A legendary, yet somehow unknown, wine; a wine not sold, but served on occasion; a wine above commercial interest; and a hedonistic blessing for a lucky few.
I am of course talking about the Bâtard-Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a wine served only – or should I say mainly – at tastings held by this legendary estate. It is an extremely rare bottle, with a limited production of two casks or so, equivalent to around 600 bottles.
The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti plot in Batard-Montrachet
Outside knowledge of Romanée-Conti’s Bâtard is very limited, and precise information regarding this cuvee is scarce.
I found the first detailed information in Gert Crum’s book about DRC: the Bâtard plot is in the Chassagne-Montrachet end of the vineyard.
Crum’s 2012 work reveals the size of the plot, and also that DRC has made the Bâtard since at least 1987. But perhaps we can dig a bit deeper, and find some valuable additions to the scant knowledge of the estate’s Bâtard-Montrachet.
The size of the parcel is equal to that of cadastre no. 46 in the southern, lower end of Bâtard-Montrachet (see maps below). The plot is, as mentioned, 0.1746 ha, and contains 75-year-old vines, as Crum’s work is some years old now.
Aubert de Villaine, DRC’s co-owner and -director, confirmed the plot’s location, and he also emphasized that the wine is not a commercial product. The wine produced from this plot (it is only 0.17ha) is kept for tastings and receptions at the domaine, he said.
The history of DRC’s plot of Bâtard-Montrachet, both known and conjectural
The Bâtard plot no. 46 was, according to de Villaine, acquired in 1966 from Roizot, who also owned one (the second) of the three plots of what is now DRC’s Montrachet holding.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti acquired plot no. 129 in the Montrachet appellation at the same time as no. 46 in Bâtard-Montrachet, both from Roizot.
Mr. Roizot acquired his parcel from Charles Drapier in 1918, and was mentioned amongst the owners of Montrachet by Rodier in 1920 – although not as an owner of Bâtard. It is plausible that Roizot also bought the Bâtard plot from Drapier, but I have not been able to verify this link.
To fill in the historical record I searched Danguy & Aubertin2 (1892), and they mention Drapier as an owner on both the Chassagne and the Puligny side of Montrachet.
And while Danguy & Aubertin do not name Drapier as an owner of Bâtard-Montrachet, page 60 of their work does show that in 1892, Drapier did in fact own – or at least manage – a part of Bâtard-Montrachet (see photo below).
Linking the Drapier holding of Bâtard-Montrachet (as indicated by Danguy & Aubertin) to DRC’s current plot 46 is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but it is possible given that Drapier had a plot of Bâtard in 1892.
The information on page 60 in Danguy & Aubertin is intriguing, as the book links the Drapier holdings in Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet to the old property of the Comtes de Courtivron, a prominent Burgundian family of land- and vineyard owners.
Going back even further, Lavalle1 is not very specific about the ownership of the Chassagne side of Montrachet and Bâtard in his 1855 book, but he did mention de Courtivron as an owner of Montrachet.
So while I cannot confirm this definitively, it seems reasonable so assert that the ownership chain of DRC’s Bâtard goes back from the Vosne estate through Rozier and perhaps even Drapier and de Courtivron.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Bâtard-Montrachet: the first vintage?
DRC’s acquired its Bâtard-Montrachet in 1966, and while I have no records of very old vintages of the Bâtard being served at the domaine, neither can I rule out the existence of bottles dating back to the mid-1960s.
It is possible that the “house white” is more that 50 years old; making it somewhat more venerable than expected from historic notes.
Indeed, it’s just become a bit harder for guests to blind-guess the vintage at the tasting!
DRC Bâtard-Montrachet in the glass
I have been lucky, and have tasted DRC Bâtard-Montrachet three times over the last seven years – a tremendous delight and treat.
During the same period I have tasted DRC Montrachet only once: the 2009, tasted in 2016.
To compare the two is a bit difficult, but it’s fair to say the Bâtard is less vinously velvety and is perhaps more minerally focused, as one would expect. To say that one is “better” than the other would be tricky; in the end the Bâtard is perhaps somehow closer to my preferences and is perhaps more a vin d`émotion. Yet the Montrachet is, in the end, the bigger and deeper wine.
Take your pick. Both are heavenly.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Bâtard-Montrachet 2000
The Bâtard-Montrachet 2000 is a great, mature, white. The bouquet is very expressive and complex, with notes of acacia, hazelnuts, almonds, and Belle de Boskoop apple spiced with hints of toast, coffee, and citrus. The palate offers rich, pure fruit with an intense underlying minerality. It’s rich and almost creamy, but still vibrant and fresh. A lovely, balanced, and mature wine with delightful complexity and great length. A beautiful wine.
(Drink from Now) – Outstanding+ (96p) – Tasted 20/03/2013
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Bâtard-Montrachet 2007
The 2007 Bâtard-Montrachet is a sensational wine, and one of the best white Burgundies I have ever tasted. The bouquet is crammed with orchard fruits – amazingly intense, but still cool, crisp, and airy, with a beautiful supporting mineral note. It’s young, but the complexity is nevertheless stunning. On the palate, intense and beautifully structured by 2007’s precise, powerful acidity. Layers of fruit on the mid-palate are supported by a vibrant, firm minerality; incredibly well-balanced and long. I love the purity and the feeling of perfect ripeness. A truly magnificent white Burgundy; they don’t come much better than this.
(Drink From 2023) – Extraordinary+ (98p) – Tasted 12/09/2013
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Bâtard-Montrachet 2008
The 2008 Bâtard-Montrachet is a rich, expressive wine, showing some development after nine years in bottle. Starting out as opulent and ripe, it shows these developed and slightly mature notes as honey, acacia, and yellow fruits. With some time and air, more citrus-driven fruit appears, and with that, focus and freshness, giving a more youthful, classic balance. I would love to have followed this over a longer time. It was a bit extravagant from the start , and did not quite match the more classic 2007. But this is an exuberant glass.
(Drink From 2023) – Outstanding (95-96p) – Tasted 09/11/2017
The Bâtard-Montrachet is a thoroughbred of balance, intensity, and refinement, and the southern part of the appellation certainly produces wines of the very highest quality – as does its neighbour Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, just below this eastern corner of Bâtard, with producers like Olivier Lamy (Domaine Hubert Lamy) and Domaine d`Auvenay.
Special thanks to Aubert de Villaine for the crucial historical information regarding the plot.
References & Sources:
- Jules Lavalle, Histoire et Statistique de la Vignes et Des Grands Vins de la Côte d’Or (1855)
- M.R. Danguy et M. Ch. Aubertin, Les Grands Vins de Bourgogne (1892)
- Camille Rodier, Le Vin de Bourgogne (1920)
- Clive Coates, Cote D’Or (1997)
- Jasper Morris, Inside Burgundy: Cote de Beaune
- Francoise Vignier, Le chateau du moulin Foulot à Meursault (1982)
- Gert Crum, Le Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (2012)