Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, one of Burgundy's most important estates, has signed a lease agreement with Domaine Prince Florent de Mérode for almost 6 acres of vineyards on the hillside of Corton and will produce three grands crus red wines from the parcels.
The trio of Cortons will be the first red wines DRC produces from the Côte de Beaune. The famed producer is based in Vosne-Romanée in Côte de Nuits and owns land in that commune and the adjoining village of Flagey-Echézeaux. It does produce a white from Côte de Beaune, from a small amount of land in Montrachet.
Under the agreement, DRC will add nearly 3 acres of Corton Bressandes, 1.4 acres of Corton Clos du Roi and 1.26 acres of Corton Les Renardes to its 61.75 acres of prime grands crus vineyards.
"When Prince and Princess de Mérode, whom I knew, died six months apart, their children contacted us and offered to lease three grands crus they own in Corton," said DRC codirector Aubert de Villaine. "These vineyards are situated in the heart of the historic part of the appellation with a good proportion of old vines. These two factors give a high potential to produce great wines."
The lease was finalized in November. The first wines will be made from the 2009 harvest and released in the United States in 2012. Fans of DRC shouldn't get too excited, however. The total amount of Corton made by the domaine will be only slightly greater than the approximate average of 475 cases of Romanée-Conti that DRC makes in a typical year.
The Prince Florent de Mérode estate consists of 15 acres in Aloxe-Corton, Ladoix-Serrigny and Pommard. The oldest vines in the Corton parcels average 50 years of age. Didier Dubois joined the domaine in 1997 as the vineyard manager and took over winemaking duties in 2001. Under his direction, the wines have improved in recent vintages.
De Villaine was impressed with the condition of the Corton vines and decided to retain Dubois to manage DRC's lease holdings. "We have indeed taken on Didier Dubois, who will continue working these vines under the supervision of our vineyard manager, Nicolas Jacob," said de Villaine. "We think he is capable of enforcing our philosophy. He is himself extremely interested in this new challenge."