“ A living thing, bound to an extraordinarily precise dynamic, which you must respect and preserve in a spirit of profound humility.” With eloquent brevity, this is how Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) describes its vineyards.
However, this deep respect for the earth, and a 1,500 year heritage, often gets lost in the maelstrom of 21 century luxury consumption. The price of these cult wines has become an inseparable part of their allure. Wine merchants are selling wine from the 4 acre vineyard Romanée-Conti for 10,000 euros a bottle.
Over the years DRC has gone to considerable lengths to ensure an orderly and fair market in its wines. What the price would have been absent such effort may be impossible to say, but with demand increasing, and an absolute inability to increase the supply, market forces will continue to hold sway, notwithstanding the most valiant efforts on the part of DRC.
So what is it that justifies such enormous multiples of the cost of production – not just for DRC (which is almost in a league of its own), but all the top Burgundian producers highly rated by the critics? And does it make a difference if an estate is 100 years old or 1,000 years old? If, married to the unique attributes and quality of the wine, there is a lineage comparable to that of the most noble of aristocratic families, does it matter?
Many properties in Burgundy bear witness to the period during which the region has been the producer of the world’s most famous wines. The French Revolution did not perturb the longevity of Domaine Henri Magnien in Gevrey Chambertin, which has been making wine in the same place since 1650 – initially working for the Kings of France. The wine making is now in the hands of 13th generation Charles Magnien. Domaine Compte Georges de Vogüé in Chambolle Musigny can trace their ownership to 1450, and the Domaine has occupied the same premises since 1400. And a little further down the Routes des Grands Crus,– the hallowed soils of DRC– can trace the wine making history to the 10 century.
And then there is that which cannot be explained. When Domaine Dugat-Py in Gevrey Chambertin discovered during the course of renovation that one of their cellars was constructed in the 9 century or earlier, did that of itself explain why the wine stored in this cellar generally tastes better than in adjacent more modern facilities?
What can be said, is that however long the producer has been in business, these are legendary wines, the fruit harvested from unique soils, the potential of which was recognised two thousand years ago. The wines have maintained their allure and reputation throughout this period. Considered in that context, is the desire to experience their qualities really any surprise? And it is only the `profound humility’ so eloquently expressed by DRC, that has so far prevented this marketing agents dream from adding yet further fuel to the fire.
Drawings and paintings of the wine making process at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti can be viewed at Les Deux Chevres in the village of Gevrey Chambertin. Follow our Gevrey Blog at https://www.facebook.com/deux.chevres.1