Awards and citations:

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

Monday, 11 November 2013

Domaine Huet (Vouvray): 1970 Moelleux, 2002 sec and 2012 secs

On Saturday with our friends in Cheltenham we started the evening with the 1970 Clos du Bourg Moelleux, Vouvray, Domaine Huet.

1970 Le Clos du Bourg, Moelleux, Vouvray

Light to mid gold, beeswax nose with some oxidation, much more exciting on the palate honeyed with lovely, still fresh acidity in the finish. Probably should have decanted it immediately. Instead decided to decant after I had poured our first glass. Decanting certainly helped as it became increasingly complex as the 1970 opened up in the decanter and our glasses. Although a memorable bottle, I suspect that there are some better bottles of this wine around.

The bottle of 1970 was also memorable as it was the last old vintage that we bought from Domaine Huet before the old stock was sold by the Huet family to Berry Bros & Rudd. When CRM went to buy the 1970 she fondly remembers being taken through the limestone cellars to where the old vintages were carefully stored in bins. A bottle of the 1970 was selected. Then tenderly and carefully carried back up to the offices where it was labelled. Labels are not attached to the bottles in the cellar as they quickly spoil in the damp conditions.

1970 was a year before Noël Pinguet started working at Domaine Huet. Noel took over running the domaine in 1976.

Sadly will now have to think twice before opening older vintages of Huet!

Now we fast forward 42 vintages to 2012. This was the first vintage since Noël Pinguet left Domaine Huet in acrimonious circumstances in February 2012. Although Jean-Bernard Berthomé, the vineyard manager and now in charge, was long established with over 30 years service at the domaine and Benjamin Joliveau had joined the staff several years ago, Noël was always going to be a hard act to follow.  Unfortunately nature has not been kind and has dealt Vouvray a very tough hand in both 2012 and 2013.

We saw Noël Pinguet in late September 2013 when we visited Domaine Picard-Jourdan (Chinon). Noel was there to give advice on biodynamic viticulture. This domaine has been biodynamic for some time but the new owners - Annick and Francois Jourdan - wanted advice and, probably, reassurance from Noel.

Domaine Huet was amongst the first wine estates in France to adopt biodynamics. Unlike Nicolas Joly, Noël's is a pragmatic approach: he uses biodynamics because it works for him.

Noël Pinguet and his wife Françoise have now cut their ties with Vouvray: they sold their house - Le Mont - in July and have moved to the Ile de Noirmoutier on the Atlantic Coast. They already had a holiday home here. They have also sold this and bought a larger house. I guess Noël just wanted to get away and not to be continuously reminded of Domaine Huet where he was spent so much of his working life. Noel is clearly angry and bitter over the way things ended between him and the Hwangs at Domaine Huet.

Equally there are sensitivities on Sarah and Stefan Hwang's side with perhaps a tendency to view comments as more critical than they actually are.

Tasting Domaine Huet’s 2012

In late September I bought a couple of bottles of Le Haut Lieu sec and Le Clos du Bourg sec. The 2012 Le Mont sec wasn’t on sale at that time but I hope to taste this soon – certainly during the 2014 Salon des Vins de Loire in early February 2014.

I opened one of each of them during Chris Kissack’s stay with us in Touraine in early October. All three of us (Chris, CRM and myself) were disappointed with how these two wines were showing. It may have been a bad moment for them and I plan to try the other two bottles next year in March when they may well have developed further. Even then it will be unfair to try and judge Domaine Huet post-Pinguet.   

2012 Le Haut-Lieu, Vouvray sec

Mid-yellow colour, lightly citric with touch of apple, steely lean, little texture and austere length. Decidedly disappointing – lacking character and fruit.

2012 Clos du Bourg, Vouvray sec

The Clos du Bourg was certainly better than Le Haut Lieu – a little more aromatic, richer, a little sweeter and fuller with some peachy character. More complexity but still quite lean austere finish but a little peach there. Greater length than Haut Lieu.

2002 Le Mont Sec, Vouvray, Domaine Huet

Wanting reassurance after tasting the 2012s, we opened this 2002. Once again it confirmed what a wonderfully balanced vintage 2002 is – almost seamless perfection! Complex honeyed and quince fruit with still lovely freshness through ripe acidity in the finish. This will happily keep for many years providing I can restrain myself!  

It will be interesting to taste the nascent 2013s at the Salon des Vins de Loire and retaste the 2012s.     

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