Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Grand Cru Red 750 ml
Tasted: Jan 30, 2010
Note: 55+ year old vines
Producer note: Co-director Aubert de Villaine was away on a trip to the Far East during my visit though I discussed his view of the vintage during my 2008 trip, the impressions from which are included below. For the tastings and other details, I met instead with cellar master Bernard Noblet. M. de Villaine described the 2008 growing season as one where the "vegetative cycle started much later than in 2007 as April was both cooler and wetter. The weekend of Rameaux the wind came from the west, which told us that it was going to be a difficult year. [Rameaux is the Sunday before Easter (Palm Sunday) which celebrates Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. There is an old Burgundian saying that the direction of the wind, called the vent de Rameaux, will be the dominant wind of the vintage.] The silver lining in this however was that the poor weather created a high proportion of shot berries, which added a lot of concentration to the musts. The floraison was late compared with other recent vintages and was spread over almost three weeks, which typically, and unfortunately, means that the ripening of the berries would be heterogeneous. The prediction of the vent de Rameaux came true as the wind brought rain storm after rain storm from the west during the months of June, July and August. This of course put heavy pressure on our vineyard team to be out treating, leaf pulling and keeping the bunches well aerated. It was such a delicate balancing act that any missteps would have had severe consequences for the quality of the fruit, particularly from botrytis. By the beginning of September, we were becoming increasingly anxious. Mercifully, the rain stopped completely on the 13th of September and the next day the west wind was replaced by the north wind. The beneficial effects of this steady cool and dry wind served to dry out the vineyards, stopped the botrytis and evaporated excess water from the grapes all while accelerating the maturities. We began picking on the 27th in La Tâche because the vines had come to the end of their vegetative cycle and there was no more photosynthesis occurring. We finished with Echézeaux on the 6th of October. Sorting was seriously important, so much so that we threw out between 30 and 40% of the crop. What we kept though was perfectly ripe and had everything necessary to create wines that will age for years. Yields though were very low, even for us at between 15 and 19 hl/ha. Sugars ranged between 12.5 and 12.8% and we destemmed between 30 and 40% of the fruit. Because the weather was so cool at harvest time, so were the grapes when we deposited them into the fermenters and thus there was a natural cool maceration of 9 to 10 days. The extraction did not come easily so we let the grapes macerate tranquilly to accomplish the extraction by themselves. The total cuvaison lasted from 18 to 20 days, depending on the wine." Bernard Noblet added that at this early stage the '08s reminded him of the 1998s.
Tasting note: A more densely fruited nose that is intensely floral in character and notably more complex as well intermingles with more subtle spice and earth notes as well as notes of game, jerky and tea, most of which are picked up by the fresh, intense, powerful and moderately well muscled big-bodied flavors that possess an attractive mouth feel and solid finishing depth. This possesses ample dry extract that renders the firm tannins almost invisible at present but I suspect the buffering effect will not last long before this shuts down. This is an understated effort that isn't especially dense or powerful, at least not by the usual superb standards of this wine, but the balance is nigh-on perfect.