Domaine Huet, Noël Pinguet’s Final Vintage, 2012

Every region has its great winemakers and figureheads, iconic names and faces that define the region and its wines, quite often setting benchmarks for a particular appellation or style. It is tempting to look abroad, beyond the Loire, for examples to illustrate my case; Gérard and Jean-Louis Chave, a father-and-son team who produce some of the greatest expressions of Hermitage, are a safe bet. A little to the north in Burgundy, Lalou Bize-Leroy, once one-half of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti alongside Aubert de Villaine but now perhaps better known for her own wines, bottled under the Domaine Leroy label, is another. In Bordeaux I would opt for Paul Pontallier, the host of my recently described Experimental Margaux tastings, as an exemplar of the type; thoughtful and intellectual, in possession of an inquiring mind and yet not introverted or self-absorbed, a man who can also communicate ideas and concepts, an ambassador for Château Margaux, the Margaux appellation and indeed the whole region. There are of course, many other individuals who may fit the bill, in these regions and others, so please forgive me not listing any more names.

Huet 2008, Noel Pinguet

Except we must include at least one more, of course; in Vouvray we have, joining this illustrious elite, Noël Pinguet (pictured above). Or rather, we had Noël Pinguet, as following the surprising news which broke just over a week ago, Noël Pinguet and Domaine Huet have parted ways in a split which has been less than amicable. An email from a vigneron in Vouvray sent to me a week last Friday alerted me to the split, although the news was first reported – to the best of my knowledge – in Le Revue du Vin de France. The split seems to have arisen because of a difference of opinion between Noël Pinguet and majority shareholder Anthony Hwang, the major sticking points on the style of wine Domaine Huet should be making (by which I mean the balance of sec to demi-sec, moelleux and other sweet cuvées) and its method of distribution (Hwang wanting to give priority to a few large orders, whereas Pinguet perhaps preferred to maintain greater control by working with many smaller buyers).

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