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DRC co-owner de Villaine says 2014 is crucial for growers

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has triumphed against the odds with its 2011 but allocations are under pressure and, like many in Burgundy, co-owner Aubert de Villaine is craving a 'normal' growing season in 2014.

De Villaine himself (pictured) came to London last week for a tasting of the 2011 vintage with Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) importer Corney & Barrow.

Given the mostly dire weather conditions over the summer in 2011, it seems miraculous that the wines, shown for the first time in the UK on 7 February, are as good as they are.

They show purity and perfume on the nose, and great refinement on the palate, with fine tannins and excellent balance.

The bad news is that the volumes were down 30% on 2010. So, for Corney & Barrow, the main issue is one of allocations. For de Villaine as well as the importers, the problem has been compounded by even lower volumes in the 2012 and 2013 vintages.

It’s a familiar story across much of Burgundy, albeit prices achieved for DRC of late have arguably catapulted it into a different financial stratosphere from many of its regional brethren. Sotheby’s alone sold $7.2m of DRC wines in 2013.

In conversation, De Villaine made no complaints about small vintages, but he expressed great concern about the plight of many growers, especially in the Cote de Beaune, which has been hit hard by hail as well as rain in recent vintages.

With some vineyards producing hardly any wine, he fears growers will struggle to stay afloat with so few grapes and so little wine to sell for three years in a row.

‘That makes this year unusually important. The growers need a good crop,’ he said.

‘Of course, it’s too early to predict the yields. What gives us some concern is that we have hardly had a winter, and no frost at all. Temperatures are mild, and if they continue that way the vines will respond with precocious vigour, and that will only increase their susceptibility to frost, should we be hit in the spring.

‘We just have to hope that the 2014 growing season proceeds normally.’

(Editing by Chris Mercer)

Written by Stephen Brook

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