Power in Wine
As in any industry there are those who wield power; some by reputation and others by sheer strength and size. Wine is no different.
When one thinks of power in wine the names Mondavi, Antinori and the five first growths of Bordeaux (Mouton, Lafite, Haut Brion, Margaux and Latour) often come to mind first. But if we look to what most collectors consider the most important and prized region, Burgundy, few would argue that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, or DRC, is the most influential in the Côte d’Or.
Dating back to 1232 as the vineyards of Abbey of Saint Vivant in what is now Vosne Romanée, the Domaine has grown continuously and now has 63 acres under vine with their Romanée Conti, La Tache, Richebourg, Romanée St. Vivant, Grands Echezeaux, Echezeaux and Montrachet properties.
Vineyards are toiled using horse drawn tillers, and grapes are harvested by hand. A very small yield of only the best product ensures the highest quality with an average of three vines to produce a single bottle. Biodynamic cultivation techniques include no chemicals, non-natural watering and preparations based on lunar timetables.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is often the most sought after and expensive wine on the planet and commands huge premiums on secondary markets. To purchase DRC one has to be on a list from the representative of the country and region and the wine is in such demand that waiting lists can be years long. For those lucky enough to be granted a few bottles per year, it often comes on condition of buying additional lesser-valued wine from the representative. But consider that in 2008 for example, the “release price” of the 2005 DRC Romanée-Conti in Canada was CDN$2,875 per bottle. That wine last sold at a U.S. auction for over CDN$14,500 and that price has fluctuated very little in the last 5 years. Not a bad, and certain, investment!
But the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti would rather their wine not be commoditized by those looking to flip for a quick buck. So while they cannot control the auction houses and online resellers in the U.S. they did wield a heavy fist in Canada. The government liquor board in Ontario, the second largest wine buyer in the world, was told that DRC was to be pulled from it’s annual auction or the province would be cut off from future releases of the wine. So what did the multi-billion dollar government buyer do?
They complied. Now that’s power.