Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant 2002
Although the wines of Vouvray and in particular those of Domaine Huet seem quite widely known, even among those who don't make a habit of drinking from the Loire, the focus is almost always on the sweet wines, especially if the wine in question is an intensely rich première trie moelleux from a great vintage. The dry wines tend to be overlooked by some, but nevertheless still have a considerable following I think. The sparkling wines, however, now they are something else. Despite INAO figures suggesting that the sparkling wines account for two-thirds of the appellation's production, they are widely unknown and under-appreciated by the hoards that fail to see past Champagne as a source of sparkling wine, and they are wines that are certainly worthy of more attention than they tend to receive.
To speak in favour of sparkling Vouvray, especially the pétillant but also the mousseux, is for me not a difficult task. The differences between the two on paper are slight; both are Chenin in the main (the inclusion of Arbois is permitted), with similar maximum yields, and so perhaps the most notable difference - before coming to tasting the wines - is that whereas huge swathes of vineyard are dedicated to the production of Vouvray Mousseux (a reaction to the waning popularity of the vins tranquilles), only a small number of hectares are earmarked for Vouvray Pétillant, by a mere handful of producers. Tasting them, however, the wines are certainly quite distinct. The latter is bottled with a pressure of 2.5 bar, so the bead is very fine, the bubbles light and prickling, and the mousse delicate; it is a style that allows the qualities of the wine to shine through. The former has a higher pressure, up to 5.5 bar, and so there is a much more forceful bead in the glass, and a much more dominating mousse on the palate. Nevertheless both display their origins in a very transparent fashion, expressing their terroir, usually cut through by very fine acidity. My personal opinion is that the pétillant style makes for a much more interesting drink, although on certain occasions the lively bubbles of the mousseux would make that wine the more obvious choice.
This week's wine, the 2002 Vouvray Pétillant from Huet is an example of the latter style. It is in fact my first taste from a half-case I acquired at the domaine last year. The bottle lets out just the faintest phhut with the release of the cork, an effect of the lower pressure pétillant style of course. The wine itself has a rich golden hue, and a small to moderate sized bead. It is a pleasure to behold, but this is nothing compared to what is gained from the aroma, which is vibrant, aromatic and full of typicity. Here we have a wine that is unmistakeably Vouvray, full of chalky, powdery, almost sherbetty mineral quality, together with notes of golden fruits. The palate is broad and characterful, spreading across the mouth on contact, stimulating the taste receptors with its array of lemony, powdery, chalky character all wrapped up in a creamy, gently effervescent richness. And under it all, the firm stab of acidity that will carry the wine along for a decade or two in the cellar, developing and softening as it does so. My only concern is, despite appreciating the joys of older Vouvray, this has a lot of youthful pleasure to give now. And it is much better than my cursory note from the summer of 2007 suggests (although the score says enough, I think). 18+/20 (12/5/08)