Being invited to taste Domaine de la Romanée Conti's red burgundies is not something to spit at, still less something to spit out. They are the kind of wines usually reserved for only the most rarified circles, and I certainly don't operate within those circumferences. I've been to this tasting only once before (for the 2009 vintage), and was half-expecting the wines to fail to live up to my expectations for the same reasons that you should never meet your heroes.
In my limited experience, however, you definitely can believe the hype. There is something extraordinary about these wines. Admittedly, when tasting such legends non-blind, it is impossible to be objective. The anticipation is feverish. Simply seeing those famous labels is enough to alter your heartbeat.
Corney & Barrow host this tasting at their Tower Bridge office annually, and this year was the turn of the 2013 vintage. The pours are carefully policed, which is understandable when they made only 3,744 bottles of their Romanée-Conti to sell across the entire world, and they cost £2,115 each. That's £2.82 per millilitre. I was poured about 40 quidsworth and it's still barely a sip.
Whether those prices represent value is another matter entirely (and an entirely personal one), but having faith that they are as good as people say they are is vitally important. Being able to taste that for yourself is not just a rare privilege, but is a huge reassurance. These wines deserve their reputation, and that validates an industry which often involves loquacious, blustering rhetoric.
For what it's worth, the Échezeaux was one of my favourites (a mere snip at £271 per bottle), as was the Richebourg (£596). Such preferences are purely academic, however: I will never buy these wines myself, and I never encounter them in my professional life, apart from on this one day a year.
The other point to make is that there are many other, far less expensive wines that I think are just as profound, and which represent equivalent excellence, albeit in different styles. For me, that would include Salon champagne, Vega Sicilia Único, Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling TBA by Erben-Thanisch and Jamet Côte-Rôtie - none of them exactly cheap, but certainly more affordable, and all of them equal DRC to my tastes.
If you have a single-minded obsession with Pinot Noir, then there will be nothing holier than DRC and you'd better get saving. But even so, the existence of DRC doesn't devalue the pleasure we feel from our own favourites, whatever they may be.