One of our favorite winemakers, Didier Dagueneau, has recently died in a flying accident.
Back in April, I wrote a little blurb on him for a LUSH email. I had yet to try any of his wines, but was super excited about his winemaking style and the idea of his wines. I’ll reprint it here, just to give you a little background.
“Didier Dagueneau, who has been making wine in the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire since 1982, has garnered the title “the Madman of St. Andelain,” the tiny town where he farms his 12 hectare plot of land. Dagueneau is somewhat of an aesthetic anomaly — a tall, burly man with an unwieldy red beard, often seen ploughing his vineyards with horse and till — but he is also rebellious in terms of his winemaking practices. Dagueneau has been biodynamic since 1993. He meticulously tends his vineyards (horse and till!) and has even installed a monitoring system that alerts him about the temperature, humidity, rain quantity, and wind speed. In the winery, he experiments with different types of yeast, different types of barrels, and tends to think of winemaking as a matter of tinkering with details, rather than as a systematic and scientific process. He never resorts to the addition of chemicals or malolactic fermentation, even in vintages where the acidity has been alarmingly high.
“But not only are Dagueneau’s wines 100% natural, they are also stunning expressions of Sauvignon Blanc. Garry Clark, a British Sommelier, has said of Dagueneau’s premier cuvee: ‘If every Pinot aspires to be Romanee Conti, then every Sauvignon aspires to be Silex.’
“We were able to get our hands on six bottles of his 2005 entry level wine (which seems to be a misnomer, at this class of winemaking) — the Blanc de Pouilly Fumé ($71.50), as well as six bottles of the 2005 Silex ($118). Named after the silica/clay soils that house the 35-70 year old vines that produce fruit for this wine, Dagueneau has said that these soils make for the most ‘intellectual’ Pouilly-Fumés. Both wines are firmly structured, intensley smoky, rich, and capable of aging for some time (especially the Silex).”
I now have tasted both of these wines. And my intellectual fascination has turned into an experiential and sensory one. The 2005 Blanc and Silex are truly remarkable wines. Revelations. I did not know Sauvignon Blanc could taste like these wines do. Smoky, sensual, and vibrant. Complex and cerebral, yet disarmingly drinkable. These are bottles that any wine geek must try in her lifetime.
My very first blog post, I wrote about the ‘auteur’ effect, and to what extent the winemaker had a role in shaping the wine, or if the taste of the wine was ultimately more attributable to vintage and terroir. I was not familiar with Dagueneau at the time, but he is most certainly an example of a winemaker who is able to create something truly unique. I can’t imagine there will ever be anything like these wines again.
A great loss for the wine world. And, by all accounts, a great loss for those lucky enough to be part of Dagueneau’s life. He will be missed.