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Parker 97 points: The 2009 Romanee St.Vivant is wonderfully complete. The combination of power and elegance is breathtaking as layers of fruit flow across the palate in stunning style. Hard candy, flowers, mint and dark red berries build to the dramatic, explosive finish. In 2009 the Romanee St. Vivant is a wine of considerable volume and textural depth, but it will require a good many years for those qualities to come through fully. Anticipated maturity: 2024-2049.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’s 2009s have turned out just asbrilliantly as I had hoped. The wines reflect the signature qualities of the year, but never lose their essential classicism. Long-time DRC fans know the domaine bottles in six-barrel lots, which naturally introduces a level of bottle variation that is not found in most other wines. I hope the massive amount of information that has recently come to light regarding counterfeit wines and their proliferation might be the catalyst for the domaine to consider bottling their wines in one homogenous lot, as is common for the vast majority of high-quality wines throughout the world. Once the domaine’s wines mature in 20-30 years it will be impossible to tell the difference between ‘normal’ bottle variation, poorly stored bottles and very good fakes. Certainly consumers who are willing and able to pay the prices these wines fetch are at the very least deserving of a consistent product.
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.
In exceptionally sunny years, it often happens that the sun accompanies the grapes, which it took so much care to ripen, from the end of vattings to the birth of the wine. This is what happened this year - a year ending with a « 9 » which once more associates this figure with the star of life.
The Indian summer set in at the end of the harvest and the glorious vineyards, relieved of their fruit, are changing colours every day, becoming more and more golden-yellow, as if the nostalgia for summer days was expressing itself through the gold that covers the leaves before they fall off and provide nourishment to the soil.
The wineries are buzzing with activity in the village streets that stretch out in the sun and the winegrowers have a smile on their faces while they smell the fragrances coming from their wineries and reminding them all the time what a blessing from gods it is to have a great vintage in Burgundy.
Not that everything was easy - on the contrary. In the winegrower's annual fight with irregular and unpredictable weather, whose whims, he knows, are necessary for making great wines, victory often takes shape very late. It was the case in 2008 as it was not until mid-September that the « window » of beautiful weather opened and permitted the vintage to be successful.
At other times, rarer, as in 1999, 2005 or in this year 2009, victory is won as early as the beginning of August. But we were then so busy protecting the vineyards against the violent attacks of oidium, of mildew especially and even of botrytis from the spring until the end of July, that we did not notice it.
After an early budburst as has often been the case in recent years, those diseases were favoured during the months of April, May, June and even July by regular stormy rains that gave no respite to the winegrower. Even though the sun kept on activating the metabolism of the vineyards, the heat brought storms almost every week. Fortunately these were not too violent - except where there was hail, in Gevrey-Chambertin for instance - but obliged us to repeat our biological treatments each time.
On the other hand, it was precisely thanks to the spring rains that the vineyards could reserve enough water to get through, without suffering, the drought period that we experienced in August - with the exception of a storm on the 13th - until the harvest. This hydric balance permitted the leaves to fully function in their role of sugar producers and the grapes could completely ripen.
Thanks to their experience of selective picking, our harvest team totally respected the natural near-perfection of the grapes. Moreover, we left aside for a second passage the vines that were overloaded or the young ones that were not fine enough.
As a result, the grapes that passed by on the sorting table are among the most beautiful we have ever seen. As in 1999 or 2005, there were a lot of small clusters, many millerandage berries, and as a sign of the great years, the old vines, not very productive in general, yielded this year a generous harvest of small berries, sumptuous examples of the finest Pinot Noir.
We also observed a phenomenon typical of great years: the grapes that were most exposed to the sun had roasted and contained nearly concentrated sugar that was released at the end of the fermentation. As a result of this occurrence, the wine experienced a truly natural and progressive sugar enrichment that resulted in higher degrees than those we noted at the beginning of fermentation.
As regards quantity, it is satisfactory too: due to the beautiful bunch setting, which was the same for all the fruits this year, and the generous flowering, the size of the harvest can be compared with 1999 or 2005.
The vines were harvested in the following order:
On September 10th: the Cortons where maturity was well in advance of Vosne-Romanée
On September 13th: the Richebourg
On September 14th: the Romanée-Conti
On September 14th and 15th: the La Tâche (the grapes of the young eight-year-old vineyards were so fine that we decided to include them in the great cuvée)
On September 15th and 16th: the Romanée-St-Vivant
On September 17 and 18th: the Grands-Echezeaux
On September 18th and 19th: the Echezeaux
Montrachet: the maturity of the Pinots and Chardonnays evolved strangely and unusually over the year. The Chardonnays were late to flower, at least one week behind the Pinots. But their reaction was so active in the last hot weeks that the difference in maturity noticed all through the growing season had almost disappeared by harvest time.
The Montrachet was harvested on September 15th, before we completed the harvest of the reds. The fruit is so beautiful, golden-coloured, ultra ripe, in a word sumptuous and beyond description that we have great hopes that it will be one of our most exceptional Montrachet.
At the time of this writing, on October 7th, fermentations are slow, regular and reach high temperatures naturally. The quality of the grapes and the richness of the "material" enable us to look for long vattings. Colours are red-garnet, almost black. It is a vintage of high lineage, at the level of the wonderful grapes that we harvested, that seems to be at birth in the vats.