It is hard to know what to make of this Burgundy wine domaine which was created by Henri-Frédéric Roch in 1988 by buying some parcels of vineyards which Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – of which his family is part-owner – was selling, in order to buy the large slice of Romanée St-Vivant Domaine Marey-Monge which it had been farming. The Prieuré part of the name has been added because Monsieur Roch liked the sound of it. The Chambertin-Clos de Bèze has been leased from Domaine Marion in Fixin since 1994.
The vines are farmed organically with half an eye on biodynamics. The grapes are vinified with all their stems in wooden vats, with old-style human punching down (rip the clothes off and leap in but be careful of the carbon dioxide). No sulphur is used at all at any stage except once, when the wines are racked.
The barrels in the cellar in Prémeaux are kept at a tilt that looks untidy to those used to rows of perfectly aligned barrels, but has the practical purpose of encouraging the sediment of the fine lees to gather in one spot, below the tap-hole through which the wine will eventually be racked. At the moment the wines are kept for a maximum of 24 months in barrel because there is not the space for a third vintage in the cellar, but Henri-Frédéric Roch and his right-hand man, Yannick Champ, are evidently tempted. One batch from 2002 was kept in wood for 44 months as a trial. Barrel tasting is no longer allowed, so my experience of the Roch wines is from bottle.
One person will be fascinated by the practices at this domaine, another may mock. Is this cutting edge, or are they out where the buses don’t run? The proof of the pudding is in the wines themselves, once bottled, and if you can afford them.
Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, Grand Cru 1.01ha, Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru 0.68ha, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots 1.02ha, Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Corvées 5.21ha, Vosne-Romanée Les Clous 0.72ha, Vosne-Romanée Clos Goillotte 0.55ha, Vosne-Romanée Hautes Maizières 0.63ha
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director