The Wine Doctor: Domaine Huet
Transcending Category: Huet and Kiralyudvar
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Since its founding in 1928, Vouvray’s Domaine Huët has been the standard-bearer for great, ageworthy Chenin Blanc. And to this day, year after year, the estate produces some of the world’s most compelling white wines—and in a remarkable range that spans sparkling, dry, semi-dry, and breathtaking dessert styles.
Chenin Blanc has been identified with Vouvray since at least the 9th century, and many of its great vineyards were known by the 14th century. By those standards, the 80-year-old Huët estate is relatively young. Yet it was this youngster that established, once and for all, that Vouvray was capable of world-class quality.
The domaine's founder, Victor Huët, was a Parisian bistro owner. However, with lungs and nerves shattered by his experiences in WWI, Victor re-settled to the town of Vouvray in France's beautiful Loire Valley. He soon purchased the first of his great vineyards, Le Haut-Lieu, in 1928, and Domaine Huët was born. Victor's son Gaston (born 1910) worked with his father from the beginning, and assumed full charge by 1937. With an obsessive devotion to quality, and an engaging showman's personality, Gaston built the Huët legacy over the next 55 years, despite spending five years in a German POW camp during WWII.
The Grand Crus: Gaston understood clearly that quality must come first-and that quality started with great vineyards. His Haut-Lieu parcel, which lies on Vouvray's "Première Côte" (or "first slope"), is home to virtually all of the appellation's acknowledged grand cru vineyards.
As the estate prospered in the post-WWII era, Gaston secured two additional prime vineyards on the Première Côte that would ensure the domaine's stature: Le Mont (purchased in 1957) and Clos du Bourg (farmed since 1953, purchased in 1963). Collectively, these three vineyards, and the wines made from them, account for Huët being the greatest of all Vouvray producers.
Le Mont is an 8-hectare estate which borders the slopes of the Loire Valley, in the first slopes area. The soil is pebbly and consists mainly of green-colored clay and silica. The wines produced are elegant and feminine. Le Haut-Lieu covers 9 hectares, with very deep clayey limestone soil, predominantly brown clay. This rather heavy soil generally produces supple wines. Le Clos du Bourg, a 6-hectare "Clos" surrounded by stone walls, is located on the first slopes above the church in Vouvray. The rather thin soil, only about one meter in depth, lies in direct contact with the non-active limestone. Le Clos du Bourg produces a powerful and well-structured wine.
A Perfect Pair: In 1971, Gaston was joined by his talented son-in-law, Noël Pinguet. Together, they crafted legendary wines from their three parcels-with the vineyards and nature dictating which grapes would become Sec, Demi- Sec, or Moelleux. The estate always held back significant stocks of older vintages, and these wines' near immortality has helped to further the Huët legend.
In 2002, with Gaston ailing, a financial partner was needed to ensure the continuation of the estate's rich legacy. Anthony Hwang, a Filipino-born, New York businessman, was brought into the partnership. Gaston passed away that year, but, with the security and enthusiasm brought by Tony, Noël Pinguet has been able to continue Gaston's important work.
In February 2012, with Huet's international reputation at arguably its highest point ever, Noël fulfilled his longstanding plan to turn the winemaking and vineyard responsibilities over to his hand-picked successor, Cellarmaster Jean-Bernard Berthomé.