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DRC 2010s Lead an Outstanding Vintage

Scores are in for the 2010s from Burgundy's legendary Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which pushes the vintage to new heights
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Mar 13, 2013 4:00pm ET

I have tasted enough 2010 red Burgundies to believe that the vintage is outstanding in quality: I currently rate it 91–94 points for the Côte de Nuits on our 100-point scale. A recent tasting of the 2010s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti showed just how good wines of this vintage can be.

These are wines of precision, balance and elegance. There is an innate power and intensity, with lightness in weight as a result of the vibrant structure, energy and mineral element.

Furthermore, each cru reflects its site. The Romanée-St.-Vivant showed its finesse and delicacy, underscored by a firm structure. Richebourg was bigger, fleshier and more muscular. La Tâche revealed its typical dark fruit and licorice flavors with dense tannins. And Romanée-Conti was—as always—something else, ethereal, complete, full of sweet, ripe fruit.

Aubert de Villaine, co-owner and director of DRC, presented the wines to a group of retailers, sommeliers and journalists at A Voce (Columbus) restaurant in New York. It's one of the most highly anticipated wine events of the year and one of the most coveted invitations.

The 2010s follow another great vintage, the opulent and seductive 2009s, but show quality in a very different style.

"The 2009 vintage was one of sucrosité [sweetness]; 2010 is one of salinity," stated de Villaine. He summed up the vintage by saying, "2010 is one of these vintages where we have been struggling with moments of anguish, moments of despair and moments of hope, but a vintage where finally the potential to make great wines was possible."

There were three key events that shaped the pattern of the growing season, de Villaine explained. The first was a difficult and extended flowering due to cold, wet weather. This caused both coulure (a condition where the flowers fall off and do not form clusters) and millerandage (the formation of small, seedless berries within clusters).

There was uneven flowering between vines in the vineyards, between clusters on each vine and even between berries within the individual clusters. These conditions would affect the uniformity of ripening leading up to harvest.

The second key event was one of the worst Augusts in recent years, marked by rain and cold weather. The silver lining was that the cooler temperatures inhibited the spread of botrytis and mildew, two of the major fungal diseases that plague Burgundy's growers, which in July had pressured them.

Finally, warmth returned in September, accompanied by storms. However the adequate moisture in the ground from the August rains, coupled with sun and warmth, promoted very rapid ripening of the grapes. "We saw increases as much as one and a half degrees [in potential alcohol] per week," said de Villaine.

As a result of the July attacks of botrytis and mildew, the grapes were sorted carefully in both the vineyard and on a sorting table after arriving at the winery. The crop at DRC in 2010 was 40 percent less than an average year, but ultimately, this was an advantage. "Botrytis and mildew are a form of natural thinning," explained de Villaine. "They are, finally, factors of quality."

But perhaps the most significant factor in the success of the 2010s at DRC was de Villaine's decision to wait an additional week before picking.

"The grapes were ripe on the 20th of September, but we waited a week," he said. There was an element of risk, but no [additional] threat from botrytis because of the thick skins. The team began picking in Corton Sept. 22, finishing on Oct. 5 in Echézeaux.

This was my second opportunity to taste the 2010s from DRC, the first coming at the end of January when I visited the domaine in Vosne-Romanée. The following notes are a reflection of the two tastings, in both cases non-blind. Retail prices represent a range, depending on where the wines are sold. There was no Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet produced in 2010.

The Corton, a blend of Clos du Roi, Bressandes and Renardes, shows a brooding nose of leather and cherry, with a dense quality to the tannins. At the domaine, I detected some red fruit, wild strawberry and spicy white pepper flavors. Overall, it's rich and smoky, with firm, full tannins (94 points, non-blind; $300 to $400).

Very forthcoming on both occasions, the Echézeaux offers aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry and a hint of mint or green herbaceousness on an elegant, harmonious frame (92, non-blind; $450 to $500).

The Grands Echézeaux is richer and fruitier than the Echézeaux, though it displays some reticence and needed air to open in the glass at the New York tasting. Plenty of red fruits—strawbery, raspberry and cherry—along with spice and mineral, converge on the long, refined finish (94, non-blind; $700 to $750).

The Romanée-St.-Vivant exhibits glorious aromas of rose, currant, strawberry, cherry and spice. Though filigreed and silky, this has a very solid, even strict, underpinning of acidity and tannins. It was singing on both occasions, and this will be a super bottle in time (97, non-blind; $1,150 to $1,250).

The Richebourg was flattering in both Burgundy and New York. Forthcoming aromas of cherry, strawberry and raspberry are joined by sandalwood and tobacco flavors, with a hint of licorice. The fleshy texture fills the mouth with a warm sensuousness while the finish is expansive (95, non-blind; $1,150 to $1,200).

La Tâche shows its typical dark, brooding side, which sets it apart from the rest of the DRC range. Black cherry, licorice, sandalwood, tobacco and woodsy spice notes mingle with dense tannins on a powerful frame. It has a superb aftertaste of sweet fruit, spice and mineral (98, non-blind; $1,325 to $1,425).

The Romanée-Conti features explosive aromas, a complex mélange of flowers, spice, mint, strawberry and wild cherry. There is sweetness not evident in the others, a texture of silk and amazing harmony that signals great wine, all supported by refined tannins (99, non-blind; $4,000 to $4,500).

The outlier of the 2010s was the Montrachet. Normally lush and opulent, it's sleek and racy, with clean, focused aromas of acacia, peach, citronella and a hint of pineapple. Very pure and vibrant, it ends with a long, mouthwatering finish of spice and mineral (97, non-blind; $2,000 to $3,000).

"In 2009, it was like painting with broad brushstrokes," reflected de Villaine, as we discussed the wines in the cellar in Vosne-Romanée. "The 2010s are fine etchings."

John Lin
Taiwan —  March 29, 2013 11:31pm ET
Bruce, if you were forced to choose between '09 and '10 for drinking over the next 10-20yrs., which vintage would be your choice? (difficult, yes, but please pick one)
Bruce Sanderson
New York, NY —  March 30, 2013 3:16pm ET
John, I would choose 2009. The ripeness and flesh from that vintage will allow the wines to be enjoyed at a younger point in their evolution. I think they will also age well. The '10s may ultimately be more complex, but I think their aging curve will be less consistent, with some awkward periods along the way.

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