Drop Dead Red: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

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By Mary Mullaj

There are several competitors for the position of most expensive red wine, mostly bordeaux and burgundies. One Burgundy in particular stands out for its price, but also for its scarcity and quality: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. This wine, both rare and classic, has acheived near mythical status in the wine world. It is exciting, rich, and destined to live a long life (if you can refrain from drinking it immediately). What’s more, even if you are wealthy enough to afford it getting one’s hands on a bottle can prove difficult without the right connections.

Restricted production is one reason for its high price; only 6,000 bottles are produced a year. One bottle of ’78 vintage was sold at auction for $24,000, and more recently 27 bottles of 2008 vintage were bought by a Chinese businessman for half a million dollars. The report that he did not buy this wine as an investment, but to drink, underscores the obsession with Domaine. The wine is however, very collectible, because it ages so well, resulting in a large portion of the wine being snapped up as soon as it is released thereby taking it out of circulation.

The wine consistently displays perfect balance, perfumed aromas, layer upon layer of flavor, silky texture, tremendous aging potential and extraordinary quality no matter what the vintage conditions. The high quality of the wine is attributed to the Burgundy estate’s use of a biodynamic approach to wine making. The pinot noir grapes are grown to result in low yields, of which the ripe ones are picked late and subjected to a lengthy fermentation at low temperatures, aging for over eighteen months in new 100% oak, and minimum filtration. Soil supplements are limited to compost made from crused vine roots, grape skins, and other residues from fermentation. To avoid compacting the soil, horses have been reintroduced to cultivate the vineyands. Wine critic Clive Coates goes so far as to declare “this it the purest, most aristocratic, and most intense example of Pinot Noir you could possibly imagine. Not only nectar: a yardstick with which to judge all other Burgundies.”

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