The 2007s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: A Year of Light

Tasting notes on the new Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2007s from bottle
Feb 16, 2010

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti presented its 2007 vintage in New York last week. Aubert de Villaine, the longtime codirector opened with a few comments about the vintage. The event was organized by DRC’s American importer, Wilson Daniels, who have imported the wines to the United States for more than 30 years, and local distributors Martin-Scott Wines. (The prices listed are estimated at time of release and can vary by market.)

The tasting was delayed due to the winter weather in New York the previous day. It was only fitting for a vintage whose weather was topsy-turvy from the beginning.

“It was a very awkward vintage,” explained de Villaine, in his introduction to the wines. “It was governed from the beginning of the season by the month of April, which had temperatures equivalent to those of July.”

As a result, the development of the vines was early. In Burgundy, the wind on Palm Sunday is believed to set the pattern for the ensuing months. It was a north wind, which brings dry weather. Growers were expecting another 2003, with harvest occurring in August.

Instead, the weather changed. Winds from the west brought heat, rain, storms and humidity, all the right conditions for the enemies of the grower: mildew, oïdium and botrytis.

May witnessed a long, uneven flowering, which signaled an uneven maturation at the end of the season. There was also millerandage, a condition where some berries are normal and others abnormally tiny and without seeds.

Poor weather followed in June and July. I recall my week in Burgundy in mid June 2007. It rained every day, often accompanied by powerful thunderstorms. One day, driving to Monthélie, there was a river of red from the soil running down the road between Volnay Clos des Chênes and Caillerets.

August was one of the worst in memory, according to de Villaine, but then from the 20th until after the harvest, the north wind returned and dried everything. “It wasn’t extremely hot [during this period], but luminous,” he recalled.

The wind concentrated the sugars in the grapes and photosynthesis continued due to the abundant water reserves in the soil. Berries affected by botrytis dried up and fell off, naturally thinning the crop.

DRC harvested between Sept. 1 and 11 for the reds, finishing with its Montrachet on Sept. 17. Yields were low (though not as low as 2008), ranging from 22 to 28 hectoliters per hectare (1.6 to 2.1 tons per acre).

The team eliminated from 20 to 30 percent of the stems, depending on the appellation. The phenolic maturity wasn’t ideal, therefore “It was a vintage not to extract too much, because there was a risk of extracting not very good things,” said de Villaine.

The Echézeaux showed a mix of floral, vegetal and spice aromas, cherry and berry flavors. Very elegant, ethereal even, its flavors were submerged, but it was long and balanced and gained fruit and flesh with air (91 points, non-blind, $295–$350). The Grands Echézeaux offered more fruit initially, with deep strawberry, cherry and a touch of mint flavors. It was fleshy and round, with more tannins than the Echézeaux, its oak well-absorbed (93, non-blind, $490–$585).

DRC has done a lot of work improving the plant material in Romanée-St.-Vivant and it is showing dividends. I gave it an edge over the Richebourg last year, tasting the 2006s in bottle and I liked it better in 2007, at least in this tasting. I should point out that in my barrel tastings of these wines in January 2009, I preferred the Richebourg.

Whereas the Romanée-St.-Vivant seemed reticent and shy a year ago it was very together last week, revealing pure floral, strawberry and raspberry aromas. Refined, balanced and harmonious, with the firm structure showing on the mineral finish (94, non-blind, $735–$875).

It was the Richebourg that was reserved after bottling and shipping, displaying strawberry and spice aromas and flavors. Though rich and fleshy for the ’07 vintage, it is a slimmed-down version with present tannins making it a bit square on the back end, despite its long finish (93, non-blind, $700–$830).

La Tâche is, well, La Tâche. Different than the rest of the range from barrel and different in bottle, its nose was unevolved, dense and spicy. On the palate it was deep and rich, building and expanding with blackberry, black currant and licorice flavors preceding a long, mineral finish (95, non-blind, $875–$1,040).

The Romanée-Conti delivered beautiful perfumed aromas of rose, sandalwood and spice. All silk, class and finesse, concentrated yet detailed, it just kept unfolding with incredible length and sweetness (96, non-blind, $2,875–$3,430).

Asked about their longevity, de Villaine responded, “I think these wines will show their potential in 10 to 15 years.”

That left the Montrachet. What was interesting in 2007, de Villaine pointed out, was that the Chardonnay was 10 to 15 days behind the Pinot Noir in development from the beginning. “When the rain arrived at the end of August, the Pinot Noir had been through veraison [color change] and the botrytis could easily affect the skins,” he said. “The Chardonnay had not been through veraison, so its skins were thicker and more resistant.”

As a result the Chardonnay was not greatly affected by botrytis. This resulted in a ripe yet not so exotic Montrachet. It showed a complex, alluring nose of butterscotch, hazelnut and lime blossom, with coconut accents from the new oak. It starts out sumptuous, anchored by the fine structure underneath, buttery intensity and underlying citrus and mineral flavors. It ended with a long, salty, slightly leesy aftertaste (97, non-blind, $1,825–$2,175).

Overall the 2007s were elegant, balanced and aromatic. There is still a slight vegetal quality, partly from the use of stems in the fermentation, but also because they are young wines that need time to develop in the bottle.

Though lighter and less fruity at this stage than their 2006 or 2005 cousins, they have substance. None were overtly oaky, despite seeing about six months in 100 percent new barrels. They had a chameleonlike quality, constantly changing in the glass. De Villaine called them "elusive."

In Burgundy, though not all vintages are the same, they generally fall into two categories: Years of sun and years of light. The 2007s are wines of light. They have luminosity and brightness.

In de Villaine’s words “They have the Burgundian mark of this climate that’s at the limit.” In that sense, they are classic Burgundies.

France Burgundy

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