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No need of course to present one of the most iconic estates not only of the Loire Valley, but also in the world. For a century - as Victor & Gaston Huet bottled some 1919 Haut-Lieu after buying the property in 1928 with its stock - Domaine Huet has been producing some superb Chenin of every style belonging to the pantheon of great white wines. It is really exciting to see in 2019 a strong line-up to celebrate the anniversary of the first wines under the Huet label. This new release will be able to age for decades for sure! Because of the conditions of the vintage (see below), only 4 wines were produced: the three single vineyards - Le Haut-Lieu, Le Mont and Le Clos du Bourg Sec, as well as Le Mont Demi-Sec, which I consider the wine of the vintage (plus some base wine for the sparkling). These are impeccable expressions of Chenin, with an intense density, a saltiness and a remarkable tension preserved in this concentrated year! They are definitely impressive wines, showing distinct differences between the terroirs of each site. Biodynamic farming (started in 1987 with the help of François Bouchet) was hugely influential according to the team. I would not hesitate to put your hands on as many bottles as you can! They can easily be enjoyed now, given some air, or cellared. I expect they will really explode in 10 to 15 years for the secs, 15 to 20 years for the demi-sec, and will only improve with even more time in the cellar.
(Wines arrive 9/17; all wines discount 10% on a case or mixed-case purchase)
Transition & transmission at Domaine Huet.
Gaston Huet and his son-in-law Noël Pinguet remain emblematic figures of the domain. But it is Jean-Bernard Berthomé that has been the one leading the estate since 2012. 2019 was his last vintage as he retired at the end of last year. A lot was said about the transition after the Hwang family became an investor in 2003 (Noel Pinguet did not leave the estate until 2011), but I think it is important to pay tribute to Jean-Bernard and to highlight his work in maintaining the standards of the estate during this time until today. For those who knew him, it was evident that he lives and breathes Vouvray and Huet. It should come as no surprise considering he was literally born in the Huet vineyards, his parents already working for Gaston Huet. Jean-Bernard began his career in 1979 to quickly become the right hand of Noël Pinguet, working closely with him to improve the farming, convert to biodynamic, express in an even more pristine way the extraordinary terroirs of Le Haut-Lieu (9 ha higher on the plateau, with darker clay and eolian sands further from the Loire), Le Mont (8 ha above the cellar, green clay with silex) and Le Clos du Bourg (6 ha above the village’s church, with clay-limestone topsoils, centimeters above the tuffeau). His contribution involved selecting old vine cuttings to replant with massale selections, as well as experimenting with other selections, ungrafted vines or with Génodics - a soundwave application to fight against esca by inducing the synthesis of proteins in the plant to resist the fungus. He worked on improving the equipment to be more reactive in the vineyard for treatments and lighter on the soil compaction, and changing the press in the cellar (two pneumatic Bucher presses). With 2018 and 2019, Jean-Bernard created two great vintages showing that the work done under his tutelage remained at the level of quality you expect with such a legacy. During all these years, he was assisted by Sarah Hwang of course, but also by Benjamin Joliveau on the viticultural side who is now taking over his role. Like Jean-Bernard, Benjamin has known the domain for a really long time. He was hired by Noël Pinguet in 2008. A very poised, careful, detailed-oriented and attentive person, Benjamin also has the “sacred fire." 2019 was the transition vintage, and I have no doubt Huet is in very good hands for the decades to come!
Like 2018, 2019 was a hot year - winter was warm and the summer brought heat waves. But what a contrast in the production! 2018 was definitely geared towards the off-dry and sweet wines, even though some dry were also made. This was thanks to rainfall that occurred at the right time for the plant to continue to grow and concentrate the sugars. But 2019 was a different story, and the result is a very small line up of really dense, moslty dry wines. The warm winter saw an early bud-break, and the whole focus was directed to pruning in a way to minimize the risk of frost. The season was also drier by 30% compared to usual. April and its cold, freezing mornings came, but fortunately the estate was not touched. When July and August arrived, with temperatures approaching 40C (104 Fahrenheit) degrees, and no water, the plants shut down. All the vineyard work was about working the soils in a way to help the vines not to suffer too much from hydric stress. By the end of August, the groundwater reserves had become exhausted yet the sun was relentless. Thanks to the biodynamic approach, the maturation slowed and the vines managed to make it through without burning. By mid-September with still no rain, the vintage took the profile of a dry production, with a good concentration of acid and alcohol that stayed quite reasonable (13, 13,5% on finished wines), and good yield. Harvests lasted from the 23rd of September to the 13th of October under a cloudy sky with cold nights, which helped to preserve even more the acidity. Without a doubt, the balance of these wines is due to the farming work and the constant observation to the needs of the plants. The wines were able to preserve their backbone and freshness thanks to the healthy, deep root systems of the vines. The result - powerhouse wines, with no heaviness but an incredible density, and once again, an intense expression of their singular identity! Pascaline Lepeltier.
Le Haut Lieu is the historical, and largest, site of Domaine Huet. A bit more than 9 hectares, slightly higher on the plateau and further from the Loire, the vines are grown on a darker clay with some eolian sands. Some ungrafted Chenin is planted there, and when possible vinified separately - I encourage you to seek them out! All the still wines at Huet are made the same way, the only difference being the picking, and the balance of the must. Aging happens mostly in larger, older barrels and sometimes partially in tanks, but always blended, to be bottled in April. Le Haut Lieu tends to give the earlier drinking, lighter version of the 3 sites. 2019 is a great vintage for the Haut Lieu sec, with a precision, a tension and a concentration remarkable for the sec. Being the only style of wines produced from this vineyard - no demi-sec, no sweet - all the grapes went into it, giving it a real density. The robe is pale, but the nose is already quite open, with a lot of layers dominated by yellow tones: lemon, acacia, yellow kiwi. On the palate, beware, the attack is subtle, almost fragile, but then the finish indicates you are dealing with a very serious wine. The wine tastes dry (there are only 3 g of RS) with a little austerity on the first sip, to gain volume on the second one while keeping its focus, with a rhubarb like acidity. Decant it if you want to enjoy it now, or keep it for 10 years. I can perfectly imagine a Troisgros “saumon à l’oseille” (salmon with a sorrel infused cream sauce) today with this wine! RS: 3g, Acidity: 5g. 100% Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Clos du Bourg is one of the most mythical sites of Vouvray, with the vines growing their roots directly in the tuffeau of the cliff overlooking the main street of the village. This vineyard tends to produce the broadest, largest wines of the domaine, built to age for decades - the vines are also older on average. All the still wines at Huet are made the same way, the only difference being the picking, and the balance of the must. Aging happens mostly in larger, older barrels and sometimes partially in tanks (50% in this vintage), but always blended, to be bottled in April. 2019 Le Clos du Bourg is quite recognizable among the 2 other vineyards as it has the most aromatic nose, going to some fresh tropical hints and more voluptuous flowers, and also shows the most assertive attack and mid-palate. This is a no-joke dry version of a sec, with more concentration yet more lift than in the previous vintage (being the only style produced from the vineyard). The palate tastes rounder than Le Haut Lieu, with a hint more RS and alcohol - as the site always gives riper grapes. The finish though has the same dynamic, with a beautiful, ripe acidity, a little bit saltier and more bitter, giving an extra-dimension. You really want to decant this bottle today, or keep it 15 years. Pairing wise, veal sweetbreads served with braised endives would be great: you can play with crispy fat and root vegetables, with some Indian spice! RS: 3,3 g, Acidity: 5,2 g. Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.
With its green clay and its perfect exposition on the Première Côte de Vouvray just above the winery, Le Mont is an outstanding site for Chenin, and I have to admit often my favorite in the line-up. It has the lift and fruit of the Haut-Lieu, and the gravitas of Le Clos du Bourg, with a very specific wild mint freshness and a smokiness I care very much for: I think the demi-sec version is the paragon of the style! All the still wines at Huet are made the same way, the only difference being the picking, and the balance of the must. Aging happens mostly in larger, older barrels and sometimes partially in tanks (50% in this vintage), but always blended, to be bottled in April. 2019 Le Mont Sec is maybe the least ready right now of the three releases: it really shows in this vintage its colder, more reductive side, especially on the nose (more subtle) and on the back palate, with herbal bitterness (think artemisia). Even though it is the “sweetest” of the secs (with 4,7 g), it tastes the driest because of its tannic structure (think white tea and peach skin). I personally love that now, and I know it will support the wine and enhance its savory notes in the future. After 24 hours, it softened up, moving to some Tahitian grapefruit and iodine notes, but keeping its fantastic energy. Really keep it a little bit if you can, or otherwise enjoy it over a couple of days, you will be rewarded! Enjoy it with some roasted shellfish or hearty fish, some confit pork with braised kale or endives, and some mature goat cheese. RS: 4,7 g, Acidity : 5,1 g. Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.
With its green clay and its perfect exposition on the Première Côte de Vouvray just above the winery, Le Mont is an outstanding site for Chenin, and I have to admit often my favorite in the line-up. It has the lift and fruit of the Haut-Lieu, and the gravitas of Le Clos du Bourg, with a very specific wild mint freshness and a smokiness I care very much for: I think the demi-sec version is the paragon of the style! All the still wines at Huet are made the same way, the only difference being the picking, and the balance of the must. Aging happens mostly in larger, older barrels and sometimes partially in tanks (50% in this vintage), but always blended, to be bottled in April. 2019 Le Mont Demi-Sec is for me the wine of the vintage, even if all the lineup is remarkable. But I always think this style for that site is such a rare treat to taste, as you have such a unique balance rarely found anywhere else in the region, and in the world, between acidity-tannins- sugar. It is really the case in this vintage: the nose has the expected reduction from the terroir and the recent bottling, but blows off to reveal notes of plumeria flowers, shiso, persimmon. On the palate, you barely feel the sugar as the balance with the acidity is on point. The palate is more savory, herbal, with this salivating bitterness and smokiness. There is a lot happening in this bottle, so a couple of months laying down would harmonize the structure even more, and of course a decade of cellaring will make it blossom. Pair it with some roasted guinea hen with romanesco, hazelnut and chicken jus, a chickpea tagine with a lot of ras-el-hanout or a coconut shrimp curry. RS; 16,4 g, Acidity: 4, g. Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.