Wine: Best of the Best International New Releases: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1999 La Tâche

As part of a select group of wine merchants, we were about to taste the 1999 releases from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), the fastest-selling vintage in Burgundy since the revered 1990. Still, no one present at Spago in Beverly Hills, Calif., had been quite prepared for the solemnity of the occasion.

Aubert de Villaine, co-owner and codirector of DRC, stood on hand, and, given the quality of the vintage, appeared surprisingly nervous. Despite DRC’s fame, every new vintage is a premiere, and Aubert is a stickler for details like serving temperature and breathing time. He will also somewhat forcefully insist that the wines be tasted with concentration, with due respect, and in silence. In Los Angeles, where jadedness is as common as Gucci, this resolve has occasionally made him come across as stiff and pretentious. But Aubert’s demeanor was not a blind submission to Old World protocol and the high art of elitist tasting. After all, the most expensive white and red wines in the world were about to pass our lips, and wines that carry such price tags are easily attacked—and have been many times, quite publicly. As guardian and spokesperson of a veritable institution, Aubert believes that if you’re going to burn the flag, at least have the courtesy to study it in detail first.

He need not have worried. The lineup was one of the most exhilarating tasting experiences I have ever had, and the few scoffs were drowned out by many murmurs of approval. Each and every one of the 1999 reds is of a purity and aromatic detail that defies description. And despite the fact that these vineyards are all within whispering distance from one another, the differences are absolutely staggering.

The Richebourg offers a monstrous richness, and the Romanée-St-Vivant is the best the Domaine has ever produced. Yet the Oscar must go to La Tâche. Why? Synergy. The greatest attributes of La Tâche are a spiritually uplifting aromatic complexity and an uncommonly giving nature. La Tâche steals your senses, but the result is intensive pleasure.

The signature ripeness of the 1999 vintage makes its presence felt in the nose, and its texture is exceedingly lush and generous. This red Burgundy vintage wants to reward you. These qualities combine to give you what is perhaps the most hypnotic, heady, immediate, and captivating pleasure you will ever obtain from a glass of wine. Too much of a good thing? You bet. A tsunami of Asian spices, smoke, sweet dark fruit with perfectly ripe tannins, wonder-ful length, the balance of a tightrope walker, and serious aging potential. A devilishly seductive woman with a brain to boot: She’s high maintenance and hard to get hold of—but worth it.

Distributor: Wilson Daniels Ltd., 707.963.9661

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