Domaine Huet, 2009 Update: Demi-Sec

September 2009 saw the arrival of Noël Pinguet in London, in a joint effort with importer Richards Walford, to showcase the latest releases which I have already written up under my review of the 2008 vintage. As if to reinforce his opinion that 2008 is a great vintage for the demi-sec style of Vouvray Pinguet also brought along a handsome collection of older examples of the type, beginning with recent vintages such as 2005 and 2002 (after the two from 2008 of course), then stretching right back as far as 1949.

Looking Forward

For those unfamiliar with the domaine, Noël is the son-in-law of Gaston Huet, who himself was the son of Victor Huet who acquired the nidus of the domaine, Le Haut Lieu, in 1928. Although it was Gaston who was largely responsible for building up the infrastructure to create most of what we see as Domaine Huet today (having added Le Mont and Clos du Bourg to the original Le Haut Lieu vineyard in 1957 and 1963 respectively) the quality of the wines produced today are undoubtedly down to Pinguet. He was drafted in when it became clear that Gaston’s own children, Jean and Jacqueline, were not interested in following in their father’s footsteps. It was Pinguet who introduced biodynamics to the estate in the late 1980s, and who has continued to push the quality up vintage-by-vintage ever since.

Domaine Huet

In a tasting which naturally focused my attention on great vintages of the past it nevertheless seemed fitting to quiz Pinguet on what the future might hold for Huet. Is there a new generation waiting in the wings, and if not is there a plan for succession on his retirement? The answer to the first question is no; on taking full control of the domaine in 2002, when Gaston died, Pinguet found himself in the same position as his father-in-law had before him. Although he had two daughters, Anne and Carinne, neither were looking to take on the life of a Vouvray vigneronne. This was the reason for the sale to the Filipino-American financier Anthony Hwang in 2003, a deal in which Hwang took an 80% stake in the new Société Huet, with Pinguet taking the other 20%. Financially secure, Pinguet’s next task was to look for the ‘next generation’, so to speak, somebody to replace Pinguet on his retirement when he reaches 70 years of age, in 2015. He found it in a young Vouvrillon named Benjamin Joliveau, the son of a local vigneron and friend of Pinguet. Joliveau, who has gained some experience with several stages in other wine regions both in France and further afield, began work at Huet this year, so there is plenty of time for him to get to know the vineyards and their wines before Pinguet hands over full responsibility.

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