Domaine Huet, pre-auction tasting at Christies, 2004
Domaine Huet is one of the top, arguably the top, Vouvray producer. The wines are remarkably long lived as evidenced by this tasting, which preceded an auction of old wines sourced from the domaine’s own cellars. Hosted by Anthony Hanson MW and David Elswood with winemaker Noel Pinguet, the event was a rare privilege to taste and gain an insight into some magnificent vintages and hear Noel’s thoughts on the wines. Here are some of Noel’s observations:
- Huet never chapitalise. The wine style is created in the vineyard at the moment of picking based upon the natural grape sugars, so less ripe/golden grapes will be picked for dry wines.
- Chenin has one of the highest levels of natural acidity of any variety; the pH is so low that a malolactic fermentation is impossible but it is this acidity which provides the desired knife edge balance.
- When you pick up white flowers, the wine is too young and in a crisis of adolesence 4-5 years after bottling, when it loses its primary aromas and has yet to develop the complexity of bottle age.
- For Pinguet, passerillage is preferable to botrytis which can rob the wine of its varietal character and tend towards a less delicate, richer Sauterne style.
- Younger wines pair well with rilettes and older with cheese, turbot or chicken in a cream sauce, girolles and grilled sweet breads.
Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Sec 1995 – a late maturing year with quite good botrytis; old gold with a quite wide water white rim; the nose is intensely honeyed with acacia, hay and nutty, sherried notes. In the mouth it is dry with very fresh serrated acidity (linear, not open and fruity) with honey to balance.
Vouvray Le Clos du Bourg 1970 – yellow/gold, with a developed almost savoury, white truffle nose, opening up with acacia honey. Though 30-35g/residual it tastes drier than expected and shows a silky, quite luscious palate of quince and apple with burnt honey and well balanced acidity.
Vouvray Le Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1ere Trie 1961 – 1ere trie wines are picked in the first selection and only grapes that are botrytised or passerille are picked, typically a third or half of a bunch at a time. This is deep golden yellow, with not much difference between the rim and core. Complex nose with saffron and herbal tea notes of camomile and mint with honey – typical for a passerillage vintage – “a wine of the wind” which concentrates sugars by drying the grapes. The palate is beautifully balanced and again, with age, gives an impression of being drier than a moelleux. The herbal tea characters with rounder nutty, peachy notes; a very long layered finish – very good.
Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Moelleux 1935 – deep gold with amber glints and some olive flashes to the rim. The nose has a medicinal, resinous edge wiyj mint tea, saffron, acacia, burnt honey and marmalade also in the mix. On the palate the acidity jumps out thoght the texture is quite round/gras; rich like eggy/buttery madelaine biscuits with orange peel – with less acidity it shows its age.
Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Moelleux 1924 – amber with a golden yellow rim. Very open, expressive nose with apricot, honey, peaches and lychee – really fleshy with a hint of mint tea. The palate shows peaches and lychee with fresh lingering acidity making for a long, intense finish. I’ll be very happy if I’m this sprightly at 80! Stunning balance – the wine of the tasting!
Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux 1ere Trie 1990 – a biggie (as Vouvray goes) with c.120g of residual sugar, this has a surprising depth of colour (amber) because it was a warm, 100% botrytis year; on the nose it is very concentrated, syrupy almost with a burned toffee, barley sugar edge to its mandarin and dried mango fruit. The palate is powerfully concentrated – stand a spoon in stuff! As with the nose it has burnt honey and a bruléed edge to it mandarin and exotic dried mango, nutty notes to the finish. Though forward its power suggests a long life ahead.
Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux 1ere Trie 1959 – golden amber with a lifted, fresh passerillage vintage nose of herb tea – camomile, mint and saffron, slightly medicinal. Much weightier on the palate with mint tinged marmalade, a caramel sweetness, café crème; long finish – Noel would pair this with Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese, which is more delicate than Roquefort.
Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux 1ere Trie 1947 – like the 1990, this heavily botrytis influenced vintage coloured up quickly and is amber with a shot of green giving away its age. A beautifully integrated/balanced palate has really succulent roast peach, layered and bruléed with a lovely freshness to the finish which is nuanced with mint. Very good and plenty of go still.
The Wine Detective
6 May 2004