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Domaine Huet Vouvray Petillant Reserve 2010

Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant 2010

It has been a little while since I have taken a look at something from Domaine Huet. I used to taste the most recent releases with Noël Pinguet every year at the Salon des Vins de Loire, but that stopped this year (not just for me, but for everybody) as Huet is one of many domaines that recently pulled their support from the Loire Valley’s annual trade and tasting fair. In this they are certainly not alone, as many other famous domaines have done the same, including Château de Tracy, Henri Bourgeois, Joseph Mellot, Bouvet-Ladubay, Couly-Dutheil and Domaine Champalou to name but a few. This is not, I should make clear, meant to be an exhaustive list.

Nevertheless I (and lots of other people) was able to meet up with Jean-Bernard Berthomé and Benjamin Joliveau at the Renaissance tasting, the two-day salon that focuses on natural, organic and biodynamic wines and which runs over the weekend prior to the Salon des Vins de Loire. Proof I suppose, if any were needed, of the value of these side-salons, which enhance the overall experience for a visitor to the Salon-proper. It was a real pleasure to see Jean-Bernard who headed over to say hello within literally a few minutes of me having entered the tasting – certainly before I had actually put any wine in my tasting glass – and we enjoyed a lengthy chat, before I later stopped by his table at his invitation to taste a few wines. Sadly these weren’t the most recent releases, but perhaps somewhat constrained by the limit on the number of wines (I think the organisers impose a limit – although I confess I have never verified this) they were slightly older vintages currently being released to the market and which I have mostly tasted many times before. There was a solitary 2013 (very good I thought, and it wasn’t an easy vintage), followed by a couple from 2008 and one from 2005. I do hold out hope of getting to taste and report on the 2014 vintage yet though.

In the meantime I thought I could take a look at another release from Domaine Huet to recently hit the market and that is the 2010 Vouvray Pétillant. First, a little history (sorry, I can’t help myself). Perhaps unsurprisingly in view of the domaine’s admirable history we can draw some links between Huet and the evolution of sparkling wine in the Vouvray appellation. Their production began with Charles Vavasseur who, according to Auguste Chauvigné writing in Monographie de la Commune de Vouvray et de son Vignoble (Péricat, Tours, 1908), began making sparkling wines in response to the difficulty he was having selling his wines, especially his dry wines and those from lesser sites. This was probably during the latter years of the 19th or maybe during the early 20th century. As it happens Charles was, like Gaston Huet after him, mayor of Vouvray, as well as being proprietor of Domaine des Bidaudières, which enjoys a fine position on the première côte but which these days is better known as a fancy hotel than a wine domaine. Charles Vavasseur was also the owner of both Le Mont and Clos du Bourg before they came into the Huet fold.

In more recent times Noël Pinguet and Jean-Bernard Berthomé began to experiment with a méthode ancestrale. In this case the wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished, the result being a lower-pressure sparkling wine – the pétillant style – because only a portion of the fermentation occurs within the bottle. The resulting pressure is more like 2-3 atmospheres, half that seen in mousseux cuvées. Although it is not strictly necessary to add anything when bottling, at Domaine Huet Jean-Bernard – today the winemaker, although he has long had responsibility for the pétillant cuvée, even before Noël’s departure – favours the addition of yeast to ensure the continued fermentation progresses smoothly. Today this is the leading style chez Huet, as it is at a number of other top domaines.

The 2010 vintage was, prior to 2014 (I have tasted a lot of wines from 2014 from other domaines and will be publishing my reports soon) probably the last really good overall vintage, one in which a wide variety of styles were made. As an aside, do not overlook the sweeter wines from 2011 as the warm autumn produced some truly great wines (Philippe Foreau even produced his Goutte d’Or, for only the third time, previous vintages being 1947 and 1990), but 2012 and 2013 were certainly more difficult. There were no such problems in 2010 though, and this shows through in the character of the 2010 Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant which is polished, elegant and yet minerally and true to its origins. As described above all the sugar for the second fermentation came from the fruit at harvest, but as usual the wine required dosage after dégorgement. In the old days Noël was well-known for topping up with a sweeter cuvée, and he didn’t shy away from using a little moelleux première trie if he felt that was the right choice. Perhaps reflecting the richness of the vintage, however, with this cuvée Jean-Bernard elected to use the 2000 Le Haut Lieu Sec, a maturing wine but one that brought a very gentle 8 g/l of sugar to the blend. In the glass the wine shows a pale and shimmering hue, and a very fine but energetic pétillance as we should expect. The aromatics suggest a very fine blending of minerality but there is also ripe orchard fruit here, coming through in a very confident style that reminds me a little of the 2009. The difference between these two vintages comes through more clearly on the palate though, where this latter vintage shows some more confident mineral streaks set against less exuberant fruit and a fine, energetic acidity and the joy of the prickling pétillance. This is just delicious, and will appeal to classicists looking for balance and acid-driven energy as well as those who need a little fruit and texture. It has length too. A really impressive result here. 18/20 (29/6/15)

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