Vosne-Romanée Wine - What's The Trick?
Updated: May 22, 2020
The village of most expensive wines of Burgundy (and, actually, world). Pinot Noir at its' best comes from here, would you argue? I walked for a couple of hours along all their Grand Cru vineyards, back and forth the village, had a glimpse of the locked doors of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and understood... that it's a normal French winemaking village that wasn't predestined for success. It's just its' people were stubborn enough and tirelessly worked on perfecting their wines for around two thousand years.
No posh cars here, no one will try to show off by building a house/winery that stands out of the local architectural mood. A winery that sells their latest vintage at around 10 000 EUR will look just like the one that sells their wine at a 100 EUR. Quiet and calm, only tractors and grasshoppers make the noise here.
people were growing grapes and making wine here as early as the 1st century
A bit of history of Vosne-Romanée Appellation
Archaeologists found proofs that people were growing grapes and making wine as early as the 1st century. There was even an ancient vineyard discovered - it consisted of 26 rows and spread over more than 100 m. Besides that - amphorae, winemaking tools, press were all found in Côte de Nuits.
Vosne-Romanée is the central pearl in Bourgogne’s necklace
Even though winemaking was brought here by Romans (sometimes it wasn't only brought, but destroyed too), the fall of Roman Empire didn't affect the existence of this wineland. Gaul people were already Christians, thus wine was part of worship. And aristocracy got hooked by wine too - ever since it was their fancy attribute. Therefore, the biggest influencers of wine development in Vosne-Romanée and overall Côte d'Or were - church and aristocracy (specifically the Capetian Dukes and House of Vallois).
Gaston Roupnel, a late 19th century Burgundian author, wrote that "Vosne-Romanée is the central pearl in Bourgogne’s necklace”. And to understand why he said so, drinking a bottle of Romanée-Conti is not enough, you have to travel to that tiny village and see, smell, hear, feel ... the Magic.
here you can’t hear tractors passing by because of the noise the insects create while enjoying their life on the vineyard
Most of the vineyards here converted to either bio-dynamic or to integrated viticulture and you don't need to conclude laboratory analyzes for proof. Just walking around you'll hear millions of grasshoppers, little birds nesting in vines, jungles of bushes and weed. For me this is enough to believe the wine is made with environment in mind.
In a world where you find thousands of articles saying that using pesticides & herbicides is inevitable, that grapevines are one of the most sensitive crops in the world, that bio-dynamic and organic viticulture is pure marketing ... here in Vosne-Romanée you can’t hear tractors passing by because of the noise the insects create while enjoying their life on the vineyard. Every winemaker that doesn’t use harmful chemicals, will simply say - you have to work the land, than the grapevine is healthy and doesn’t need much protection.
So maybe the role of a winegrower is helping the grapevine to become strong and resistant and able to deal with diseases on its own, without showering it with chemicals?
There are no places destined for success in wine. There are stubborn civilizations that do it.
You won't find hi-tech in these cellars either. The most important - bring the perfect berries intact to the cellar and let them ferment naturally. Most of the producers don't add neither yeasts, nor microbes for (malolactic fermentation), wines often remain unfiltered.
People here care about the details. They know there is a big difference between ploughing with a horse, a light-weight tractor or a huge industrial tractor. They know chemicals will destroy the mosaic-like climats that made them once famous, so why would they use them?
Stubborn people are the ones that made Vosne-Romanée the village of Earth's most exclusive wines.
Searching for wineries to visit in Vosne-Romanée you'll find two Cacheux wineries. As it often happens those little 'ouvrée' (1/24 of a hectare) are divided between the many heirs.
There were two daughters of Charles Blée that married two Cacheux sons. So at the end, we have two Cacheux wineries. I ended up at the René Cacheux et Fils winery that is now managed by the son of Jacqueline Blée and René Cacheux - Gérald.
Only 3 hectares spread around Premier Cru, Village and Bourgogne appellations. Here they follow integrated vineyard management techniques, which means:
- Careful pruning for proper nourishing, exposure and yield control.
- The area where the grape bunch develops is stripped for natural ventilation, to prevent rot and avoid chemicals.
- For pest control (specifically against cluster worm) they apply mating disruption. Using artificial pheromones they prevent mate localization and block the reproductive cycle. This way the insect population is not affected by usage of chemicals, but cluster worm is not a danger anymore.
- Thanks to tillage light grassing is maintained without herbicides.
So perfect 'équilibré' of human-vine-nature.
Vosne-Romanée Wine Tasting at Domaine René Cacheux et Fils
They make only 12 000 bottles a year. So I felt like: 'whatever bottle I buy here, it will definitely be unique and very limited edition!"
I start the morning with a glass of Bourgogne Aligoté - fresh, unpretentious, a simple but refined aperitif drink. Matured in stainless steel for 6 months before bottling. I'll be honest - we won't talk much about terroir and legacy when it comes to this specific Aligote wine.
It was made, as I mentioned, for a nice aperitif or to become a Kir cocktail. Machine harvest, grown on flat landed regional appellation, with added microbes for malolactic. Just drink it to wake up (exactly as I did).
Bourgogne Passetoutgrain 2017 - here we have a blend of 60% Gamay and 40% Pinot Noir. That disloyal Gamay, how Phillip, the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, called it and expelled from Burgundy. Well, this blend is interesting, it has the typical Gamay aromas as dominant - carnation, pepper, raspberry, under bush, and these, unfortunately, fully cover anything brought by Pinot Noir to the blend. So, can't say I disagree with Duke Phillip.
Bourgogne les Champs d'argent 2017- another wine that comes from regional appellation, so not really part of Vosne-Romanée climats. But it's a 100% Pinot Noir, aged in 10% new oak for 18 months. More loyal, more finesse. An elegant fruit basket full of raspberries, blackcurrant, blueberries.
Chambolle-Musigny 2016 - known to be the most feminine wine from Côte de Nuits, this is a village appellation, although it isn't a blend of parcels, but a single vineyard. There is a lot of flowers here (perhaps, some violets) and even more fresh berries. Here we face a shift of soils - if the previous two were from silt and clay, this is a combination of limestone and clay. And presence of limestone is always a good way to make a wine elegant.
Vosne-Romanée 2016 - the village wine of this renown place, and I loved it! It's a bit rustic, more masculine, powerful. Obviously, if this wine is masculine, it's a very refined French monsieur. There is a great irony clay-limestone blend here that you could easily identify by the 'bloody' (this is how I call iron in wine) taste.
Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru 'Les Beaux Monts' 2016 - stays much longer on the palate, it's a silky wine that comes from one of the best Premier Cru climats.
Violet, blackcurrant, earthy and flinty notes with an elegant body that doesn't overwhelm. Perhaps, it's a bit too early to fully appreciate it, that´s why I took a bottle to open sometimes in 10 years ;)
Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru 'Les Suchôts' 2016 - a bouquet of cherries here! Fresh cherry, candied cherry, brandy-cherry, whatever other cherries you know - they were all there! And if you push your nose hard, you'll discover mushrooms, clove and vet forest. Again a very young wine, but this young complexity promises a bomb of experiences in some 10 years.
The two Premier Cru wines are aged for 18 months in 50% new oak, made with indigenous yeasts, bottled without filtering or fining.