Domaine Huet Le Mont demi-sec Vouvray 2011

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I haven’t written about Domaine Huet much on this blog. That is an unfortunate oversight. I have been drinking wines from Huet for years, being the perfect accompaniment for many foods and many moods. The recent sale of Domaine Huet by Noel Pinguet to a former minority business partner will likely spell some very significant changes for the Domaine and it may be that after the 2011 vintage these wines will start an unfortunate decline from their apex amongst the greatest white wines of France.

The End?

Reports say Pinguet is leaving Huet because of a dispute with his business partner Anthony Hwang. This dispute goes down into the very philosophy of wine making employed at the Domaine. For instance, Hwang wants to move the Domaine toward producing more “sec” wines, given that dry wines are now far more popular than those with residual sugar. However, many wine lovers (including Pinguet) would actually say that it is the sweet wines of the Loire, and Huet in particular, that are the greatest expression of the region’s terroir.

The shift will also apparently mean that Huet will be dealing more with a lesser number of larger suppliers rather than a bunch of small importers (as Pinguet used to do). As such, the availability of these wines in smaller markets could be put into question.

But the relevance of this only becomes apparent when we look at what makes this Domaine so special in the first place.

The Greatness of Huet

This three-generation old Domaine began in the 1920’s, and has been held by the Huet family until present times. Noel Pinguet married into the family, but has been the face of Huet since the late 70’s and certainly represents the tradition began by the Domaine’s founder Victor Huet and his son Gaston.

Domaine Huet comprises of three core vineyards: Le Mont, Le Haut-Lieu and Clos du Bourg. They are planted with vines of varying ages in a ratio increasing to about 50% for the oldest 30-50 year old vines. Hand harvested, biodynamically grown grapes make up each of the several cuvees (all made with 100% Chenin Blanc). While the limestone soils are the essential bedrock for Huet’s Vouvray masterpieces, the three vineyard are differentiated by their topsoils, with Le Haut-Lieu sporting clay and chalk, and Clos du Bourg being composed of a similar mix, with topsoils that are far shallower (1 metre), meaning the roots of the vines have to push through more bedrock than other vineyards. Last, the Le Mont topsoils are several metres of clay and flint

The wines are fermented in large demi-muid oak vessels and stainless steel. Malo is not forced, which means these wines have a fair degree of malic acid. This makes them a bit ‘sharper’, but that sharpness is mellowed by the residual sugar that balances the textures and flavours (even in the sec).

A Perfect Vouvray

The demi-sec doesn’t get a lot of attention, which is a shame since it is one of the most interesting wine styles. Some believe it is also the most reflecting of vintage, being the most transparent vessel for Vouvray’s greatness. This 2011 Le Mont demi-sec proves the point. It’s a pristine, mouth-watering wine suited for all sorts of asian cuisine, so much so that I’m curious why some complain about the demi-sec’s ability to pair with food. There is a lot of raw material here, even for a ‘lesser’ vintage, and it will age quite well in my mind, though it is so delicious right now, it’s more likely I’ll drink all my bottles with dinner.

Excellent
$45 at Marquis Wine Cellar

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