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Domaine de la Romanee-Conti

drc-statue-vineyards.jpgThe most famous and without doubt the greatest producer of Burgundy, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti's near-mythical reputation for producing extraordinary wines is unsurpassed.  DRC (as it is abbreviated) draws from an incredible 28 hectares of grands crus vineyards: six in Vosne-Romanee (including two monopoles); two white vineyards (Le Montrachet and the never-released Batard-Montrachet); and from 2009 three Cortons (Bressandes, Clos du Roi and Renardes) that are blended to make a single Corton.  The domaine also owns a further 0.6 hectare of Vosne-Romanee premiers crus which are sold off in bulk and used for personal consumption.

Total production averages perhaps 8,000 cases, although the amount produced from each vineyards varies significantly from one year to the next, depending on vintage conditions, wine quality and vineyard work (for example, a large portion of Grands Echezeaux has been replanted in the past few years, so quantities since 2006 have been substantially reduced).

romanee-conti-sign.jpgPart of the reason for such low productionis, unsurprisingly, the domaine's absolute pursuit of quality at every stage.  Great wine begins in the vineyard, and painstaking care is taken not only of individual vines but the soil itself.  Organical and biodynamic viticulture has been progressively adopted since the mid 80s, culminating in total biodynamic cultivation from 2007.  Minimal, natural (vine cuttings, grape skins and manure) fertilisers are used sparingly, if at all (Romanee-Conti hasn't had anything applied for more than a decade) and yields are kept naturally low (close to 25 hl/ha average).  Ploughing is only undertaken during part of the year, and only by horse and hand.  Minimal fungicide is applied (copper sulphate and biodynamic preparations).  Regular replanting, a selection massale from the domaine's own vines, is undertaken regularly, including leaving significant plots fallow for some years, resulting in average vine age of 40-50 years (although no young vine fruit goes in to the domaine's wines).

drcbarrels.jpgHarvesting the entire domaine takes 90-odd pickers 8-10 days, and only the most perfect fruit reaches the cuverie.  Yet another selection then takes place (in vibrating sorting tables) where 14 workers eliminate any inferior (rotting, un-ripe) berries.  Usually the majority of stalks are retained, although there is no strict policy, so in some years most may be de-stemmed, where in great, ripe vintages such as 2005 all stalks are utilised.  Small, traditional wooden vats are used mostly, although there are still some stainless steel ones remaining from earlier trials.  Fermentation using indigenous yeasts starts cool and is allowed to proceed over three weeks with twice-daily pigeage.  Usually a small amount of press wine is added to the free-run juice and the wines are placed in barrel on fine lees to complete malolactic fermentations and maturation.  The barrels may be racked once, twice or not at all, depending on each individual barrel.  100% new oak is used each year, mostly Francois Freres (although a handful of other coopers are represented "to keep Francois Freres honest!").

Bottling takes place after around 18 months in cask (often in April), from six barrel lots, and is unfined and unfiltered.

A brief word on conterfeit or fraudulent bottles.  It is sad, but bottles of DRC are becoming increasingly common, as their huge prices and scarcity make them extremely attractive to criminals.  Many of these fakes are increasingly sophisticated, and even more worryingly, they are not uncommon in Australia.  All of the bottles of DRC sold here have been allocated rc-gate.jpgdirectly to me from the Australian importer and representative of DRC, and in turn, they have received them direct from the domaine.  Every bottle has been kept in perfect, temperature-controlled conditions at every stage of its journey, and the serial numbers on each bottle can be traced to prove just that.  There is zero possibility that any bottle of DRC from Fine Wine Merchant is anything other than a perfect, pristine example of the genuine wine.  This peace of mind is an increasingly rare thing in the heady world of fine wine, and as every bottle is in stock, I would happily provide individual photographs or further information for any bottle offered.

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