Just before the snow fell, Corney & Barrow held a tasting to launch the 2009 vintage from a small family owned winery that produces around 800 of the 46,000,000 hectolitres of wine made in France. They concentrate on one grape variety and insist on releasing their wines one year later than everyone else, in bottles with virtually identical black and white labels.
Should I mention that it was a Domaine de la Romanée-Conti tasting?
A tasting yes, but cast aside all your assumptions about what that normally entails. For starters, it began at 8.30 in the morning. And there were people waiting when we opened the doors. Although blogs would be posted before we’d cleared the glasses, the event was conducted in a very old fashioned way, with posted invitations. It was held in our subterranean dining room, which although suitably grand, had been cleared of distractions in order to afford the wines pride of place. For once, the application of wine hushed a group of people.
It is common practice at the Domaine to pre-rinse the tasting glasses with wine, so we did the same. Obviously not with the Domaine’s wine – we’re not billionaires – but with something shall we say, ‘lesser’ (the otherwise very good Gilles Jourdan Bourgogne Rouge). It reminds me of a long established but waning Australian rock band testily refusing to be the support band once again. Before hanging up, they asked who they would be supporting. The Rolling Stones. OK, we’ll do it.
Speaking of rock stars, Aubert de Villaine was present and was sought out by many a dictaphone wielding journo. He’s nothing like a rock star really, just a considered, polite French winemaker who handles the adoration calmly and with enthusiasm only for the wines.
It is tempting to make light of the prices and the desperation with which people seek these wines, but it is never tempting to joke about the land they come from, the skill and care afforded them, and the results themselves. Simply put, they make very good Pinot Noir. The Vosne Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault Blochet is essentially a blend of the Grands Crus and made only in plentiful years – a relative term here. It could have been the high point of any other tasting, but had to go first in the line-up here to have any chance. Many people requested, in the manner of Oliver Twist, a second tasting of the rookie Corton. It was understandable, like parents interrogating the newly brought home boyfriend, wanting to know if he’s good enough for the family. Personally I enjoyed the Grand Échézeaux for its slightly more approachable exoticism and the La Tâche for simply doing everything at another level, despite playing second fiddle to the Romanée-Conti itself.