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“Soil and fundamental vineyards, such as wineries run by families”: Burgundy and Aubert de Villaine

WineNews interview with the co-owner of the myth Domaine Romanée-Conti. “Star prices of vineyards? A danger to the future”

The terroir as a place where “the marriage between human beings and nature takes place”, and which should be taken care of with attention as a “good father of a family”, especially considering the sustainability of the soil and the environment; the fundamental importance of not considering economic values before the human and cultural ones that are the heritage of the territory, as well as the concern for the very high prices of the vineyards that can create problems, especially - but not only - in terms of generational turnover, even in a very rich territory, and with wines with stellar prices, such as Burgundy. There are many points on which to reflect in the interview of WineNews, to Aubert De Villaine, co-owner of one of the most prestigious wineries in the world, Domaine Romanée-Conti, icon of Burgundy, and protagonist of the last half-century of one of the most historical and important territories in the world, met, in recent days in Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the symposium dedicated to “The place, brand of taste”, the theme of the Days Giulio Gambelli, wanted by Pasquale Forte, at the helm of the winery Podere Forte, now one of the reference point of Tuscany’s wine. “The terroir has been recognized by humans as suitable for the production of wine, a wine with a character, more precisely a union between human beings and nature. In fact, people know the terroir and are able to find the right means to express its full potential at the highest level,” explained De Villaine, moreover, it must be treated with the logic of “a good family father, and as a farmer, because the farmer does not want the land to lose its wealth”. And increasing attention to the land, according to De Villaine, has been one of the most important changes in Burgundy in the last 50 years. “An even more important change than improving the quality of wines. Over the years, great respect for the soil has matured over the years, but also more regard to the “plant material”, to the vine, because if you do not have first quality plants, you will not get from the terroir the potential that can express.
A great job, in this sense, has been done in Burgundy - underlines De Villaine - also thanks to the arrival of a new generation of people who have traveled, who realized where Burgundy could be placed in the world of wine. Regarding Domaine Romanèe Conti, I think that the greatest progress we have made in recent years has been the transition to organic, then to biodynamic, which have produced lower outputs, and quality increases. Of course, all these changes have not been radical, but like all the important progress, they have been gradual”.
Certainly, the growth and success of the Burgundy wine in the world, have led to a stellar increase in both the prices of wines and vineyards (which in the most prestigious cru, according to the French agency Safer, have reached 14 million euros per hectare, and starting from a minimum of 3 million euros per hectare). And this growth, according to the co-owner of what are probably the most precious vineyards of Burgundy, “is a dangerous trend, because it can be preliminary to changes of ownership, both in terms of inheritance and purchase. It is a worrying situation, which should be dealt with by the public authority, to find the right means to make these changes of ownership possible”. Also because, De Villaine explains, “the traditions and history of Burgundy are in the hands of small family businesses. I don’t know if things are different in other wine regions, but in Burgundy, this is the case. The preservation of the diversity of “climate” (UNESCO World Heritage, ed), which are often very small, is guaranteed more by the fabric of small properties than by large properties, which tend to unify tastes, and to standardize. It is this research, which I define as vertical, as opposed to the horizontal research, made by small properties, which in Burgundy is essential for the longevity of wines”. An issue that calls into question another decisive aspect, according to De Villaine. That is, the fact that the cultural and human value of a territory must not and cannot be exceeded, in importance, by the economic one.“It simply means that the cultural heritage created over the centuries with work, with respect for the soil, with respect for tradition, with the ability to continue with production despite the obstacles encountered along the way, is priceless. These elements constitute cultural heritage, and without this cultural heritage, what makes money, that produces work, would not exist”.
These are suggestions that make you reflect, and that come from the heart of one of the most beautiful territories in the world, the Val d’Orcia UNESCO World Heritage, as is the Burgundy, with its climate. "Two very different types of beauty - notes De Villaine - the beauty of the Val d’Orcia is spectacular, far superior to the beauty of Burgundy, I dare say. And I refer to the beauty of the landscape, while Burgundy has not become a UNESCO heritage for the beauty of the landscape, but for the idea of the terroir, of its development. Development that has created a landscape, but at the base of it there is the idea of terroir, of climate. However, these are two unique places, and if they were destroyed for some reason, it would be a great loss for humanity”. Word of Aubert de Villaine.

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