The opportunity to open a bottle of La Romanée can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The vineyards — ploughed by horse to avoid compacting the precious soil — cover just 2.1 acres, making La Romanée the smallest appellation in France.
Situated to the west of Romanée-Conti and just below Richebourg, on the hill that houses all the great Vosne-Romanée vineyards, it produces an average of around 300 precious cases — up to 4,000 bottles — of wine each year. Compare that to Chateau Pétrus, another famously exclusive wine, which produces 2,500 cases a year, and you’ll have some idea of how rare and precious La Romanée is.
The vineyard has been owned by the Comte Liger-Belair family since the early part of the 19th century — today, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair is the seventh generation of his family to manage his forebears’ vineyards and winery. By the mid-19th century the wines from La Romanée were already held in high regard, hailed by such legendary wine writers as Dr Jules Lavalle, who published an unofficial classification of Burgundy vineyards in 1855.
In September 2016 Christie’s was honoured to organise a historic auction of wines directly from the reserves of Bouchard Père & Fils, bottlers and distributors of La Romanée between 1976 and 2001. During the run-up to the auction — which proved a great success — it was decided to keep a selection of La Romanée aside and to offer it separately.
Now, on 16 May, Christie’s is set to offer an exceptional selection of La Romanée vintages from as far back as 1862 in our Fine and Rare Wines sale in Geneva. Here Edwin Vos picks out his five standout offerings — tasting notes are made by the Bouchard Père & Fils cellar master and his team.
More about this vintage: This pre-phylloxera vintage — which was re-corked in 1991 — is very rarely seen today and little has been written about it.
Bouchard Père & Fils tasting notes: From the nose very well kept and lively. On the palate displaying a superb strength and vigour for its age.
In this year: Victor Hugo publishes the first two volumes of his epic historical novel, Les Misérables.
More about this vintage: Another pre-phylloxera vintage, also re-corked in 1991. Some frost in the spring (fortunately no hail) reduced the yield, but the dry summer that followed helped to create wines of excellent quality and structure with a long, intense finish. The best wines have retained their lively red colour and offer a remarkable tasting reminiscent of the 1846.
Bouchard Père & Fils tasting notes: Fairly intense, bright with a healthy red colour. Very intense nose of fresh truffles. Beautiful in the mouth, balanced and long. Impressively fresh.
Also in this year: Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, is assassinated.
More about this vintage: The greatest vintage from the early years of the 20th century was the result of ideal weather conditions in the run-up to the summer, followed by a hot August, which helped to concentrate the grapes, leading to an early harvest. The wine was re-corked in 1992.
Bouchard Père & Fils tasting notes: Beautiful bouquet, still quite young. Very good strength in the mouth.
Also in this year: An earthquake followed by devastating fires destroys most of San Francisco.
More about this vintage: Alongside the 1906, one of the best vintages of the formative 20th century. Re-corked in 1992, it is highly sought after.
Also in this year: Hiram Bingham rediscovers the forgotten Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru.
More about this vintage: Most wines of this vintage were consumed during their early life, and consequently any remaining bottles are extremely rare. An extremely cold winter, during which the temperature dropped to as low as -20°C, was followed by a mild spring with some morning frost in parts of the vineyards, which led to an uneven flowering. A fairly cool summer followed, resulting in a small crop of grapes with thin skins, which produced wines of light structure finishing with elevated acidity.
Also in this year: The RMS Titanic strikes an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sinks.