Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux Pinot Noir Burgundy Cote de Nuits 2004

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux Pinot Noir Burgundy Cote de Nuits 2004


Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
2004
Grands Echézeaux
Grand Cru Red 750 ml
Score: 91
Tasted: Jan 01, 2007
Drink: 2014+
Issue: 25

Note: 55 year old vines
Producer note: Co-director Aubert de Villaine described 2005 as "a beautiful and very likely truly grand vintage in both red and white. It was a very dry vintage except for April when warm and wet days allowed the vegetative cycle to get a head start. After April though, there were only sporadic showers that seemed to arrive when the vines needed them most, particularly at the beginning of September as August had been cloudy but dry. At the beginning of May, we did have some hail which hit Echézeaux and Grands Echézeaux though the impact of this was exclusively on quantity and not quality given how early the damage was. And equally important, while there was a dreadful hail storm that hit Santenay and much of the central area of Chassagne causing considerable damage, Montrachet was spared. There were periods of great warmth during the growing season but they were for the most part brief and any water stress that may have been suffered by the vines was more a function of the dryness than the heat. Our vines have proven yet again that they don't really need much rainfall to produce superb raw material as the root systems extend sufficiently deep that they can find enough water below ground to feed the grapes. The flowering took place relatively early, which is to say around the 25th of May and we had a lot of millerandage (tiny berries with very high solid to liquid ratios), which is of course an indicator of concentration and overall quality. véraison began around the 5th of August and the grapes took their time ripening as August was cloudy and relatively cool though there was ample luminosity. In both cases, they were slow and uneven though this unevenness did not seem to greatly affect our harvest times as September was ideal and the overall maturity evened out perfectly. We began picking under dry, clear and cool conditions as soon as the sugar indicated a potential alcohol level of 13%, which is to say on September 15th (see chart below). Overall yields came in between 28 and 30 hl/ha, which is a generous harvest for us. There was very little sorting required as the berries were truly magnificent and they reminded me of those publicity photos you see in the magazines of perfectly formed and ripe grapes. The fermentations unfolded without any problems and except for the Romanée St. Vivant (August), all of the malos finished in March and April of 2006. In terms of the wines themselves, at this early juncture I honestly don't know what other vintage that 2005 resembles but I believe that it will be one of the longest-lived vintages that we have produced in years as the wines have everything they need to live and improve for decades."
de Villaine indicated that the individual picking dates were as follows:
La Tâche - September 15, 16 and 17
Romanée-Conti - September 16 and 17
Richebourg - September 17 and 18
Grands Echézeaux - September 18 and 19
Echézeaux - September 19, 20 and 21
Romanée St. Vivant - September 21, 22 and 23
Montrachet - September 23
I had a chance to taste the 2005s three times; once in July and then again twice in November, approximately three weeks apart. While there were minor differences, from a critic's perspective I was very pleased to see how consistent the wines showed despite the fact that in between the two November tastings, the wines had been racked yet it did not seem to materially change the perceived quality levels (other than the racking dissipated the reduction from the first tasting). As the scores and comments suggest, the Domaine's 2005s are flat out incredible and in my view, more than a match for the great DRC '99s, which as readers know who have tried them, this is exceptionally high praise indeed. Moreover, I agree with de Villaine that they will not just endure but improve for several decades. And while each vintage in between has its particular charm and strength, there is nothing produced between 2000 and 2004 that can rival them either though in a few individual cases, some wines come close (for example, like the brilliant 2001 Romanée St. Vivant, which by the way bests the '99 as well). As to the 2004s, the performance was more mixed but generally they came within the originally predicted ranges though La Tâche fans should note that I did prefer it to the Romanée-Conti, something that I rarely find. In another nuance, 10 to 15% of the medium toast wood used in 2005 received four years of open air drying rather than the customary three. In several side-by-side comparisons of the three and four year samples of the same wine, I had a clear preference for the four year sample though to be sure, the difference was slight.
Note that there is no cuvée Duvault-Blochet in 2005. For 2004, it was decided to limit the production to 4,000 bottles and it will only be sold to the French restaurant trade. (Wilson-Daniels, St. Helena, CA; John Armit Wines, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Justerini & Brooks and Planet Wines, all UK).
Tasting note: In contrast to the expressive spiciness of the Echézeaux, this is a clear notch up in elegance and is clearly finer with an ultra high-toned floral and spice-infused nose that is almost completely closed in though this may be due to a subtle touch of reduction and I would suggest decanting this if you're going to try a bottle young. The linear and ultra pure medium full flavors trade more on finesse and refinement than what is usually a relatively powerful and muscular wine. This isn't a big wine but the superb detail and unmatched precision are stunning but be aware that it will be a wine for the patient as this is very understated at present and will very definitely require at least a decade of cellar time to really open up.