Domaine Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Silex 2012
I am not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point between October 2013, when I first tasted it, and July 2016, when I bit the bullet and bought some, the 2012 Silex really got under my skin. It was as if there was an itch I needed to scratch, and the only relief would come if I finally gave into the compulsion to buy this wine, to taste it anew, and in tucking some bottles away in the cellar ensure that I would be able to come back to this Sauvignon salve in the future.
The 2012 vintage was brilliant for the Loire Valley’s bookend appellations; the vintage conditions really favoured early picked varieties, and thus both Melon de Bourgogne and Sauvignon Blanc faired very well. The vibrancy, minerality and tension I have since experienced within wines such as the 2012 Clisson from Domaine de la Pépière, the 2012 Edmond from Alphonse Mellot, 2012 Prédilection from Jonathan Pabiot and the 2012 Les Angelots from Domaine Masson-Blondelet, among many others, has only served to cement in my mind the value and purpose of this vintage.
Along the way I also encountered the 2012 Silex from Domaine Didier Dagueneau, a cuvée I am sure most readers are already aware of. This awareness might include having paid for it, cellared it and maybe tasted it, or alternatively it may have involved merely drooling over pictures of it (either behaviour is normal, rest assured, although the latter has considerably less of an effect on the bank balance). The fruit is sourced from a flint-rich parcel (it says something about me that silex, meaning flint, was one of the first French words I learnt) in the lieu-dit Le Bois de Saint-Andélain.
The vineyards are pretty much organic, although uncertified last time I checked; if you ever met Didier Dagueneau it would come as no surprise that he was only interested in how his methods affected the quality of his wines; he was not interested in organic status as a marketing tool, nor in subjecting his vineyards to an external inspection, and I don’t expect his son Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau, who has been running the show since Didier’s demise in 2008, to do anything different. The fruit is, of course, picked by hand, not by the machine which (to my eternal surprise) still dominates in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.
For more information on the vineyard philosophies adhered to by Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau see my Domaine Didier Dagueneau profile. Moving on to the work in the cellars, the 2012 Silex was fermented in oak, pretty standard practice chez Dagueneau, although there is little standard about the vessels employed. The fermentations take place in barrels of various sizes, including the longer cigares barrels (which were Didier’s design, if I recall correctly) which he used in order to increase the surface area of contact between the lees and the wine. After an élevage of perhaps nine or ten months in oak the wine would eventually be assembled in stainless steel, where it might rest for up to six months, before bottling.
I first tasted the 2012 Silex at the domaine, where it had been assembled in vat as described above. I had called in during the 2013 harvest and Louis-Benjamin very kindly took half an hour out of his day for a whirlwind tasting of the 2012s. The wine was a mouthful of stone and white fruits, with wonderful direction, and before you accuse me of being star-struck and biased I have not always so readily fallen in love with Silex. My next meeting with it was on a subsequent visit, less than two years later, this time tasting from bottle. Here it was all flint, tension and minerality, a simply stunning showing, easily the best of the line up, which included everything from the 2012 vintage, even the unicorn-like Astéroïde. Then Louis-Benjamin and his sister Charlotte were kind enough to send some bottles over (along with some 2002 Silex) for the Oaked Sauvignon Blanc tasting which I co-arranged and co-hosted with Richard Bampfield one year ago, almost to the day. It was effortless in its style. The itch was firmly set, but happily I was able to scratch last Saturday.
The 2012 Silex from Domaine Didier Dagueneau (but made by Louis-Benjamin of course, as quite rightly declared on the label) has a pale and reserved hue in the glass. The aromatics are very true to my experience with the wine in November last year, as it still shows a concentrated fruit character, the scents of dried yellow plum and dried apricot also lifted and defined by a touch of citrus freshness. This latter element is very firm in style, not a delicate little touch of orange zest, but a robust bite of grapefruit with the suggestion of bitterness to it. More enticingly, there is a detailing of white pepper here too, and a salty, saline suggestion. And, underneath it all, there still resides a very subtle polish from the oak. The palate is beautifully bright and broad, vinous and textured at the start. This supports a confident fruit profile, the middle laden with bitter citrus fruits, grapefruit and apricot, cut through by a fabulous and forceful acidity, which brings with it a salty and minerally precision which mirrors those elements found on the nose. Overall this is fresh, cool, deep and characterful, and right now it shows a rather long, bitter and somewhat cantankerous finish. While this was immensely enjoyable (and the bottle was drained far sooner than I was expecting) this is still painfully youthful. It should be no less magnificent than the super 2002 vintage, and so I expect this to be drinking much better in six to eight years, although I suspect it will go much further than that. I will try and keep my hands off my other bottles, which I have stacked next to my other bottles of Jonathan Pabiot’s 2012 Prédilection. 18.5/20 (14/11/16)