The magnificent La Tâche 2020 is conspicuous by its absence in this line-up of empty bottles, but it was definitely in the tasting (see notes and collage below)
It was hot, it was dry, it was early. That's no guarantee of a high quality vintage in Vosne-Romanée or anywhere else in Burgundy, but when it's also disease-free and yields are no more than average, then it begins to look as if it might be special. It was and it is. There's no questioning the opulence of the 2020 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines but no doubting their exceptional clarity of expression, precision and freshness either.
The harvest started with the young vines on 18 August and the older vines on 23 August. Romanée-Conti itself was picked on 26 and 28 August. La Tâche, picked on 28 August, 2 and 3 September, brought the red wine harvest to a close. Corton-Charlemagne Chardonnay, picked on 7, 8 and 9 September, rounded off the extraordinary 2020 vintage.
“In three words? Precision, density and undisturbed.” The 2020 vintage summed by co-director Perrine Fenal, top right with the legendary Aubert de Villaine, and a smiling Bertrand de Villaine, co-director, top left
Vinification was 90–100% whole bunch and lasted 18–21 days and the wines were put into cask in October. La Tâche was the last to be harvested and the first to be bottled, on 10 January 2022. Romanée-Conti was bottled on 9 March, as was Grands Échézeaux. Richebourg, bottled on 20 June, was the last except for Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet on 23 June.
I've tried to replace any personal shorthand that might be impenetrable to anyone else, but otherwise these are my notes as written at the first UK tasting of the DRC 2020 wines, which took place in February at Corney & Barrow's London HQ. The drinking dates are Corney & Barrow's. I would happily start on them earlier.
The full complement including the rarely made Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet
Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet
First time I've tasted this blend of mostly La Tâche and the young vines of Grands-Échézeaux made only very rarely and in exceptional years. Vibrant crimson-purple. Fragrant, floral (rose), black fruit nose, with spice and a touch of woodsmoke. Very fragrant, powder-sweet red and black fruit on the palate. Talcum powder fine texture too. Soft textured but racy and mineral-fresh. Definite mineral side. There’s almost something Cabernet Franc about it – and it’s drinkable now! 93
Similar depth of colour, but slightly more crimson and less purple. Black fruit aromas, especially black cherry, a hint of some attractive green freshness - herb/leaf. Dense and concentrated but with a precision-lifted freshness to the finish. Black cherry and almost blackcurrant, black pepper spice, umami and a real mineral pull - tension and freshness. Definite tannin but very fine tannins. Well-sustained. 93+
Deep crimson. Quite fragrant, but a slightly hard to define nose. Violets – and iris too – but they seem more evident on the palate. Very dark fruit. Concentrated dark/black fruit. Savoury in style; mineral-fresh (again), intense, compact, compressed. Long. Impressive. Promising. 93+
Pretty nose, violets again. Lots of dark fruit concentration and it’s quite mouthfilling, but slightly loose-knit; slightly more tannic, rougher/sandier/grainier texture. And a little bitterness from the mid-palate on to the finish, although the aftertaste is attractive cherry (red and black). Concentration and freshness but without quite the allure and beauty of others. 92+
Some purple in the colour. Arresting nose – floral, with touches of sandalwood and incense and lovely red and black fruit. Intense, precise black fruit on the palate. Concentrated, but dancing, with very silky tannins. Lovely freshness. Real concentration and so silky. Here the hint of bitterness is just right, adding complexity. Very long. VG future. 94+
Quite deep and purple but it’s really hard to gauge these colours. Very aromatic. Pretty, fragrant, quite powerful and even exuberant nose. There’s something exotic about it: flowers – iris – a touch of orange peel, red fruit. Smooth, creamy palate; substance/matière; generous. Definite tannins, but super-smooth. Great concentration – power even – but effortlessly fresh (like all of them). Very long. Great future. 95+
Quite a deep colour, but a bit less blue/purple. Exotic spice! And tangerine and roses. And a hint of apple confit and apricot. Silky, creamy palate – wonderful texture – with red fruit and spice (cardamom, nutmeg, hint of cinnamon) and a refined mineral core; a bit of umami cinnamon. This is superb. It’s so long and the aftertaste is ethereal – sweet, spiced orange and cream. 98+
This looks paler than the others, but it’s still an intense colour. So fragrant, so floral. Red fruit purity, and on the palate there’s a fruit/green pepper/graphite note that’s almost Cabernet Franc-like. Red fruit and spice. Extraordinary. Intense. Silken texture; no question there’s tannin but it’s gossamer. This is so beautifully shaped. And so long. 98
Pale straw. Lovely nose - white flowers, acacia honey, lemon, red apple and peach. All reprised on the palate, along with cream and salted butter, plus a hint of dill/aniseed, and a strong mineral pull and tension. Even a tiny phenolic touch which adds to the texture. Concentration and layers with drive and energy. 96
Wines imported exclusively by Corney & Barrow
Photographs by Joanna Simon