It was 1979 that Henri-Frédéric Roch first visited Clos Goillote and in his words “fell head over heels in love”. This 0.55 hectare vineyard in Vosne-Romanée was located just south of La Tâche, with Clos d’Eugenie separating the two. An estate, including a large winery and large mansion was built by and for Louis-Francois de Bourbon, aka the Prince of Conti, who acquired this vineyard in 1760, but only sought to produce wines for personal consumption. When the vineyard was put up for sale in 1988 by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, of which he is presently co-owner of, Roch recounted that he “jumped at it without knowing how to manage things”.
Now officially a vineyard owner at the age of 26, he then pondered the small dilemma of what to name his domain. Domaine Roch was an easy choice, but felt it implied a little too much “self-importance” according to Bill Nanson of Burgundy Report. It was when he happened to come across a wooden case of Bordeaux “Château Prieuré-Lychine” that he took the inspiration to call his domain “Prieure Roch”.
He gradually expanded his vineyard acquisitions, mostly in his home-town of Vosne-Romanée, but has holdings of Chambertin Clos de Beze as well as Clos Vougeot. However his largest is the five hectare monopole, Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Corvées. Today he is joined by his right-hand man, Yannick Champ who assists him in the vineyard and winery.
Lutte Raisonnée is a given, and he very soon moved onto organic and biodynamic cultivation. He stopped adding Sulphur during the fermentation process in 1991, and in 1995 even abandoned it altogether during bottling so that his wines remain “100% pure fruit”. Other practices include whole bunch fermentations, cap management by foot in wooden vats as well as 100% new oak with no fining and filtration when bottling his wines. All in all, a very natural style of winemaking despite Roch disagreeing with the use of this word. Although light in color, his wines have great aromatic intensity and complexity, and has been likened to his aunt, Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy’s sense of refinement.
The simplicity of his natural style of winemaking is evident even in his labels which shies away from the emphasis on the winemaker, focusing more on what he feels are the most important indicators - the vintage and name of the wine. His crest, borrowed from ancient Egyptian winemaking hieroglyphs, was inspired from the time he spent living and working in the Nile Valley and symbolizes his beliefs in winemaking.
Aubert de Villaine once said of DRC’s winemaking “the ideal is to do nothing. . .but that is clearly impossible”, yet it seems very clear that his nephew has taken those words as far as he can in his own domain.