Tasting The Luxurious Wines of Domaine de la Romanee Conti From The Classical 2017 Vintage…

It’s a real anomaly that Domaine de la Romanee Conti releases its new vintage allocations one year after most of burgundy’s producers. So while we finish off the small but swift Burgundy En-primeur 2019 campaign, DRC are only about to release their “in bottle” 2018 vintage wines. But in South Africa, the official DRC agent Great Domaines operates yet another year behind with the 2017 vintage allocations only now going out to a handful of very lucky consumers.

But it was this fact that reminded me that the DRC tasting in London was one I did manage to attend before the UK went into lockdown in late March 2020. So time to post my notes on these rarified wines which are some of the most sought after hedonistic Pinot Noir cuvees known to man.

2017 was the first truly generous vintage for the domaine since 2009 yielding wines packed with generosity, energy, refinement and utter charm that expressed a more classical interpretation of intricate structure, power, intensity and length.

The grandes Dame of the UK wine trade Jancis Robinson MW melting in the presence of “the Pope”…

The vintage was marked by three significant events, namely a threatening frost between the 27th and 29th April, the second a wonderfully early and fast flowering over three days at the end of May, and lastly, a final notable event being the retirement, after 39 years, of Maitre de Chai Bernard Noblet. In the end, when the final bottling was completed in the Spring of 2019, another exceptional vintage had been completed at the world’s most famous wine estate.

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Corton Grand Cru 2017

A fabulously bright and inviting nose greets you with lifted perfumed offerings of crushed red cherry, strawberry compote, violets and earthy red plum. The palate is vibrant and fresh with more classicism, tension and restraint than seen from more riper recent vintages like 2015 and 2016. All the hallmark harmonious balance is on display with a fine mineral under vein, powdery tannins and a fine focused finish of moderate length.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux Grand Cru 2017

The Echezeaux displays a strikingly darker fruited nose than the Corton with complex black berry notes, earthy black currant, dark orchard fruits together with alluring notes of sappy wood spice and pink musk. The entry is pure and focused with a crystalline purity of red cherries moving to a mid palate of red and black bramble berries and wild strawberry before becoming slightly more reticent again on the stony, mineral finish. Again, a wine that speaks of the vintage through its elegance and classicism.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux Grands Cru 2017

This is a serious offering with perhaps less lift, overt opulence and sex appeal but hides a finely tuned V8 engine under the fine structured curves of its bodywork. There is ample fragrant dark black berry fruits, black bramble berries and a sweet wood spice underpinned by sweet plump chalky tannins, full glycerol concentrated weight and an impressively balanced fruit – acid balance. What this wine may miss now in immediacy and showiness, it more than makes up for with structural precision, classical power and an intense, harmonious long finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 2017

The aromatics of this expression show the intense stony dusty minerality of Burgundian terroir with notes of graphite and sappy spice lending further interest. The red cranberry and red cherry fruits are subtle and restrained in a way that classical Burg hounds would find highly appealing and reassuring in this age of global warming and ripe, showy vintages. There is nevertheless plenty of concentration, depth and broody structured power that should reveal all in years to come.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2017

The RSV offers up a harmonious, complex melange of fine limestone dust, wood smoke, wet stones together with hints of cherry pip, forest strawberries and dark broody black orchard fruit notes. The palate is seductive and pure with crystalline red fruit notes, sleek polished marble tannins and a mouthwatering acid freshness. This has the perfect balance of power, minerality and fruit purity.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache Grand Cru 2017

Sweet, earthy red fruits, red bramble berry and sweet strawberry notes, with chalk spice, piquant minerality, wet stones and sappy chalk duster nuances. Palate is foursquare and fleshy with palate weight, breadth and expansive complexity of red musk, pink and purple rock candy and a silky, sensual, long persistent finish. Utterly sublime and probably wine of the vintage?

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee Conti Grand Cru 2017

Deep dark and broody full of black bramble berry fruits, violets and cassis, salinity and sapidity. Crystalline and glassy with tension, taut tight fisted reticence and finely formed chalky mineral tannins. Broody, restrained and cloaked in mystery, there is subliminal power and depth, textural feel and potency that will come to the fore with time in bottle. One for the classical Burg lovers with deep pockets.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Most Important Burgundy Releases from the 2015 Vintage ~ Tasting the Wines of Domaine de la Romanee Conti with Aubert de Villaine…

“We see this sort of vintage 2 or 3 times a century. Very Special.” Aubert de Villaine, Domaine de la Romanee Conti

When you hear words like that spoken by one of the most iconic grandee figureheads of Burgundy, it’s enough to make your heart race and your blood pump wildly. Tasting any cuvée from any vintage of Domaine de la Romanee Conti is a very special privilege, but to taste the iconic block buster vintages, well, those are moments that make working in the wine trade so very special and memorable.

In the words of Aubert, “there is no such thing as a great or poor vintage, but rather only easy or difficult ones.” With those few simple words, you immediately understand the quality philosophy and commitment that goes into making the greatest expressions of Pinot Noir in the world. Having personally tasted every new release DRC vintage since 2004, I can confirm that the excitement and anticipation never recedes, but to the contrary, grows more and more vivid and intense with every additional vintage experienced.

With Aubert de Villaine at the release tasting.

The 2015 Growing Season

The winter of 2014/15 had been mild apart from a usefully cold spike in mid February which reached -6c, and with heavy rains for the water table that were to prove useful for the dryness that was to come later in the season. Spring was likewise warm and dry apart from two storms on May 1st and June 15th. July offered just 14mm of rain with a heat wave between the 2nd and the 8th, with night time temperatures reaching 30c.

The vineyards enjoyed this hot dry weather remaining perfectly green with no signs of stress and ripened quietly. The second half of August was fabulously hot and dry again with harvesting beginning in the white Montrachet vineyard on the 4th September and in the red Corton vineyards on the 5th September. The berries were small, fabulously ripe, thick skinned and with high intense sugars.

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Corton Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

Wonderfully bright and lifted, this shows plenty of verve and energy. The fruits are dark, intense, very elegant and accessible. Layers of stony black plums, cranberry, strawberry pips and wild forest berries. The lovely mineral graphite hint is very pronounced at this youthful stage. The palate is full of silky stuffing, deep and dense with sweet spicy sappy fruit, wood spice and a pithy strawberry and cherry pip finish. The fruit envelops the acidity and tannins and emerges as a seamless, beautifully harmonious, concentrated mouthful. Drink from 2020 to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Echezeaux Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

The Echezeaux is decidedly more expressive on the nose than the Corton, with that extra bit of lift, power and fragrant perfume. Lovely notes of violets, cherry blossom, red liquorice and sweet pink musk mix with subtle hints of rock candy and powdered bon bons. The palate shows beautiful intensity of fruit, concentration and depth but is held in check by a defined seam of salinity and sea shore exoticism. Tannins are textured, finely polished and spicy, helping to carry the long, seductive finish. Drink from 2022 to 2035+

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

The Grands Echezeaux is decidedly deeper and denser and more grande than the Echezeaux, showing more gravitas and depth of fruit. The nose is brimming full of creamy fraises des bois, bramble berries and red cherry coulis. Such wonderful purity, focus and precision backed by power and intensity. The powerful aromatics follow to the palate that shows impressive concentration, plush opulent breadth and a mouth coating deliciousness. This is going to be one of the great expressions from this terroir in years to come. Truly exceptional. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

Usually tasted after Richebourg, in 2015 Aubert de Villaine reversed the order to follow the Grands Echezeaux. The aromatics are fine and ethereal with a chorus of delicate whispering. The nose shows subtle violet perfume, dusty spicy red fruit lift, raspberry coulis, fresh leafy cranberry, red cherry confit and pink bon bons punctuated by a constant seam of chalky minerality. The palate mimics the aromatics, with pretty, animated red fruits, sweet bruised red cherries, red cranberry, and distinguished finesse and flare. Belying the attractive fruit elegance and intensity, are the most compact, dense, balanced silk textured tannins that suggest this wine will have a very long and rewarding future. Very pretty indeed.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

Aubert described 2015 as a vintage tailor made for the Richebourg style. The wine is certainly stand apart from the previous cuvées tasted, with incredibly bold and opulent aromatics bursting with sweet strawberry confit, cherry candy, toffee apples, bruised black plums and a sprinkling of crushed peppercorns and chalk dust. The palate sings a bold joyous tune of opulence, generosity, flamboyance and hedonistic pleasure. Such breath, depth and mouth watering deliciousness, this wine is so relaxed and at ease with its greatness. An eye wateringly fine example of Richebourg. Possibly one of the best in the past two decades. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de La Romanee Conti La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 2015, Burgundy

As different as the Richebourg was, this La Tache is altogether more deep, dark and mysterious, showing plenty of grandeur and elegance, but with reserve and noblesse that only breeding can bring. The aromatics show layers of broody dark fruits, saline cassis, blueberry, black cherry and black bramble berries touched with a lick of salty liquorice and polished mahogany. The palate reveals an incredible intensity of fruit, a pinpoint acidity and harmonious, seamless powdery tannins. So complete, so noble ~ an incredibly grand vin. The finish is powerful and layered with a length that knows no bounds. What this wine lacks in flamboyance, it more than makes up for with restrained grandeur, structure and effortless structural precision. Drink from 2024 to 2040+. A breathtaking wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Romanee Conti Grand Cru Monopole 2015, Burgundy

One of the lightest and most crystalline of the wines in colour, what this wine lacks in visual depth, it more than makes up for with its ethereal fragrant beauty. The aromatics are less of a compilation of greatest hits but more of a melodious chorus bellowed by angels on church spires. Smoked herbs, pot pourri, cherry skins, violets, jasmine blossom, crushed limestone, sappy peppery cranberry and subtle graphite spice notes make for an effusive nose. Blink and you will miss the ever changing notes unfurling in the glass. The palate perhaps remains truest to its terroir and combines the concentration of the vintage with the intense liquid minerality of the vineyard site, with its sappy, spicy black berry weightlessness of Pinot Noir at its mercurial finest. A true symphony of greatness. Always a pleasure to taste. Drink from 2025 to 2045+.

(Wine Safari Score: 99+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)