The Best Wines on the Planet?
Though it won’t be enough to satisfy the voracious demand for DRC’s wines, in 2008 the domaine leased nearly six acres in Corton, a grand cru vineyard several miles from Vosne-Romanée. The debut vintage, 2009, will be released in 2012. The move into Corton, DRC’s first acquisition since the late ’80s, was big news in Burgundy. But then everything DRC does is big news there. While quick to downplay his own influence, de Villaine recognizes the domaine occupies a unique perch, and where it leads, others tend to follow. “I see that we have this position,” he says. “I know people watch what we do.”
Down in Bouzeron, de Villaine has maintained a deliberately lower profile with A. et P. de Villaine. The winery, which is attached to his 16th-century stone farmhouse, makes wines from three grapes—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligoté, all cultivated organically and consistently very good. Native to Burgundy, Aligoté is an aromatic grape that yields crisp, refreshing white wines, but it is generally considered an afterthought. There are only around 4,000 acres planted in the region, versus more than 30,000 acres of Chardonnay. But Aligoté is Bouzeron’s signature grape, and de Villaine has given it pride of place at his 46.2-acre domaine. He even succeeded in getting Aligoté wines from Bouzeron their own appellation.
For years de Villaine ran the Bouzeron property by himself. In 2001 he hired another of his nephews, Pierre de Benoist, to assist him, and the 38-year-old now runs the day-to-day operations. After de Villaine officially retires from Romanée-Conti, this is where he can quietly keep one foot in the winemaking business, and even that light footprint in the limestone soil will be a hard one to fill.
DRC’s Best Wines
This is a golden age for Burgundy, and the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays being crafted at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are universally regarded as the region’s benchmark wines. DRC currently produces seven wines—six reds and one white, all grands crus. They’re made in very limited quantities and can range in price from several hundred dollars per bottle to several thousand. Romanée-Conti and La Tâche are the most famous, and among oenophiles with a passion for Burgundy and enough disposable income to form an opinion, debating the relative merits of these two grands crus is a favorite drinking game. La Tâche ($960–$1,040 for the 2007) is all about silken elegance and is also the most seductively perfumed wine I’ve ever encountered. The Romanée-Conti ($2,875–$3,430) is slightly more masculine and brooding—slower to reach its apogee, but once it does, there’s a transcendent depth, balance and persistence. Le Montrachet ($2,000–$2,175), DRC’s lone white wine, is a rich but astonishingly refined and detailed Chardonnay, the most sought-after white wine in the world, and it’s easy to understand why. To find more DRC wine retailers, go to wilsondaniels.com.
Another Side of Burgundy
Though more modest in pedigree and price, the wines of Domaine A. et P. de Villaine in Bouzeron are terrific in their own right—and widely available in this country. The Bouzeron ($25), made entirely from the Aligoté grape, is a source of particular pride for de Villaine. A crisp, refreshing white bursting with citrus and mineral influences, it also offers excellent value relative to the quality. The Bourgogne La Digoine ($40) is an earthy, supple Pinot Noir that can be enjoyed immediately upon purchase or cellared for a few years.