Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant 2001
Noël Pinguet's vintage pétillant is not unaccustomed to appearing on these pages, and no doubt many readers will have at least tasted it, if not put a good number away in the cellar. Indeed, I have already featured Huet's 2002 Pétillant as my Weekend Wine last year. This wine, however, isn't a step back in time; the 2001 is the latest release from Huet. It is a wine I am increasingly familiar with, having tasted it at the domaine last year (where I purchased this bottle) as well as at this year's Salon des Vins de Loire.
For those unfamiliar with the pétillant style, I have already described the character of the wine when I wrote up the 2002. Essentially the wine is bottled at a lower pressure than a traditional sparkling wine, a style which is also produced at Huet and labelled as mousseux. Someone (I am afraid I forget who) once suggested that the mousseux style was for celebration, when the bubbles are important, whereas the pétillant style is more vinously interesting, more likely to appeal to some interested in Vouvray per se, with the bubbles merely adding another dimension. Having tasted both, and having drunk more than a few bottles of pétillant, I think this is a good view of the two styles.
This comparison of different styles brings to mind something I regard as my bête noire, the persistent comparison of sparkling Vouvray to Champagne, and especially the view taken by some that it is a Champagne surrogate. If the pétillant style is all about the wine's inherent character, with bubbles on the side, why persistently view it in the shadow of a different style of wine, from a different region of France? You don't have to look for very long at some of the leading wine blogs to find phrases along the lines of "it’s an absolutely top-notch alternative to Champagne" and "could easily be mistaken for...." you know what. Who wants to mistake sparkling Vouvray for Champagne? Do people also want to mistake Bordeaux for Burgundy, or Savennières for Alsace Riesling? The key to enjoying a wine such as this is viewing it within the context of its appellation, or at least viewing it independently from the sparkling wines made a few hundred miles to the northeast, using different varieties grown on different terroirs.
And so to the wine, which I will view solely as a Vouvray, with no mention of other bubbly libations. This is fairly richly coloured for the appellation, the colour perhaps enhanced to some degree by four years of ageing sur lie before disgorgement. There is a wonderful richness of aroma on the nose too; there are plenty of minerals, with a sweet apple character, and more complex fruit notes too, reminiscent of orange blossom and maybe even a twist of liquorice? But above all, it is the minerally character that dominates. Fresh, slightly fat but also appealingly chalky at the beginning, with a broad, fresh, minerally character. There's good substance towards the finish, a good broad, mouth-filling weight rather than anything overly fierce, but with a nicely defined, substantial end. Lots of fine, stony character, but perhaps not the power and delineation of the 2002. Nevertheless, a delicious and easily drinkable wine from Huet that disappeared very soon after I opened the bottle. 17+/20 (6/4/09)