If you’re ready to start your own DRC collection, or add to an existing one, you’ll need to understand which recent vintages are worthwhile. This guide will provide you with the tools you need to analyze any bottle of DRC.
What Makes DRC So Collectible?
Collectors have a number of reasons for investing in the best DRC vintages, but most say that they buy these wines based on their balance of flavors, their rarity, and their growing market value.
Elegance and Spice
I once met a collector who never understood the appeal of Burgundy, even after trying some of the region’s top First Growth producers. Then he drank his first bottle of DRC, a 2002 Richebourg that had a powerful, spicy nose and a stunningly elegant finish. Today, he owns close to 20 DRC vintages, and plans on buying many more in the future.
When you ask DRC enthusiasts what they love about these wines, they’ll tell you that they have a unique mix of earthiness, spice, and elegance that makes them easy to identify in a blind tasting. You’ll find notes of oriental spice, raspberry, and mushroom, but you’ll also find less-discussed flavors like salted licorice or even game meat. All of these complex notes are wrapped into a single, velvety smooth package.
Among the Rarest
Although DRC produces some of the world’s most refined wines, they do so in very limited quantity. Other top French estates like Lafite release far more wine annually than DRC; while Lafite produces about 20,000 cases each year, DRC releases fewer than 8,000 cases annually.
Here is a breakdown of how many cases, on average, are released from each DRC vineyard every year:
- Romanee-Conti: 450 cases
- La Tache: 1,870 cases
- Richebourg: 1,000 cases
- Romanee St. Vivant: 1,500 cases
- Grands Echezeaux: 1,150 cases
- Echezeaux: 1,340 cases
- Montrachet: 250 cases
The combination of excellent quality and scarcity makes Montrachet and Romanee-Conti the most collectible in the group, followed closely by La Tache and Richebourg.
Because so many collectors are interested in the quality of these wines, and so few can get their hands on them, profit-minded collectors see DRC as an almost guaranteed return on their initial investment. Bottles of 1990 Romanee-Conti sold for an average of $13,000 per bottle, but by 1996, they were selling for $28,112 apiece, a $15,000 increase in price. This is an extreme case, however, many collectors report a jump in price of anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per bottle over the course of a 10-year period. As the wine matures, this value typically increases.
Analyzing DRC’s Labels
There are huge differences between the wines made on the estate’s seven different vineyards. Here’s what you can expect to taste in each one:
Romanee-Conti: These vines are more than 50 years old, which gives the wine a mature personality, even in its youth. This is the ideal wine to buy if you want to taste the best DRC vintages ever made, or you want to turn a fast profit. Any bottle that sells for less than $13,000 (even one from a comparatively mediocre vintage) is usually worth buying, as long as it’s authentic.
La Tache: This label isn’t quite as elegant as Romanee-Conti, but it’s not far behind; the La Tache is a bit bolder. Its vines are slightly younger than Romanee-Conti, which could account for the difference in taste. This is a great bottle for collectors who want to dip a toe into the best DRC vintages without spending more than about $3,000 per bottle.
Richebourg: This wine’s distinctive black fruit flavors make it an excellent choice for collectors who prefer a moodier Pinot Noir. With 40-year-old vines, this label still retains plenty of maturity in its flavors. Its distinct taste makes it a great choice for collectors who prefer to drink their wine, rather than resell it later. Authentic bottles that sell for less than $1,800 are likely wonderful investments.
Romanee St. Vivant: This is the purest and freshest of all DRC labels. Its 30-year-old vines are babies compared to the estate’s ancient vines, and as such, these wines taste far more youthful upon release. While these wines can and do resell well, many collectors choose to keep them for enjoyment. Authentic bottles sell for an average of $1,300.
Grands Echezeaux: You’ll notice that the age of the vines is essential to DRC’s flavors when you look at the difference between Grands Echezeaux and its younger sibling, Echezeaux. The Grands is made from 50-year-old vines, and it’s far more savory than most DRC labels. These wines sell for about $1,300 per bottle, and are best for collectors who prefer their Burgundies on the meaty side.
Echezeaux: This wine, on the other hand, is grown on 30-year-old vines, which gives it a younger, sweeter personality then the Grands. However, that youth comes at a price; the Grands can be worth reselling later, whereas the Echezeaux is usually better to keep and drink. At about $1,000 per bottle, it is the least expensive DRC vintage currently produced.
Montrachet: DRC focuses mainly on pinot noir, making Montrachet’s chardonnay stand out in the crowd. The vines are among the oldest on the estate–an average of 62 years. Like Romanee-Conti, this is an excellent wine to buy if you want to taste the best that DRC has to offer, or you want to make a profit in the future. Each bottle sells for an average of $4,500.
The Best DRC Vintages in Recent History
If you ask 10 collectors what the best DRC vintages are, you may very well end up with 10 different answers. Vintage quality ultimately comes down to personal taste and the needs of your collection. However, here are a few recent vintages that might pique your interest. They were chosen according to high average critic ratings and popularity among collectors.
DRC enthusiasts looking for the best DRC vintages to drink might have luck with the following years:
While the 1993 wasn’t considered especially notable in its youth, more collectors are returning to it as it approaches its peak because the flavors have developed beautifully over the decades. Similarly, critics praise the 1995 vintage for its refined flavors, especially following a relatively mediocre 1994 vintage. If you’re still not sure whether you want to drink your wine now, or save it for later, I suggest a bottle of 1999 DRC. It’s a rare Burgundy vintage that drinks just as well in its youth as it will at its peak.
Alternatively, enthusiasts who are looking for the most promising investment wines might find the following vintages more suitable:
Both the 2005 and 2015 vintages are hugely popular among collectors in-the-know. While it’s still a bit too early to call the 2015 a true legend, the 2005 is undoubtedly one of the best DRC vintages the estate has ever produced. Buy the 2005 if you want to be safe, however, the 2015 is promising enough to warrant serious consideration as well. For a wine that will last as long as possible in your cellar, try the 2010 vintage. Its prominent acidity could push the wine well past its 70th birthday.
Tips for Investing in DRC Wines
If you’re starting your first DRC collection from scratch, consider following this investment pattern:
Step 1: Taste bottles of Grands Echezeaux, Richebourg, or Romanee St. Vivant to get a feel for DRC’s style.
Step 2: Invest first in La Tache, collecting a handful of the best DRC vintages in this label.
Step 3: Move on to Romanee-Conti and Montrachet–many collectors sell off bottles of La Tache or Richebourg to make room for these two labels.
Here are a few additional tips for both first-time DRC investors and experienced DRC fans:
Tip #1: DRC Requires Patience
Perhaps more than any other producer in the world, you should never rush a DRC purchase. Although these wines are rare, they also change hands on the market frequently. If the price isn’t to your liking, or you’re concerned because the bottle wasn’t stored professionally, skip it. You’ll find another bottle at auction soon enough.
Tip #2: Be a Stickler for Details
The fact that these wines change hands so frequently presents its own unique problem. The more a bottle gets moved from cellar to cellar, the more likely it is to spoil. Only invest in DRC bottles that have a history of professional storage, or that have been inspected by an expert who is trained to spot heat damage or other issues.
Tip #3: Find Connections
My relative thought he would never get the chance to try a bottle of DRC. However, one day, he met one of the few reviewers who had been hand-selected by DRC to test their latest releases. Within a few weeks, he was taking his first sip of 2000 La Tache. DRC keeps a close circle of reviewers and distributors, which is why it can be beneficial to become acquainted with people close to the estate, or shop with retailers who have close relationships with the top estates in France.
Tip #4: Use Liv-ex Every Month
Some collectors choose to invest in any young bottle of DRC, assuming that it will increase in value. While this estate never truly has a “bad” vintage, this isn’t the best way to invest in these wines. Instead, you should check Liv-ex’s market data on each DRC vintage before you buy. Look at the past six months of data for every vintage and note any spike, dip, or plateau in price. You want to avoid buying a bottle that ends up being worth less than what you initially paid for it. If possible, buy during plateaus or dips.
Tip #5: Read Subtle Clues
The more you invest in the best DRC vintages, the better you will get at reading between the lines of reviews. Any wine rated above a 97 is a safe investment, whereas wines rated in the 90-96 range, while of incredible quality, still require a bit more caution. It’s also important to look for the hallmarks of the label. It’s interesting to collect vintages that show unusual qualities–like La Tache that tastes more like Richebourg–but these aren’t always the best investments if you plan on reselling because your future buyers likely want a wine that tastes true to its label.
DRC’s popularity and high market value makes it a prime target for fraud. Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to avoid this issue.
- Have a budget in mind before you begin shopping. This means having a minimum price in mind, in addition to a maximum. While you want to get a fair price on DRC, sometimes the lowest price isn’t the safest investment. If the wine is selling for more than $200 less than the average, it’s a red flag.
- Shop with retailers who take steps to avoid selling fraudulent bottles. This includes retailers who ask for a documented history of the wine’s past ownership, and who inspect every bottle personally before putting it on the auction block. These cautious retailers don’t always have the lowest prices on bottles, but they will save you money and heartache in the long run by helping you avoid fraud.
- Know which vintages are prone to fraud. Generally, you should be more careful than usual when you buy a “legendary” vintage. The 1990 and 1978 vintages are popular to fake because they’re in high demand. However, fraud isn’t confined to popular vintages. The reality is that any vintage could fall victim to fraud, but if you have an expert inspecting each bottle you buy, you can usually avoid the issue entirely.
How Long Should You Keep the Best DRC Vintages?
The key to buying the best DRC vintages is knowing when to drink them and sell them. With DRC in particular, the quality of the vintage can tell you more about how long it will last than the general quality of the label. So while La Tache and Romanee-Conti will usually last a decade longer than some other DRC labels, these other labels will outperform their usual estimates if the climate was especially favorable that year.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of how long you can expect to keep the most recent DRC Romanee-Conti vintages:
In addition to knowing how long these wines last, it’s absolutely essential to store DRC wines professionally, especially if you want to resell them. Competition over these wines on the secondary market can be intense, and having a history of professional storage can give your wine sale an edge. Even if you plan on drinking the wine, you won’t find a safer way to ensure that your wine matures properly.
DRC Is Complicated, But Rewarding
Some collectors look at wine investments as an easy way to make money, however, the most valuable wines, like DRC, require far more care than you might imagine. It’s not enough to buy the first $2,000 bottle of 2000 Richebourg you find. You need to consider both the past and future value of that bottle, along with the flavor qualities that make it unique. When you take all of these factors into consideration, you can better appreciate the artistry and allure of these wines, in addition to making fantastic investments.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.
Image source: Arnaud 25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons