Price vs value: DRC

(by susie)

horseAs controversy flares around the issue of adulterated meat in British retailers, it raises issues of authenticity and trust in today’s society – and the question of price versus value.

This meat scandal isn’t, primarily, a health issue. It’s one of trust – how can we trust a supermarket, or brand, which clearly says something is ‘beef’ when in fact in some cases it was entirely horse meat?

It’s also to do with simple economic realities. While consumers certainly have the right to feel defrauded, and one hopes that criminal charges will eventually be successfully prosecuted in this case, there is a certain amount of self-delusion going on.

Do we shoppers really think that, in the seemingly endless drive by retailers for the lowest price to tout for our business, some corners won’t be cut?

Wine isn’t exempt from historical or current examples of fraud. Where there’s profit to be made by bending, or breaking the rules, then logic dictates they will be. Whether it’s cheap dross dressed up as fine wine or adulterating Sauvignon Blanc to make it smell more attractive, it’s all part of the same murky business.

DRC in the spotlightSo what price authenticity? Can we put a value on trust, on the genuine article (whatever it might be, from a local butcher’s produce to fine wine), on generations of experience, work and fine tuning to deliver absolute quality?

These thoughts sprang to mind after a recent tasting of the 2010 vintage of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC). Wine lovers will need no reminding that this estate produces some of the rarest, most sought-after, highly acclaimed (and dizzyingly pricey) wines in the world.

With DRC, it’s difficult to separate the myth from the liquid in the glass. The name, and wines are so highly coveted by wine lovers that, tasting them in hushed and reverent stillness in the offices of its UK agent, Corney & Barrow, it’s almost impossible to remain objective and dispassionate.

But then that’s partly the point.

Sometimes in wine, you can’t help but feel the hype is more than the liquid can bear (many top champagnes and an increasing number of clarets suffer from this condition).

But here, with these haunting yet intense wines, the chattering hype is forgotten as the serenity of great wine takes over.

These are wines that make you passionate. You can’t help it. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Because, for once, it’s greatly satisfying to be able to experience the genuine article, wines which speak of authenticity, unique identity and massive legacy. True, they have a significant price tag attached – but it’s not just about price, these are wines that have great value too.

It’s just a pity that most of us can’t afford to crack them open with our mid-week (horse-free) lasagne.

2010 vintage report (abridged from the notes supplied by Adam Brett-Smith of Corney & Barrow)

Aubert de Villaine in the spotlightBrett-Smith terms this a, ‘great vintage, with intricately ripe fruit, subtle concentration, intensity and above all purity and transparent fidelity to the individual terroirs. These are fine, fine wines.’

The price to pay for such finery was, ‘in the yield’, with poor flowering giving low fruit levels. However, during an occasionally humid and stormy summer, having a small potential crop proved an advantage, as otherwise rot and other diseases may have set in.

A certain amount of brinkmanship was necessary to delay the harvest, as was strict selection of the grapes on the sorting table to weed out any rotten berries.

Perhaps this is partly what proprietor Aubert de Villaine meant when he described 2010 as, ‘an Homeric epic’: great travail, but with great rewards.

‘Better than 2009?’ asks Brett-Smith. ‘Honestly I do not know. It is completely different […] the answer will come with time.’


  • All wines were tasted by Susie on 31st Jan 2013
  • The following wines are all finished samples from the 2010 vintage, listed in tasting order
  • I include scores and drinking dates provided by Corney & Barrow as additional information.

Corton 2010, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 13% (£462.50 per case of 3 bottles, in bond UK) – exotic, dusty pot pourri notes along with heady red and black fruit. Pretty, inviting, seductive. Very succulent palate, lifted delicate (soft) texture. Just a hint of earthiness. Drinking well now but will age gracefully. 8/10 (Corney & Barrow score 17++, drinking from 2018-2025)

Échézeaux 2010, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 13% (£647.50 per case of 3 bottles, in bond UK) – Immediately different from the Corton. Darker, more bold, spicy, oaky and with a certain ferruginous edge. Ah, this is very good. A rich feel. Really ripe dark fruit, juicy acidity and seductive silky texture. Nip of fine tannin. 9/10 (Corney & Barrow score 17-18, drinking from 2019-2025+)

Grands Échézeaux 2010, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 13% (£925 per case of 3 bottles, in bond UK) – Darker again, more nutty and oaky. On the palate the fruit is redder and the oak is quite firm and evident. It is muscular and structured. Needs time but whiffs of dried herbs and nutty oak promise good things. Fine tannin. 8-8.5/10 (Corney & Barrow score 18+, drinking from 2021-2030+)

Richebourg 2010, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 13% (£1,475 per case of 3 bottles, in bond UK) – Different again. More forest-floor and gamey, with mixed berry fruit character. It has that exotic note and fine chewy tannin with herbal overtones.  It will age well – a nice earthy ethereal quality. 8.5/10 (Corney & Barrow score 18++, drinking from 2023-2030+)

Romanée-St-Vivant 2010, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 13% (£1,550 per case of 3 bottles, in bond UK) – Closed and reductive, more reticent than the preceding wines. Irony, mineral, with dark blackberry fruit smouldering in the background. This is much tighter and needs more time but it has wonderful potential, such fragrance as it opens in the glass. 8.5-9/10 (Corney & Barrow score 18-19, drinking from 2022-2029+)

La Tâche 2010, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 13% (£1,750 per case of 3 bottles, in bond UK) – Closed again and with subtle exotic pot pourri notes. Gentle and leafy, red fruit, more febrile and delicate in tenor. Doesn’t have the same power or immediate appeal as the previous wines. Still within itself, though very composed and complete – needs time. (9)/10 (Corney & Barrow score 19, drinking from 2025-2035)

Romanée-Conti 2010, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 13% (£5,475 per case of 3 bottles, in bond UK) – very restrained but oaky and powerful, with background leaf and graphite notes. Wow, this is good. Mix of power, leafy, earthy, fragrant, spicy, fine tannin. Will age well. Dark fruit but succulent and beautifully moreish, utterly compelling. (10)/10 (Corney & Barrow score 19-20, drinking from 2026-2035+)