In spite of the global popularity of Bordeaux, a wine from Burgundy has eclipsed the first growths for the second time in a row to top Sotheby’s rankings in 2014. Although wines from Bordeaux dominated the overall sales as usual, it was a lot of 114 wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, known as DRC, that hit the headlines with a record-breaking HK$12.5 million when it was sold in Hong Kong last year, which is equivalent to US$1.6 million.
For many of even the most avid wine collectors DRC will remain an elusive wine – Burgundy’s entire production is tiny compared to the phenomenal annual output of Bordeaux, and so it is no surprise that the wines of this legendary estate have achieved something of a legendary status. So, what’s so special about them?
Wines from Burgundy vary immensely, but the notion of terroir is more important in this region than anywhere else on earth. The land on which the grapes for DRC are grown is widely considered to offer optimal conditions for the production of transcendent wines. That means that every aspect of the soil, landscape and micro-climate of the vineyards contributes something to the quality of the wines, including the quality and drainage of the soil, the age of the vines and their proximity to each other, and even the way the wind moves between them.
And it doesn’t stop there, although once the grapes have been harvested, it is not so much a case of manipulating them in the winery, as absolutely minimising any interference. Natural yeasts are used, and extraction is minimal. As little as possible is done to interfere with what nature provides, and the flawless wines it continues to deliver.
The taste test
Jamie Goode recently tasted the 2012s – read his tasting notes here – and while he didn’t rate these as highly as previous vintages at this stage in their development, scores were high across the board. In any case, young red Burgundies provide a challenge for even the most experienced tasters as there are often few clues as to the wines they will eventually mature into.
To get your hands on some of the the sub-8000 cases of DRC produced annually, you will be subject to a high release price, but it is worth noting that producers are resolute that their wines should be enjoyed rather than endlessly traded on the second hand market. These are very special wines that fetch the highest prices – and will inevitably continue to do so even as Bordeaux wrangles with price wars and En Primeur campaigns. In other words, we’ll probably never fall out of love with DRC.