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Romanee St. Vivant..... La Tache..... Romanee Conti..... Clos des Cortons..... Hugel SGN 'S'.....


This is a night I was looking forward to for a long time.
A professed Burgundy lover for 24 years now, there must still be many fine (B) wines I haven't tasted yet. No doubt though as to which is the most prominent missing piece of that puzzle.
I have never yet tasted Romanee Conti. [Yes, I know I am in a good company...]
A couple of years ago I received a bottle of the 1989 Romanee Conti as a present from a dear friend. So tonight this wrong is finally going to be set right!
We invited our friends Eli & Gilly and Kuti & Sharon to come over for the most illustrious Burgundy evening imaginable.
Dorit prepared a dream Burgundian dinner and the wines were all DRC... What a night!

Oeufs Bourguignon
1985 Romanee St. Vivant, DRC
Burgundian style Pumpkin soup
1988 La Tache, DRC
1989 Romanee Conti, DRC
Fondue Bourguignon
(1990 Corton 'Clos des Cortons', J. Faiveley)*
Fruits Pavlova
1989 Gewurztraminer SGN "S", Hugel
DRC Trio

* My original idea was to have the Romanee Conti accompany the Fondue Bourguignon main course. But as soon as the boiling oil started to 'announce' itself from the kitchen it became obvious that to have the Romanee Conti compete with strong boiling oil 'aromas' would be both sacrilege and down right stupid. So instead, we all went out to the fresh air of the balcony and enjoyed the fabulous RC on its own at leisure.
I then hurriedly looked for a substitute wine to accompany the fondue, and picked up the excellent-but-again-not-the-perfect-choice Clos des Cortons to stand up to the oil and the pungent sauces... :)

Romanee St. Vivant 1985 DRC

3/2002. Brought by the guests.
Just about a month ago I had the most divine example of the 1989 DRC Romanee St. Vivant. 1985 was a fantastic vintage for (B), so we were eager to see how this 1985 will compare.
COLOR: Light brownish hues with noticeable clearing around the rim. Plenty of sediment.
NOSE: Fully developed 'Bourgogne Nose' somewhat obscuring the typical terroir elements of Romanee St. Vivant. Very complex and deep nose, but already down the convergence route to where all older wines get eventually. Rich and impressive tertiary elements but the nose as a whole is a bit (or two) beyond its peak.
TASTE: A little less 'old' than the nose. Still delightful on the palate, with hints of fruit and fairly good grip. Multi-flavored with decent winyness, though here too the distinct taste of RSV started to give way to the more blurred and flattish constitution of tiredness.
LENGTH: Long persistent aftertaste that proves the wine's pedigree.
TEXTURE & BALANCE: Medium-full bodied wine with enough character to be fully enjoyed in spite of it being just a little over the hill. Complex flavors but with weak acidity and very soft tannins.
OVERALL: Very Fine. This one must have been mucho better 3-4 years ago.
MARK: 18/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? No.

La Tache 1988 DRC

3/2002. Brought by the guests.
The only La Tache I ever tasted was the 1989 some four years ago. It was indeed marvelous but perhaps not quite at its peak then.
Some fortunate few who have tasted many vintages of La Tache and Romanee Conti claim that La Tache is sometimes the better wine of the two at about fifth the price.
1988 was a very structured vintage that took many years to open up. Some of the 1988s turned out dryish and fruitless by the time the harsh tannins subsided, while others turned to be fantastic.
COLOR: Medium ruby red, noticeably darker than the RSV. Again, noticeable clearing around the rim with plenty of sediment.
NOSE: Very deep and profound nose that, in contrast to the RSV, is not yet totally yielding. Wonderful red and black fruit aromas with the cleanest, purest expression of 'Bourgogne Nose'. Minerals and flowers are there as well as wood tones that are not overshadowing anything. Extremely enticing now and I can only imagine what it will be like in a few years time.
TASTE: Majestic wine on the palate. Again, not yet entirely open, but multi-flavored multi-dimensional with deep complex fruit and impressive constitution. Fantastic grip and purely focused, it is as winey as it is tasty. As a true great (B) this wine delivers subtle flavors mingled with delicate nuances. A rare pleasure to sip now and an even rarer one when it will finally open up completely to deliver its harmonized wealth of flavors.
Initially a bit hard, it went beautifully and softened with the delicious pumpkin soup.
LENGTH: Very very long with just a touch of tannins affecting its wonderful aftertaste.
TEXTURE & BALANCE: Full bodied and extremely well structured. Highly concentrated though not a blockbuster by any means. Well endowed with fruit minerals and other winey flavors and full of vigor. Yet perfectly balanced by round tannins and measured acidity. It still holds something in reserve and is not yet fully integrated.
OVERALL: Outstanding now, well on its way to become extraordinary! All this wine needs are another 2-3 years of cellaring.
MARK: 19-19.5/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? Maybe.

Romanee Conti 1989 DRC

3/2002. A present received some two years ago.
How does one prepare to taste the most famous, most prestigious, most expensive and arguably best wine in the world?? Will I be disappointed? Are we expecting too much?
Well, we will soon find out...
COLOR: A tiny bit lighter than the La Tache. With wider clear margins. Again, plenty of sediment.
NOSE: Wow! The most harmonious and enticing nose imaginable. Fully forward and yielding without the slightest sign of age. A glorious celebration of primary secondary and tertiary aromas - all blended to perfection. Clean fruit, oriental spices, damp forest-floor, raw meat and a lot more. Beautiful 'Bourgogne Nose' and light oak tones serve as the perfect backdrop to the ultimate sensation one gets from every sniff. The nose was great from the start but became even more complex and enticing after spending about 30 minutes in the glass.
TASTE: Having used 'Wow' to describe the nose, what can I say about the taste here? The palate is as perfectly harmonious as the nose. Each sip is a sublime pleasure where layer upon layer of flavors reveal themselves in an ever-changing manifestation. Deep fruit flavors that are fully integrated into the rich and ever evolving interaction this nectar has with the taste buds. Smooth like silk yet expressive of all that is unique to that wonderful terroir. There is so much in every sip that one can (and should) chew on the tiniest one to reveal it all. It is hard and unnecessary to delve on every aspect that makes this nectar a sublime pleasure. But if I had to point out the one element that stood out I'll have to say harmony.
LENGTH: Everlasting aftertaste that is sings and sings and sings...
TEXTURE & BALANCE: Medium-full body, beautifully textured and perfectly balanced. Wonderfully concentrated with plenty of winyness, it is not however over-extracted or artificially flamboyant. Romanee Conti is still a wine! A rare and truly great wine at that but still a wine. As someone mentioned, it is a "human" wine and not some hi-tech over concentrated over-extracted bomb. It is a wine that is as deep and bold as it is subtle and delicate. As complex and multi-dimensional as it is pure and tasty.
At its ultimate peak right now though will stay there for a few [but not many] more years.
OVERALL:Divine!!! Wine is such a diverse and complex realm that it is foolish to try to line up all the wines of the world and ask which one is the best. There are different types of "best" and different qualities that appeal and give pleasure. Having said that, this here 1989 Romanee Conti must surly count among the very best. And where Burgundy wines are concerned it is definitely the ultimate one.
MARK: 20/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? I wish I could...

Corton 'Clos des Cortons' 1990 J. Faiveley

3/2002. Bought at auction Aug-00 for $120.
As explained above, this wine was "called for duty" to accompany the fondue bourguignon after we drank the Romanee Conti on its own.
COLOR: Medium-dark red, similar in color to the 1998 La Tache, but looks brilliant with no sediment.
NOSE: Good fruity nose with a nice clean moderately pronounced 'Bourgogne Nose'. Of course, no one should even try to compare the complexity of this relatively modest wine to that of La Tache or Romanee Conti, but in fact the nose here was really complex and appealing. The only problem was that it was hard to compete with the "bouquet" of the sizzling oil that stemmed from the fondue bowl placed at the center of the table...
TASTE: Really tasty though a bit delicate for Corton. Red fruit and spices with good, but not great, concentration. Lots of winyness there with velvety feel. Medium tannins with good acidity add dimensions to the taste. Delicious.
LENGTH: Long aftertaste that is full of delicious flavors.
TEXTURE & BALANCE: Medium-bodied wine of smooth clean texture. Very nicely balanced with good grip, fine fruit and round tannins. At or around its best now.
OVERALL: Superb. For me at least Clos des Corton is the best of all red Corton.
MARK: 18.5/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? Yes.

Gewurztraminer SGN "S" 1989 Hugel

3/2002. Acquired from the winery Oct-01 for $100.
"Selection de Grains Nobles", SGN for short, is the rare super-concentrated botrytis-infected style originated in Alsace by Jean Hugel some decades ago. SGN is only made in extremely ripe years. But SGN "S" is an even rarer animal. While the 'normal' Gewurztraminer SGN is produced about three to four times in a decade, the "S" version had only been made once in the 90s, once in the 80s and once in the 70s. The 1989 vintage is probably the best in thirty years, rivaling the great 1976.
The 'normal' 1989 SGN had 17% potential alcohol and residual sugar of 67 gram/liter. The 1989 "S" had 22.5% potential alcohol with residual sugar of 153 gram/liter! Both ended up with about 13.5% alcohol.
COLOR: Deep full golden color. Extraordinary rich even by its looks alone.
NOSE: Super rich and deep nose. The unmistakable fresh vineyard and spices aroma of the Gewurz are wrapped by pronounced tones of honey and figs. The nose is immense and would in itself be a unique experience even if sniffing was the only thing one could do with this wine. But...
TASTE: Rich and concentrated beyond description. Extremely sweet of course but not for one moment does this wine lose its freshness and fruity flavors. It is never one bit heavy in spite of its richness body and structure. Each sip is a true experience from heaven.
LENGTH: Infinitely long delicious aftertaste following even the tiniest sip.
TEXTURE & BALANCE: Full bodied super rich sweet wine. Fathomless depth and multidimensional flavors. Fresh fruit and excellent acidity prevent this from becoming clumsy or heavy in any aspect. Beautifully crafted well balanced rare juice that is delicious now but will live forever.
OVERALL: Divine!!! Hard to think of a better nectar.
MARK: 20/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? Yes.

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Jacob "Yak" Shaya.