Essays in Chardonnay: J. F. Coche-Dury & Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
“All too often, white wines are relegated to second-tier status, a sort of warm up for the reds that inevitably follow during most meals. I have long believed that white wines deserve a little more respect than that. Over the years, many of the most riveting experiences I have had have been with aged white wines. …
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet
“Domaine de la Romanée-Conti owns three parcels in the Le Montrachet lieu-dit in Chassagne-Montrachet. The total surface area of the domaine’s holdings here is just 0.68 hectares, making Montrachet the smallest, and in many ways, hardest to find, wine in the collection of eight grand crus. By comparison, DRC’s holdings in the celebrated La Tâche and Romanée-Conti monopoles are just above 6 hectares and 1.80 hectares respectively.
“The domaine’s largest parcel in Le Montrachet, purchased in 1963, sits on the border with Puligny-Montrachet and runs the entire slope of the vineyard, from top to bottom. Two smaller, contiguous parcels were purchased in 1965 and 1980 and are more centrally located, starting on the road that separates Le Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet and moving from east to west along the natural contour of the slope. The domaine’s oldest vines date back to 1936, while the average age of the plants is around 50 years.
“DRC’s Montrachet is distinguished by its textural richness and intensity, qualities that are especially pronounced in years where there is some botrytis. In other vintages, such as 1996, 2004 or 2010, the Montrachet can be much more mineral-driven and pointed. In all cases, Montrachet is a wine that communicates the personality of the vintage with an unmistakable sense of immediacy. For more information on DRC’s Montrachet, readers might like to revisit this recent vertical tasting.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet: 1985-2009
“The 1985 Montrachet comes across fully mature. Game, smoke, wild flowers, tobacco and dried orchard fruit all add to an impression of a wine that is now past peak. Resolved yet attractive, the 1993 Montrachet has held up well for a wine of its age. If anything, the wine’s power and overall intensity are both pretty remarkable for a wine of its age. Scents of dried pear, roasted nuts and smoke add nuance throughout. Although the 1993 has held up well, any remaining bottles need to be drunk.
“Always an intriguing wine, the 1995 Montrachet shows all of its typically exotic, buttery notes, with plenty of candied citrus, hazelnut, honey and spice notes. The 1995 is one of the more flamboyant, opulent Montrachets of the 1990s at DRC, although this is not an especially fine example. One of the many highlights of the evening, the 1996 Montrachet is simply magical. Dazzling in its purity and intensity, the 1996 is endowed with crystalline energy and tension, not to mention exceptional overall balance. The 1996 is a decidedly mineral-driven Montrachet, with tons of citrus, white orchard fruit and floral notes, all buffered by bristling acidity and serious extract. Still very, very young, the 1996 will drink well for another 10-15 years. This is an extraordinary wine by any measure.
“Finesse and power come together in Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s 2001 Montrachet. Opulent, dense and wonderfully expressive, the 2001 is the kind of wine that can hold a taster’s attention for many hours. With time in the glass, the contours soften and the wine becomes even more voluptuous, but without ever veering into the realm of the tropical. This is a superb bottle. The 2006 Montrachet is an intense, phenolic wine endowed with remarkable power, structure and depth. Today, it is a bit monolithic, especially when compared with some of the vintages that follow it, most notable 2007, 2008 and 2009. With some coaxing, darker tonalities of orchard fruit, sage, chamomile and mint emerge, but the 2006 is a wine that still needs time. Even so, I don’t see the charm and arresting beauty of the very best years. Readers opening the 2006 should plan on giving it quite a bit of air.
“The 2007 Montrachet, on the other hand, is super-expressive. Silky, perfumed and unctuous, yet also incredibly well balanced, the 2007 is utterly captivating. Scents of orange peel, smoke and pastry add nuance, but it is the wine’s cashmere-like feel that elevates it to the level of the truly sublime. One of the real standouts in this tasting DRC’s 2008 Montrachet is utterly captivating from the very first taste. Exotic and flamboyant to the core, with notable botrytis influence, the 2008 represents the essence of hedonism in white wine. Tropical fruit, butter, smoke, pastry, honey and wild flowers infuse the oily, viscous finish. The 2008 has long been a favorite. Tonight it is once again fabulous.
“The 2009 Montrachet is equally compelling. Deep, unctuous and layered, the 2009 possesses exceptional balance and overall harmony. Orange jam, spice, wild flowers mint and apricots continue to blossom as the wine opens up in the glass. Despite the warm vintage, the 2009 is not as unabashedly opulent as vintages like 1995 or 2008, where botrytis adds sweetness, oiliness and texture. Instead, the 2009 is a wine from a radiant, warm vintage. That is exactly what comes through here. With each successive tasting, the 2009 continues to become more and more expressive.”