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The Golden Slopes

Burgundy. Given what we now know, we’re starting to understand the recurring biblical theme in French wine. Fitting given that most of the vineyards belonged to the Church.

The Golden Slopes

In the beginning, it was the Benedictine monks who first married the land to the grape, acting as défricheurs (ground clearers) so to speak. But also biblical in a sense that one, small piece of land can produce such incredibly diverse wines. The writer Matt Kramer says: “Even the most skeptical are willing, after savouring a genuinely great Burgundy, to concede that there may well be - dare one say it? - a Presence in the universe beyond our own."


Now Burgundy lies west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône and is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay first, and then its Gamay and Aligoté. The region contains more Appellations d’origine contrôlée (France’s highest quality wines) than any other, most of them located in the Côte d’Or (’The Golden Coast’) , which is divided into the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune. Generally speaking the Côte de Nuits is known for its red wine and the Côte de Beaune for its white. This TINY piece of land, 48km long and 3km wide (approximately), houses THE most expensive wines in the world with literally hundreds of vineyards occupying every inch of it. Now we know we are at risk of overusing the term ‘THE’; ‘THE best vineyard’, ‘THE most expensive wine’. You have to understand that each region, each region WITHIN a region has its own history, its own culture and can be seen as the ‘THE’ of that particular area; in short, we’ll be mentioning a few more THEs yet. THE highest prices however are awarded to a select few and MOSTLY to the French. One very expensive French Burgundian brand, for instance, is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The price of which is very much a result of John Locke’s law of supply and demand. It’s quite simple really, their most prized vineyard Romanée Conti’s vines are all almost 50 years old and therefore do not yield a lot of grapes (they say it takes three vines to produce one bottle), producing only 450 cases annually, making supply TINY and demand MONSTROUS by comparison. Wines from this specific vineyard are sold at $10 000 a bottle, give or take.


But it’s not just the tiny supply, is it? No, there’s a history…and the terroir, THE terroir.  

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s history reads like the old testament (if you’d indulge us our biblical thread); as a result of Napoleon’s inheritance laws, being passed from father to son, son to daughters, daughters to nieces, nieces to brothers…finally bestowing ownership/custodianship on a M. Aubert de Villaine and M. Henry-Frédéric Roch today. From such auspicious beginnings as eliciting a bidding war between Louis XV’s Madame de Pompadour and Louis François de Bourbon, Prince De Conti (the name bearing witness to the victor); outliving (and surviving) the French revolution; to the acquisition of no less than 8 Grand Cru sites dotted around the Côte d’Or. DRC is one of the most bespoke collections of vineyards, quite possibly, in the world (though we’d urge you to judge for yourself, our tastes are far reaching and as our loyalties lie in the New World we’re wont to disagree). In 2010 DRC’s reputation even landed it at the centre of a hostage situation… a vine hostage situation. Monsieur de Villaine and Roch each receiving ransom notes from a Jacques Soltys threatening to poison the golden slope  if he were not to receive a million Euros at a specific time and location, indicating that he had already poisoned and killed two of the vines in warning. Writer, Maximillian Potter, writes a riveting article for Vanity Fair on the subject, should the underbelly of the fine wine world interest you. Needless to say the golden slope escaped unscathed, but ‘The Assassin in the Vineyard’ merely adds to the mystique surrounding the place. Though we love a good story, the proof is in the wine and DRC’s Pinot Noir and Chablis are said to be the finest examples of their kind. As is our custom we were able to procure two for your consideration. Should their price tag deter however, there are a number of alternative (if not preferable) Burgundian wines to consider, but we'll leave that to you. 

Published On: 02/01/2017

Daléne Fourie

Twitter @DaleneFourie

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