Continuing from the Clos de Vougeot, neighboring Vosne-Romanee to the south(with Flagey-Echeveaux, which contains portions of the grand cru wines Echezeaux and Grands Echeveaux) is, like Pauillac in the Medoc, a destination of its own. Its wines are justly world renowned, and also the priciest and rarest wines in Burgundy. There is a spectrum of grand cru and premier cru wines, but let us begin with the famous grand cru wines of the most famous producer, the Domaine de la Romanee Conti. There I was pleased to have a private wine tasting. At the Domaine de la Romanee Conti, an understated rustic style substitutes for apparent luxury. The cool cellars laden with barrels of the maturing vintage reminded me of one of the excellent Bordeaux cellars, like Chateau Ausone perhaps, but certainly without the sweep of those of Chateau Margaux. There I tasted the grand cru wines in order of complexity, and compared impressions with the cellar master. The wines were all from the 1988 vintage, but they have taste suggestions for other DRC vintages as well.
The Grands Echezeaux was a revelation. It tasted like a deeper progression of the Echezeaux. I thought that it had more evident tannins than the Echezeaux just tasted, which gave it more backbone. My notes were to leave it alone in the cellar fr twenty years. (At this point, the DRC and its prices, which range upwards of $1,000 for a bottle of the rarest grands crus, and I have to part company. It is of some interest, therefore, to compare my tasting notes with grand cru wines from other fine producers, where that is feasible. For example, we have enjoyed from our cellar a bottle of 1988 Grands Echezeaux from Mongeard-Mugneard, that also was a deeper wine. We look forward to comparing both that bottle and the DRC Echezeaux with the Echezeaux from Mongeard-Mugneard’s vieilles vignes from the same year.)
The Romanee-St. Vivant (named for the St. Vivant Chapel) was tasted next. Some writers have been condescending about this wine, as light compared to other DRC wines. The owner asked if I found it “feminine.” I answered, “Of course, if your definition of ‘feminine’ includes Barbara Stanwyck!” For this Romanee-St. Vivant was steel wrapped in velvet, or if you prefer, it was a Cardinal Richelieu of a wine, with great elegance and breeding, peppery notes and fine structure, a keeper. As the Echezeaux had brought to mind Chateau Margaux, so this Romanee-St. Vivant reminded me very much of a Cheval Blanc from St. Emilion from a fine vintage. I will look forward to seeing if our cellar’s 1988 Romanee-St. Vivant from the Domaine Jean Jacques Confuron has the same breeding.
I would also recommend your contacting the Domaine du Clos Frantin, 2 Chaumes 21700 Vosne-Romanee (telephone: 03-80-61-01-57: FAX 03-80-61-33-08). The Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret is at 14, rue La Fontaine, 21700 Vosne-Romanee (telephone 03-80-61-11-95: FAX 03-80-62-35-75), and the Domaine Prieure Roch is at the rue Chateau, 21700 Vosne-Romanee (telephone 03-80-62-00-00: FAX 03-80-62-00-01).
Now we rejoin Route Nationale 74, going south. Neighboring Nuits-St. Georges, which completes and names the Cote de Nuits, rather reminds me of St. Julien in the Medoc. I say that because of the extremely high quality level of their wines, here expressed in premiers crus, and the absence of any grand cru for the appellation. The finest vineyards, as you will suspect by now, lie to the west of the village, on the slopes. We have spent many an enjoyable Sunday dinner getting to know these excellent wines, and would recommend Les Vaucrains, Les Saint-Georges, Clos de la Marechale (said to be named for Marechale Petain, and the name’s origin now conveniently forgotten), Les Portets, Les Cailles, and Aux Boudots. That hardly exhausts the list, for there are some forty premiers crus entitled to the designation. From the 1988 vintage, we have enjoyed superb bottles of Clos de la Marechale from Faiveley, Les Vaucrains from Henri Gouges, Les Saint Georges from Robert Chevillon, and Les Boudots from Louis Jadot, a wine that surprised me for its largeness, for want of a better word. Its style was reminiscent of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. From the 1983 vintage, we greatly enjoyed a 1983 Les Boudots from Mongeard-Mugneret and a Robert Chevillon Les Saint Georges, which I characterized as “an excellent wine, full of character.”
Bill Shepard is Bonjour Paris’s wine editor, and the author of Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines: Taste Is for Wine: Points Are for Ping Pong.