Grapevine Archive for Huet

Mon 14 Nov 2011


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Biodyvin is a wonderful, eccentric, eclectic mix of growers who cultivate their vineyards biodynamically. Its aims are wholly admirable: to produce wines that reflect their origin in the most natural way possible – a concept all Wine Society members should applaud.

Naturally they have mixed success. Nature can be cruel. But at last week’s tasting the fruits of their hard work and passion were a joy. Alsace was well represented particularly by Josmeyer and Zind Humbrecht but I would like to commend particularly three brilliant producers from the Loire and the one and only, but quite outstanding, producer from Germany, Bettina Bürklin Wolf.

Bürklin Wolf have holdings in the heart of the great vineyards of the Palatinate, once the most highly valued white wine in the world. Wachenheimer, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg make lovely, individual wines but their single-vineyard from Forst are among the greatest long-living white wines of the world.

My earliest baptism into the wines of the Loire came from Jean Vacheron in Sancerre and Gaston Huet in Vouvray. Jean Vacheron had a remarkable palate and understanding of the quality that different soils of Sancerre could produce which he passed on to his sons and to his neighbouring producers. On my first visit with Wine Society buyer John McLusky, we went with Jean on a leisurely Sancerre vineyard crawl of all the cellars of growers who might have been considered his competitors to discover the true nature of Sancerre. His childern and now his grandchildren always ploughed back the money they made into buying good vineyards and better cellar equipment. His particular favourite (and mine) is the Sancerre produced on silex (flint).

John McLusky’s predecessor, Christopher Tatham MW, introduced The Wine Society to the Vouvrays of Gaston Huet at the same time as Vacheron. Gaston had an outstanding record of resistance in the war and was mayor of Vouvray from 1947 to 1993. He also alone was able to resist the French government’s plans for the TGV which now not only did not cut through his vineyards (as the government planned) but also do not disturb the subterranean cellars because the tunnels lie deep below on specially cushioned rails. His son-in-law, Noel Pinguet, is an agnostic believer in biodynamism and his wines have a parity and longevity that would make his father-in-law proud.

The new Loire eccentric is Eric Nicolas who cultivates 14 hectares of abandoned vines of Jasnieres and the Côteaux du Loir north of the larger Loire: dry white wines from chenin, quite different from Vouvray, but with amazing personality and length of flavour.

Why don’t you try some of these wines below:

Germany: Forst Pechstein Bürklin Wolf, 2009

Loire: Sancerre La Reine Blanche Vacheron, 2010
Jasnieres Premices Domaine de Belliviere, 2009

Sebastian Payne MW
Chief Buyer

Quick visit to Domaine Huet at Vouvray in the Loire valley with Sebastian Payne MW.

Noel Pinguet & Sebastian Payne MW

We’d just come from Saumur-Champigny and were pleased to be offered a little lunch of local produce – rillettes, rillons, sweet boudin and a bowl of tomatoes for the one of our 5 a day that we were likely to get. Before, during and afterwards, Noel Pinguet, who many members will know from his Society tastings in the UK and at the Domaine (48 members are due to visit in a fortnight’s time), showed us his wines.

As members know, the vineyards of Vouvray are pretty special in that they can make a vin sec, a demi-sec and a vin moelleux from same vineyards, not to mention the sparkling. Given this diversity, perhaps we should offer a tasting case: maybe 2 bottles of sec and demi-sec, one each moelleux and sparkling? What do members think?

Sebastian asked Noel to talk a little about his vineyards being biodynamic. He described how the natural way of cultivating vines back in the 1920s reminded him that it is possible to make great wine without too much intervention. With a scientific background, one can understand his initial scepticism, but he’s been following the biodynamic now for some years, and while he doesn’t know why it works, he knows that it does! He describes himself as “a practising non believer in biodynamics”.

After the biodynamics have had their influence in the vineyard, we come to the most important part of winemaking according to Noel – the pressing. Dependant on the vintage, quite different amounts of time are required – 20 minutes only in 2004 and 4 hours in 2003, all very gentle. After the pressing, as Noel says, “the less we touch the better” but we are sure he does actually work all the year through.

Confirming the quality over the decades, Noel treated us to a couple of unlabelled bottles from his museum bin. These sensationally well-preserved bottles are re-corked every 30 years or so, and it was a privilege to taste both a very light and balanced 1959 and a richer, darker 1921 with definite burnt caramel tones. These vintages are, according to him, among the greatest of the century for Vouvray: others include 1947 and 1989 (which will be like the 1921 with similar age – if only any of us were around to appreciate it).

As we left and thanked him for his visit he mentioned that he had many members of The Society visiting him and he always welcomes them with a special tour effort so do make the detour to Vouvray when you can.

Categories : France, Loire
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