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My invitation to the launch of the new vintage from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is one that I always really look forward to. You can imagine my disappointment when the invitation arrived and the date was one I could not make as I was in South Africa over that period.

I immediately contacted wine-pages contributor Vivienne Franks, and asked her if she would attend in my place and taste the wines. To my great delight Vivienne jumped at the chance (these invitations are like gold dust) and I am delighted to present her impressions of the latest vintage from one of the world's most famous wine estates.

These wines were shown by the UK agency for DRC, Corney & Barrow. Prices are per bottle, duty and VAT paid. Production figures are for 12 bottle cases. The DRC 2002 vintage offer is on now, and finishes on the 28th February 2005, but these wines are sold on strict allocation. They can be bought by the bottle, or in 3 or 6 bottle cases. Contact Corney & Barrow on 020 7265 2430, fax 020 7265 2539, email wine@corbar.co.uk.

Tom Cannavan

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2002

by Vivienne Franks, 02/05

At 8.30am on a bitterly cold February morning I arrived at Corney and Barrow's offices near the Tower of London, to be escorted down into the elegant drawing room for the first UK tasting of the 2002 vintage of Domaine de la Romaneé-Conti, the world's most famous Grand Cru red Burgundy estate.

Seven bottles of wine, elegantly positioned on a crisply starched, white linen covered table eagerly awaited my morning-fresh, uncontaminated tasting buds. I had just received my allocated tasting sample of Vosne Romanée 1er Cru when Aubert de Villaine, owner of the estate, walked into the room and headed straight for the table. He asked for a sample of La Tâche to be poured. The expectant tasters in the room watched mesmerised, until a nod and a smile from Monsieur de Villaine indicated that he was happy with his wine, which reflected his and Henri-Frédéric Roch's comments on the 2002 harvest that "For us, they are not wines of charm, they are wines of the future, a beautiful vintage".
 

2002 was a particularly dry vintage. A cold early June led to some coulure (failure of grapes to develop) and millerandage (an abnormal pattern of fruit set that lowers yeilds), but the weather improved through July. August's weather was somewhat mixed, but in September the wind and sunshine contributed to a good ripe harvest. This enabled the rarely made Vosne Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet to be produced, from the "secon" harvest of the Grand Cru vineyards. In total the harvest this year is less than in the previous two vintages. The entire estate is cultivated organically, and biodynamic trials are being conducted in the vineyards of La Tâche and Grands Échézeaux.

As a very privileged guest at this select gathering of VIP clients, sommeliers, wine journalists and educators, I was fascinated by the aura of reverence that pervaded the tasting room. On tasting my first wine, I had decided that I was going to commit the heinous crime of actually swallowing the minute tasting samples of these wines.

I had great expectations from these very high quality wines, and as anticipated, they did not disappoint. Two hours later I could still taste the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti - a sublime wine!

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet 2002
£55.30 production 1086 cases. This wine is bright with a pale ruby colour. It has a delicate nose, which is spicy and savoury with an earthiness and soft strawberry fruit aromas. On the palate there is lively acidity, fruit, soft ripe tannins and the mouthfeel is silky, almost creamy with a hint of fragrant strawberry fruit. It is nicely balanced, with a long spicy finish. This is a very good quality wine, 17.5/20

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) Échézeaux 2002
£102.30 production 1367 cases. A deep raspberry coloured wine, with an intense rich and spicy nose. It has earthy, smokey and slightly gamey aromas. The palate is rich, with intense dark berry fruits, spicy and gamey notes, ripe tannins and good acidity. It still has quite a tight structure, but an elegant and smooth finish. It is well balanced, but needs to be left alone to develop. Another very good quality wine, 18/20

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) Grands-Échézeaux 2002
£160.07 production 1095 cases. Bright and ruby coloured, this wine, like the Échézeaux has a very rich and sweet spicy aroma. The red berry fruit perfume fills the glass, with wafting hints of chocolate and toffee. The palate is powerful with intense berry fruit flavours and spicy overtones, the wine is rich and full bodied, tannins are chewy, a lovely balance and long silky finish. Excellent quality, 18.5/20

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) Romanée-St-Vivant 2002
£221.75 production 1291 cases. This is a deeply coloured ruby wine, with an intensely perfumed, ripe red cherry fruit nose. Rich and concentrated aromas of spice are encapsulated in the glass. On the palate, the intense sweetness of the red cherry fruit dominates, although there are distinct hints of savoury and spicy flavours. Full bodied with good acidity this wine is very well balanced, nicely structured, with a good long finish. Very good quality 18/20

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) Richebourg 2002
£242.32 production 543 cases. A much paler ruby colour, the nose is pungently perfumed with rose petals and pure black berry fruit. There is a distinctive elegance to this wine with intense pure fruit flavours on the palate, refreshing acidity and a silky mouthfeel with subtle ripe tannins. The depth and concentration of fruit flavour with the delicate structure and wonderfully long and rich finish gives a delightful balance to this wine. Excellent quality 18.5/20.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) La Tâche 2002
£270.71 production 1445 cases. This wine has a deep ruby colour. The nose is reminiscent of intensely perfumed rose petals and pure freshly picked red berries. There are concentrated layers of fruit, chocolate and spice. It is very complex on the palate, with firm tannins and a racy acidity. The full body, elegant finish and excellent structure indicate that this beautifully balanced wine has a seriously long future. Excellent quality, one to hide away for a while. 19/20

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (France) Romanée-Conti 2002
£823.94 production 462 cases. A pale and delicate ruby colour, almost ethereal on the nose, this wine exudes class. Highly fragrant, with pure summer berry fruit aromas, graceful and feminine. The palate is sublimely concentrated with layers of fruit and spice. Refreshingly crisp acidity, elegant tannins, velvety smooth body, tremendous concentration and phenomenal length, this wine is sensational. Outstanding quality, 19.5/20

As usual, Le Montrachet was not available to taste, but can be purchased at a projected price of £647.69 per bottle, duty and VAT paid. Production is 193 cases.