Magazine article The Spectator

Drink Queen of Burgundy

Magazine article The Spectator

Drink Queen of Burgundy

Article excerpt

I sniffed and sipped and concentrated.

It was a wine to savour, drop by drop. A Grands E chezeaux '98 from the Domaine de la RomaneeConti, this was not a mere bottle.

It was an epiphany.

'Great hatred, little room': so Yeats summarised I rish history. We could paraphrase him for the DRC: great prices, little room. The clan chief, Romanee-Conti itself, is only four acres; one wonders what every grape is worth.

F or a chance to buy the wine, at more than £1,000 a bottle en primeur, you virtually have to be entered on a waiting list at birth.

I have only drunk it once.

I t was in the early E ighties at the Plough in Clanfield, Oxfordshire, where the wine list included a 1965 Romanee-Conti for £30. That was a hell of a price for a Burgundy from a bad year. Yet even in those days, it was a bargain for a Romanee-Conti. Did it live up to its reputation? No.

I remember it as being drinkable, but nothing special.

A poor vintage is no basis for judgment. But I have heard serious Burgundians grumble about Romanee-Conti.

One, who had assisted in the drinking of a couple of bottles from sound years, said that he did not know what the fuss was about. Good? Certainly. Great? Almost. Worth the price?

Never.

I f you could exchange a single bottle of Romanee-Conti for a case of Chambertin-Clos de Beze, do so.

Whatever the exchange rate for the Grands E chezeaux, I would be reluctant to take it.

I t was the most feminine wine I have ever drunk. Silken, coy, insinuating and witty, it released its charms with a gracious irony. Gentle reader, if that strikes you as absurd, you should have been alongside me striving to find words to do justice to the occasion.

E ven as the final droplets danced from glass to palate, that wine had a twinkle in its eye - and was asserting its intellectual equality with those who were drinking it.

I n the conversation after the miraculous draught of Grands E chezeaux, we agreed that the E U was not wholly bad. …

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