, there will likely be a Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet, a wine made from a second picking of all the domaine's grands crus holdings in Vosne-Romanée that is cofermented.
"We waited in 2011. We could have harvested earlier, according to our analysis, but we wanted one more week and I think we were right," said de Villaine. The picking dates ranged from Sept. 2 for the parcels in Corton to Sept. 10 and 11 for the Echézeaux. Unlike most other estates I visited, there was no chaptalization in 2011, and hasn't been for 10 years.
The Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru offers lovely cherry and spice flavors, matched to a round, charming and open frame, with fine length (89–92). It was aged entirely in 1-year-old barrels.
The Echézeaux is lush in texture, sporting black cherry, spice and sandalwood aromas and flavors. The oak lingers a bit on the finish, which is generous and long (90–93). The Grands-Echézeaux displays less spice, with opulent cherry and licorice flavors and a long, classy finish (91–94).
When we tasted the 2009s and 2010s from barrel, de Villaine started with the domaine's newest wine, the Corton. This year, he placed it after the Grands-Echézeaux and before the Romanée-St.-Vivant. A blend of the three parcels leased from the Prince de Mérode estate—Bressandes, Clos du Roi and Renardes—the Corton boasts more earthy flavors and austere personality on a coarser, meatier frame (89–92). De Villaine referred to it as "colder."
The Romanée-St.-Vivant delivers enticing aromas of rose, strawberry and cherry allied to a tightly-woven fabric. Very harmonious, complex and long, it should be a special bottle in about eight to 10 years (92–95). Richebourg, often fleshy and opulent, seems more feminine compared to the RSV, though it exudes rich black cherry, spice and great charm (92–95).
La Tâche is always the Dark Knight of the cellar, and the 2011 is no exception. Opulent, powerful and expressive, its black cherry, black currant and licorice notes are intense, and its flesh is hiding the structure for now. Terrific length (93–96).
As usual, we finished with Romanée-Conti. It exhibits the classic green note in its aroma and a more subtle profile of floral, cherry and red berry notes, all matched to a sublime texture and wonderful harmony (94–97). "It has a density of tannins that's different from the others," smiled de Villaine. "It's another world."