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Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2004

DRC, as Domaine de la Romanée Conti is commonly known, is one of the world’s most revered wine estates, making highly sought after wines that live up to the enormous hype they receive. They’re fiendishly expensive, of course (if you have to ask the price…they range from £122 for the Echezeaux to £980 for the RC, per bottle of course), but even if you are a Russian oil billionaire where price isn’t really an issue, you can’t just send your order form into Corney & Barrow and expect to come away with any wine. This is because despite the eye watering prices, there’s still an enormous unmet need on the part of collectors to have these wines in their cellars. The release prices are therefore some way below the open market prices. As a consequence, Corney & Barrow allocate according to buying history, customer loyalty and various other considerations, including an awareness that they do need to let new customers have a look-in because they will be tomorrow’s loyal customers.

2004 was a tricky vintage in Burgundy. After a cool-ish, damp summer, things were looking grim at the end of August, but victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat with six weeks of warm, bright and dry weather preceding a harvest that began on 25 September.

Aubert de Villaine (right) was present at the tasting. I asked him about 2004, and whether in a more difficult vintage whole bunches are fermented in the usual fashion. ‘In a perfect vintage like 1999, we use all the stems’, he replied. ‘In a difficult vintage we’ll use 50%. Selection is important.’ So what are the keys to success when you are in charge of such a great domaine? ‘We inherit a certain history’, he says. ‘The vineyard is made up of hundereds of different types [by which I assume he means terroirs], and one will give good results in one year and another not so good. Selection is important, and we need an experienced team.’ In terms of winemaking, nothing radical goes on here. Aubert emphasizes that good traditional winemaking techniques that have stood the test of time are all that are needed to produce great wines such as these.

The temptation in a line-up like this, which is clearly hierarchical in terms of price, is to score hierarchically. But I’ve tried my best to assess each wine on its own merits. It may have been a ‘difficult’ year, but the wines showed very nicely, although perhaps not hitting the extreme heights that they can manage in more favourable years. Still, I’d be delighted to have any of these in my cellar.

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Echézeaux 2004
Highly perfumed with a beautiful, open, expressive nose with sweet cherry fruit, some lovely spicy complexity and a hint of roast coffee. It’s really beautiful. The palate has some spicy structure under the elegant, sweet fruit, with good acidity. This is a beautiful, expressive Pinot Noir with enough weight to go the distance. 95/100

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Grands-Echézeaux 2004
Fantastic perfume: lively, forward aromatics. Quite fresh with an appealing green character to the very spicy fruit. The palate is open with lovely fresh elegant green notes under the red fruits. Long, persistent spicy finish with good acidity here. There’s real potential here. 94/100

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée St Vivant 2004
Firm, focused, spicy nose is tight with nice red fruit aromatics. The palate has a firm, tight spicy structure with dense, fresh red fruits, good acidity and firm but elegant tannins. Huge potential for future development, but it’s sleeping right now. 96/100

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Richebourg 2004
Thrilling, open red berry and cherry fruit nose is fresh and lively with great purity and a green spicy edge. The palate has great concentration and assertive, green-edged cherry and berry fruit. Lovely long spicy finish. A vivid, forward style. 94/100

Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tâche 2004
Delightfully perfumed with a spicy, roasted oak edge to the bright cherryish fruit. There’s warmth and richness here. The palate has a supple elegant texture and lots of ripe, pure fruit. There’s some firm structure underneath all this, with great length, concentration and purity. 96/100

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée Conti 2004
Aromatically pure and focused with subtle spicy warmth. Multifaceted and complex with a whole array of aromas, all pulling together. Fruit, spice, tar and chocolate emerge. The palate is fruity and dense with a brightness and a hint of green, together with some tannin. Dense, broad and focused with real length and a lovely tannic structure. Special. 97/100

Domaine de la Romanee Conti releases

2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008

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