2014 Burgundy Tastings: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
“Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Aubert de Villaine described Burgundy’s challenging growing season in 2014 as ‘a play divided into three acts,’ and it resulted in an excellent range of reds.
“Always one of my most anticipated visits during my trips to Burgundy, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is one of those cellars where you feel the presence of something special. Much of its holdings lie just outside its imposing gate.
“De Villaine is a wonderful host, having codirected the domaine since 1972. He knows the vineyards and the wines thoroughly, and his comments provide great insight into both the vintage and the individual climats.
“A beautiful spring got the vines off to a fantastic start, with warm, dry weather. But the first act ended with a devastating hailstorm that struck vineyards from Volnay to Beaune, the third consecutive year they’ve been hit. Parts of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Vosne-Romanée were less damaged.
“The second act saw a heat wave that roasted exposed berries, followed by unseasonable cold, lack of sun and more than 4 inches of rain in July. Humid conditions brought pressure from rot. Fortunately, the third act delivered a north wind and sunshine, creating dry, warm conditions that accelerated ripening.
“‘In the beginning, I was afraid there was a risk for the wines to show an incomplete phenolic maturity,’ said de Villaine. ‘So we didn’t pick the bigger clusters [on the vines] that were less ripe.’ The DRC harvest team also rejected any grapes affected by botrytis, those affected by hail and also sunburn.
“Picking began Sept. 15 and finished Sept. 26, pausing in the afternoon of the 19th to wait out a storm. In the end, the average yield was 2.20 to 2.37 tons per acre, a large crop by DRC’s standards, according to de Villaine. (DRC harvested just 1.44 tons per acre in 2013.) Cellarmaster Bernard Noblet retained 70 percent of the stems in the fermentation, rejecting those that were not fully ripe.
“All the wines were still in barrel and had yet to be racked, with bottling scheduled for March. …”