Parker 100 p / Tasted at the La Tâche vertical at The Square. Having not tasted the La Tâche 1999 since it had been bottled, I was intrigued to see how it was developing. Monumentally, is the correct answer. First and foremost this is a seriously long-term La Tâche that is maturing at a glacial pace. Indeed, I left most in my glass and waited for it to open. An hour later and it was firing on all cylinders. It is blessed with an incredibly intense, powerful nose that loses its broodiness with aeration and eventually unveils a crystalline set of mineral-soaked aromatics that sport a decadent, almost exotic floral note–wilted violets and potpourri. The palate has a quite astonishing structure, but it is more the symmetry that makes this one of the greatest vintages of recent years. It unfolds with daring passion to reveal layers of plush but focused dark plum and cassis fruit that just seem to flow and flow on the never-ending finish. It is a multifaceted, multidimensional masterpiece that really needs another decade in bottle.
Romanée-Conti lies on brown limestone soils 60 cm deep with a major clay component. Romanée-Saint-Vivant has similar but deeper (90 cm) soils. Higher up, La Romanée occupies a markedly sloping site (12%) and the soil texture is less clayey. La Tâche and La Grande Rue share brown limestone soils, rather shallow at the top end with deeper rendzinas lower down. The same is true for the Richebourg, depending on slope and aspect. The underlying rock is hard Premeaux limestone dating from the Jurassic (175 million years BC).
Lying between Flagey-Échezeaux (home of the ÉCHEZEAUX appellation) and Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée occupies a middle position in the Côte de Nuits. The vines grow at altitudes of 250 to 310 metres and face east or, in some cases, slightly south of east. Vosne-Romanée, the central jewel in the necklace of appellations which is the burgundian côte, is not content with holding a mere four aces but boasts a total of six Grands Crus, each one famous the world over. A thousand years ago, it was the Cluniac monks of Saint-Vivant de Vergy and the Cistercians of Cîteaux who first realised the value of these very special plots of land.
One of these vineyards takes its name from Prince Conti who lost his heart to it in 1760. Romanée-Conti is one of the wonders ofthe world and has always been a singly-held entity. Next door to it, Romanée-Saint-Vivant recalls the medieval monastery of the Hautes-Côtes which is currently undergoing restoration and which is linked to it by its own path. La Romanée, La Tâche and La Grande Rue are also singly-held entities, as is Richebourg, whose mere name is enough to fill a glass.
These Grands Crus frequently give good results from long laying-down. As a general rule, they shouldn't be drunk under about ten years of age but sometimes they will be aged up to 20 or 30 years. Each appellation has its own distinct personality depending on its year of production and on the stage it has reached in its development. These flamboyant red wines fully express the subtlety and complexity of the Burgundian Pinot Noir grape. Their colour is a dark ruby turning crimson with age. Their wide-ranging bouquet is divided among small red and black fruits, violet, spices and, with time, underbrush. On the palate, this wine is well-defined with a powerful body. It is delicate, sensual, frank and full.
In addition to their powerful structure and exceptional longevity, these great wines develop tertiary aromas of truffle, underbrush, leather and fur. It goes without saying that strong-flavoured meats will do them justice : furred or feathered game, braised, in sauce, or simply grilled. Wild-fowl (eg Peking duck) or a nice cut of roast veal will be gently enveloped by the close-packed but elegant tannins of these mighty Pinot Noir wines.
Serving temperatures : 15 to 16 °C.
Words fail us when we try to describe the perfection of the grapes that were passing on our sorting table in 1999 ! We already saw superb grapes during the last decade, in 1990 or 1996 for instance, but this year, in our opinion, they surpass them all in finesse and maturity. We could see a lot of small grapes, of « millerandage », and, as a sign of the great years, the older vines, not very productive in general, yielded this year a generous harvest of extremely fine grapes, sumptuous examples of the finest Pinot Noir.
The story of a vintage is so full, so rich, that it is not easy to define the most important factors, those which decided the course of events.
Once again, the scenario was disconcerting : who would have thought in Spring with the rain falling every day and mildew threatening, with the grass growing in the vineyards without our being able to plough, that on September 20, that is to say very early in the season, we would harvest grapes that rank among the most beautiful of the century ? !
It was precisely thanks to the exceptionally rainy Spring that the vineyards could reserve enough water to get through, without suffering, the very hot and dry period we experienced in Burgundy between August 15 and September 20. This consecutive balance permitted the leaves to fully function in their role of sugar producers and the grapes could completely and harmoniously ripen. We observed this year the almost miraculous combination of high contents of sugars (very high degrees), good acidity (concentration in the berries) and perfectly healthy grapes. It is interes¬ting to underline that the combination of these three factors in the same harvest only occurs very rarely.
Another exceptional phenomenon : the grapes that were right in the sun had « roasted » and contained concentrated sugar which released during the fermentations only. All the vats had some sort of natural « sugaring», ending with higher degrees than those, already high, that we noted at the beginning of fermentation.
Moreover, although the grapes were in a totally perfect health, we had a very selective harvest, leaving aside for a second picking the vines that were overloaded or the young ones that were replanted recently.
Only one regret : the fine weather abandoned us after a few days of harvest and the rain disturbed the second part of it, but on the one hand the rain fell mostly in the night, which enabled us to harvest normally during the day, on the other hand they arrived too late to create an appreciable dilution.
As regards quantity, it is exceptional too : thanks to the beautiful bunch setting and the favourable conditions during the flowering, the production is about the same as in 1990 or 1996.
It is therefore a vintage of very high lineage that seems to prepare in vats. Fermentations are slow and reach high temperatures naturally, colours are garnet-red, nearly black, typical of great years. We shall know in a few days, after the wines are drawn, whether they are equal to the splendour of the grapes we harvested. If it is the case, it is by offering a great vintage that the vineyards will have greeted the end of the millennium.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|3 732€ +3.7%||3 599€ +11.9%||3 216€ -20.3%||4 034€ +9.4%||3 689€ +27.6%||2 890€ +220.0%||903€ +37.9%||655€|