Romanée is the rarest and most charismatic appellation but also the smallest in the world. Have you happened to mention ” La Romanée ” in a casual conversation with lovers of fine wines? If this is the case, you probably crossed a vaguely puzzled look, meaning: ” uh … yeah … I’ve heard but I’ve never had the opportunity to taste…” And yes, even the most experienced wine enthusiasts have not had the opportunity to taste this wine, more than once or twice, if ever!
With 0.84 hectares, La Romanée produced 350 cases on average in an abundant year, against 250 cases in the least productive years. Just to give you an idea for comparison, a great Bordeaux wine produces an average of 30,000 cases per year! Romanée represents 1% of the Châteaux Margaux or Chateau Mouton Rothschild productions.
According to Mr. Liger Belair , the vineyard was already famous in the 14th century , and apparently the walls surrounding it could be dated from this period, despite the restorations. The last 7 generations preceding Mr. Liger Belair, where already linked to La Romanée . On the other hand he says that La Romanée was part of La Romanée Conti at some point of its’ history, despite of the fact that these two vineyards have always been distinct from each other. It is difficult to check the veracity of this statement, because at the time, La Romanée Conti was often called La Romanée. It’s true, that when the confiscation of the Romanée Conti from the Prince de Conti, in order to be sold for” for the benefit of the Republic ” the sales document identified the vineyard as La Romanée. Whatever the ultimate truth, historical documents emphasize that the ancestors of the family Liger Belair acquired 6 plots by marriage, previously known as “Aux Echanges ” in 1815. Over the next 12 years, the five remaining plots where added. It was during the acquisition of the last parcel that the vineyard previously known as “Aux Echange ” was recorded by Louis Liger Belair in Dijon as La Romanée, which is now the monopoly of the family Liger Belair.
The Liger Belair Family was also the owner of “La Tache ” now owned by La Romanée Conti. On the death of the great- grand father of Louis- Michel Liger Belair, in 1924, the estate was passed on to his great-grandmother , who kept it for her grandchildren. But when she died in 1933 , the heirs’ members who did not want to keep the vineyard were forced to sell La Romanée , La Tache and Reignots . Edmund Gaudin bought La Tache in August 1933 , and merged it with the Gaudichots plots in order to create the current La Tache. To save part of the family’s’ patrimony, a priest named Juste Liger Belair bought at an auction that same year La Romanée and Reignots. The vineyard was bequeathed to his nephew, who died in 1941 during the 2nd World War.
From 1946 to 2001, the vineyard was given to a sharecropping family named the Forey family. In 2002, Louis-Michel Liger Belair took over the management of the vineyard and is now responsible for the winemaking of La Romanée , as well as all the work in the vineyard.
Since he took over, Louis-Michel Liger Belair has changed several viticultural practices such as tillage : using a horse and a light tractor , to avoid compacting the soil too much. It also reduces the use of herbicide. But one of the main points for Louis Michel, is to be extremely careful during the extraction in the vatting process since he doesn’t use enzymes or commercial yeast, and without maceration post- fermentation. The grapes are macerated under a cool and controlled temperature (15 ° C) for 7 days. Once the wine in barrels, the marc is pressed lightly to extract the best quality tannins. “As soon as the wine press resists, I stop pressing to avoid bitter tannins in the final mix.”
The vineyard is located above La Romanée Conti, south of Richebourg and north of the Grande Rue . La Romanée has always shown a lot of similarity to its neighbor, La Romanée Conti. The strong point of La Romanée is its perfect completeness, where no particular aspect dominates another . This wine should be mentioned amongst the elite of Burgundy wines. It belongs to the same category as La Romanée Conti, La Tache , Musigny , Chambertin and Richebourg.
As far as tasting goes, La Romanée requires an effort of the person who tastes and requires a lot of time to express the genius he is capable of delivering. La Romanée requires at least twenty years to reach its peak , but when this bottle is ready to be tasted , you will have there one of the most sublime wines in the world.