“As if, in this square of earth, the gods had bequeathed us a memory of the fascinating vestige of a timeless perfection.” —Richard Olney
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, often abbreviated to DRC, is an estate in Burgundy, France that produces iconic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards. Widely considered among the world's greatest wines for their complex ethereal attributes, and site-specific sense of place - DRC bottles are among the world's most sought-after for collectors, consumers, and aficionados. The domaine's eponymous vineyard, Romanée-Conti is the jewel of the crown, and the quality of the 4.47-acre plot has been known since the 13th century when the monks of the Saint-Vivant abbey first planted vines here.
Now available for in-store purchase in original wooden cases:
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2016 Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru [OWC]
Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2016 Richebourg Grand Cru [OWC]
Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2016 Romanée-Conti Grand Cru*
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2017 Grands Échézeaux Grand Cru [OWC]
Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2017 La Tâche Grand Cru [OWC]
Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2017 Romanée-Conti Grand Cru [OWC]
*denotes two bottles left from the 3-pack original wooden case
2017 Vintage Harvest Report
On this first Sunday of October, the weather is turning cooler. The summer is beginning to make way for the mildness of autumn. The vineyards seem relieved to have released their fruit to the harvesters. Peace is reigning and we have the strong impression of a birth whose celebration is everywhere: in the calm and in the lightness of the atmosphere, in the beauty of the landscape and above all, in the warm light coming from the vineyards and changing from gold to light brown then to red and vice-versa. The leaves take their time to fall to the ground. The great painter of the Burgundian autumn is at work in the heart of a luminous and even luxurious season that is the consequence of an early harvest.
In the wineries, on the contrary, the passage from the must to the wine is tumultuous and “foams the vintage.” As we, like Virgil, enter the 34-to-35-degree fermenting vats with “bared limbs in the new must” for the pigeages, it is reminiscent of the warmth of the mother’s breast.
It is the right time to look back and try to find in our memories and notes the elements explaining some of the factors that were essential in shaping the 2017 vintage. Despite the many elements that constitute the alchemy of terroir, the poor human analysis manages to measure only a few; it is important to understand how and why nature gave us this year, for once, such a plentitude of beautiful black grapes full of rich juice and sugar.
2017 has indeed produced a superb harvest both in quantity and quality, which we had not seen for a long time. For the first time in a long while, the winter was cold. In January, for several weeks on end, the vineyards remained covered with a white coat of frost. But there was no snow!
April was very dry and rather warm. As a result, the budburst was very early, at the end of March. The vineyards had leaves by April 6 and with no surprise, they were in great danger when the morning frost was threatening at the end of April.
Being conscious that another frost would be catastrophic after the severe one of last year, the vignerons in all the villages of Burgundy gathered together every day at dawn, between April 27 and 29, to burn straw in front of the vineyards and create a cloud of smoke that could protect them from the biting frost. Thanks to this solidarity, the frost receded.
The second essential episode in the history of the vintage was the flowering. It is the flowering that mainly decides the volume of the crop. It took place this year very early (end of May), very fast (hardly three days) and in warm weather. As a result, the flowering of all the berries was complete, and even the rain that sometimes disturbed it did not cause millerandage. Therefore at the end of May, barring, for instance, a sudden attack of hail, we could expect to harvest a good quantity of grapes in early September.
June was extremely hot, up to 39 degrees Celsius on the 21st. As a result, some of the berries were burnt. But this heat was especially favorable to the thickness of the grape skins, which was positive for the vineyards, when in June and July, successive storms hit the vineyards and provoked the reappearance of the usual enemies: mildew, oidium... The berries that had grown under the effect of rain could resist and remained thick and solid.
Veraison began in July and early August, when the vineyards stopped developing their vegetation to concentrate on the ripening of the grapes. We observed big berries that were sometimes compact but healthy.
During the entire period, Nicolas Jacob and all the team — the vignerons as well as the cavistes — had to face the exceptionally fast development of the vegetative organs of the vineyards, with some of the vine shoots growing 10 centimeters in a single day. Nature challenged us to perform in record time all the essential works: from disbudding to tying-down, this last being very delicate as the vines were fragile due to their ultra-rapid growth.
August was dry and warm, hence accelerating the ripening process. At the end of the last week of August, the sugar contents were such that we could have harvested at the end of the month. But it was important to wait as the phenolic ripening — which contributes to the final aromas and characteristics of the wine — was not achieved. The soils were too dry to unblock the situation.
Luckily, at the end of August, much hoped-for rains arrived to perfect this ultimate ripening that is essential to the final quality of the vintage.
Traditionally, the harvest is earlier in the Côte de Nuits than in the Côte de Beaune. It was the case this year again. We started harvesting in the warm chalky soils of our Corton vineyards on September 4. The grapes were superb, healthy and full of sugar.
We waited until September 6 to start with La Tâche (on 6th and 7th) in Vosne-Romanée.
The Romanée-Conti was harvested on the morning of the 8th and the Richebourg, in the afternoon. It rained on the morning of the 9th, so we stopped for the whole day.
Then, we went on in the following order: end of the Richebourg on the 10th, Romanée-St-Vivant on the 10th and 11th, Grands Échézeaux on the 12th and Échézeaux on the 13th. We were stopped again by rain on the 14th and we ended with the last plots of Échézeaux on the 15th.
The Montrachet that was hit by frost last year (up to 90 percent) was very vigorous this year. As is normal in such conditions, with the vines having not produced any grapes in 2016, they regained their strength and the will to produce... to our delight! The harvest took place on September 7. The yield is not excessive, but abundant. The grapes were perfectly healthy and ripe. Fermentations are proceeding very well and we are very optimistic about this vintage of Montrachet.
The Paulée was celebrated on Saturday the 16th. It was a very special one: Bernard Noblet’s last harvest. Having been our cellar master since 1986 when he succeeded his father, André Noblet, it was essential to underline his remarkable career and mark the important dates with the wines that we served: 1978, the year when he arrived at the Domaine, 1985, the year when he made his first vinifications (it was actually 1986) and the highlight... 1957, the year of his birth!
Our wonderful team of harvesters, brilliantly led by Nicolas Jacob, will remember the picking as being an easy one. The grapes abandoned themselves to the harvesters who had not much work at the sorting table, except with the dried grapes that had been burnt by the sun or those that were already withered. After each rain arriving before or during the harvest, we feared that botrytis might develop or even explode, as sometimes happens at the end of the season, but finally the harvest we brought into the winery was in perfect sanitary condition.
We are very thankful to our vines for being so generous!
In a vintage like 2017, when we can easily be overwhelmed by the generosity of nature and allow ourselves too much leeway, the control of the yield is a key factor. Once more, our selections of fine types of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, that is, low or medium production, are a major element in this control, as well as the age of the vineyards that is around 50 years for each vine.
With such a beautiful and sound harvest, the vinification had to respect the quality of the grapes. The destemming that we usually perform after the last sorting in the winery, just before vatting, was minimal. Sometimes there was none; the Romanée-Conti, for instance, was vinified with whole clusters.
During the few days of maceration before fermentations started, the colors were dark red. Then fermentations began and from the first pumping-over, lively pink foams appeared. They are usually the promise of a rich and generous vintage.
It is an exceptional vinification campaign that we are experiencing at the time of this writing, since Bernard Noblet, with his successor Alexandre Bernier and his team, has to vinify 24 tanks this year — that is almost twice as much as last year.
In conclusion, the end of devattings and the maturing in oak barrels will give us more information on the specific characteristics of these 2017s. But in the meantime we can say that the spring promises have been kept — the crop is exceptionally abundant, without being excessive, thanks to the natural control of yields that was carried out by our vineyard team. The crop is exceptionally healthy as well and we can expect a very good quality.
— Aubert de Villaine, Co-Director of DRC
October 1, 2017