Vosne-Romanée, considered the greatest Pinot Noir village by wine enthusiasts the world over, took centre stage in the cellars at Roberson on Wednesday evening . A single bottle tasting showcasing 10 examples designed to demonstrate why this village is considered the best in the world was in hot demand, with the event selling out in less than two hours. In attendance were 18 lucky people (myself included) ready to taste, procrastinate and pass judgement on the credence of the aforementioned statement.
Mark Andrew, the resident Roberson Burgundophile, opened the tasting by giving a brief account of the history of Vosne-Romanée and how over the years it has become a place of pilgrimage, with a ‘vineyard-scape’ that includes some of the most hallowed (not to mention expensive) land in the world. While neighbouring Chambolle has the incredible Grand Cru of Musigny and Gevrey is rightfully proud of Chambertin and Clos-de-Bèze, Vosne can boast a roll call of climats that are enough to make Burgundy geeks weak at the knees. Romanée-Conti, La Tache, Richebourg, Romanée St-Vivant – these vineyards and the wines that come from them are the most sought after in the world. But Vosne is about more than just Grand Crus – the standard of wines across the board is exceptional; the village’s cellars are occupied by some of Pinot Noir’s master craftsmen, making village and 1er Cru wines that rightfully command high prices.
So what of the village itself? It’s staggering to think that such a list of great names comes from a village smaller than that of some of the largest Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux Château vineyards. The total vineyard area of the commune’s appellations is 229 hectares – 43% of village (99ha), 32% of 1er Cru (73ha) and 35% of Grand Cru (80ha). That last one is an incredible proportion when you consider that this level of wine only represents 2% of Burgundy’s total production.
But looking beyond the figures and the hyperbole, just what makes Vosne-Romanée wines so revered, expensive and sought-after? Ageing potential is often cited as the reason Vosne-Romanée’s wines, especially the Grands Crus, but to a lesser extent the Premiers Crus as well, are so good. Some of these wines have Bordeaux-like lifespans of 30+ years. Of course, this also has its side effects, one of which is that the wines are hard to appreciate after only 5-10 years, and only are worth their full value if left to evolve for even longer.
But ageing isn’t the primary reason for Vosne’s success. The main reason is that the climate simply produces wines that combine powerful flavour and silky elegance in a way that no other villages can really rival. Most people in the world can’t afford the Grand Cru wines that Vosne produces, since the legendary status of the wines has raised them to ludicrous price levels. Even the most avid Vosne lovers will still have difficulty coughing up £70 minimum for a Vosne Premier Cru when they could easily pay around the same amount for a top négociant-bottled Grand Cru wine from another village. Why, then, is there still more demand than supply for Vosne’s top wines? Because there’s no real place elsewhere in the world that can compare to Vosne for sheer diversity and quality. Vosne is simply the best place in the world for what it does best – a combination of elegance and power.
Mark really pulled out all the stops to make the night’s tasting a real treat, the producers and vineyards reading like a who’s who of greats.
2009 SYLVAIN CATHIARD, VOSNE ROMANÉE
I have had the pleasure of tasting this wine on two occasions now and for me it truly epitomises how good a village Vosne Romanee wine can be when put into the right hands. An intense nose of Morello cherry and dust notes the alluring nose captures you from the start. Rich and voluptuous with great structure, this is a big village effort. Though it comes at premium, it’s truly worth every penny.
2007 MEO CAMUZET, VOSNE ROMANÉE
Delicate redcurrant was all that I could pick up on the nose. Though the wine was nicely balanced (maybe lacking a little fruit) it was relatively simple. A little disappointing given the prestigious name and price tag.
2006 HUDELOT-NOELLAT, VOSNE ROMANÉE
An unusual nose of treacle and stewed fruit with nuances of cinnamon. A strong wine that manages to take its aromatic profile to the mouth. Though I found the fruit a little ‘clunky’ it was full and sweet with a good length.
2005 REGIS FOREY
Quite a muted nose. On the palate the wine was a little green/sappy and not overly pleasant. Quite disjointed when compared against earlier village efforts.
2006 MICHEL GROS, VOSE ROMANÉE 1ER ‘CLOS DE REAS’
2007 CONFURON-CONTETIDOT, 1ER ‘LES SUCHOTS’
A last minute replacement for the corked bottle of Michel Gros. A dazzling bouquet of summer fruits, spices and soy. The fruit, though pleasant and powerful seemed slightly out of kilter against its firm structure. Maybe a little too early to realise its true potential. Very good none the less
2007 SLYVAIN CATHIARD, 1ER CRU ‘AUX REIGNOTS’
A stand-out wine and one of the best Burgundies I have ever had (maybe the best, apart from his ‘2009 Aux Malconsorts’ last year). A highly perfumed nose that beckons you to taste. Robust and powerful flavours that are completely seamless. A startling length that goes and goes. My wine of the evening.
2006 JEAN GRIVOT, VOSNE ROMANÉE 1ER CRU ‘AUX BRULEES’
A disappointing wine. Quite green on both the nose and the palate. My only comments.
2002 JJ CONFURON, VOSNE ROMANÉE 1ER ‘BEAUX-MONTS’
A wine full of contradictions, a restrained nose but smooth and powerful on the palate loaded with dark fruit. Very supple and beautifully well balanced.
1990 CONFURON-CONTETIDOT, 1ER ‘LES SUCHOTS’
After tasting the substituted 2007 earlier, it was actually quite nice to see the path that this wine had stemmed from and how it would develop. A reserved wine now and at the end of its drinking window, it was a far cry from its 2007 counterpart. Pleasant.
2000 DOMAINE DE LA ROMANÉE-CONTI, ECHEZEAUX GRAND CRU
Why everyone was here. Unlike some blockbuster wine that can disappoint on the evening given their iconic stature, this certainly lived up to the hype. A powerful bouquet on the nose, throwing up a whole list of descriptors and truly deserving of its verbiage. Beautifully balanced on the palate but with great structure and super length. This wine will continue to improve and certainly warrants its accolade.