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De Villaine keeps DRC within collectors’ reach

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s owner has stressed the importance of controlling distribution to keep prices at sustainable levels.

Speaking to the drinks business at Corney & Barrow’s trade tasting today, Aubert de Villaine said that it was the tight control he keeps on distribution of DRC that allowed him to set prices that, while high, kept the wine within the reach of collectors.

He said: “We (he and co-owner Henry-Frédéric Roch) wish to keep the prices at a level that makes the wines available to collectors and those that enjoy wine.

“It is very important for me that people are able to buy the wines and drink them. To do that there has to be a tight control with distribution. The Bordelais don’t do that, the wine goes through various hands and high prices are the result.”

He admitted that DRC was in no way cheap but stressed that the prices would always be set by the estate.

“You do see our wines selling for astronomical amounts in China and elsewhere,” he said, “but they’re very small amounts and bought at auction. We will always set our own prices.”

This attitude is more important than ever when considering DRC’s rising position in the Far East.

De Villaine was clear that he does not want his wine to become an investment tool and while saying it was not a problem if wines were sold as part of a collection, he also made it clear that he is prepared to punish those looking only to make a quick profit.

He said: “We would rather they were not just investment wines but you can’t escape it of course.

“If, however, we caught someone putting wines into an auction one or two months after buying them, we won’t sell to them ever again.”

On the subject of the latest vintage, 2009, he was clearly very pleased with the result, saying: “It’s the sort of vintage not made very often, it’s seductive, approachable and quite exceptional.

“With other vintages you must wait but not this one. It was not an easy vintage,” he continued, “you must conserve the purity of the fruit that is so important in vintages such as this and I think we have done that.

“They’re wonderful wines that make you smile. And we have a good amount too, it’s the most wine we have made since 1999. But the wines are good and the consumers will like them.

“Sometimes you ask yourself if you could have done better with a particular vintage. With 2009 we couldn’t do better.”

He also described 2010 as “superb” and said that it was going to be bottled next month.

He thought that it perhaps had more structure than 2009, was perhaps “more complex” but the tannins were less supple and it would need more time.

“But come back in 30 years time and these wines will still be here too,” he added of the 2009’s ageing capability.

Despite the year often being described as “voluptuous” and “generous”, DRC’s 2009s are round without being fat and retain the all important purity that de Villaine mentioned.

Whereas it might be easy with a ripe vintage to let the wine just be juicy, the DRCs have a delicious core of bright fruit which retain a satisfying crunch keeping the wines pure, focused, taut and very fresh.

Production is up for the 2009s with production from nearly all of the domaine’s vineyards being above average.

Particular standouts from the tasting included the Romanée-St-Vivant – which was full of black fruit – and the La Tâche, which was slightly deeper in colour than the other wines and combined a smoky nose with black fruit giving way to red on the palate.

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