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Banned from Tasting 2013 Domaine Huet

One of the highlights of the Salon des Vins de Loire is getting to grips with the latest releases from Domaine Huet. Long regarded as the appellation leader, alongside Philippe Foreau (Domaine du Clos Naudin), the wines made here ever since Victor Huet acquired the estate in 1928 have defined what it is for a wine to be Vouvray. They are benchmarks for the appellation, prize examples of what can be achieved with a biodynamically-managed vineyard (this has been the case since the late-1980s) even in a cool climate, and quite rightly the domaine has risen to the top in the region on the back of these successes. On turning up at the Domaine Huet stand at the 2014 Salon des Vins de Loire, however, I was told that I was not permitted to taste the 2013 vintage.

Before I explain how this came about, and why I won’t be making my usual post-Salon report on the Huet tasting (it is usually one of the first reports I write), a little background information. I first visited the Loire Valley in 1993, and even on that first visit my main focus was the wine. Even on some of my earliest visits I called in on Domaine Huet, and I still have some wines in the cellar, from the 1989 and 1993 vintages, acquired during those visits. With time the visits to the Loire and to Vouvray in particular became more regular, and as my obsession with wine evolved and I began writing about it online, eventually I became what can only be described as a wine critic. In doing so I tasted more and more wines from Domaine Huet, not only on visits to the domaine but also at the Salon des Vins de Loire (with Noël Pinguet at first, more recently after Noël’s departure with Benjamin Joliveau), as well as a notable tasting of demi-sec wines in London with Noël a few years ago. My profile of Domaine Huet is the largest of all my Loire profiles (first published eleven years ago, now expanded to eight pages) with nine separately published ‘tasting updates’ added to Winedoctor over the years, and over two hundred tasting notes all told, from 2012 back to the 1949 vintage. A look through any of these articles would make clear how highly I have rated the wines over the years. Unsurprisingly, during this time the number of Huet wines in my cellar grew, not only with the addition of recent vintages, but back-filling older ones too, as I was keen to enhance my understanding of the domaine. The oldest wine in my cellar is a 1946 Huet.

In all cases these reports were dispassionate judgements on the wines; they were not praised out of loyalty, or love of the Loire, or of Vouvray, or the domaine, but because the wines deserved it. To write usefully about wine – or indeed any aspect of modern culture that attracts the ‘critic’ – I am certain that you have to, above all else, be true to yourself. You have to say what you really feel about the wine in question, and that is exactly what I was doing, giving praise where praise was due. With the 2012 vintage I saw something different in the wines though; they lacked the usual Huet grace and substance, reflecting what had been a difficult vintage for the region. Against the backdrop of all my previous reports on the wines of Domaine Huet, and in the context of an extensive four-page report which also focused on the sec and pétillant wines of the 2002 vintage (where some in the USA have reported premature oxidation, although I found no systematic problem), sec cuvées from other recent vintages (2010 back to 1995, featuring some excellent wines) and recent pétillant releases (2007 back to 2001, again, lovely wines) I stated that I did not like the two wines tasted from the 2012 vintage, that it had indeed been a tough year for the team at Huet, and my tasting notes made clear why. My comments were direct, not mealy-mouthed, but were carefully considered. Nobody would mistake my words for the work of Ambrose Bierce or AA Gill, that’s for sure. I concluded with an open question on the 2013 vintage, and looked forward to tasting it at the Salon.

Turning up at the Salon des Vins de Loire hoping to do just that, I was taken inside the Domaine Huet stand (a fairly grand affair) by Sarah Hwang, current president of Domaine Huet. Expecting to hear some information on the 2013 vintage, I opened my laptop, but I was asked to close it as Sarah informed me that we should talk now, and I could type later. It was made clear that my opinions on the 2012 vintage weren’t welcome, as I was asked “just where do you think you’re coming from with what you write about Domaine Huet” and accused of not engaging with “the spirit” of the domaine or appellation. In a series of quick-fire questions I was quizzed on who I knew at the domaine (my tastings have always been with Noël Pinguet or Benjamin Joliveau, as described above, but it seems I am supposed to know the whole team to be able to comment on the wines) and whether or not I even knew who the winemaker was. When I asked who, if not Benjamin Joliveau, the winemaker was (Benjamin has told me, during previous tastings, that he was now winemaker after Noël’s departure), instead of a simple answer (apparently Jean-Bernard Berthomé, the hugely experienced cellar-master, now has this title) I received more questions fired back at me. I was even quizzed on whether or not I had taken photographs of Huet vineyards, as if that was somehow inappropriate. In the culmination of what felt like a long conversation, but which probably lasted mere minutes, I was accused (after stating that I will always write for my subscribers first and foremost) of “using” Domaine Huet merely to build Winedoctor subscriber numbers.

Oscar Wilde once said “the critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic” and I think he had that right; I’m always willing to be educated, which is why I try to meet as many growers as possible, to hear about their vineyards and their philosophies, and to taste their wines. But this was not an educational meeting, as it much more resembled a dressing-down. When it seemed as though we had reached a stalemate I asked whether I could taste the 2013 vintage. The answer was no. And at that point I left.

As a consequence, I am currently unable to report on the 2013 vintage at Domaine Huet, and will crack on with my proposed Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé (and Menetou-Salon and Reuilly) updates and reports instead. I will continue to provide tasting reports on the many older wines from my cellar, and in order to keep up to date with recent releases I will look for other tasting opportunities, which may well involve buying newly released bottles on the open market. I am not sure if the ban is a permanent one, but I certainly don’t feel that I would be welcome at Domaine Huet at the moment. I sincerely wish all the Huet team, including Jean-Bernard Berthomé, Benjamin Joliveau and Sarah Hwang all the best for great success in future vintages. Their wines have given me (and so many thousands of others) so much joy over the years and I am sure with continued good efforts from the team, and with more favourable vintages in the future (I am told by a reliable palate that the 2013s are pretty good, by the way), there is no reason to see why that success will not continue into the future.

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  3. I was similarly banned by Sarah Hwang at the Salon des Vins de Loire from tasting the Huet wines including 2013 or being given any information about what wines that made last year.

    The ban was reported here: http://les5duvin.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/post-salon-tales-from-the-loire/

    I plan to buy what samples I need to taste from the domaine dependent upon their availability.

  4. Wow, what a terrible attitude from Huet. So totally unprofessional and indeed against the spirit of what good winemaking should be.

    I find this a very telling contrast with the two winemakers you wrote about in your piece on humility in wine-making. Now those were guys who one can admire and respect.

    Well, kudos to you, Chris, for the level-headed way you’ve reported on this bizarre grilling from Ms. Hwang – I’m not sure I would have responded with such grace to that kind of heavy-handed and minatory media-management. It would certainly put me off buying anything from Huet, even though you go out of your way to underline the fact they generally make very good wines.

  5. Good, dispassionate piece Chris.

  6. Amazing (over) reaction by the winery. How can anyone think they can control criticism like this and get away with it without almost certainly making matters worse?

    Thanks for presenting the case, and proving that despite their poor reaction and unprofessional nature, that an individual critic with a loyal audience is obviously influential enough to make them react. Let’s hope that this post too prompts some reaction, this time in a sensible direction.

  7. Shocking – that is all I can say. Anyone who has read your reports and notes on Huet wines over the years must know you are a fan, as well as a fine writer. If they are experiencing a “difficult” transformation from one winemaker to another, then so be it. But they cannot expect the praise to keep coming in, if the wines do not merit it. Sounds like a massive own-goal to me!

  8. Jim, David, Leon and Robert, thanks indeed for these responses. It is a very strange affair. I have no idea where this will go, but I felt I had to write about the experience, if nothing else to explain why I can’t say anything (for the moment at least) about the 2013s from Domaine Huet.

  9. Chris, that’s really a very sad tale.

    The best winemakers I know tend to be rather brutally self-critical.

    I missed the salons this year for the first time in many, but one can have less regret if this is what was on offer.

  10. Chris,

    Your work has and should always speak for itself. By banning you from tasting, Huet has ostensibly given notice as to the level of your influence and reach. They will come crawling back before too long. Find the wines, taste and report. Let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

  11. Speechless. How very silly and immature. What type of leadership and direction is she giving the winery?

  12. This shocking display of bad behavior corrupts the entire review process for everything Huet, regardless of author. How can I, an ordinary consumer, trust a review of a Huet wine when I know that every critic operates under the Sword of Damocles. Senior management at Huet needs to apologize publically and then fall on their sword, to continue the metaphor, before anyone can trust anything positive that is said about their wines.

  13. What a terrible experience. Anyone who knows your work will know that you have a deep love for the wines of the Loire. That love can – and should, where appropriate – be manifested as gentle criticism as much as praise, where praise is due.

    To expect a journalist or a critic to write nothing but paeans of praise is, de facto, expecting them to become a branch of a winery’s marketing department. This is not appropriate, either for the producer or for the writer.

    Furthermore, anyone hoping to achieve greatness (whatever the sphere of their endeavours) should welcome constructive criticism. The alternative is to surround yourself with those who will praise you regardless of the quality of your work – and that’s a fast, direct route to mediocrity. It would be a terrible shame if Huet were to take that road…

  14. Poor form, especially for ardent champions of the region like Chris and Jim. For more: http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=96065

  15. I wish I shared in other readers’ shock and surprise. In the US, however, this is a not at all uncommon experience for any wine critic saying less than flattering things about a wine or region. What’s more is that when a vintners association becomes upset with negative coverage, the critic can be blacklisted from receiving samples and/or attending future tasting events. So much for everyone being entitled to their opinion. Alas, history is littered with the remains of fools who believed they could control people’s perception. Keep your chin up!

  16. Chris, i can only say i feel the very same way as all previous writers here have stated.

    A very strange behavior, and i think your reaction was really professional.

    I am sure you will get to taste the wines either way :-)

  17. Coming from far outside of the insiders’ wine loops, this account is fascinating and I thank you for sharing it with the great unwashed.

    My understanding is that the new owners bought a brand, not terroir, and that they’ll assume control over anything (winemaking, criticism…) that they think is damaging to their concept of the brand. Brand trumps terroir.

    As an aside, as one of those guilty of eye rolling at high-toned wine criticism, the significance of the unbiased, pro critic is never greater than at a moment like this!

  18. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for sharing this. Your writing and critical judgements are unfailingly perceptive and fair. I have long respected the courtesy – and absence of ego – in your writing, too. I am amazed by the response from the management at Huet. Wouldn’t surprise me now to see a rush of reviews of the 2012 wines. Huet have highlighted what they sought to hide.

    Best,
    Sarah.

  19. Glad it wasn’t me. I would have been furious.

  20. I believe Zelda is correct. Dom. Huet has ceased to be a great house.

  21. Shocking behaviour from Huet. Thanks for posting this, Chris.

    You’re much more restrained than I am. I’d haven taken down my Huet profile and replaced it with a CENSORED BY HUET page by now.

  22. Remarkable. I have long been a Huet fan, but I don’t need to spend my dollars on their wines if this is the stance. And Chris, cheers to you for reporting in a fair, factual, unemotional manner. You have risen above them, just when so many of us would have been lashing out.

  23. Somehow I don’t think that this type of behaviour from Huet is going to make their 2012s better or easier to sell. It may however make it less likely that anyone writes at all about any future vintages from them, and it may very well make fewer people interested in buying their wines irrespective of vintage.

    Considering that you and Jim Budd shared the same experience, I have a feeling that this has the makings of a classical case of “how not to” that could fit into marketing textbooks and classes.

  24. I wonder if the people at Huet will read this article, and the comments. I certainly hope so.
    What a great shame from a once great wine domaine to have become so self-deluded. Thank you for sharing Chris.

  25. Chris,

    Thanks for sharing this – coming after a short break with your family, I have no doubt some careful deliberation went into it!

    I hugely appreciate your reports, and always have you as a key reference point for all wines that I buy from Bordeaux. I am (so far) less familiar with the Loire, but very much respect your focus on this region, and am slowly working my way through your pages. It’s maybe different with everyone, but familiarity is, I think, key to enjoying great wines (at least for me). And this takes time; which you are kindly helping me with.

    I agree with other posters that you should take the reaction as a compliment to your influence. But it does seems somewhat short-sighted of a such a generally well-respected house to treat you this way; particularly given your focus on the wines of this region. It sounds like serious internal issues going on (potentially impacting the quality of their wines?) but that does not excuse their behaviour.

    But actually in a certain way it has now become even more important (at least for me) to get your input when considering any Loire wines. You will help us find those wine makers that have that apparently required humility…

    Thanks for your integrity. Please keep it up.

    (By the way, this is my first blog posting – ever. At least that I can remember … I am now wondering if I may have posted something in moments of irrational exuberance …

    P.S. Neal (Martin), thanks for retweeting – do please tell us if that gets you any negative feedback!!!

  26. ‘My understanding is that the new owners bought a brand, not terroir, and that they’ll assume control over anything (winemaking, criticism…) that they think is damaging to their concept of the brand. Brand trumps terroir.’

    Zelda. I think it is important to distinguish between the father Anthomy Hwang and his children. Anthony bought the domaine in 2003 after the death of Gaston Huet, the previous year. Anthony was always charming, a great supporter of Noël Pinguet and my impression was that Noël was happy working with Anthony and for the first time he had a stake in the domaine. Noël’s relationship with his father-in-law, Gaston Huet, was not always easy – both have (or in Gaston’s case had) strong personalities.

    At some point Anthony handed over the running of the domaine to his children and I don’t know the history of this changeover but Noël’s relationship with the Hwangs fell apart subsequent to this handover.

    I’m sure that Anthony understood full well the quality of the terroir/site, especially the Clos du Bourg and Le Mont, that he had bought.

  27. Ridiculous and childish on their part. Not to mention totally ignorant of the basic principles of modern PR

  28. Astonishing, Chris. Think you have shown remarkable sang froid in the circumstances. Afraid the Huet wines will have an unwelcome (and uncustomary) sour taste in future.

  29. Chris, thank you for sharing your experience. As I’ve tried to learn more about the wines of the Loire you’re always been one of my first resources due to the exceptionally high quality of your reviews. I’m shocked by Ms. Hwang’s attitude towards you and the wine media. All wineries have off or transitional years – its part of the industry.

    While I’m only an enthusiast and by no means a significant proportion of the Domaine Huet’s revenue, I plan on voicing my displeasure with my wallet, and my recommending other Loire wines to those who ask my opinion.

    Please keep up the great work!

  30. I’ve been black banned a few times too and I’m never surprised when the black ban tends to lift with a change of management/PR. Keep up the good work (and the civility – the right attitude).

  31. A fuller picture makes it more interesting still. Thanks, Jim! Fascinating industry narrative.

  32. Chris, I have just caught this and there can be no doubt that Huet have been foolish. Although you don’t say it, the change in the winemaker and an inflated sense off self-regard by the management might well explain the change in the quality of the wine. I remember something similar happening to a very famous NZ Sauvignon Blanc which is not a patch on what it once was.

    At the end of the day, Huet will gradually lose customers and then merchants if they continue in this vein. Chenin is not the easiest sell in the trade simply because most consumers are unaware how good it can be and how long it can age; and there are, as they say, plenty of more fish in the sea. Like everyone else, I have to make choices, and what I want to buy is something of high quality that gives myself and others pleasure at a price I can afford. If Huet want to remove themselves from those whom I could choose, then there are plenty of other fine domaines to choose from.

  33. Dear Mark,

    many thanks for this information.

    Pour ma part, je trouve très stupide, si c’est vrai d’avoir refusé à quiconque de déguster les vins du domaine. Je suis l’agent du domaine huet depuis 1985 sur Paris. Et présente au salon des vins de Loire chaque année à ce titre. Jamais je n’ai empêché un client, journaliste, collègue, ami ou “ennemi” de déguster les vins. Je me considère libre et en conséquence j’accorde ce même droit à l’Autre ainsi que la même liberté d’AIMER ou NE PAS AIMER, mes vins, même ceux que je chéris le plus au monde. SI le millésime 2012 était difficile et un point en dessous du 2013. J’estime que 2013 est un très beau millésime. Chaque individu dans sa vie a des choix à faire, en toute conscience, à chaque instant de sa vie. Le clos du Bourg, qui porte aujourd’hui le nom du domaine Huet, existe depuis le 5eme siècle après Jésus Christ. Les hommes et les femmes s’y sont succédés pour l’amener à ce jour. Demain après nous d’autres hommes et femmes continueront je l’espère cette chaîne. Il est très triste pour moi de constater que certains “égos” ne supportent pas quand ils abandonnent un domaine que ce domaine puisse toujours être bon et grand sans eux, entre les mains d’autres personnes. J’ai vu cela de multiples fois dans ma vie, mais cela me procure toujours la même tristesse. Je crois que pour le domaine Huet le vrai problème est là.

    Bises à toi
    Danièle

  34. Do they realy know what they have just started? Especially in these modern times communication is so fast.

    Maybe sad publicity is also publicity…

  35. Boy, Huet have really dropped the ball on this one…they are now in damage control but it’s too late. By the way, kudos to M. Kissack for keeping his integrity, staying neutral and not fall into the easy way of writing what vineyards want to ear…well done once again!

  36. Who was behind this attempt to censor reporting of Huet wines? Did Sarah Hwang act on her own initiative as a kind of loose canon? Or was she just the mouthpiece for someone else?

    - A

  37. I would like add a little balance after reading some of the comments made on this subject.
    Wine is a very personal thing and I have seen this in Wine tastings across the board by Winemakers and wine writers not agreeing with each other’s palates and general comments on grape clones and terroir which what I call a healthy debate in confidence.
    A wine writer/critic personal opinion can cause a number of issues for a winery/marketing/sales if put forward in a negative way to their readers.
    I have been making wine now for 25 years and when tasting I look for all the positives about the wine before looking for faults this way it gives more enjoyment.
    I am not saying Huet handled you correctly , but did you handle them correctly before commenting buy asking those questions e.g change in philosophy and winemaker etc. to help have understanding rather than your personal criticism of the wines and vintage year.
    I say if you do not like the wine do not write about and that’s being fair to all.

  38. Thanks for all these further comments.

    Justin, I’m very happy to have some contrasting opinion here. You are right that wine is subjective and all opinions are personal. But that doesn’t invalidate those opinions.

    I have met up with Noel and then Benjamin regularly over the past few years, and worked on information provided by them; although Sarah Hwang essentially told me what Benjamin said about him being the winemaker was incorrect, there was no way for me to know that, and I believe I was reasonably well informed anout the domaine, the changes that were ongoing, and the nature of the 2012 vintage. The critical comments I made were placed in the context of a difficult vintage. I think I had plenty of background information around my review of the wines for the review to be valid and appropriate.

    The issue of only writing positive reviews is, to my mind, a thorny one. I know in print media the usual line is that, due to limited space, only the best wines are featured. This convenently means that nobody gets upset by less then glowing reviews. Using the internet means no space restriction, and I have always taken the tack that I should be as comprehensive as possible, and when I taste a number of wines from a domaine I write up *all* those wines, whether my notes are glowing or critical. I have praised many thousands of wines in doing this. I have criticised many wines also. I believe this is an honest approach that completes my tasting reports. If I don’t provide a tasting note for a wine, readers can be assured that it is because I haven’t tasted the wine (or I may have, but it is queued for publication) and not because I tasted the wine, found it poor (rot, for example, has been a problem in the Loire in 2011, and to a much lesser extent 2013) and then was too afraid/polite to make those comments.

    Thanks again for your comments. I really respect contrasting opinions being presented here.

  39. I’m appalled, especially since I posted a week ago a glowing report of the wines I tasted at the Huet stand, including the Le Mont 12. I wish I’d known.
    Nobody has done more for the Loire than you in recent times and for one of the flagship domaines to behave like a North Korean Dear Leader to the leading voice of the media to the is quite extraordinarily stupid.
    The Loire badly needs more media exposure, but not of this kind.

  40. As it happens, I know both Tony Hwang and Noël Pinguet. I am sad, shocked and gobsmacked by what has happened as they always showed the highest possible regard for each other.

    However Tony is an extremely busy man and it may be possible that pressure of his other commitments, of which he has no doubt many, led to him being unable to devote the single-minded time and energy to Huët that he felt it needed, leading him to install his children in charge in the hope that they would be able to give it the care and attention it needed.

    Living in France, I am afraid that I have learnt to be extremely sceptical of French wine writers, especially when talking about non-french owned wineries. I am not – for one minute – doubting the veracity of Jim’s and Chris’ reports, but it could be that the younger generation of Hwangs has fallen foul of what can charitably described as French “patriotism” at the hands of some wine writers, and Jim & Chris bore the brunt of their resentment.

    I do hope they see fit to try to do something to repair the damage done to their reputation.

  41. Wow. I’ve never heard such a thing could happen, especially at something as public as a wine fair.

    It’s good that you reported this, so others in the wine world know their behaviour. Sarah Hwang and Domaine Huet should be ashamed of themselves.

  42. How very strange and utterly poor judgement. If a critic can only post positive reviews, one is no longer a critic but as a previous comment said, part of the brand PR team. The positive reviews by a PR team are not to be taken seriously, nor any “critic” who only reports praise. Sure, there is no need to go out of the way to publish a poor review on a start-up winery one has never previously encountered and which has very little clout. However, when regularly reviewing the wines from a place, like you do with Huet, it makes your praise all the more credible when there is the occasional criticism.

    Now I know you strived to be balanced in this account of what happened, and you still laud the wines of Huet. However, I for my part can find enough lovely wines from other places and will – until Hwang reconsiders her stance – not be favoring Huet. It’s my perogative, just like not serving you was hers.

    Stand your ground Chris!

  43. A friend ITB says this attitude carries on through to their relationships with their agents; he called them (the children I guess) “nasty people”, and greedy for more & more sales, esp. in China. He stopped doing business with them.

  44. Dear Chris,
    I too met with Sarah Hwang at the Salon in Angers, and although I was not refused a tasting, I came away less than impressed with Ms Hwang!
    I have known this domaine since forever, having tasted at the Domaine with the veritable Gaston Huet himself some 30 years ago, then with Noel Pinguet and more latterly with Benjamin.
    I taste Huet’s Vouvrays every year, as they are (or at least were) the benchmark for Vouvray. But of late I have been less than impressed, and was not all enamoured with the 2013 vintage wines. Yes I know that 2012 and 2013 were incredibly difficult, but others made decent wines in those vintages, so where is the problem?
    I do not believe it lies with Benjamin or whoever is actually the winemaker, but with the management here. One could forgive such a Domaine as Huet, who have long stood for excellence in the Loire, but when the people involved, and by this I mean Sarah Hwang, come across as they do, then one has little sympathy or patience.
    Personally I found her defensive and lacking any charm, insisting she was American, seeming to be almost ashamed of her Chinese heritage and generally quite brittle. I do not say these words lightly, but rarely have I come away from a tasting so sure that this Domaine is doomed under her management. I hope she proves me wrong.
    So, this is an open invitation to you, Jim Budd (hi Jim) and all other wine-writers to come and taste our Vouvrays without fear of criticism or reproach – in vino veritas.
    Regards
    Demetri

  45. Hi Chris,

    That’s why your work and website are of absolute value: you educate us in getting to know the stories behind wines (the good ones but also the ones that disappoint from time to time). It must have been a very strange and hostile experience — being questioned and drilled like this. The article shows your honesty and love for wines, which is inspiring me. Many would have been more harsh about the domain when experiencing something like this, but as you said: it’s just your well-considered words describing a wine. They should have seen this as a way of improvement if similar circumstances arise with the harvest.

    Keep up to good work!
    / Richard

  46. Ok, let’s contrast a bit…

    I had the luxury of buying both 2011 and 2012, and must admit there is nothing wrong with 2012. The wines from Huet appear to me as fantastic as ever.

    As to what Ian Hoare writes, I totally disagree. At least one of the main French critics claimed that Domaine Huet did even better with 2012 than with any vintage before. French patriotism is a complex thing to define, particularly when people commenting on it can not imagine what impact it had on our country to be occupied the way it was 70 years ago (which means it is not out of memories yet, even though it is very diffuse, but still explains why there is a curious lack of self-esteem about our flag here).

    I would be curious to understand what game is happening really. What is the position of Noel Pinguet? Is he quiet, or trying to convey a message about what is happening since he left? Why is Mrs Hwang playing such a bad hand? Surely she must know she is building some reputation of some sort.

    The when it comes to us customers… When one knows a domain, one should keep buying it, and taste, and see whether or not he/she likes the wine, rather than wait for critics’ notes to make a decision, no?

  47. The only issue here is freedom of expression. If a wine is below the usual standard the producer ought to be the first to say so, while pointing to the glories of the past and the expected glories to come. If a wine is good but our friend Monsieur Chris Kissack is not impressed, the reputation of the Domaine should rely on other critics who believe the wine was up to scratch (comme on dit à L’Auvergne ou les ratons portent beaucoup de puces). But if the general concensus is that 2012 was below standard,whether Ms Huang agrees or not, she has to respect the credo that the customer is always right and the wine critic more so. Let us hear a modest, pleasing and honest response from Ms Huang.

  48. I would be very surprised if Sarah Hwang acted without the knowledge and consent of her father. Indeed, I would assume that the orders came from the top and Anthony Hwang directed the banning of Jim Budd and Chris Kissack, with Sarah only acting as her father’s axeman. Perhaps he would have done it himself had his reported legal troubles in Asia not kept him from attending the Salon.

    I know the family to be very proud of their intellectual prowess and educational achievements and have seen how they run their businesses with an emphasis on total control and obsession to the bottom line, regardless of sentiment or tradition. We’ve seen it with the abrupt departures of Istvan Szepsy (Kiralyudvar) and Noel Pinguet who wouldn’t compromise terroir and tradition. This time, their obsession with total control has expanded to include bloggers/journalists, which they’re now finding out are not easy to control.

  49. What an astonishing and thin-skinned reaction from Sarah Hwang. Even more notable, is the ignorance it shows on her part for the Who’s-who of reviewers, and those who otherwise hold Huet in high regard. It would seem she went after any and everyone who did not manufacture favourable reviews of the 2012 releases. “How to lose friends, and not influence people” would be her book. This strategy will backfire, sadly, on the producer itself, while she, in all likelihood, will be immune from it’s consequences.

  50. I notice that Wine Advocate has not reviewed any Huets since the 2009 vintage – could this be a result of this sort of management style causing a pattern of alienation?

  51. Is it not the inexperience of the current owners which is exposed here? Perhaps the vagueries of “elevage” is harder to reflect in the P&L than it looked at the time of purchase. One mustn’t forget that these wines are legendary and one must hope that the integrity of the estate is retained. A quick look to the bottom left hand corner of France to Chateau such as Yquem are a stark reminder of the sacrifices required to produce perfection.

  52. may I apologise for my schoolboy spelling of vagaries?

  53. How short-sighted and childishly petulant of Huet. Get some samples and review the wines notwithstanding.