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Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2006

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is one of the world’s great wine estates, and so it’s always exciting to taste the new releases each year. The 2006 vintage was quite a difficult one in Burgundy, but with DRC, there isn’t such a thing as a bad vintage. When the wines are selling for such enormous prices (the Echezeauz is £895 for 6 in bond; the Romanée-Conti is a cool £7795 for 6 in bond), incredible attention to detail in both the vineyard and cellar is feasible.

A word about prices. Even at these heady levels, demand for these wines outstrips supply. It is to the great credit of the Domaine and Corney & Barrow that they don’t simply raise prices to the maximum level they can get. Instead, they take great care to allocate wines with a focus on ‘the private customer and as a consumer rather than a speculator’. Anxious not to create a grey market for these wines, the bottle numbers are recorded with each sale, and customers are asked to give Corney & Barrow first refusal if they should need to sell their wines in the future.

I had a chat with the Domaine’s co-owner, Aubert de Villaine, who is a total star: he's polite, thoughtful and patient, and is one of those rare people who is a wine legend, yet when you interview them they don't make you feel they are doing you a huge favour. I asked him about the 2006 vintage.

'The wines show that one cannot speak of great vintages or small vintages any more', says Aubert. 'Take the last 10 years: each has had its own character. 2006 was more difficult, certainly, than 2005, but, finally, with a small yield and a lot of care at sorting you have a maturity - both phenolic and sugar - that is at the same level as 2005. The difference is in the style of the wines'.

‘2005 is much more symphony-like, while 2006 is more like chamber music with a different concentration, and perhaps more transparency than 2005. The effect of this transparency is probably more of an expression of the terroir, which is more preserved in the wines than in 2005, where the vintage speaks more loudly.’  

Aubert says that being organic is very important, and has had an effect on the quality of the wines. ‘20 years ago I would have said that organics doesn’t bring something to the quality of the wine; it is just good for the soil and for people’, explains Aubert. ‘But today I’d say the contrary. Being organic for years in the vineyard brings a plus to quality – it brings finesse. You reach a certain finesse of maturity with organics that you don’t reach as effectively with other methods.’

The domaine has been organic for 25 years, and part biodynamic for a while. With the 2008 vintage it is fully biodynamic. Yet Aubert thinks the big quality gain is switching to organics from conventional farming, not the move from organics to biodynamics. ‘We chose to go fully biodynamic because it was complicated to have just one part of the vineyard in biodynamics. Frankly, I don’t see a superiority in the quality of the wine. A lot of people have gone directly from conventional viticulture to biodynamics and they see what we saw going from conventional to biodynamics’.

‘What interests us in biodynamics is the use of plants to try to reduce products such as copper which aren’t sustainable. We want to verify what some people who have used it for a while say: that there is a development of very deep roots which allows the vine to fight better by itself against diseases’.  

Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Divault-Blochet 2006
Aromatic, fresh cherry fruit nose with some notes of herb and earth. The palate is cherryish with real elegance, some fruit sweetness and subtle complex earthiness under the fruit. There’s real harmony here: very smooth with a long finish. Complex, ripe and delicious. 92/100

Echézeaux 2006
A step up. Beautifully elegant nose: smooth, pure and beguiling with dark cherry and sweet plum fruit, as well as some complex spice and earth notes in the background. Very smooth, slightly sappy fruit on the palate with lovely elegance. Sweet and focused with silky structure. Great balance here. 94/100

Grands Echézeaux 2006
Beautiful aromatics here: fresh, pure, bright cherry fruit with a lovely subtly sappy green lift that frames the sweet fruit beautifully. The palate has real elegance and purity, and is focused and fresh, showing super-smooth cherry fruit with some minerally, slightly earthy tannic structure underneath. Transparent style. 95/100.

Richebourg 2006
Taut, multilayered nose showing sweet, focused red berry fruits with real elegance and beautiful purity. There are also some spice and herb notes, seamlessly integrated. I really like the liqueur-like quality to the fruit. The palate is super-elegant with good concentration and some silky-yet-firm structure under the really pure red fruits. This is mouthfilling, dense and complex with brilliant elegance. There’s some substance here. 96/100

Romanée-St-Vivant 2006
Fresh, focused red fruits nose with notes of cherries and herbs. The palate is fresh and a bit sappy with bright cherry notes and nice fleshy fruitiness. It’s really elegant and bright with lovely fruit. Delicious, but no doubt this will be majestic with time. It just seems to be missing something right now. 93/100

La Tâche 2006
Quite a beautiful, aromatic nose: it’s super-elegant with sweet cherry fruit, as well as some notes of chocolate and roast coffee from the oak. The palate has a lovely density of elegant ripe cherry and berry fruit with spice, tar and mineral characters. Beautiful depth here: long finish with some tannic structure. Brilliant. 95/100

Romanée-Conti 2006
Hauntingly elegant nose with smooth, pure cherry fruit with liqueur-like richness. Sweet, with hints of spice. The palate shows lovely pure, dark cherry and sweet plum fruit with a super-elegant savoury structure. Really long finish with earthy hints and a bit of spiciness. Quite beautiful. 94/100

Wines tasted 01/09  
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Domaine de la Romanee Conti releases

 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008

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