Tag: Domaine de la Romanee-Conti

May 05 2012

Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir: A Profound Expression of a Very Special Terroir

Posted on May 05, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In his review of the Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 2010 The Wine Front’s Mike Bennie sets the scene: “One of those holy grail sites in the Australian wine landscape – half of one hectare, quartz riddled, sits the right way for sun, angels sing, dogs howl, a single dove rests with the weight of a feather, precariously on a vine, as a rainbow arcs across the sky and a unicorn appears. That kind of thing.” (The Wine Front, 13 September 2011)

Bennie’s description of Bindi’s Block 5 vineyard in the Macedon ranges reminded me of that famous photo of Burgundy’s Romanée-Conti vineyard with the old stone Cross on the vineyard wall. The Romanée-Conti vineyard originally belonged to the Abbey of Saint Vivant, and the medieval monks approached their vineyard lands as almost hallowed ground, believing each individual vineyard site was a unique expression of God’s handiwork.

Oh, the romance and mystique of the single vineyard! Bindi’s Block 5 is up there with Henschke’s Hill of Grace as one of Australia’s most famous vineyard sites. And just as the wine from Romanée-Conti vineyard is different in character from its neighbour across the road, La Tâche, according to Bindi’s winemaker Michael Dhillon, the wine from Block 5 is “always darker in fruit expression and immediately more spicy and earthy than [Bindi’s] Original Vineyard. It is less immediately perfumed and has more tannin and fruit power. The wines from this vineyard require more bottle ageing to develop the same suppleness and delicacy as the Original Vineyard but even in their youth these wines are more profound.” Yes, the analogy to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti does indeed seem apt.

In her review of the 2009 vintage of Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir, Jancis Robinson remarked that “you’d be thrilled by this … Read the rest

Feb 02 2012

What makes ‘single vineyard’ wine so special?

Posted on February 02, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article on the Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz, the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown gives a great deal of thought to the definition of a ‘single vineyard’. She asks “Is there a limit on how big it can be? Is there an implied uniformity of terroir and vine in these words, and to what extent is that even possible?” She argues that “when taken to its ultimate extreme, the words ‘single vineyard’ should conjure images of miniscule parcels of near mono-geological turfs that have long been married to a single varietal soul-mate, perhaps Romanee-Conti (1.8 ha), Le Montrachet (8 ha) or Clos Sainte Hune (1.67 ha).” (Henschke Hill of Grace: Australia’s Greatest Single Vineyard Wine? by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, eRobertParker.com, 6 February 2012)

But whatever the size of the vineyard or the number of distinct blocks of varying soils, vine ages and varieties (the Hill of Grace Vineyard consists of 8 blocks between a half and one hectare in size), Perrotti-Brown argues that a wine should only be classified as a ‘single vineyard’ wine if it represents a “thoughtfully delineated example of elevated quality that stands apart from that which surrounding vineyards can achieve and expresses something, well, singular.”

The custodians of world’s greatest single vineyard wines certainly devote a great deal of time and attention to yielding the best results from their single vineyards no matter their size.  Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), for example, converted his vineyards to organic in 1986 and more recently biodynamic, because he believes that making wine as naturally as possible is the best way to express the nuances of his fabled terroir. (see Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: The Quintessential Expression of Terroir by Merrill Witt, Cellarit Wine Blog, 12 May 2011)

Perrotti-Brown notes that fifth … Read the rest

May 05 2011

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: The Quintessential Expression of Terroir

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you really want to understand how even small nuances in terroir can create wines with very distinct personalities, the wines of Burgundy’s most famous and revered estate, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), are perhaps the most telling examples.

DRC either owns outright or has an interest in six of the Grands Cru vineyards of Vosne-Romanée. These vineyards either adjoin or are closely located to each other and some are very small. The most celebrated of them all, La Romanée-Conti, is less than five acres.

Positioned mid-slope above La Romanée-St-Vivant, the well-drained soil of La Romanée-Conti is stonier, shallower and poorer than the lower sited La Romanée-St-Vivant. Of course, both of these vineyards are endowed with the signature, highly prized soil of the Cote d’Or – a mixture of silt and scree over layers of marlstone and clay on a base of calcium-rich limestone. But the slight differences in soil type, orientation and elevation of the different vineyards impart unique and authentic characteristics to the wine.

According to esteemed British wine critic Hugh Johnson, La Romanée-Conti is the quintessential expression of pinot noir. It is exotically perfumed, richly nuanced, concentrated and complex with perfect balance. La Romanée-St-Vivant is slightly lighter and more elegant in style than La Romanée-Conti. La Tâche, also owned entirely by DRC and just across the road from La Romanée-Conti, is earthier and more muscular than its siblings. (Hugh Johnson, Editor and Hubrecht Duijker, Touring in Wine Country: Burgundy)

DRC is one of the largest landholders in Burgundy, having assembled around 62 acres of vineyards over 140 years. The Domaine was formally established in 1942 and is jointly owned by two families, Leroy and de Villaine.

Under the direction of Aubert de Villaine, the estate has worked tirelessly to improve the vineyards so the subtle differences … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Cullen Wines Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot: An ‘exceptional’ Bordeaux Blend

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Of the 17 wines in the ‘Exceptional’ category of Langon’s Classification of Australian Wines only four are cabernets. Cullen Wines’ Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot shares the stage with another Margaret River icon, the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, both wines reflect their respective winemakers’ uncompromising approach to quality and obsessive attention to detail. No wonder these superior talents have lifted their wines to world-class status in a remarkably short period of time!

The Diana Madeline is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Named after Diana Cullen, who founded Cullen Wines with her husband Kevin in 1966, this exceptionally elegant, balanced wine is the product of the consummate winemaking and vigneron skills of the couple’s youngest daughter Vanya.

Vanya Cullen followed in her winemaker mother’s footsteps, taking over as senior winemaker in 1989. Like her parents, she was very interested in applying organic principles in the vineyard, but after attending a workshop on biodynamic viticulture with Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive and Aubert de Villaine from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, she realised the value of making both the vineyard and winery biodynamic. (The Matriach of Margaret: Cullen Wines by Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com May 2010)

The results of this conversion (the vineyard was certified biodynamic in 2003 and the winery in 2008) is clearly demonstrated in the fresh, elegant style of the Diana Madeline. As a result of the use of biodynamic viticulture, Cullen has seen a marked improvement in the structure and oxygenation of the soil, which in turn has enhanced the tannin ripening of the fruit. Consequently, the grapes can be harvested earlier at lower sugar levels and higher acidity.

Indeed, Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate cites the 2008 Diana Madeline as “another example of Cullen’s emerging ability to achieve physiological ripeness at lower alcohols … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

Part 2: Ata Rangi, The ‘Grand Cru’ of Martinborough Pinot Noir

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In February 2010 the Ata Rangi Pinot Noir and the Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir were named  “Great Growths of New Zealand” at the New Zealand Pinot Noir Conference.

The honour, which is New Zealand’s equivalent to Bordeaux’s ‘Grand Cru’ status, wasn’t an audacious move on the part of the Kiwis to thrust their pinot noirs into the limelight. Rather, it was appropriate recognition that New Zealand pinot noir has come of age and is now the leading New World example of fine pinot noir.

Martinborough winery Ata Rangi has been at the forefront in showing the world that New Zealand is capable of making world-class pinot noir. Langton’s Andrew Caillard recently described the Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2006 as an example of how a wine can be so “profoundly beautiful when young” that it is capable of being articulated as a “great” wine, a wine which, in his opinion, “simply transcends its genre.” (The Evolution of New Zealand Pinot Noir by Andrew Caillard, Langton’s Magazine)

Owned and managed by Clive Paton, his wife Phyll and Clive’s sister Alison, Ata Rangi’s grapes were planted on an originally bare, stony 12-acre paddock at the edge of the Martinborough village in 1980. Today Ata Rangi harvests fruit from around 120 acres, including a number of leased and local contract growers blocks.

All of the carefully chosen sites are very similar in terms of soil type and micro-climate. Key features of the terroir include:

  • shallow silt-loam over deep, free-draining alluvial gravels that force the vines to dig deep for water leading to fuller flavours and minerality in the wine
  • speckled sunshine that allows for a gentle, slow and full ripening of the grapes
  • cool and windy spring weather that limits the risk of damage to the grapes from mildew and
Read the rest
Oct 10 2010

Weekend Wine Reading

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Have you even wondered how wine gets a ‘buttery’ aroma? Turns out that one of the chemicals that gives butter its aroma – diacetyl – is also a by-product of malolactic fermentation, the process whereby the sharp malic acid of grapes is converted into the creamier lactic acid of dairy products. Gregory Dal Piaz from Snooth provides some great insights about how wines get all those wonderful and not so wonderful, eg. cat’s pee, aromas and tastes in his very interesting article, Wine Nose: Talking about Caramel, Vanilla… and Cat’s Pee? by Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth, 13 October 2010.

At a recent Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong a 12-bottle case of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2005 sold for US$232,962, equating to approximately $US19,413 per bottle! Sotheby’s Big Wine Haul by Amy Ma, The Wall Street Journal, 4 October 2010. If you’re interested in learning a bit about the philosophy and wine making practices of the winery responsible for some of the most expensive wine on the planet, then take a look at  Searching for Perfection: A Rare Peek Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Wine Domaine in Burgundy by William Lyons, The Wall Street Journal 1 October 2010.

Photo Credit: Aesthetic Promenades. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti uses horses instead of tractors to till the vineyards!

Read the rest