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“As if, in this square of earth, the gods had bequeathed us a memory of the fascinating vestige of a timeless perfection.” — Richard Olney. The wine of Prince de Conti, she is velvet, seduction and mystery. It is the most Proustian of all great wines.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is without question the most famous estate in Burgundy and arguably the greatest, producing some of the best wines in the world. It is probably one of the most traditional wineries in France. Wines are produced in small quantities while the demand is huge. The domaine has 25 hectares of vineyards, all Grand Crus, including the jewel in the crown, the 1.8 hectare monopole of Romanée Conti.
Romanée-Conti, a vineyard of four and a half acres,was originally the property of the Abbey of St. Vivant. In 1760 Prince Conti acquired it against the competition of a famous collector of jewellery, Madame de Pompadour – the king’s minister against the king’s mistress. He withdrew it from the market and reserved it for his own dazzling social events. It was he who created the myth surrounding Romanée-Conti.
The price of this tiny, treasured vineyard was 80.000 livres, which in those days was worth a small kingdom. Reclaimed as property of the nation during the Revolution, the vineyard passed through the hands of several proprietors to an ancestor of the present owner for 14.000 gold pounds in 1868.
–We are the keeper of a certain philosophy of wine and, mainly, we are concerned by the perfection in details" assures Aubert de Villaine.
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.
A vigneron's challenge again !
At the time of this writing, the vineyards, relieved of their fruit, have begun to change colour. The soft October sun is caressing the red and gold hills. The villages are quiet again after the hubbub of the harvest. The streets are filled with generous fragrances coming from the wineries where fermentations are proceeding. The birth of this new vintage is a real pleasure to the senses !
The climatic conditions in 2006 were a little crazy and at first such a great source of anguish before restoring, against all expectations, our optimism and confidence, that they would deserve to be described in detail.
In brief, what did we see ?
- a long totally unusual heat-wave in July which had the effect of stopping the vegetative cycle of some vines, even though most of them showed their amazing ability to stand the stress.
- the coolest and rainiest August since 1986, favourable to botrytis that set in very early.
- in this strange scenario, what was the behaviour of the vineyards ?
In fact, after those extremes of heat, cold and humidity that succeeded one another in a scattered upside down order, a decisive factor appeared that brought the vintage towards a happy end : hot weather, without any rain at all, that from September 1st lasted for the whole month, except for a short stormy episode on September 23rd and 24th. These ideal conditions permitted the vineyards to efficiently use the water retained in the soil thanks to the rains of August and therefore to accelerate in a totally outstanding manner the ripening of the grapes. In September the sugar levels increased sometimes by almost 2 degrees in one week, especially during the third week.
Finally, the grapes that we picked were as ripe as in 2005. Of course the botrytis that had set in with the rains of August, but had stopped developing when the fine weather had returned, was still present. Lying in wait, it reappeared during the harvest on the bad stormy day of Sunday September 24th. Luckily, it was too late and the episode was too short, to cause real damage.
The year was therefore difficult, but it gave the vigneron the opportunity to make great wines, as long as he had used the right means to harvest ripe grapes before the botrytis did too much harm. First, the control of the yield was essential. The fine "Pinot Noir fin" which bears small clusters with small berries showed how its predominant presence is important in our vineyards, even though it was also necessary to thin the young vines at the time of the "veraison". In such climatic conditions, only low yields could first allow the vines to fight the heat and later the attacks of botrytis, then to obtain the precocious maturity that was necessary to enable us to harvest before the rain came back.
The "philosophy" of the harvest itself was a major factor in the quality of the grapes we brought in. An ultra-meticulous sorting was crucial in order to eliminate the botrytis. Our experienced team of pickers did a great job. Day after day, the work was done to perfection. In the vineyards, Gérard Marlot, our vineyard manager, who is about to retire, and his successor, Nicolas Jacob, admirably managed to maintain the vigilance of the pickers. Then in the winery, Bernard Noblet's team performed once again « haute couture » selection on the sorting table and put the finishing touches to the pickers' work.
In summary, the conditions were admittedly difficult, but excellent at the end of the growing season, which gave us the possibility to bring in ripe sugar-rich grapes.
We ourselves feel as though we adjusted everything as correctly as it was possible to do. First, regarding the date of the harvest - it was necessary to wait until the grapes were fully ripe, but to bear in mind that the rot was spreading. Then the yields had to be quite low and it was essential to have a final selection by the sorting of the grapes.
We harvested in the following order :
Richebourg ....................... 20th and 21st September
La Tâche .......................... 21st, 22nd and 23rd September
Romanée-Conti ................ 22nd September (morning)
Romanée-St-Vivant ......... 23rd and 27th September
Grands-Echezeaux ........... 25th September
Echezeaux ....................... 25th and 27th September
The Montrachet was harvested on the sunny morning of September 26th. The low yields and the amazing ripeness of the Chardonnay grapes, gold and juicy, full of sugar and slightly "botrytised" - just what is needed - should give a great 2006 Montrachet.
The yields of the red wines do not exceed 28hl/ha.
The beginning of the fermentations were rapid and spontaneous, the vinifications proceeded without any difficulty. The vatting lasted as usual, around 18 days.
It is too early to give a definitive opinion about the quality or to make comparisons with other vintages, but the first wines seem to come up to our expectations : the beautiful deep colours, the generous fragrances and the silky texture in the mouth promise wines with great finesse.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|10 621€ +7.4%||9 889€ +2.3%||9 667€ +21.7%||7 945€ -9.4%||8 767€ +64.4%||5 334€|