This was a very special evening, however biased I might be – Domaine de la Romanée Conti’s Aubert de Villaine was in town for a dinner at the Cutty Sark.
It began with a Champagne Delamotte reception on the Cutty Sark deck. Access to the middle deck was available for those without a thick enough coat, or who had forgotten a hat and gloves.
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV from magnum is always a good choice, which drinks so well.
For dinner we moved downstairs to eat at tables of ten, under the hull. Coated in copper it is a striking place for dinner. Aubert amusingly noted it was also a wise choice given it was one of the few ships of note that had not fought the French…
The menu was good, worked well, and was of a high standard – especially given it was for 100 people:
Confit sea trout, sweet pea puree, roasted lobster oil
Wood pigeon, barley risotto, balsamic jus, lemon thyme
Thyme roasted guinea fowl, anna potato, salt baked carrots, cavelo nero
Sourdough toast, griddled mushrooms, parsley butter
Bâtard Montrachet 2000 kicked off the evening of Domaine de la Romanée Conti wines, all of which had been collected from the estate just 3 weeks beforehand.
The Domaine has enough land in Bâtard to produce about two barrels – two ouvres or 1/12th of a hectare.
A recent conversation I had suggests that the fruit is harvested at the same time as the Montrachet – Bâtard was purchased with the Domaine’s Montrachet in 1966. In fact, DRC’s Bâtard Montrachet is never released for sale. This was an extremely rare excursion outside the Domaine.
There is a touch of the tropical about the nose but then a balancing saline edge and a lovely richness, but it has freshness. Aubert commented that, like Montrachet, you can really let this fully ripen without worrying about a lack of energy.
With less and less wine left in the glass there was a phase when it was a little smokey – like lapsang tea – then the empty glass had a lovely dash of butterscotch. A cracking start to the evening.
Échézeaux 2000 and Grands Échézeaux 2000 came next. It was a really good pair…
This vintage gets slightly overlooked, given that it falls amongst ’99, ’01, and ’02. Aubert made a very good point during the evening that nowadays to speak about ‘great’ and ‘lesser’ vintages is a little pointless; it should be ‘easy’ and ‘difficult’, because there is much that can be done in the vineyard and during selection.
So how were these two wines? Without sounding silly: they were both great, but in different ways. The Echezeaux had a delightful airy nose, stones and minerals, then berries and raspberries. Very bright and wonderfully accessible.
The Grands Echezeaux was far more restrained and muted on the nose, then the palate comes alive with so much fruit – really impressive. I think, finally, after about 16 years, I am starting to understand this Cru. It is never showy, but always restrained and serious.
To accompany the main course was another pair: Richebourg 1991 and La Tâche 1991. Aubert mentioned how 1991 was neither as spectacular nor as seductive as 1990 but has a long way to go: “the type of wines I really like to make”.
These two both showed well. The Richebourg was the darker and richer of the two, as you would expect, but the focus of the wine and precision of the fruit was massive. A good surprise for me was a moreish minerality behind the fruit – really lovely. The La Tache 1991 is always a star, very hard to write about, focussed with red fruit and some gentle spice. ‘Complete’ is the word.
Precise, elegant, not heavy but very persistent, with some gentler fruits and a tea-like purity – clearly not from a big warm vintage but a wine with refined texture and beautiful weightlessness.
The reaction when it was revealed as 1965 was excellent. A 50 year old wine that was not a ‘showbiz’ vintage, showing so well, was wonderful.
Most people were still re-tasting and wallowing in the other wines so this maybe didn’t get a fair crack. I had a glass and liked it as usual – by now I was past the stage of tasting notes.
All wines from 6 different Grand Cru sites showed brilliantly, each with diverse characters. This is exactly what you want – well, certainly what I want – from Burgundy, at the highest level.