To Buy or Not to Buy - Domaine de la Romanéee-Conti 2008

POSTED ON 31/01/2011

Next Saturday’s piece in The Independent on the 2009 Burgundy has had to be held over for a week until Saturday 12 February (and my blog’s accompanying buying guide), so a good opportunity to turn attention back to the 2008 vintage in general and the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in particular. The DRC always holds its tasting at the same time as the en primeur Burgundy circus but the difference is that it shows the wines of the previous vintage.

Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-ContiAubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

So it was that a typically understated and discreet Domaine de la Romané-Conti tasting at Corney & Barrow’s offices at Tower Hill took place on Friday. Trade and press drifted in and out on the freezing January air to taste just six wines, but these were more than just wines, they were DRC 2008 Burgundies. Decanter’s Man of the Year Aubert de Villaine was his usual urbane self, Adam Brett-Smith Corney’s beautifully attired representative on earth, the urban half of the equation.

When the wines were shown to the trade and press at Percy Fox in days of yore, you used to be able to help yourself to samples. In fact I remember one tasting when there was a half-bottle of one of the wines left that no-one had any use for and I was asked if I’d like to take it home for dinner. I can’t remember if it was La Tâche or not but it was more than pleasant. That doesn’t happen any more. Two smart young men looking as though they’ve just left public school stand behind a table to dispense a judicious measure of nectar into your voluminous crystal Burgundy glass, but a splash is plenty. At £175 a bottle for the Echézeaux all the way up to £1,650 a bottle for the Romanée-Conti, it has to be.


2008 in Burgundy is unquestionably a very good vintage rather than a great one for reds. It’s hard to avoid superlatives when it comes to DRC however, which regularly outperforms its peers, pulling of the most effortless elegance of pinot noir expression. Check outéee-conti for more detail. It’s impossible to argue that DRC isn’t close to perfection, and I can’t think of any greater wines in 2008, but if the ultimate accolade should be reserved for the greatest vintages, let’s at least try and keep things in perspective.

Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-ContiAubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

2008 was a difficult vintage in fact with a late and protracted flowering and the need for ruthless selection to avoid uneven ripening. Meticulous care was needed in the vineyards, involving what Adam Brett Smith called ‘the relentless, dogged and intensive work of the team throughout the summer months to room for more favourable conditions’. Even September started badly with severe rain in the second week. And then ‘le miracle’. From the third week of the month a drying north wind, bright sunny days and cold nights sealed the ripening process. The result was that the domaine produced fabulous wines from abnormally low yields.

One caveat. By any normal standards you might think the prices to be so absurdly high as to be beyond the reach of mere ordinary mortals. If that’s the case, there must be a lot of people wandering the streets who are beyond mortality because these wines are oversubscribed many times. So much so that it’s impossible to get your paws on them unless you’ve bought before or Aubert de Villaine takes a special shine to you.

Tasting Notes


A pale yet vivid ruby hue to this wine foreshadows a highly seductive fragrance of red berry infused with a light smoky touch of vanillin oak spice and a hint of rhubarb; the ripe berry fruits richness here is tempered by a sharp rhubarby bite while the texture is smooth, the fruit finely balanced with deftly-crafted oak and incisive acidity and a touch of dry tannin on the finish. From 2014 – 2021. 92


There’s an intense pale ruby hue to this wine and an enticing fresh raspberry fragrance with a top note of spicy vanillin oak, while the palate is seductively smooth and powerful with flavours in fine harmony balancing red berry fruits ripeness with a mulberry-like blade of trenchant acidity in an accomplished and subtle framework of subtle oak, albeit finishing with a deceptively firm backbone of tannin. From 2015 – 2022. 92


A vivid pale ruby in colour, this is delicately hued with a wonderfully elegant yet intense, lingering fragrance combining sweetly perfumed mulberry, cherry and spicy vanillin top notes; the palate is seductively opulent showing that extra bit of low yield concentration, full of smooth red berry scented berry fruits flavours and framed by lively refreshing acidity and fine-grained tannins; a very complete, elegant wine that’s subtly, deceptively structured with intense flavours that build in the mouth and keep on building. From 2016 – 2025. 95


A delicate pale ruby hue behind which is the most lovely, intensely sweet red berry fruits fragrance of mulberry and fraise du bois; the palate is all about power and delicacy combined in a superbly silky-textured amalgam of fine scented raspberry / mulberry fruit flavours with a fine-textured character, seamlessly combining freshness and delicacy and yet supported by that deceptive DRC backbone of firmish tannins. From 2016 – 2025. 95

La TâcheLa Tâche

La Tâche

This superb red shows a delicately pale pinkish ruby hue, with a tremendously powerful aromatic fragrance of fraise du bois and loganberry, while the cherry and raspberry fruit flavours are beautifully focused and framed by subtle oak spiciness, all so fresh and intense, combining richness, delicacy and freshness in seamless balance with subtle top notes of stylish vanillin oak spice; and if the framework of power is subtle in the other wines, it’s all the more deceptive here. From 2017 – 2030. 97


A vivid, pale cherryish ruby hue is followed by an intensely aromatic dab-behind-the-ears fragrance of red berry fruits and spice, this is gorgeously seductive with a fine fruit richness of concentratedly opulent mulberry, loganberry and raspberry and a real intensity of flavour with a seamless balance of subtle oak spice, a trenchant bite of refreshing acidity and the finest-grained tannins, all beautifully proportioned; close to the ultimate in quintessence of pinot noir. From 2020 – 2030. 97

DRC 2008 Vintage

Av.Age Av.Yield Total prod. Yield Harvest date Price

Echézeaux 35yrs 1340 cases 823 cases 18hl/ha 4 - 6 Oct. £175
Grands-Echézeaux 55yrs 1150 cases 538 cases 19hl/ha 4 Oct. £275
Richebourg 45yrs 1000 cases 519 cases 15hl/ha 29 - 30 Sept. £414.83
Romanée-St.Vivant 37yrs 1500 cases 788 cases 18hl/ha 30 Sep - 2 Oct. £432.5
La Tâche 50yrs 1870 cases 963 cases 16hl/ha 27 - 29 Sept. £508.33
Romanée-Conti 56yrs 450 cases 263 cases 16hl/ha 30 Sept. £1,650

Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-ContiAubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

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