U ndisputedly prestigious and highly coveted, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is the most revere of Burgundian wines, whose acronym alone – DRC – commands the attention of anyone seeking to enter fine wine’s Valhalla. From monastic ownership, the Domaine first transferred to the hands of the Bourbon Prince de Conti; after it was dissolved following the French Revolution, the Duvault-Blochet family assumed ownership, consolidating and expanding the estate, a task it passed on to the current company principals, the de Villaine and Leroy-Roch families.
Yet pedigree alone does not fully explain Romanée-Conti’s prestige. This spring, as we look forward to offering a variety of DRC at auctions in New York, Hong Kong and London, as well as at our retail locations in Hong Kong and New York, five major factors stand out as the most important reasons why this Domaine consistently achieves the upper echelons of demand, price and acclaim.
1. Grand Cru Grapes
No other Domaine can claim to make wine solely from the top-ranked grand cru sites that are found across such notable vineyards as Le Montrachet, Échezeaux, Richebourg, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti, among others. In fact, DRC’s standards are so high that occasionally they will choose to release a premier cru – one step below a grand cru – made from younger vines, rather than lower the quality of their top-tier offering.
2. The Land
In addition to its fully owned monopoles – areas controlled by one winery, a rarity in Burgundy – the Domaine is also the largest landowner in each of the red wine vineyards from which it produces grand cru red Burgundy. This is remarkable considering that all grand cru sites in Burgundy represent a mere two per cent of the region’s total vineyard area. It also demonstrates DRC’s commitment to acquiring land and ensuring that its holdings are well-situated. This shrewd management has led DRC to achieve sublime wines in the best vintages, as well as greatness in less heralded ones.
3. Quality Over Quantity
Burgundy is the land of scarcity – it produces a fraction as much as other regions – and DRC is no exception with an average of 6,000 to 8,000 cases across all its crus annually. While the Domaine could make more, the philosophy of high-density planting of old vines keeps yields tantalizingly low, resulting in fruit with unparalleled intensity.
4. Tradition & Expertise
Tradition and lineage extend to many parts of the Domaine, including to who is in charge of the cellar. Given that the current chef de cave, Bernard Noblet (pictured below), has been with DRC since 1985 and that he took over from his father, André, who spent 45 years in the cellars, the wines of DRC have been in trusted hands and reflect the Noblets’ unrivalled knowledge and memory.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEEN ÖHMAN, WINEHOG.ORG.
5. The Intangible
DRC represents the quintessence of Burgundy – an ethereal sum of many distinct parts. These wines express their site, pedigree, nuance and character with such consistent precision that they are often used as an example for the concept of terroir. With seemingly matchless depth of flavour, infinitely complex richness and incomparable concentration, the wines of DRC are truly in a class of their own.
Mike Hoagland is a Los Angeles-based specialist for Sotheby’s Wine.
A full range of wines by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is available at auction this spring and at Sotheby’s Wine Retail. For more information, visit sothebys.com/wine.