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1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Gaston Huet tasting: Vouvrays from 2007 - 1924

Noël Pinguet@the press room of Domaine Huet during the 2010 vintage

I was privileged last night to attend a remarkable tasting of Vouvrays from Gaston Huet going back to 1924. The estate and wines were introduced by Alun Griffiths MW, wine director of Berry Bros & Rudd with Noël Pinguet and Roy Richards (Richards Walford) providing commentary.   

We had been due to leave for the Loire on Sunday but when I got the invitation to this vertical it took a nanosecond to delay our departure. I was delighted to attend not only for the quality of the wines shown but also because it drew a line both under Noël Pinguet's long career and the Huet family's connection with the estate that bears their name.

The tasting was organised by Berry Bros & Rudd, who have just bought the entire stock of Huet old vintages running from 1919 to 1975 as well as 1989 from Noël Pinguet and the Huet family. This stock of old vintages was retained by the family when, following the death in 2002 of Gaston Huet, the estate was sold the next year to Anthony Hwang, a Chinese American businessman. The stock also includes the great 1989, which rather surprisingly Anthony Hwang chose not to buy.

I will post details of the wines shown shortly but now want to reflect on what is truly the end of an era. It represents part of the history and heritage not only of the estate but of Vouvray itself. 

The sale of the old vintages to Berry Bros & Rudd was facilitated by Roy Richards of Richards Walford, long-time UK agents for Domaine Huet. Berry Bros had acquired Richards Walford earlier this year. Precise details of how many bottles Berry Bros have bought were not revealed but suffice to say that it is a sizeable parcel of some really extraordinary wines. 

This is a bittersweet moment as the old wines have now been removed from the limestone galleries of the Huet cellars and are being prepared for shipment to the UK. They bring an end Noel's long association with Domaine Huet, which started in 1971 when he started working with Gaston, his father-in-law. Sadly Noel's association prematurely ended, as I wrote in February, through irreconcilable differences with Anthony Hwang's children (Stefan and Sarah) now running the estate. Although the Hwangs never owned the old vintages, losing them from the cellars must be like losing part of the memory for the domaine - a loss of the history and heritage of one of the rare Loire estates recognised as world-class.

In a curious and wholly unintended way Noel's resignation in February has turned out to be impeccably timed given the way the weather during 2012 has flayed and tortured wine producers in Northern France unmercifully. It must have been a great relief to Noel to realise that he has not been responsible for trying to deal with the most difficult growing conditions for many a year.

The extraordinary quality of most of the eleven wines we tasted (some were so wonderful, especially the 1947 that they had to be 'spat backwards') underlines the responsibility and challenge that faces Stefan and Sarah Hwang to maintain the tradition of impeccable quality that Gaston Huet and Noël have established since Gaston's first vintage in 1928 and to leave some similarly sublime bottles to captivate future generations. Unfortunately in 2012 nature has dealt them a cruel first hand.


Bob Rossi said...

The tasting must have been amazing. I have a grand total of 1 Huet wine in my cellar: 2002 Clos de Bourg. Sounds like if I ever want to purchase any more of the vrai Huet, I might have to go to Britain.

Jim Budd said...

Bob. It was amazing. Certainly the old vintages will have to be bought in the UK but Domaine Huet should still have stock of wines from 1976 with the exception of 1989.