In an area that covers less than one and a half square miles, within a valley with a rather flat topography, we found this field, mainly composed of limestone, red clay, gravel and stones that produces some of the most complex, select, expensive and long lasting wines in the world.
The wines from one of the smallest wineries in the region stand out since they have been produced for centuries in Burgundy: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a paradigmatic enterprise and a clear example that this region has historically based its reputation on a style of fine wines that faithfully express the terroir and viticulture traditions that still survive after more than two millennia.
Among the wines produced by this ancient winery: La Tache, Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Grands Echezeaux, Echezeaux, Montrachet and Corton, Romanée-Conti is the most prized by consumers because its elaboration is labor of love and experience using Pinot Noir grapes, which infuse the most exquisite wines with the finest fragrance, aroma, texture and body. Pinot Noir is the predominant fruit in the production of Burgundy wines. This variety doesn’t adapt easily to any region because it requires a cold climate to achieve good results.
The Romanée Conti wine from the Domaine of the Romanée is a monopoly, i.e. it belongs and is cultivated by the owner, a fact that appears on each label of this great vintage.
The prestigious British wine magazine, Decanter, recently published the list of the “100 wines you need to taste before you die”. Three of the top ten came from Domaine de la Romanée Conti, with high praise for Romanée Conti, as one of the most rare and expensive wines in the world.
Romanée Conti originated in Roman times, hence its nickname Romanée. The Roman soldiers who conquered half the world had orders to plant the vine in every possible enclave of the vast Empire. The vines were commercially exploited for the first time in 1232, since then the winery has changed ownership nine times. The vineyard covers less than five acres and the Pinot Noir date back to the 15th century, when the Saint-Vivant monks planted them.
In the 17th century, the noblemen from the French court began showing interest in the Romanée vineyards. In 1760, Prince Louis François de Borbón – Conti and Madame de Pompadour fought for possession of this field. Prince Conti won the rights to the land and named the parcel: Romanée Conti. He remained its owner from 1760 until 1793.
Mr. Davault purchased Romanée Conti in 1869, and by 1942, his grandson, Mr. de Villaine, became coowner of the land, sharing it with the Leroy family. The two families formed a partnership and set out to produce other great wines. The parcel of the Romanée Conti vineyards was replanted, in full, in 1945 as a consequence of an epidemic of the phylloxera disease.
Romanée Conti is now part of French history and a legend on its own merit. Its importance is such that, on one occasion, it was said that if another country wanted to acquire it, the French Government would be willing to give anything to preserve this brand as a milestone of French heritage.
The Domaine de la Romanée Conti covers 62 acres of vines. The domaine produces 100,000 bottles each year, of which only about 6,000 are Romanée Conti. Due to the rarity of this wine, the owners decided to sell it in a mixed case of 12 bottles. This collectors box contains one bottle of Romanée Conti and eleven other wines. The wines of the Domaine de la Romanée Conti are marketed only after three years. Everything is aimed to obtain wines with high capacity for conservation.
The young wines are already very expensive, but they reach their price limits when they mature and their fortunate owners sell them at public auctions. The bidding competition between wealthy aficionados can go up to more than $10,000 per bottle. In the speculative market, these wines reach still higher sums. That is what happened in October 2012 at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, where a case of 1990 Romanée Conti was sold for $297,400. Or the exceptional case of a 1945 bottle, bought by a private collector for $123,919.
On one occasion, the famous wine critic and Master of Wine Clive Coates commended Romanée Conti as: “the example of the most aristocratic, pure and intense Pinot Noir imaginable. True nectar.” We can’t add anything more, except that it is considered the best and most expensive wine in the world. ■