It might seem a bit surprising that this tiny domaine is so under the radar unless you’ve met its owner. Aubert de Villaine - the P. is for wife Pamela - who is the owner/director of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (aka "the domaine"), and one of the most humble, unassuming people I’ve ever met in the wine business. His day job involves running the most famous wine estate on the planet which he’s been doing since the 1960’s when he settled into the family business. In the 1970’s, he and his wife decided to settle down not in the prestigious Côte d’Or but in the significantly less pedigreed back country of the Côte Chalonnaise to the south in the village of Bouzeron. Aubert's nephew, Pierre de Benoist, has been here since 2000 and now runs the place and is quietly making some of the best and most sought after wines in all of Burgundy.
Farming at De Villaine is every bit as meticulous as is practiced at DRC with both organic and biodynamic methodology being followed. This is classic argilo-calcaire terroir; nutrient poor limestone with thin to no topsoil. Tiny yields, 28 hectolitres per hectare in a typical vintage, close to half the yield limit for the most prestigious grand cru Burgundies. Winemaking is very traditional as you might expect. Hand harvesting, gentle pressing to avoid astringency, vinification in giant foudres and subsequent elévage in the same casks. The only nod to modernity is temperature control during fermentation to preserve freshness.
The 2021 vintage in Burgundy was a challenging one to be sure. Catastrophic frost, hail, both powdery and downy mildew, rain at all the wrong times, botrytis... The saving grace was a warm, dry late summer into autumn and excellent quality fruit thought very little of it left at that point. This is the only Bourgogne Rouge De Villaine has ever bottled as such. Yields were so low that wine otherwise bottled as single vineyard terroirs - in this case the Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise La Fortune and La Digoine, Mercurey Les Montots and Santenay 1er Cru Passetemps - was blended to create this one cuvée. And it's spectacular.
My first impression of the vintage was how much it reminds me of 2007 which is a vintage I adore. Very elegant wines with red fruit, fine tannins and a fresh, lively quality I miss in the big warm vintages. The best wines, like this one, are intense and perfumed. No new wood or even small barrels used. Large old wooden tanks used for fermentation and aging with the resulting wine retaining unusual freshness. Tasted from bottle last week and was immediately struck by how similar this is to great Volnay Champans. Vibrant red fruit, generous but chiseled on the palate and long, mineral finish. Just remarkable red Burgundy and a lot of pedigree for the money. Just 18 bottles available.