Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, often abbreviated DRC, is a legendary Burgundy estate known the world over as one of the greatest wine producers on the planet.
A noble history
The domaine is believed to have its origins in the 13th century, when many of the vineyards were owned by a local monastery, the Abbey of Saint Vivant in Vosne.
In 1760, the vineyards were the subject of a bidding war between Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and her bitter rival the king’s cousin, Louis-François de Bourbon, Prince of Conti. The mistress’s pockets were not as big as those of the prince, who handed over 8,000 livres for the estate, appending his title to the best vineyard.
Unfortunately for the Prince, his reign at the domaine was short lived as his lands were seized and auctioned off during the French Revolution. Nonetheless, this regal pedigree is felt, even today, in the sumptuous and evolved nature of the wines.
Elite vineyards with limited supply
DRC is relatively small. It produces just 6,000-8,000 cases per year and is the only domaine in Burgundy to produce wine exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards. Also incredibly rare, two of their Grands Crus are monopoles — vineyards controlled entirely by a single estate — Romanée-Conti and La Tâche.
DRC additionally produces wines from Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Grands-Echézeaux, Echézeaux, and Corton. Historically, Montrachet has been the only white wine produced, but in 2018, the domaine began farming a 2.9-hectare parcel of Corton-Charlemagne, leased from Domaine Bonneau du Martray.
Given the wines’ quality, status, and scarcity, demand far outweighs supply, which has sent prices soaring. The domaine currently tops the list of most expensive wines ever. In 2016, Christie’s in New York sold 5 magnums of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti 1990 for $269,500 against an estimate of $150,000-$200,000.
And while that may seem stratospheric, prices continue to rise. DRC remains one of the most sought-after wines in the auction market, and for those lucky enough to try a bottle, it’s easy to understand why.
Any wine collector should be well versed in the wines of DRC. Below is an overview of their vineyards and the wines they produce:
Romanée-Conti is one of the most renowned vineyards in the world. Located in the commune of Vosne-Romanée, the 1.8-hectare vineyard is perfectly positioned mid slope with excellent sun exposure and drainage. The wines are lauded for their complex yet subtle and mysterious nature. Layers of complexity continuously unfold, revealing a profound wine with a perfectly velvety texture and intense perfume.
Just to the south of Romanée-Conti lies La Tâche, the largest of DRC’s vineyards at 6.06 hectares. This vineyard’s distinct soil structure and slightly higher elevation results in a wine that is more robust but often equal to Romanée-Conti in terms of depth and complexity. The wines provide an enticing tension between rigour and elegance, with firm, structured tannins juxtaposing an ephemeral bouquet of aromas.
To the north of Romanée-Conti is Richebourg. Of DRC’s non-monopoles, Richebourg is widely considered the greatest. DRC controls 3.5 hectares of the 8-hectare vineyard. It is similar to Romanée-Conti in terms of elevation and soil structure, but the wines are decidedly more robust — they are often described as rich, voluptuous, and intense.
Romanée-Saint-Vivant lies nearest to the village of Vosne-Romanée. DRC owns 5.3 of this non-monopole’s 9.44 hectares. It sits on a gentle slope facing east. Unlike Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant is defined by its light and delicate nature, airy perfume, and silky texture.
With a total of 37.69 hectares, Echézeaux is one of Burgundy’s largest Grand Crus. DRC’s holdings are just 4.67 hectares, located on the upslope above Grands-Echézeaux. While still a Grand Cru, the wines are generally not considered to be in the same echelon as the others. They’re slightly less complex and more rustic but nevertheless exquisite examples of top-tier Burgundy.
Bordering Echézeaux, the superior Grands-Echézeaux is 9.14 hectares, 3.53 of which are owned by DRC. The vineyard is relatively flat and produces wines that compared to Echézeaux are more richly textured, structured, and intense. They still possess a rustic quality, with notes of game and bramble fruit, but with bottle age, that is decidedly a good thing.
DRC’s holding in Corton is 2.28 hectares. The vines were leased in 2008 and first harvested in 2009. The holdings come from three different lieux-dits: Clos du Roi, Bressandes, and Renardes. The wines are deep and bold with firm, structured tannins. They can be unapproachable in youth, but with time they offer generous rewards.
The domaine’s newest holding is a 2.9-hectare parcel of Corton-Charlemagne, which produces one of only two white wines in DRC’s line-up. The vines were leased in 2018 from the famed Domaine Bonneau du Martray, and the first harvest took place in 2019. The holdings come from two lieux-dits: Le Charlemagne (Aloxe-Corton) and En Charlemagne (Pernand-Vergelesses). DRC’s first vintage of Corton-Charlemagne was released in February 2022 and warmly received by critics.
For many, Montrachet represents the pinnacle of Chardonnay. DRC’s bottling, which comes from just .68 hectares, certainly lives up to that description. The wines are defined by intensity, power, and incredible concentration. While it needs time to develop in bottle, it has the potential to be one of longest-lived white wines on earth.