Wednesday Wines – Episode 155 – The 2020 Vintage Releases from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

2020 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

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 wines 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 

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.