Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tache 1998 (bottle no. 7198)

There's a point - for those in the wine trade - where you decide whether you're a Burgundy person or a Bordeaux person. It's hotly debated. Arguably the two most influential wine writers in the world are Bordeaux people - Michael Broadbent and Robert Parker. They just don't like Burgundy as much. The latter openly admits that he just doesn't get Burgundy.

I fall on the other side of the fence. I'm a Burgundy person. I love them and seek them out. Often I'm disappointed. Sometimes they just aren't good enough. The fickleness of Pinot Noir and the high prices the wines command sometimes combine to fall short of expectations. There are few guarantees. Claret can be a safer bet: a more defineable quantity. Because when Burgundy's good, when it exceeds expectations, it's hard to describe. It's not necessarily a linear or quantifiable pleasure. It goes more for feeling than flavour, and it's wonderful.

High expectations are dangerous in wine. The more you want something to taste good, the more likely you are to find fault, to be disappointed. Especially at the very heights of wine. There is the tendency to think that a constantly evolving agricultural product must be perfect when it's opened, regardless of what phase of maturity it has reached.

Being a Burgundy fan puts La Tache quite close to the top of my must-drink list. I'd never tried it before, and in the lead up to the dinner where we opened this bottle I tried to keep my hopes down to prevent any disappointment. What if it was corked? What if it was too young? What if it was going through an irksome 'reductive' phase (the wine equivelent of an annoying adolescent)?

The nose is explosive, gamey with a hint of smoke, forest floor and wild berries. There's a touch of stewed fruit but that clears with a bit of air. Aromatically intense, at actually bursts behind the eyes.

Sweet and hedonistic on the palate - cherries and cranberries with a touch of pipe tobacco. The finish goes on for ages, fading into the ephemeral and leaving its sensation long after the actual flavour has departed. This is a masculine style of Burgundy, with savoury game notes as well. There's something a touch reductive and enclosed though, not as much lift as I was expecting. Mouth-filling, beautiful, but something lacking?

It would be worth 5* if it weren't so bloody expensive. It also needed to be closer to perfect. Was I disappointed? Maybe a little.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08