Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is primarily known, as indicated by its name, for the Romanée-Conti cuvée itself, which arguably exemplifies the best flavors of the Pinot Noir grape in an unmistakable way. However, the domaine has another monopole, which is similarly famous; this one is called La Tâche. And while Romanée-Conti is generally agreed upon to be the king, for some palates it's the La Tâche that displays the most mastery.
DRC is known for their extremely detailed, exacting vinification techniques, which is part of what makes Romanée-Conti itself so great, and La Tâche is no exception. These wines are essentially handcrafted and made in small numbers, thereby combining exclusivity with quality. There's good reason why the wines are so expensive, and enough collectors are willing to pay thousands for a bottle of La Tâche that each vintage sells out rather quickly.
At 12.4 acres La Tâche is actually rather large, in comparison to its tiny neighbors, but it makes quality at least equal to the tiny La Romanée. Usually about 1,000 cases are produced, but DRC has recently been putting out more like 1,500 each year. This is much more than Romanée-Conti, but the wines are nonetheless quite expensive.
For all these reasons, the great La Tâche belongs high up on a list of the great Burgundies. Not all will love its style as much as Romanée-Conti, and on technical merit it may not be as good, but at this level of quality comparison seems trifling. Arguably, the greatest thing about this wine is its great differential from Romanée-Conti and all the other Vosne Grands Crus. Rather than simply being in Romanée-Conti's shadow, the wines have carved out an altogether new niche for themselves.
Originally, La Tâche was owned by the Abbey of St-Vivant, as was Romanée-Conti and, in fact, many more of Burgundy's greatest vineyards. In 1631, it was bought simultaneously with Romanée-Conti by Philippe de Croonembourg, but in 1760 his descendant Andre decided to sell the vineyards. At the time, Romanée-Conti was called La Romanée, but it was bought and reserved by the Prince of Conti.
With Romanée-Conti unavailable on the wine market, La Tâche emerged as the top Burgundy cuvée. But the French Revolution changed all that, and the newly formed state took over the vineyards. The government sold the two vineyards separately, and La Tâche eventually ended up in the hands of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair.
During the 1930s the AOC committee decided to merge several parts of Vosne's Premier Cru Les Gaudichots into La Tâche, a decision not approved of by the head of the Liger-Belair family. Later in the decade the stickler died, and the vineyard was sold to DRC. A few years later, in 1936, it became an AOC. Ever since then, DRC has continually been even further improving the wines, eventually switching to biodynamic vineyard methods in 1986.
Climate and Viticulture
Usually, the best wines of the world come from small, concentrated clumps of vines in order to maximize quality. La Tâche is a notable exception with its large size, at least as compared to other Grands Crus. The vineyard is slightly below La Grande Rue on the hill, and otherwise surrounded by Premier Cru vineyards; in fact, it is on the outer edges of the Grand Cru territory.
Some seem to think that La Tâche is a gigantic blend of Vosne-Romanée's best terroirs; indeed, the amount of vineyard slope and the soil are variable but always consistent in quality. Rather than including inferior soil, La Tâche simply includes different soil, and this is what enables the wine to be so extremely flavorful.
- Pinot Noir: Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this cuvée masters purity and depth. A description can be found in the Major Producers section.
- Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: Although La Tâche is considered a feminine wine in comparison with the great Romanée-Conti, it still has plenty of depth and structure and needs to be aged to be appreciated. Still, in the finest years it can offer more elegance and perhaps even energy than Romanée-Conti. In fact, it is this vineyard that rivals Romanée-Conti the most, and quality is close enough now so that even the most perfectionistic Burgundy hounds realize that La Tâche is a better "value." Flowers and spice are the flavors commonly associated with La Tâche, but in its youth the wine shows plenty of other bits of character. Almost flamboyantly ripe although not rich, the wines are redolent with the flavor of red berries and sweet underbrush, but the aroma of rose and violet plus sweet, intriguing spice and pepper notes will show through quite clearly. A huge amount of flavor characterizes this wine even in its youth, making the Romanée-Conti look somewhat unexpressive by comparison if drunk early. Is there enough complexity? Yes: the fruit may be elegant and perfumed, but its depth is almost as impressive as that of Romanée-Conti. And unlike most of the other cuvées in Vosne, there's very little of a minerally or even earthy element, making early drinking even more tempting. Aging for 10-20 years, however, will bring an added richness that the wine lacks at first. Prices for new bottles seem to range from $1,000 up to $3,500; less than Romanée-Conti but still pricey enough to make this one of the most expensive wines in the world.
No designations within this vineyard exist, at least from the consumer perspective.