The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

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Page 24 of 108

24 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2018 { steven spurrier's letter from london } WHEREAS MOST U.K. importers and merchants showed their 2016 Burgundies to the trade and press over the course of a hectic few days in mid-January, Cor - ney & Barrow held its Domaine De La Romanée-Conti (DRC) tasting two weeks later, showcasing the winery's previous vintage per fitting tradition. Co-Owner/Co-Director Aubert de Villaine was of course present. He was quoted in the tasting booklet as saying that "there is no such thing as great or poor vintages but rather easy and difficult ones. 2015 was easy. The summer was hot and dry, which gave generous fruit and ripe tannins, cooling off just before harvest to preserve levels of juicy acidity which underpin the wine." To the assembled tast - ers, he added, "Unfortunately, I can't recall exactly when I started working at the Do- maine—whether it was 1965 or 1966— but what I am sure of is that 2015 is the most remarkable [vintage] of my career. It was such an incredible year. The vineyards were so beautiful from start to finish." The prices are very high indeed, but it must be remembered that they are even higher on the secondary market and at auction. These wines' status as true works of art is thanks to the complete com - mitment of DRC's two owning families, the de Villaines and the Leroys, as well as the uniqueness of the terroir (the latter was recognized all those years ago by the Prince de Conti, who outbid the King's mistress to acquire the domaine). Henri Leroy, father of Lalou Bize-Leroy, became a 50-percent owner in Romanée-Conti in 1945 because the estate desperately needed money after the war ; the Leroy and de Villaine families kept it afloat during the 1950s and the 1960s, gaining financial security only in the 1970s. The UNESCO decision to classify the vineyards of the Côte d'Or was due largely to the relent - less effort of de Villaine, who has devoted his life to Burgundy. I have noted the average age of the vines, harvest date, yield per hectare, number of cases produced, and price per bottle of the DRC's 2015 vintage. Considering these statistics and comments like de Villaines' quote above, my tasting notes might be superfluous, but here they are on a 20-point scale: Corton Prince Florent de Merode (45/September 5/22.30hl/382/$460) The exception to the rule of whole-bunch fermentation. Deep ruby color and a fine Corton nose, with more elegance than expected. Natural richness and breadth on the palate, with a warm autumnal finish. A very fine wine. 2024–35. 18 Échézaux (35/September 12 and 14/25.70hl/1147/$613) Very deep color. Lovely, rich, and slightly-spicy nose; quite forward; lush, velvety texture on the pal - ate, but firm, pure tannins with excellent depth and structure (Brett-Smith observes a "clenched grandeur"). 2022–35. 18 Grands Échézaux (55/September 11 and 12/30.42hl/1056/$919) Superb deep-ruby color. Immediate richness on the nose reflects the contribution of older vines and continues onto the palate, which shows tremendous structure, depth, and great purity of fruit. What a pity it would be to open this too early, as it will explode with energy later. 2024–40. 18.5 Romanée-St-Vivant (37/September 9–11/26.26hl /1398/$1,504) With a fine, deep color, this was the first wine in the tasting to show florality on its beautiful, almost feminine nose. Beautiful texture and great precision. It still seems a bit "shut in," but terrific structure allows its elegance to come through. 2025–40. 18.75 Richebourg (45/September 8–9/24.34hl/849/$1,421) Not the deepest color. Still a little reserved, as is the natural richness, while the tannins are quite pres - ent. But the nose is wonderfully spicy and the power is there to ensure this mag- nificent wine really does need to be kept. 2026–45. 18.75 La Tâche (50/September 7–8/25.55hl/1387/$1,671) Lovely, deep color ; simply marvelous nose. With pure velvety class, it's too "intelligent" to be lush. Its spice, black-fruit flavors, and endless length fill the senses as its deceptively smooth, natural richness hides the tannins. A truly great wine. 2025–45. 19 Romanée-Conti (56/September 10/22.65hl /403/$4,889) Fine color, though less deep (as usual) than that of the La Tâche. The floral bouquet evokes both the Romanée-St-Vivant and La Tâche, but the structure is evidently greater. Virtual per - fection on the palate—lissome but firm, naturally and almost effortlessly expressed, multifaceted and superbly crafted. A jewel of a wine. 2025–50. 20 DRC's U.S. importer is Wilson Daniels. There's No Such Thing as a Great or Poor Vintage TASTING THE 2015 VINTAGE OF DOMAINE DE LA ROMANÉE-CONTI

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