2020s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted February 2023)
There is no doubt that 2020 is a superb vintage for DRC. The word I noted down more than any other on my tasting sheet was ‘generosity’. These wine have a precocity and charm that makes them seem irresistible and yet beneath the surface there is enough power and grace to allow them to mature for a long while. I have included Corney & Barrow’s UK in bond pricing for each wine.
2020 Vosne-Romanée, 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet (Average vine age n/a, Production in 2020 – 679 doz, Yield 18.8 hl/ha, Harvest dates n/a, Bottling date 23rd June 2022)
This wine is only made in exceptional years, using fruit taken from La Tâche and young Grands Échézeaux vines. The nose is dark and meaty, yet the colour is a couple of shades lighter than the perfume suggests. There are oaky hints and pretty green tinges, but this is, first and foremost, a fruit-driven wine. The tannins appear discreet and balanced, so one’s senses return to the main action focussed on the mid-palate. Generous and juicy, reflecting the fine conditions in 2020, this is about as welcoming and ripe as any Duvault-Blochet I have tasted. Do not feel guilty for cracking on earlier than ever with this cuvée. I initially gave a score of 18/20 to this wine, but in Vosne circles, it certainly warrants a gold-medal score, so I have tweaked it a half-point. 18.5/20; (Drink 2025 – 2040) This wine will be offered exclusively to the on-trade.
2020 Corton, Prince Florent de Merode (Average vine age 55, Production in 2020 – 454 doz, Yield 24.6 hl/ha, Harvest date 26th August, Bottling date 11th June 2022)
As always, the Corton is beautifully aromatic, and in 2020 it is in a different league of florals and tender red fruit than I have seen before. Not only is there brightness here, but also a sense of flashiness. If only all Cortons had this purity and drive! Silky on the palate and more slippery and enticing than both the 2018 and 2019, this is an open, red-cherry-soaked creature with perfectly judged ‘oak spice’ which elevates the fruit in the same way that cunning spice additions to the pastry chef’s repertoire lift creations to new heights. 18.5/20; (Drink 2026 – 2042) £1185 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £800 / 1 magnum in bond
2020 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Production in 2020 – 1280 doz, Yield 28.2 hl/ha, Harvest dates 30th August & 1st September, Bottling dates 8th June 2022)
Échézeaux seems to pack all of its energy and excitement into the first two-thirds of its performance, and while this is a pretty, open-armed wine with admirable fruit clarity, it has the shortest finish and most limited flavour in the portfolio. It seems like it is cut short, and if this is the case, time may well be kind and allow it to soften and lengthen, but I am not entirely convinced that there is more detail under the bonnet. With a ‘just-picked’ fruit quality and a bright core, this wine will certainly provide enjoyment in the short to medium term, just don’t expect it to impress DRC aficionados. 18/20; (Drink 2028 – 2045) £1455 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £980 / 1 magnum in bond
2020 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 30, Production in 2020 – 960 doz, Yield 33.5 hl/ha, Harvest dates 25th August, Bottling dates 9th March 2022)
But contrast to Échézeaux, Grands Échézeaux is an impressive wine with an entirely darker, deeper, spicier and more serious demeanour. With impressive structure, delicious, lip-smacking tannins and a genuine sense of place, this is a thrilling Grands Échézeaux and one that looks enticing already, even though it is clear there is so much more to come. I have long been a Grands Échézeaux fan, and in 2020 it is a soaring triumph. 19+/20; (Drink 2030 – 2050) £2190 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £1470 / 1 magnum in bond
2020 Richebourg (Average vine age 60, Production in 2020 – 992 doz, Yield 31.7 hl/ha, Harvest dates 23rd & 24th August, Bottling date 20th June 2022)
I cannot remember a Richebourg with such a complete fanfare of spectacular fruit on the nose. It is amazingly open and expressive and seems not to be hiding any of its cards as there is so much to admire on the perfume alone, it took me minutes to make it onto the palate, and what a thrilling flavour it is, too. Gossamer smooth, mouth-filling, generous and incredibly long, this is a sensational Richebourg, and it honours its epic terroir by perfectly encapsulating the flavour potential and glory of this vintage and the vineyard. Again, this is a precocious wine, and again, while it will drink early, there is so much dynamism and energy here that it will age like clockwork and roll on for decades to come. 19+/20; (Drink 2030 – 2050) £3480 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £2330 / 1 magnum in bond
2020 Romanee-St-Vivant, Marey-Monge (Average vine age 45, Production in 2020 –1718 doz, Yield 31.8 hl/ha, Harvest dates 26th & 28th August, Bottling dates 13th, 14th & 18th January 2022)
RSV starts off like the other wines in this collection, with a resonant perfume and a volume of pure Pinot fruit that takes the breath away. But then, something rather incredible happens. After the sensational aromatic display and a fruit fanfare that engulfs the taste buds, a veritable army of tannins swarm the palate and take no prisoners. This unexpected edginess and tension is the perfect plot twist in this incredible wine. It also means that unlike some of the other cuvées that seem unnervingly precocious, RSV stands firm, warning off all-comers until it is ready to receive guests, and this will not be for a decade or more. I am usually rather keen, if not completely sold on RSV (within the greater context of this spectacular constellation of wines), but in 2020 this is an unmissable member of the DRC team. 19+/20; (Drink 2030 – 2050) £3540 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £2370 / 1 magnum in bond
2020 La Tâche (Average vine age 50, Production in 2020 – 1237 doz, Yield 29.7 hl/ha, Harvest dates 30th August, 2nd & 3rd September, Bottling dates 10th January 2022)
Hallelujah, this is a mind-bendingly exquisite wine with everything I expect from a great La Tâche vintage and more. Powerful, brooding, elemental and commanding, even the tiniest sip of this magical potion sets my mind and flavour memory racing. 2020 La Táche is nothing short of sensational, and it also manages to pack in a few extra nuances to its repertoire. A wild edge to the fruit spectrum brings another level of excitement to proceedings alongside bark, chypre and forest elements that further push this wine into an otherworldly experience. I am often asked if these wines are worth the huge sums of money that they inevitably command, but there is nothing on earth that tastes like this flavour, so there must be a ticket price for this scale of experience, and if it is up there with the best, which it is, then you can think of a number and double it – and you will no doubt be close! It seems that you can put a price on perfection. 20/20; (Drink 2030 – 2050) £4035 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £1345 / 1 bottle in bond, £2700 / 1 magnum in bond
2020 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 60, Production in 2020 – 500 doz, Yield 28.7 hl/ha, Harvest date 26th & 28th August, Bottling date 9th March 2022)
Romanée-Conti combines the son et lumière of La Tâche with the power and concentration of RSV, and it then further concentrates its overall offering while closing down some of the more apparent channels of engagement. Firm, unyielding, yet resonant, and infinitely layered, this is another perfect wine in this vintage; this time, its battery pack will last well beyond the half-century mark. The most amazing aspect of this wine is that for all of its latent power and impressive musculature, it is not a heavy wine. It is medium-plus but absolutely crammed full of attitude and intensity. It is hard to believe that the Pinot Noir grape variety can possess this much force of nature, but here it is – sheer perfection from arguably the most famous single vineyard wine on the planet. 20+/20; (Drink 2035 – 2055) £3870 / 1 bottle in bond
2020 Corton-Charlemagne (Average vine age 60, Production in 2020 – 1530 doz, Yield 49.3 hl/ha, Harvest dates 7th, 8th & 9th September, Bottling date 25th February 2022)
This is an incredible theatrical Chardonnay with flamboyant exoticism, a heavenly texture, layers of billowing citrus fruit and, thank goodness, lashings of acidity to keep it all in check. Imagine a Montgolfier balloon, groaning under its finery but still tethered securely to the earth with a high-tensile cable. Great fun, marvellously over the top and in a class of its own, there is not much to go around, and there are people who spend their lives hunting this rare beast down, so the chances are you will never taste it but don’t despair, because DRCCC is a law unto itself and not, in all honesty, everyone’s cup of tea. 19/20; (Drink 2025 – 2035) £2355 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £785 / 1 bottle in bond, £1580 / 1 magnum in bond
2019s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted February 2022)
Only DRC could make a vintage comparison for the 2019 harvest as far back in time as 1865. Rather gratifyingly, they note that last year’s 2018 release (which was not tasted in London thank to the pandemic) was apparently a dead-ringer for 1864. 2019’s ‘very great vintage’, according to Adam Brett-Smith at UK agents Corney & Barrow is characterised by intense heat, extreme sugar concentrations and a harvest centred around the 20th September. He also noted that these ebullient hallmarks are countered by equally sublime grace and freshness as well as a ‘transparent fidelity to the quality and characteristics of each vineyard’. I could not agree more with this pithy assessment of the 2019 vintage and as you will see below, not least because these are the highest scores that I have ever given DRC wines. There have clearly been some legendary wines made in 2019 but, unfortunately, allocations are accordingly miserably tiny and so it will inevitably become even more impossible than it already is to taste these wines in the future.
This year, I have included Corney & Barrow’s pricing for each wine.
2019 Corton, Prince Florent de Merode (Average vine age 55, Production in 2019 – 367 doz, Yield 15 hl/ha, Harvest date 19th September, Bottling date 6th January 2021) This is a hugely expressive vintage for Corton with a much deeper and more intense perfume than I can remember. The nose is followed by more complex fruit/berry notes on the palate and these back up the fact that this is the finest DRC Corton to date. There is a depth and resonance here that is remarkable and this bodes well for this wine, let alone for the rest of the pack. The palate is plush, red-berry-driven and extremely engaging with an extra little boost of ripeness which brings a hint of fleshiness that makes it ever so delicious, even at this young age. 18.5+/20; (Drink 2026 – 2045) £1100 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £745 / 1 magnum in bond
2019 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Production in 2019 – 871 doz, Yield 23 hl/ha, Harvest dates 22nd & 23rd September, Bottling dates 7th & 8th January 2021) There is an immediate hit of minerality and concentration here which is shocking and the fruit explosion on the nose is tempered by an adroit sense of control and mannerly tannins which stand this wine upright on the palate instead of allowing it to lounge. The palate follows this regimen with terrific violet and cherry-soaked notes marshalled by firm, but discreetly flavoured oak and buttressed by rigid, but not drying, tannins. All in all, there is the appearance of a forward wine with a fine cloak of reticence which allows you to enjoy it at the same time as warning that there is more to come. In truth, this is an illusion because we are only able to see the tip of this wine which will unfurl and billow given time. It is a remarkably serene and elegant Échézeaux with tremendous potential when it drops the hard edge on the finish. 18.5+/20; (Drink 2030 – 2050) £1350 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £910 / 1 magnum in bond
2019 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 30, Production in 2019 – 884 doz, Yield 28 hl/ha, Harvest dates 19th & 20th September, Bottling dates 1st & 2nd March 2021) If you take the Échézeaux and build firmer and more immovable foundations and ramp up the defences a little more on the ramparts you find yourself at Grands Échézeaux’s portcullis. It is incredibly easy to see through the defences and into the garden of delights behind. In fact, it is so enticing and so plush that it is almost frustrating that we are not yet able to haul up the gates or indeed scale the walls. The power and grace ratio is exquisite here. Like Échézeaux there are moments of openness and prettiness, but these are so protected by the sheer scale of the twin sentries, oak and tannin, and this makes it impossible to determine the full array of fruit notes and potential at this stage of its life. Either way, this is a magnificent wine. Talking of the oak and tannin, these are both decked out in the most luxurious livery imaginable. The King’s guards look like haute couture models here and they will protect this wine for three or four decades to come. The fruit is sensational, and on my final sip, there was a hint at more layers behind the initial flourishes, but we will have to wait because these chapters will only be revealed as time ticks by. 19++/20; (Drink 2035 – 2055) £2050 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £1380 / 1 magnum in bond
2019 Richebourg (Average vine age 60, Production in 2019 – 678 doz, Yield 21 hl/ha, Harvest dates 15th & 16th September, Bottling dates 30th & 31st March and 3rd May 2021) Unlike Échézeaux and Grands Échézeaux, this wine is, initially at least, far more exotic and fruit ripe on the nose with a full complement of classic Richebourg scents turned up to full volume. The guarded feel of the preceding two wines is not evident at all on the nose and this makes it a breezy, open, charming overture to this wine. The palate starts off in the same vein but quickly dries up and tightens and it seems to drive itself into an attenuated vortex of stricture and discipline. The finish is firm, tart and refreshing and the oak manages to stay in the background while the tannins adopt a fresh perspective as opposed to showing any astringency. There is astounding control here allowing this vineyard to be as it can possibly be. Like all of the other wines, it needs a decade or two to relax and expand, but it will not topple over for a very long time thanks to the dramatic finish. Stunning. 19++/20; (Drink 2035 – 2055) £3240 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £2170 / 1 magnum in bond
2019 Romanee-St-Vivant, Marey-Monge (Average vine age 45, Production in 2019 –1351 doz, Yield 18 hl/ha, Harvest dates 20th & 21st September, Bottling dates 2nd, 3rd, 29th & 30th May 2021) This is a sensational, velvety wine and from the nose to the palate it is an uninterrupted joy. Silky, luxurious, sleek and purple-fruited there are berry, petal, musk and cherry blossom tones throughout and, like the others, it is amazingly sonorous and seemingly attractive already. Unlike the others, this is a more forward wine and I cannot see any reason why you might not feel too guilty opening a bottle this side of 2040, but like the others in this glorious portfolio, this is a hall of mirrors wine with twists and turns and no doubt hidden corridors of flavour which will become clearer in time. This is an utterly thrilling RSV. 19+/20; (Drink 2035 – 2055) £3300 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £2210 / 1 magnum in bond
2019 La Tâche (Average vine age 50, Production in 2019 – 994 doz, Yield 23 hl/ha, Harvest dates 16th, 17th & 18th September, Bottling dates 1st & 2nd June 2021) Very deep and insanely pretty on first sip, then commanding tannins make this the most structured wine so far, but there is none of the dense concentration found in Échézeaux and instead there is simply more scale and grandeur. This is a mind-blowingly long and beautiful wine with a perfect Pinot Noir perfume, and it is as benchmark a La Tâche as I have tasted. Every molecule here lures you into the glass and there is so much potential it will not only drink relatively soon but it will then have a second, third and even fourth life, holding for as long as you can possibly keep it. I imagine babies born in 2019 will be able to drink this in their retirement, such is the class here. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a ‘perfect’ representation of this noble vineyard site. 20/20; (Drink 2033 – 2055) £3750 / Case of 3 bottles in bond, £1250 / 1 bottle in bond, £2510 / 1 magnum in bond
2019 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 60, Production in 2019 – 409 doz, Yield 22.5 hl/ha, Harvest date 17th September, Bottling date 28th May 2021) The volume of perfume here, at this age, is more pervasive and more intense than I can remember in a young R-C. Rather than following a strict theme, there is already massive fruit intensity, amazing spice and florality and also astoundingly rich and ripe anti-fruit notes of forest, trunk, stem, wildlife, fauna and, of course, this majestic vineyard’s grand surroundings. In fact, it is hard to see how this wine could be improved and what I adore about RC is that it is so different from La Tâche it is incredible. The depth is prodigious and the length stayed with me for a full hour. There is a pagan thread here that anchors this wine to the earth as well as to its history and so no matter how much regality and brocade there is in this glass, there is an honesty and depth of authenticity that is truly unique. This is a second perfect wine in 2019. 20+/20; (Drink 2038 – 2060) £3600 / 1 bottle in bond
2019 Corton-Charlemagne (Production in 2019 – 506 doz, Yield 26 hl/ha, Harvest dates 22nd – 25th September, Bottling dates 2nd & 3rd December 2020) This is a hugely attractive and very enjoyable wine with a full performance of perfume, flavour and succulence couped with pinpoint accurate oak and acidity. It is certainly my white wine of the vintage and while it is incredibly controlled this is also a luxuriously upholstered wine. 19.5+/20; (Drink 2030 – 2040) £2200 / Case of 3 bottles in bond
2018s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
There was no tasting in January 2021 on account of Covid-19
2017s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted January 2020)
Thoughts on the Vintage – ‘2017 has indeed produced a superb harvest both in quantity and quality, which we have not seen for some time.’, Aubert de Villaine.
2017 Corton, Prince Florent de Mérode (Average vine age 55, Production in 2017 – 652 doz, Yield 33 hl/ha, Harvest date 4th September, Bottling dates 23rd January 2019) Coming from a 0.57ha plot in Le Clos du Roi, a 0.5ha plot in Les Renardes and a 1.2ha plot in Les Bressandes this is the ninth vintage of this wine. Direct and elevated on the nose, this is a bright, cherry-driven style with a fair amount of polished oak present. The fruit is sprightly and tart on the finish, but not overly complex, although the texture is lustrous and silky. Unusually forward, this is a rare drink-earlier-than-expected DRC with a perky, refreshing air and an accurate Corton attitude. 17.5+/20 Drink 2022 – 2032
2017 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Production in 2017 – 1289 doz, Yield 30 hl/ha, Harvest date 13th & 15th September, Bottling dates 24th, 28th, 29th, 31st January & 20th February 2019) Wilder and deeper on the nose than the Corton (unsurprisingly) this is an earthier and more muscular wine and the oak is fairly high tone right now. This makes the oak too dominant for my tastes. A touch raw and ragged on the finish, with leaf and herb tones throughout, this wine will need 5-10 years to soften sufficiently to appeal and it will always feel a little unpolished by comparison to the other cuvées. 17+/20 Drink 2025 – 2035
2017 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 30, Production in 2017 – 1290 doz, Yield 41 hl/ha, Harvest date 12th September, Bottling dates 21st – 23rd May 2019) Grands Échézeaux is immediately more exotic and more perfumed than Échézeaux and the fruit is beautifully lifted and resonant. This time the oak is perfectly integrated with the cherry and mulberry fruit and it adds discreet cinnamon tones to this moreish wine. The mid-palate is not as weighty as in previous vintages but there is drama as well as poise on the crisp, gently palate-scouring finish. 18+/20 Drink 2030 – 2040
2017 Richebourg (Average vine age 60, Production in 2017 – 1261 doz, Yield 37 hl/ha, Harvest dates 8th & 10th September, Bottling dates 20th, 21st, 25th, 26th February & 25th March 2019) More animal, more four-square and powerful than expected, there is a blunt wall of no-nonsense, darker-hued fruit here and it is unyielding. With a reluctance to open up on the nose or palate, there is a faint foresty note here which adds detail, too. The palate is sweeter and more welcoming and, tonally, fresher than the nose suggests, but the tannins are firm and prevent the fruit from being heard as they brusquely shut down all of the fun. Richebourg is a bit of a gamble in 2017 and my score is a rather fence-sitting ‘high silver’ mark. 18+/20 Drink 2030 – 2045
2017 Romanée-St-Vivant, Marey-Monge (Average vine age 45, Production in 2017 – 1693 doz, Yield 36 hl/ha, Harvest dates 10th & 11th September, Bottling dates 26th, 29th, 30th April & 2nd & 21st May 2019) There is a little more layering of flavour here and there is more intrigue on the nose and palate, too. The action is pushed back from the nose and entry to the mid-palate and it is here that the wine starts to expand and blossom. There is a little more power here than I imagined I would see in this vintage and the finish is expansive and refreshingly juicy with a long, savoury feel and grippy tannins throughout. I like this wine and I think it will drink relatively early and then hold very well. 18+/20 Drink 2028 – 2045
2017 La Tâche (Average vine age 50, Production in 2017 – 2082 doz, Yield 34 hl/ha, Harvest dates 6th & 7th September, Bottling dates 25th – 28th March & 23rd – 24th April 2019) By contrast to all of the other cuvées, this is an epic wine with loads of generous fruit and the oak, earth and artefact patiently wait their turn to join the throng. The palate is pronounced, full and vividly purple, not red, and this intensity of flavour is particularly shocking in this tender vintage. The length and freshness of fruit are terrific and while this will not be an ultra-long-lived wine it will bowl palates over at will in the medium term! 19/20 Drink 2035 – 2050
2017 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 60, Production in 2017 – 627 doz, Yield 35 hl/ha, Harvest date 8th September, Bottling date 25th – 26th April 2019) Backward, belligerent and uncommunicative, this is a tense and angry Romanée-Conti on the nose but there is a moment of freshness on the start of the palate, while it lets its guard down, but it closes up again in due course. Pensive, dry and firm with a very solid engine of power and energy, this is not a big wine but it is a compact, concentrated, slimline R-C and it will be sure to impress in spite of its lack of obvious bulk. 18.5+/20 2035 – 2050
2016s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted January 2019)
Thoughts on the Vintage – ‘An unexpected success, which now places 2016 amongst the most perfect vintages of these past few years.’, Aubert de Villaine.
2016 Corton, Prince Florent de Mérode (Average vine age 46, Average Production – 413 doz, Production in 2016 – 420 doz, Yield 22 hl/ha, Harvest date 22nd September, Bottling dates 27th February & 31st May 2018) As the years pass I become more and more enamoured by DRC’s Corton. Coming from a 0.57ha plot in Le Clos du Roi, a 0.5ha plot in Les Renardes and a 1.2ha plot in Les Bressandes this is my favourite vintage in this Report so far. The nose is terrific, superbly direct and generously perfumed. This is a pure, fruit-driven, as opposed to earth-driven Corton. So often the red wines from this famous hill seem verging on rustic and yet in 2016, DRC’s Corton is gossamer-smooth with sleek, cherry and plum notes and bright acidity on the finish. There are no edges nor any imperfections in this vintage. The tannins are virtually invisible, too, as they are so fine and balanced. While this is not a big wine it is very long and regal. I am a huge fan. 18.5+/20 Drink 2028 – 2038
2016 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Average production – 1113 doz, Production in 2016 – 980 magnums, Yield 6 hl/ha, Harvest date 29th September) Not shown at this launch event because, as Aubert told me, ‘they are big wines from tiny yields and they need more time’. This vineyard and Grands Échézeaux, below, were both ravaged by frost.
2016 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 55, Average production – 991 doz, Production in 2016 – 710 magnums, Yield 7 hl/ha, Harvest date 29th September) See above.
2016 Romanée-St-Vivant, Marey-Monge (Average vine age 38, Average production – 1250 doz, Production in 2016 – 1304 doz, Yield 27 hl/ha, Harvest dates 27th & 28th September, Bottling dates 1st, 2nd, 6th & 7th March 2018) At first, bright and open and on delving under this sheen there is power and briar. This contrast between fruit and spice is this RSV intriguing and I sense that the spice will be in control for at least a decade before giving way. It is almost the mirror image of the juiciness and immediacy of the charming Corton and there is clearly more skin tannin here. A savoury, earthy tang lingers on the finish and this leaves the wine in the starting blocks, straining for the gun to go off, but well aware that the starter hasn’t even got a pistol in hand. It will be fascinating to see which way this wine goes when it is eventually supple enough to get up and running. 18++/20 Drink 2030 – 2045
2016 Richebourg (Average vine age 46, Average production – 848 doz, Production in 2016 – 868 doz, Yield 24 hl/ha, Harvest dates 23rd & 24th September, Bottling dates 28th March, 3rd & 20th April 2018) This time the nose is utterly amazing, with both spice and fruit in perfect harmony already. Plush, dark, exotic and polished, this is an extraordinary wine with magnetic appeal and plenty of richness to hang onto. While there are flashes of brilliance to marvel at, the flavours are delivered with admirable control and while the fruit provides ample cover for the stealthy tannins, these tannins are in abundance and they will energise this wine for decades to come. This is a brilliant Richebourg. 19+/20 Drink 2030 – 2050
2016 La Tâche (Average vine age 51, Average production – 1386 doz, Production in 2016 – 1814 doz, Yield 31 hl/ha, Harvest dates 24th & 25th September, Bottling dates 20th – 25th April and 25th – 28th May 2018) A tremendous La Tâche, there is amazing depth of fruit here with flamboyance already on show, albeit in a strictly couture style. There is more than a hint of muscle and it is coupled with latent energy and this brings a warm glow to the palate. The depth of fruit is unfathomable and the tannins are astonishing, too. These two elements are in scintillating harmony in this wine and the balance is nothing short of spectacular. DRC is no stranger to its wines being described as tours de force but ’16 La Tâche is the real deal and with wines that hint at perfection on the palate, I have one last test to perform before I unleash a mighty score. The aroma of an empty glass of wine, drained of its contents which have been sadly jettisoned into a spittoon, tells you the absolute truth about a wine’s brilliance. This is a sheer joy and in years to come 2015 and 2016 La Tâche will be drunk side by side providing the most amazing entertainment for those lucky enough to have a ringside seat. 19.5+/20 Drink 2035 – 2060
2016 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 57, Average production – 432 doz, Production in 2016 – 440 doz, Yield 24 hl/ha, Harvest date 25th September, Bottling date 19th April 2018) Very composed and quiet in the glass, this is always a wine which needs agitation, but in 2016 it responds actively to swirling showing terrific energy and focus. With more tannin embedded in this wine, it is not more menacing, but simply a little more upright. The fruit is tightly packed but not crowded and there is calm from the beginning to the end (which happen about half an hour after I have left the tasting). The final sniff of the glass reveals amazing complexity and, true to form, this wine shows a fair dose of enigmatic reverence, too. This means that no matter how hard I try I cannot compute all of its layers right now. Time will come to its aid and if I am lucky enough to taste it in twenty years’ time, it will just about be willing to communicate. 19.5+/20 2040 – 2070
2015s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted January 2018)
Thoughts on the Vintage – ‘We see this sort of vintage two or three times a century’, Aubert de Villaine.
2015 Corton (Average vine age 45, Average Production – 413 doz, Production in 2015 – 382 doz, Yield 22.3 hl/ha, Harvest date 5th September, Bottling dates 15th, 16th February 2017) As always, this is a floral, redcurrant and red cherry-scented wine with an extremely pure aromatic attack and a firm palate. In 2015, there is oak present, for the very first time, in the flavour. This gives it a more serious and steadfast air. There is also an extra degree of slippery intensity and so this is, without doubt, the finest vintage of this wine to date. 18+/20 Drink 2028 – 2038
2015 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Average production – 1113 doz, Production in 2015 – 1147 doz, Yield 25.7 hl/ha, Harvest dates 12th, 14th September, Bottling dates 16th– 20th February 2017) A shade darker in hue but much more plummy and juicy, this is a vibrant Échézeaux and the tannins are fit and also refreshing. There is no trace of darkness or earthiness, which is unusual, and the vibrancy and lift are impressive. Oak is again obvious, but it sits well in the core of the wine and while it will need a few years to soften you cannot begrudge someone wanting to have a peek at this wine before it is officially drinking because the fruit is so damned delicious! 18+/20 Drink 2028 – 2040
2015 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 55, Average production – 991 doz, Production in 2015 – 1056 doz, Yield 30.4 hl/ha, Harvest dates 11th, 12th September, Bottling dates 23rd, 24th, 27th March 2017) With more density and depth and also some wilder berry fruit, this is a more structured and powerful wine than the Échézeaux and it is graceful and charming, too. A stunning Grands Échézeaux with every element of this wine in perfect harmony, I am thrilled to give it a truly massive score given that I cannot see how it can be greatly improved! 19+/20 Drink 2028 – 2045
2015 Romanée-St-Vivant (Average vine age 37, Average production – 1250 doz, Production in 2015 – 1398 doz, Yield 26.3 hl/ha, Harvest dates 9th, 10th, 11th September, Bottling dates 21st – 24th February 2017) With a mineral tang and a slightly darker tone, this is a linear, introverted wine with a cool feel and a less complex flavour than Grands Échézeaux. There is, however, a very fine tannin line which resonates rhythmically and this gives it a serenity which chimes well with the red tone of the fruit. It will require time to soften and allow the tense red theme to relax, but it will emerge beautifully in time and I feel that there is half a point extra which this wine might well deserve in due course. 18.5+/20 Drink 2025 – 2040
2015 Richebourg (Average vine age 45, Average production – 848 doz, Production in 2015 – 849 doz, Yield 24.3 hl/ha, Harvest dates 8th, 9th September, Bottling dates 24th February, 14th, 15th March 2017) Richebourg shows incredible harmony in 2015. Clear, bright and shining in the glass this is already an immensely charming wine and the amplitude of fruit and the sheer sexiness of the flavour is incredible. Great balance, gripping tannins and a monumental finish make this a Richebourg to treasure. There is no trace of heat or aggression – just cascading beauty and impeccable poise. 19+/20 Drink 2028 – 2050
2015 La Tâche (Average vine age 50, Average production – 1386 doz, Production in 2015 – 1387 doz, Yield 25.6 hl/ha, Harvest dates 7th, 8th September, Bottling dates 15th, 16th, 17th, 21st March 2017) Typically flamboyant and superbly fleshy and decadent, this is a beautiful La Tâche and it parades everything that is great about this vineyard. Seductive, pure, terrifically complex and also with incredible length, this is a profound wine and one which shows red fruit and not black, which in itself makes is a truly remarkable wine. So close to perfection, this is a great expression of the vintage and also of this hallowed vineyard. 19.5++/20 Drink 2035 – 2060
2015 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 56, Average production – 432 doz, Production in 2015 – 403 doz, Yield 22.7 hl/ha, Harvest date 10th September, Bottling date 22nd March 2017) Hugely backward and blunt with the most dense and introverted nose I can remember, this is a fascinating wine and it took ten minutes swirling to dislodge molecules of flavour and aroma in order that I could assess this wine. It is the antithesis of La Tâche with no trace of exoticism or juiciness and the tannins swarm the palate and warn you away. But the fruit underneath this cavalcade of austerity is exquisite. It will age forever and open incrementally as it goes. This is a phenomenal wine. 19.5+++/20 2035 – 2075
2014s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted January 2017)
Thoughts on the Vintage – Aubert de Villaine commented, “It’s a phenolic maturity that gives freshness and a minerality in the sense that it makes the wine a channel for the terroir. It’s a vintage where the terroir and vintage speak.”
2014 Corton (Average vine age 45, Production in 2014 – 483 doz, Yield 25 hl/ha, Harvest date 16th September, Bottling dates 24th, 25th February 2016) This is the first release from this label when I sense that there is more to come with time spent in the bottle. My favourite vintage to date (2009 was the inaugural vintage), this is a pure red cherry-toned wine with a little more structure and some bright, powdery tannins and this is what gives me so much confidence for its future. 17.5+/20 Drink 2022 – 2035
2014 Échézeaux (Average vine age 30, Average production – 1340 doz, Production in 2014 – 1443 doz, Yield 27.8 hl/ha, Harvest dates 24th, 25th, 26th September, Bottling dates 25th, 29th February, 3rd March 2016) Pure, clean, aromatic, fiercely proud and very close to being profound, this is a smart Échézeaux and its floral appeal lightens the usual animal notes found here and gives it a new complexion. Balanced, smooth and slick, this is a very appealing wine. 18/20 Drink 2025 – 2038
2014 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 55, Average production – 1150 doz, Production in 2014 – 1275 doz, Yield 32.5 hl/ha, Harvest dates 23rd, 24th September, Bottling dates 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th March 2016) With more concentration than Échézeaux but not the normal gap of class between these two labels, this is a well-balanced wine with nice turbidity and calibre of fruit, but it is just lacking some pizzazz. Longer, slightly richer and also more detailed than Échézeaux but not quite as comfortable in its own skin this is a good not great Grands Échézeaux and it will mellow nicely for many years to come. 18+/20 Drink 2028 – 2040
2014 Romanée-St-Vivant (Average vine age 40, Average production – 1500 doz, Production in 2014 – 1756 doz, Yield 31.6 hl/ha, Harvest dates 21st, 22nd, 23rd September, Bottling dates 8th, 24th, 25th, 29th, 30th March 2016) A very classy and intense cherry note leads the way and it gives RSV a really appealing first volley of excitement. Strong and secure on the palate and growing in intensity as it goes, this is a characterful wine while not a heavyweight it certainly drives forwards with urgency and determination. Sour tannins and a complex, layered finish complete the picture and this makes RSV14 a very attractive wine indeed. 18.5+/20 Drink 2025 – 2040
2014 Richebourg (Average vine age 45, Average production – 1000 doz, Production in 2014 – 1160 doz, Yield 29.8 hl/ha, Harvest dates 20th, 21st September, Bottling dates 30th, 31st March, 1st April 2016) Without the degree of complexity of flavour of RSV but loading more jolly fruit and impact, this is a rather showy Richebourg and it shows ravishing flashes of red and black fruit and the tannins seem more genial than RSV, too. I anticipate this maturing fairly rapidly but then holding for decades such is the intensity of fruit displayed here. 18/20 Drink 2025 – 2040
2014 La Tâche (Average vine age 45, Average production – 1870 doz, Production in 2014 – 1929 doz, Yield 32 hl/ha, Harvest dates 17th, 18th, 20th September, Bottling dates 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 25th April 2016) The power, majesty and depth of flavour on this wine is exceptional. It is more obviously head and shoulders above its brothers in terms both of luxury and delivery of its amazing fruit. There is an extra degree of texture and chewiness here, too, and the length is sublime. Seemingly a half a degree riper than the other Crus, this is a wine which stopped me in my tracks and I think it will live for half a century if it is given the chance. 19++/20 Drink 2030 – 2060
2014 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 56, Average production – 450 doz, Production in 2014 – 657 doz, Yield 32.6 hl/ha, Harvest date 19th September, Bottling dates 25th, 26th April 2016) With greener tones and more angular fruit and tannin, this is a wonderfully combative and awkward Romanée-Conti with dense fruit and disparate oak and earth notes which seem to pull the wine apart. Riotous fruit bounds around the mid-palate causing mayhem and it all needs to calm down because there is an awful lot going on. I think that this wine will have as long a lifetime as La Tâche but it will need a good twenty years to settle and organise its panoply of flavours. 19++/20 Drink 2035 – 2060
2013s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted January 2016)
Thoughts on the Vintage – Aubert de Villaine’s honesty was shocking in this vintage. He said, “It was a disastrous vintage in terms of quantity as so little wine was made. Hail at the end of June hit several villages hard like Pommard and Volnay. We had an issue with coulure due to cold and rainy conditions. There was also a botrytis problem in September that affected a good number of clusters and diminished the crop a lot.” But he added that a ‘natural thinning’ of the crop meant that the grapes he was left with were of ‘high quality’.
2013 Corton (Average vine age 45, Production in 2013 – 461 doz, Yield 19.5 hl/ha, Harvest date 3rd October, Bottling date 10th April 2015) The oak is pungent but it is well-matched to the bright fruit. It is a classic DRC Corton in all but the length on the palate which seems a little short. Forward drinking, with an earnest persona, this is a wine which strives to impress but falls slightly short of its aim. 17/20 Drink now – 2028
2013 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Average production – 1340 doz, Production in 2013 – 715 doz, Yield 15.5 hl/ha, Harvest dates 12th, 13th October, Bottling dates 8th, 9th April 2015) A big step up on the Corton, this is a vintage in which Échézeaux has performed well. Darker and wilder, but not much heavier in palate-weight terms, this is a firmly fruited wine with impressive integrity and a nice sauvage air. It will need some time to settle down, but against all odds, this vineyard has performed extremely well in 2013. 18+/20 Drink 2022 – 2035
2013 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 55, Average production – 1150 doz, Production in 2013 – 782 doz, Yield 21.5 hl/ha, Harvest dates 6th, 7th October, Bottling dates 19th, 20th March 2015) Uncharacteristically more closed and more thoughtful than the Échézeaux, I usually expect Grands Échézeaux to bring some showmanship to proceedings but it is too early for this to happen. The tannins are tough and the oak is solid, but it will come around. You just have to be patient. 18+/20 Drink 2025 – 2035
2013 Romanée-St-Vivant (Average vine age 37, Average production – 1500 doz, Production in 2013 – 847 doz, Yield 17.5 hl/ha, Harvest dates 10th, 11th October, Bottling dates 16th, 17th, 19th March 2015) By contrast to Grands Échézeaux, Romanée-St-Vivant seems ridiculously forward and engaging. Open, flamboyant, rose-petal-soaked with fine-grained tannins and a plush finish, this is a superb RSV and I think that it will maintain this louche attitude for the rest of its life! You will love it when you taste it because it is just so over the top! 18.5/20 Drink 2022 – 2035
2013 Richebourg (Average vine age 45, Average production – 1000 doz, Production in 2013 – 551 doz, Yield 16.5 hl/ha, Harvest dates 9th, 10th October, Bottling dates 12th, 13th March 2015) Macho and tense, this wine takes an opposite stance to the theatrical tones found in RSV and it also shows more earth and spice than GE, too. Tannins are blunt and muscular and they are keeping the fruit straight-jacketed. Requiring patience, this is a strong wine and one which will always retain an edge of steely intent. 18+/20 Drink 2025 – 2038
2013 La Tâche (Average vine age 50, Average production – 1870 doz, Production in 2013 – 1023 doz, Yield 18 hl/ha, Harvest dates 7th, 8th, 9th October, Bottling dates 9th, 10th, 11th March 2015) Like clockwork, La Tâche offers up its very own version of the vintage. Without the raw tannins of Richebourg and with more fruit and juiciness than the other wines, it is always a profound pleasure tasting this wine given that it layers fruit and oak with exquisite perfection. With much of the power and excitement sitting right at the back of the flavour, this is a very impressive wine in 2013 and it is my red wine of estate and also of the vintage. 18.5++/20 Drink 2030 – 2045
2013 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 56, Average production – 450 doz, Production in 2013 – 312 doz, Yield 17.5 hl/ha, Harvest date 8th October, Bottling date 11th March 2015) Longer, slightly finer and also more reluctant and not quite as ebullient as La Tâche, Romanée-Conti is a more graceful wine in 2013 but it doesn’t quite have the passion or the drama that La Tâche does this year. Tense and youthful with regal poise and control, this is a great effort for this wine in 2013, but it and we know that it could have been very different! 18.5+/20 Drink 2030 – 2050
2012s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted January 2015)
Thoughts on the Vintage – ‘It is very possible that we would not have achieved such maturity and quality if there had not been such losses to bear’, Aubert de Villaine.
2012 Corton (Average vine age 45, Production in 2012 – 242 doz, Yield 11 hl/ha, Harvest date 21st September, Bottling date 20th May 2014) Fragrant and lifted with a haunting perfume of wild berry notes. There is decent intensity here in spite of the pale colour but the oak is quite prominent. Soft, clean and crisp, this is a pretty Corton for forward-drinking. 17.5/20 Drink now – 2028
2012 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Average production – 1340 doz, Production in 2012 – 1057 doz, Yield 22.0 hl/ha, Harvest dates 29th – 30th September, Bottling dates 18th, 19th, 20th February 2014) With more grunt and power and several shades darker in colour, this is a bold Échézeaux with full oak flavours and drier tannins than expected. The trademark earthiness is there, too, making this a wine which needs a little more time to soften than usual. 17.5+/20 Drink 2022 – 2035
2012 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 55, Average production – 1150 doz, Production in 2012 – 987 doz, Yield 27 hl/ha, Harvest dates 22nd, 24th, 25th September, Bottling dates 20th, 21st, 24th February 2014) With more aromatic cherry and plum notes and more weight and intensity than the Échézeaux, in every department, this is a silky wine with very good length and a firm, commanding finish. This will be very good indeed in time. 18.5+/20 Drink 2022 – 2035
2012 Romanée-St-Vivant (Average vine age 37, Average production – 1500 doz, Production in 2012 – 1148 doz, Yield 24 hl/ha, Harvest dates 28th – 29th September, Bottling dates 25th, 26th, 27th February 2014) With more graphite and mineral-tinged flavours, there is more earth and less obvious fruit on display here. It appears less charming than the succulent GE, but the quality is here, it is just coiled up and tense. I would like to have seen more fruit complexity, but I do not doubt that it will come with time. 18++/20 Drink 2030 – 2040
2012 Richebourg (Average vine age 45, Average production – 1000 doz, Production in 2012 – 634 doz, Yield 19 hl/ha, Harvest dates 27th – 28th September, Bottling dates 27th, 28th February 2014) This is a splendidly proportioned wine. There is a full, dark palate and a powerful, oak and herb-punctured nose and the tannins are firm and dry, but it is all in perfect harmony. Richebourg can be gruff, but this is a louche vintage for this lovely wine and I like it very much. 18.5+/20 Drink 2025 – 2040
2012 La Tâche (Average vine age 50, Average production – 1870 doz, Production in 2012 – 1113 doz, Yield 21 hl/ha, Harvest dates 25th, 27th September, Bottling dates 3rd, 18th, 19th March 2014) Dense and foresty with magnificent aromatic complexity, this is a calm, centred La Tâche with a very long palate and a hypnotic flavour throughout. The tannins are perfectly judged and while this is a less hectic wine than one encounters in the truly classic vintages, it is a tour de force in 2012, considering the vintage. 19+/20 Drink 2030 – 2045
2012 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 56, Average production – 450 doz, Production in 2012 – 350 doz, Yield 18 hl/ha, Harvest date 22nd September, Bottling dates 19th, 20thMarch 2014) I tend to prefer the more conversational charms of La Tâche than the belligerence of Romanée-Conti and yet in certain vintages, when Romanée-Conti brings an extra degree of charm and flamboyance to its game, it edges my desert island wine. In this vintage, for some reason, I wrote, ‘I could eat a barrel’ in the middle of my tasting note for this wine. It suggests that the synergy between wood and fruit is so perfect that I imagine a stave would be as lip-smacking as a slice of summer pudding. I think that this somewhat absurd imagery shows you that I am extremely keen on this wine. 19.5+/20 Drink 2030 – 2050
2011s from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (tasted January 2014)
Thoughts on the Vintage – ‘Never so much as this year, despite having witnesses forty-six harvests since I began working in Burgundy, have I felt or understood how important luck is in the success or failure of a vintage’, Aubert de Villaine.
2011 Corton (Average vine age 45, Production in 2011 – 460 doz, Yield 23.4 hl/ha, Harvest date 2nd September). The third vintage of the Domaine’s Corton. Floral, lifted and focussed on the nose. Not the most intense wine, with a slim chassis and it is also quite tart on the palate. The nose definitely leads the way with flattering red cherry fruit. This is a refreshing wine and one which seems relatively forward in the DRC scheme of things. 17/20 Drink now – 2025
2011 Échézeaux (Average vine age 35, Average production – 1340 doz, Production in 2011 – 1030 doz, Yield 22.0 hl/ha, Harvest dates 10th – 11th September). More explosive on the nose than the Corton with a more pungent perfume and more amplitude, too. The palate is forceful and quite extracted with earthy touches and more brawn. The oak is superbly balanced and it lends spiciness and more detail to the whole. 17.5/20 Drink 2020 – 2030
2011 Grands Échézeaux (Average vine age 55, Average production – 1150 doz, Production in 2011 – 923 doz, Yield 25.3 hl/ha, Harvest dates 9th – 10th September). More exotically perfumed than Échézeaux with more texture and silkiness, too. The tannins are firm and they mark this as a wine with more ageing potential than the first two. Not a rich G-E, this is still a layered and supple wine and the latent power is admirable. 18+/20 Drink 2022 – 2032
2011 Romanée-St-Vivant (Average vine age 37, Average production – 1500 doz, Production in 2011 – 1164 doz, Yield 24.7 hl/ha, Harvest dates 8th – 9th September) More dense and backward, this is a masculine RSV with tannin and spice evident. There are faint twig, bonfire and cigar notes throughout and the fruit it bramble-y and briary as opposed to more fruit-driven. 17.5+/20 Drink 2022 – 2040
2011 Richebourg (Average vine age 45, Average production – 1000 doz, Production in 2011 – 931 doz, Yield 28.4 hl/ha, Harvest dates 7th – 8th September) More harmonious and with more amplitude on the mid-palate, this is a red-fruit-soaked wine with classic hallmarks of the 2011 vintage. It will develop slowly and surely and result in a fascinatingly perfumed wine with a long, sleek, beautifully-weighted palate. 18++/20 Drink 2025 – 2040
2011 La Tâche (Average vine age 50, Average production – 1870 doz, Production in 2011 – 1516 doz, Yield 27.5 hl/ha, Harvest dates 5th – 6th September) With more flavour density and more depth of darker cherry and cassis fruit this is a stunning wine and it stands above the others in terms of succulence. There are some Turkish Delight notes and the finish is stunningly clean and very long. 18.5++/20 Drink 2025 – 2040
2011 Romanée-Conti (Average vine age 56, Average production – 450 doz, Production in 2011 – 473 doz, Yield 26.8 hl/ha, Harvest date 6th September) Tough and blunt with oak showing through and overt power marshalling the reluctant fruit this is a wine with meaty tannins and they swarm the palate. Any exoticism is tempered and the chypre-style savoury notes abound. Enthralling and somewhat masochistic, this will be a conundrum of a Romanée-Conti and it will no doubt confound all who taste it until one day, sometime in the future, when it will inevitably blossom. 18.5++/20 Drink 2030 – 2045
2011 Le Montrachet (Average vine age 65, Average production – 250 doz, Production in 2011 – 265 doz, Yield 37.1 hl/ha, Harvest date 6th September) Aubert de Villaine noted that this vintage was the ‘perfect balance between honey and minerality’. I think that this is a fairly exotic wine with a lot of mid-palate weight and not quite as much acidity or tension to balance the whole. It will drink relatively early in the scheme of things and I like the exuberance and juiciness very much indeed. 18.5/20 Drink 2020 – 2030
Author’s Note – the statistics mentioned for each wine are taken directly from the Corney & Barrow literature. There are a few obvious anomalies, which I have asked about over the years, but no corrections have been proffered.
My Scores – I have noted my scores out of 20 for all of these wines. If a score has no ‘+’, this indicates a wine that is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm. One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance with the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.