Aubert de Villaine: ‘battle-scarred but wiser’
A ‘difficult and protracted flowering’ led to millerandage and coulure and reduced yields in every vineyard, Adam Brett-Smith of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s importers Corney & Barrow said.
While Échézeaux, Richebourg and Romanée-Conti were only slightly below their average yields, Grands Échézeaux produced 903 cases against an average of 1150, Romanée-St-Vivant 1159 against 1500, La Tâche 1313 against 1870 and Le Montrachet 169 cases compared to the normal 250.
‘It is difficult to reconcile the aching beauty of these 2010s with the frequently traumatic temperament of so much of the growing season,’ Brett-Smith went on, detailing the ‘malevolence’ of the west wind and the ‘macabre, even surreal race’ between optimum ripeness borne of intermittent hot and sunny conditions, and ‘the spectre of rot and disease’ caused by humidity.
In the end, Brett-Smith said in his introduction to the wines last week, optimum ripeness of small, thick-skinned berries was achieved and the battle was played out at the triage table, ‘with only perfectly ripe and healthy grapes’ selected.
It was a challenging summer, de Villaine told Decanter.com, although with the boon that botrytis and mildew led to the ‘natural thinning’ of the crop. The small yield contributed to the wines’ ‘strong structure and natural acidity’, he said.
‘Being organic and biodynamic helps because you are in a better position to listen to the condition of your vineyard. You fight the diseases but nature takes its toll.’
He described 2010 as ‘an Homeric epic’, de Villaine said, because like Ulysses ‘you do what you can with your skills, fighting against all the obstacles put in your way.’
And like Ulysses, he added, he is ‘battle-scarred but wiser’ having learnt from the ordeal. ‘I learnt how diseases can bring quality, because they are part of the vintage as well.’
The wines have been well-received by critics. Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford said they, ‘summarise the clarity, definition and breezy, aerial freshness of the vintage perfectly, while still retaining their overall personalities and characters. As always, it was a privilege to taste Burgundy of this quality: limpid, resonant and sustained.’
Jefford reserved his highest praise for the last two wines in the line-up, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti. The former he considered ‘the most sensual and seductive’ with ‘something earthy, carnal, fleshy, pheromonal’.
Romanée-Conti is ‘graceful and complete’, its fruits ‘singingly ripe… A lovely perfumed warmth after the wine has lain on the tongue for a handful of seconds — violets once again. Tannins ample and svelte; they form a fine sticking coat on the teeth. Lovely wine. Amazing grace.’