Fine Wine – Domaine de la Romanee-Conti

David Dallas, Wine Specialist

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I had intended to give an up-to-date analysis of auction results for Fine Wine, but Covid-19 put paid to that . It is an indiscriminate bug ! So, instead, I am going to share some musings on arguably the finest and purest expression of the Pinot Noir grape, which, by the way, comes in more than 1,400 different clones. La Romanee-Conti, owned by Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (always affectionately known as DRC).
When Clive Coates published his classic ‘ Cote d’Or ‘ in 1997, he warned ‘ If you can lay your hands on a case [of La Romanee-Conti] and it is a big ‘if’- you would have to pay £5,000 or more for a young vintage, double or treble for a wine in its prime.’ Recessions have come and gone, world banking crises have been overcome and Red Burgundy, in particular wines by Henri Jayer and DRC have risen inexorably in value. Why is this? Obviously this is in part due to the excellence of the wine, produced from very old vines growing on a perfect terroir, but it has a lot to do with scarcity. La Romanee-Conti is minute, 1.8 hectares, producing around 400 cases of wine a year, which means that only a few thousand people can own a bottle in any one vintage and there are strict allocations. Every bottle is numbered, so that the owners can track any that come onto the open market. Romanee-Conti is a Grand Cru and despite its size, has its own Appellation.

By 2015, when a rare case of 12 appeared at auction, it was usually estimated at £80-120,000. Odd bottles appeared more frequently, priced more modestly at £4-5,000. As you can see, there is a premium attached to untouched cases. The rise continues. Bonhams sold a case of six bottles of the 1988 vintage for £107,550 in September of last year and a case of twelve for just under £ 250,000. In the space of twenty-two years, bottles are more valuable than cases of twelve were when Clive Coates went to press. To put this in perspective, a case of Chateau Latour, from the much-vaunted 2010 vintage would make £10,000 at auction. Romanee-Conti is in a league of its own.

When I was last at DRC, five years ago, with a friend who was collecting thirteen mixed bottles from the DRC’s six world-famous holdings (his annual allocation), the owner Aubert de Villaine was in the middle of a group ‘selfie’ surrounded by young Chinese enthusiasts. Chinese involvement at the top end of the wine market has certainly added to the price rise.
So go to your cellar, the stair cupboard or wherever you keep your wine and look for the dustiest bottles. If, by some good fortune, you discover some red Burgundy you had forgotten about, take a clear photograph of the label, make a note of where the level of the wine comes to on the neck or shoulder of the bottle when upright and send it to us and we can give you a rough guide as to its value, assuming it has been stored correctly. The dramatic rise in the value of La Romanee-Conti has had a beneficial effect on many of its neighbours.

Posted in Wine and Whisky.