A few months back Jordi contacted two of us at C&B and asked that we keep a date free for a Richebourg tasting and lunch at La Pyramide by Patrick Henriroux just south of Lyon in Vienne.
The date came around two weekends ago and, with no hesitation, we travelled down on the Sunday to be in prime position for a far from dull Monday morning. Sitting down in the Bistrot on the Sunday evening we satisfied ourselves with a red and white from local vines.
The Condrieu Le Petit Cote 2017 from Yyes Cuilleron was a good example, nicely rich fruit and a little toastiness, it drank well to start and the last glass suited the cheese well. The real star here (and at a great price) was the Cotes du Rhone 2017 from Domaine Jamet which performs that great trick of being both lush with fruit but balanced and fresh. The character is certainly that of a Northern Cotes du Rhone (a soul of Syrah). The alcohol is only 13.5% and the moreishness is persistently impressive. The supper was good. Afterwards we joined Jordi and many of the “players” who had arrived for the following day. Several had been out for a great looking lunch. Jordi opened a tremendous bottle:
Grands Echezeaux 1943 – it was a delight, such poise and plenty of delicious freshness. Moving inside six of the set got together to take a bottle of the list:
Romanee-Conti V.V. 1942 – the crucial part being the “Vigne Originelle Francaise Non Reconstitue” (which will be explained later). The nose was stunning, bright and red fruited but more floral than anything, heady in an elegant way. No need to taste it. With that it was time to “hit the hay” in preparation for the following day.
One of the main drivers for the day was a great bottle that Jordi enjoyed with Neal Martin (he wrote it up brilliantly in Noble Rot Magazine Issue 16, pages 96 & 97), Aubert de Villaine and Bertrand de Villaine (who was with us on this day too). The bottle being another “Vigne Originelle Francaise Non Reconstitue” which I will refer to as V.V. below. The term refers to, quoting Neal directly “The story goes that at the cessation of the Second World War, the domaine left part of Richebourg on their original vines as other parcels were re-grafted onto American rootstock to ensure their survival against phylloxera”. It is thought that the part left was approximately 1.2hectares and at the southern-most part of Richebourg.
So a little bit on Richebourg before we start the tasting notes – there are lots of good breakdowns of the Cru – I used the one on WineHog – Richebourg today is 8.03ha, 5.05 having been the original area and 2.98 being the added “Les Verroilles ou Richebourg”. It is now divided amongst 11 owners:
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – 3.511ha, Domaine Leroy – 0.78ha, Gros Frere et Soeur – 0.69ha, A.F.Gros – 0.60ha, Anne Gros – 0.60ha, Thibault Liger-Belair – 0.55ha, Meo-Camuzet – 0.35ha, Jean Grivot – 0.32ha, Mongeard Mugneret – 0.31ha, Hudelot-Noellat – 0.28ha, Frantin – 0.07ha.
And to the tasting. We started with a glass from a Jeroboam of Bollinger RD 1985 which was even better two hours later pre-lunch – a savoury, nutty, salty glass. Six pairs of wines for the tasting. I’ve scored out of 25 for purely selfish reasons (it gives me more scope):
Richebourg 1961, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Solid colour with brown taking over. Slightly astringent, there is a slightly rogue-ish spice. The overall feel is a little lean and herbal. Decent but not a lifted as it might be. 16-17 / 25
Richebourg 1959, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Very expressive “sexy” nose, good grip but the main sensation is just one of extrovert poise. Caramel comes into the nose and through to the palate. Long and glorious. Bullseye. 23+ / 25
Richebourg 1953, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Tea-brown colour, clean and transparent. Earth and some spice. Quite a bit of acidity. It is (almost obviously) far lighter than the 1959. Glimpses of tea flavours and a little sweetness. 19+ / 25
Richebourg 1952, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – No score given here as, whilst taste-able, this was not correct. Mushrooms and truffle in abundance, soy too. A little dry and just lacking fruit.
Richebourg 1956, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – I struggle to find or remember another 1956 that I have ever had. Hints of caramel, moreish if a little short. This is relatively delicate but it is good, balanced and certainly quite an over performer. 18+ / 25
Richebourg 1942, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – “traditional or classic” Richebourg as opposed to the V.V. – Spicy nose, nice feel to the texture, good vibrant acidity that is “in check” has a fine focus if a less than extrovert feel. 19 / 25
Richebourg 1942 V.V, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – An “animal” wine, farmyard and then a good, rich palate, soft fruit but fruit nonetheless. Good grip, refined. Has good drive and energy. Fascinating and if anything growing in stature with air. 20-21 / 25
Richebourg 1938, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Quite heady nose, it has a really quite astringent acidity – exaggerated rather than faulty. There is then a funky feel before some more mellow tea aromas arrive. A little “all over the place” but then at 81 years of age…18 / 25
Richebourg 1940, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Very pretty red fruit which belies the colour. Has a really fine, almost feminine feel, poised and fruitily focused. A massive over-performer. 22 / 25
Richebourg 1938 V.V, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Sadly this was too oxidised to score.
Richebourg 1937 ??, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – It turned out that this wasn’t actually a 1937 at all, the label had degraded. The vintage was thought to be in the 1920s. Undergrowth, has a musty element, then some sweetness which then dries out. The finish is unpleasant, something of a mystery. 15 / 25
Richebourg 1937 V.V, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Nice nose, good energy, there is good fruit to this, it is a focused wine with good drive. 20+ / 25
Richebourg 1929, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Pretty oxidated. Volatile, some fruit but quite astringent, taste-able but not much more. 14 / 25
Richebourg 1935, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – A musty but quite dense nose, not perfect but good. It is weary more than anything. 17 / 25
Richebourg 1935 V.V, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Tiny bit of swimming pool nose (not a bad thing). Has a nice feel, a little cheesy but again this is not a fault. Has a floral freshness, a little dryness, good but not showy. 19 /25
And then to Luncheon downstairs in the main restaurant:
As mentioned above we enjoyed another glass from the Jeroboam of Bollinger RD 1985 I found it had mellowed and opened up.
The menu was:
Couteaux, coques et vernis en fine remoulade de choux fleur au curry vert, gelee de granny smith
Raviole de jaune d’oeuf aux mousserons et shimeji, creme soufflee et noisettes torrefiees
Ballotine de volaille de bresse farcie de foies blonds et foie ras, jus poivade
Tarte de pommes de terre rattes de chavanay aux truffes et grillons de ris de veau
Boeuf de l’Aubrac roti au sautoir artichaut farci jus aux baies de cassis
Les fromages des producteurs de nos regions
The lunch vintages were, in general, served in pairs. In some instances there were two bottles of a wine and on those occasions they served one bottle to everyone and then the next:
Before we started on the Richebourgs there was a white to have, but not just any white – Montrachet 2011 from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. I think most 2011 white Burgundy’s have been drinking well for a while and this is no exception. The drive of the vintage is matched nicely with the natural exuberance of Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
Richebourg 1965, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Good nose, a dash of that swimming pool note but a nice “feel”. Lots of fruit and lots of acidity, a little mushroom water in the mix. There were two bottles here. The first was an 18 / 25 and then the second more lifted was 19+ / 25
Richebourg 1962, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Really lovely wine this. (Wild) strawberry and delicious. Very elegant with real charm, not light, more weightless. 22 / 25
Richebourg 1963, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Astringent in honesty, volatile and peppery, ok but quite hard and unforgiving. 17 / 25
Richebourg 1971, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Two bottles here. 1) spicy and quite dusky in feel ok but no more than 18 / 25. Number 2) has an easiness, more delicate too, just a better bottle. 20 / 25
Richebourg 1969, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – two bottles but to my mind both pretty consistent. Good freshness, redder fruit than many. Sweet succulent and really rather fine. Super wine. 21-22 / 25
Richebourg 1980, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – As with La Tache 1980 this is delicious, there is a lovely easy balance, fruit is more red than black.
Richebourg 1976, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Rich and full as one might expect from such an extreme growing season. Has nice spice here (a second bottle had even more, a light Grenache feel). 19 / 25
We then had to go in order not to miss our flight. The vintages we missed were. 1986 & 1996 along with Yquem 1936. I am sure they will be written up elsewhere.
Conclusions are always hard in these situations but if you should judge (and it is a good argument) a wine, a site, a Cru by its “ability to perform” in “lesser” (or more difficult as Aubert de Villaine would say) vintages then Richebourg does this in spades.
Jordi & Lydia – as ever, thank you so very much, a truly once in a lifetime experience.