Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec 2007
“There is a great folly and desecration about to be committed. I never expected to see the German government make such an assault on such a precious and prestigious wine region.“
So said Hugh Johnson in late 2009, although not of this particular wine, nor of Huet or even Vouvray (I suppose the reference to the German government might give that much away). His words were instead delivered to a crowd gathered near the banks of the Mosel, very close to the famed wine villages of Wehlen, Graach, Ürzig and Zeltingen, and the great folly to which he was referring was a colossal bridge, two kilometres long, intended to span the Mosel at a height of 500 metres. The desecration plainly refers to the hallowed ground that would lie beneath, cast into the shadow of a great white elephant; vineyards that may be affected include Ürziger Würzgarten, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Graacher Himmelreich, Graacher Domprobst and perhaps the most shocking, the famed sundial vineyard Wehlener Sonnenuhr. Desecration indeed.
The plight of this region of the Mosel, its cause taken up by a small band of locals, winemakers and Mosel enthusiasts such as Johnson, has reminded me of a similar plight faced by the vineyards of Vouvray only a couple of decades ago. At that time it was not road but rail which threatened the vines; a proposed new line for France’s high speed Train à Grande Vitesse (better known more simply as the TGV) linking Paris with, ultimately, the Atlantic coast, was routed directly through the vineyards of Vouvray. It was not a threat the local vignerons took lying down, and a good number of them banded together under a single, anti-TGV banner. The role of Gaston Huet in undertaking this fight is undisputed; having held the mayoral office since 1947 and being active politically both within and beyond the appellation’s boundaries, he was an obvious figurehead. But the actions of other protestors should not go unnoticed; local vignerons Philippe Brisebarre and Daniel Allias were also very active, organising demonstrations at the TGV offices and a human blockade of nearby railway lines, disrupting services, and appearing on television, garnering a lot of support along the way.
The style of protest undertaken by those against the Mosel bridge is somewhat different, and the Mosel Bridge Facebook page is probably as good a starting point as any. They are disadvantaged in comparison to Vouvray which, at the time the rail-threat materialised, had already been granted special protection by the French government; this dictat prevented the rail construction project going ahead without the express consent of the INAO and the Ministry of Agriculture, which both thankfully sided with the vignerons. The rail line was routed underneath the vineyards instead, through a specially constructed tunnel; not a decision that met with universal approval from the local community either, but that is perhaps a story for another day. None of which suggests victory is beyond the reach of the Mosel Bridge protestors, but I am afraid they might just have to work that little bit harder than their successful counterparts in Vouvray.
I am sure most would be prompted to open something from the Mosel at this point, but my natural affinity with the Loire has instead led me to Domaine Huet and this Clos du Bourg Vouvray Sec from the 2007 vintage. I hope by drinking it I will, by some transcendental-metaphysical process, transfer something of the Vouvrillons’ 1980s victory onto the Mosel Bridge protestors of today. Well, if we can believe in the biodynamic calendar, why not? In the glass it has a pale, shimmering-lemon hue. The nose has a great evocative character, with a fascinating intertwining of ethereal purity in with the vibrant fruit style. This fruit has a fabulous, sweet, juicy style, but is not for a moment simple; it has a creamed richness, tempered by complex nuances, of stony minerals and flower petals, with a hint of ginger. Well honed on entry, very direct at the edges, although with no shortage of substance in the centre; there is a rich texture to it, like barley water, but it remains pure and harmonious, with a fresh acid core at its heart. And it has length too. Delicious wine, with a great future. I understand some don’t touch these wines until they have a least a decade behind them, and that is fair enough; but it’s a shame to miss out on them when they taste this good, this young. 17.5+/20 (13/9/10)