DRC shares in Burgundy shortfall

Domaine de la Romanée Conti showed its 2010 vintage in London this week against a backdrop of plummeting supply in the years ahead.

DRC, Corney & BarrowNoting that 2010 yields were “one third less than in 2009”, DRC’s co-owner Aubert de Villaine told the drinks business that his Burgundy estate produced “hardly 5,000 cases” that year.

Whereas yields at DRC in 2009 were 30-32 hectolitres per hectare in 2009, in 2010 this fell to 24-25hl/ha, with the most recent 2012 vintage smaller still at just 17-18hl/ha.

In addition to the role of the weather in this shortfall, de Villaine acknowledged the impact of viruses such as esca, as well as fungal challenges like botrytis. “It is a problem,” he admitted, but added: “You have to fight with the right weapons and that is where being organic or biodynamic is useful.”

Despite the challenge these issues present, firstly in the vineyard and then later when the estate’s strict allocations are set, de Villaine gave these “enemies” a positive spin.

“Everything you lose is also an effect of quality,” he remarked. “It’s a natural thinning that gives more concentration to what is left.”

Offering his own summary of the estate’s character in 2010, a vintage which won high acclaim across Burgundy, de Villaine noted: “Both the structure – the acid and the tannin – is more obvious than ‘09 and at the same time there is a certain sweetness that shows the maturity of the grapes.”

A recent run of good quality vintages from Burgundy has helped fuel what Adam Brett-Smith, managing director of Corney & Barrow, DRC’s UK agent, as “massive” interest in the region from customers.

Remaining tight-lipped on the size of Corney & Barrow’s own allocation of DRC, Brett-Smith confirmed only that the merchant receives the second largest in the world.

With many UK merchants confirming the growing pressure of demand on diminishing Burgundy allocations, Brett-Smith outlined Corney & Barrow’s own approach to easing this situation. “We’re getting more top producers – you need to broaden the church,” he commented.

However, with so many merchants chasing a relatively small bunch of producers, Brett-Smith admitted: “The buying role is becoming a selling role.”

Describing this changing relationship between merchant and producer, he explained: “You’re selling them the chance of working with you, but they know they could work with dozens of people and by nature they are very conservative.”

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