Domaine de la Romanée-Conti or simply “DRC” is without doubt the most famous domaine in Burgundy and one of the most famous producers on earth. The Grand Cru vineyard from which it takes its name produces the world’s most expensive wine by a long margin.
So important is this producer that it is the only domaine allowed by law to be named after a specific vineyard and, according to Neal Martin, “their wines are so rare sought after and let us be frank so prohibitively expensive; that mere utterance is as close as most people get… Their raison d’être is to offer pleasure, these are bottles surfeit with enjoyment, surfeit with profundity.”
The wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are the jewel in the crown of any collection – testament to the demand and rarity of these wines.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti can trace its history back many centuries. The dukes of Burgundy donated a 1.8-hectare plot to the Abbey of Saint-Vivant. This was later sold to the Croonembourg family who renamed it Romanée. They also purchased the vineyard next door: La Tâche. These two great vineyards were sold once again with Romanée falling to Prince de Conti, hence becoming better known as Romanée-Conti. After several more changes of hands during its history, the domaine ended up under the ownership of Aubert de Villaine (son of Henri who had co-owned it with Henri Leroy, the father of Lalou Bize-Leroy, the driving force behind Leroy) in 1953. He was a judge at the Judgement of Paris tasting and he and his wife Pamela also run A&P Villaine in Bouzeron, producing excellent Aligoté.
The domaine now holds a cluster of vineyards that are second to none. DRC or, as it is simply referred to by some as “the domaine” is the largest proprietor of Grand Cru vineyards in Vosne-Romanée. On top of the monopole vineyards of La Tâche and Romanée-Conti, the domaine owns more than half of Romanée-Saint-Vivant, a third of Grands-Echézeaux and half of Richebourg. It also has holdings in Corton, Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet, and in great vintages, they also produce the Premier Cru Vosne-Romanée Cuvée Duvualt Blochet from young Pinot Noir vines sourced from various vineyards. The domaine’s Grand Cru Le Montrachet is one of the rarest and finest white wines produced. The Batard-Montrachet is not released commercially.
The old vines (nearing 50 years old on average) are farmed organically and biodynamically, yields are kept low by aggressive pruning (it is suggested that it takes three vines to produce one bottle), and harvesting is typically very late. Intervention in the winery is minimal, ie natural yeasts, new oak, no filtering, no destemming, etc.
These wines regularly receive perfect scores – from those blessed enough to taste them. In the words of Neal Martin the results are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with “finesse, balance, poise and refinement like no other wine I can think of. Quite simply they have an unerring ability to maintain the freshness and poise over decades.” He concludes that if you are lucky enough to try one then “you may be in for an unforgettable experience”.