The wines of the legendary Domaine de la Romanée-Conti - widely known as DRC - are the most sought-after and expensive wines in the world. The winery is located in Vosne-Romanée and since 2011 has it’s offices and main barrel cellar close to the town’s church.
The history of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Since 1869 the domaine of 25 hectares with seven vineyards - all Grand Crus - is co-owned by the Villain and Leroy/Roche families.
But before the vineyards fell in the caring hands of the families it was owned by many others. The first owner was the Abbey of Saint Vivant in Vosne, in 1232. The monks owned 1.8 hectares of vineyard and understood this was - and still is - an exceptional terroir. It’s in this vineyard where the vines of the famous wine La Romanée-Conti grow today.
Four centuries later the Belgian lord Philippe de Croonembourg bought the vineyards and changed to name - for no reason - to La Romanée. At the same time he also acquired the adjacent vineyard of la Tâche.
In 1760 a Croomenburg descendent sold the vineyard to the prince of Conti, who added his name to the existing name. Due to a bidding war between Louis François Ier de Bourbon (prince of Conti) and Madame de Pompadour (mistress of Louis XV of France) he paid an extraordinary price for the vineyards. After the French Revolution the government confiscated the vineyards and auctioned them off.
Bernard Noblet, winemaker of La Romanée-Conti: “There’s a long history but there’s also a soul.”
In 1869 Jacques-Marie Duvault, a wine merchant and General Counsellor of the Côte d’Or who is known for his work in oenology, acquires the domaine. It was passed down through generations until it ended up with the Villaine family, former successors to Jacques-Marie Duvault and Sophie Blochet. They tend to keep the domaine in the families for many more centuries.
The men behind Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Today Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is run by Aubert de Villaine and Henri-Frederic Roch. The public face of DRC is Aubert de Villaine, who has been at the forefront of restoring the reputation of the wines of the domaine and Burgundy wines in general. He was also the key-figure in Burgundy’s submission to UNESCO and in 2015 the region received the world heritage status. He’s known as a humble, charming and intelligent man.
The wines are made by Bernard Noblet, in succession to his father André Noblet. He learnt everything about the domaine and its wines from his father who worked there since 1942. At the age of 29 Bernard Noblet was made responsible for the vinification and raising of the young wines.
The domaine consists of seven vineyards, of which La Romanée-Conti only takes in 1.8 hectares. The other vineyards are La Tâche, Le Richebourg, Romanée St Vivant, Grands-Echezeaux, Echezeaux and Le Montrachet. Although La Romanée-Conti is the most famous one of all, the other vineyards of DRC also produce exclusive wines of great quality.
Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of La Romanée-Conti: ”The drainage, the pedology, the depth of the soil, the microbiological activity and the way the air moves are all part of the local eco-system. That's the miracle of Burgundy.”
La Romanée-Conti is made from 100% Pinot Noir. The grapes grow in an almost ideal climate and perfect soil. The soil is iron-rich limestone on a base of rock and marl, which adds character to the wine. The well-drained slope of the vineyard is not too steep and trees and other vineyards close the vines in. They grow in a perfect eco-system and are cultivated organically. Soil supplements are limited to compost made from crushed vine roots, grape skins and residues from fermentation. To avoid compacting the soil with the use of tractors, horses were reintroduced to cultivate the vineyards of Romanée-Conti.
Why is La Romanée-Conti so expensive?
Only the highest quality
In general Burgundy wines are loved for their silkiness and balanced taste. The unique soil and geology of the region give each vineyard its unique style. As Burgundy wines age they develop an earthiness, which makes them special. But La Romanée-Conti is the peak of Pinot Noir: silky, pure, elegant and it ages perfectly in a bottle for 40 years or more. With an average auction price of 13,409 euro this wine is the most expensive wine of France. The vintages of 1985 and 2005 received 100 points of world’s most influential wine critic Robert Parker.
Tim Triptee, senior specialist at Christie’s: “DRC wines stand out for their scarcity and quality. The wines are exceptional.”
The quality and location of the vineyards are of course the most important factor. And in the cellars there’s only a minimal intervention. They use different fermentation stages and the yeasts are entirely natural. The extraction of tannins is as gentle as possible and the wines are aged in new oak. After one use, they are immediately sold.
Another important element of quality is the cork. It preserves the wine and makes it possible for wine to age well. The family doesn’t pinch pennies when it comes to the cork. They also choose a long cork (54 millimeter), which is synonymous with longevity and quality.
The domaine produces only 6,000 to 8,000 cases per year and only 450 cases of La Romanée-Conti. This clear case of supply-and-demand makes the prices go up. Unfortunately this fame also means there are a lot of counterfeit bottles. When you are interested in buying a bottle of La Romanée-Conti, always make sure to buy with a trustworthy trader.
A showpiece for your wine cellar
At Belgium Wine Watchers we inspect each bottle - and it’s origin - to guarantee you buy an authentic La Romanée-Conti. And don’t worry, we have perfect bottles of La Romanée-Conti under 13,409 euro. Discover our collection in our online shop. Don’t hesitate to contact us, we’re happy to help you.