de Villaine hails ‘terroir-driven’ 2014 vintage

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Aubert de Villaine has said the wines of 2014 are particularly marked by their terroir expression, in what was a tricky vintage in Burgundy.

Adam Brett-Smith and Aubert de Villaine

Speaking to the drinks business at the annual tasting of the latest vintage at Corney & Barrow, the domaine’s agent in the UK, de Villaine explained that the 2014 vintage had seen good phenolic maturity but had not tipped into “over-ripeness” as had been the case with the 2015s or 2009s (in the sense that they are much riper styles as they come from warm years not ‘over-ripe’ in the sense the grapes were raisined when harvested).

“It’s a phenolic maturity that gives freshness and a minerality in the sense that it makes the wine a channel for the terroir. It’s a vintage where the terroir and vintage speak.”

Offering a sneak peak onto the 2015 vintage, de Villaine noted that the 2014s were “not like the ‘15s where the character of the vintage is stronger. With very ripe vintages like 2015, the date of picking and biodynamics is very important.”

Adam Brett-Smith, Corney & Barrow’s managing director, added that famous vintages in regions often had a habit of being more marked by the conditions of their vintage, with subtleties of the terroir being smoothed over as a result – the 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux being a case in point. Less storied vintages, by contrast, allowed the character of their soil to shine through a little better.

The 2014 vintage in Burgundy was a difficult one, marked by hail storms and a both a heat wave and dreary summer which conspired to significantly reduce the final crop.

The Côte de Beaune took the brunt of the hail but de Villaine noted that it was a vintage where “the vegetal material was important.”

In the vintage report put together by Corney & Barrow, Brett-Smith explained that after a pleasant, dry spring, there was a “canicular” heat spike in June which burnt a lot of berries – especially on those vines with leaves shredded by the hail.

July and August were “dreary” and some rot set in while veraison was not completed until the end of August.

September however was dry and rain free with only a “vengeful swipe of the Gods” in the shape of a violent thunderstorm (with little to no rain) on 19 September.

Picking was finished by 26 September with the quality of the red berries that came in being remarked on for their thick skins and deep colour.

Many UK merchants have largely pegged 2014 as a historically good year for white Burgundies but they have also advised buyers not to overlook the reds – especially from the Côte de Nuits.

A reduced crop and the current strength of the pound means that the wines are somewhat more expensive than last year but Corney & Barrow’s fine wine director, Will Hargrove, told db that the rises were not severe and driven more by the exchange rate than any drastic change from the domaine itself, which anyway prefers to keep prices stable from year to year.

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