Region: Vouvray, Loire Valley
As a result of the diverse climatic influences of any given year, Vouvray remains one of the world’s most versatile, if unpredictable, white wine appellations. Winemakers who might take a more systematic approach to ultimately fail to express the nuance presented to the vigneron by the conditions during the season. At Domaine Huet, it is true to say that immediately prior to the harvest Noël doesn’t necessarily know the type of wines he will make that year. The quantity may have already been determined by way of a late frost, uneven flowering or hail during the summer, but the decisions as to the style will be made just a few days before, or in some cases after, the picking commences.
Recognised since the 15th Century as being one of the most distinguished sites in the appellation, LeMont was also known as Perruches, a local name for the greenish tinged clay soils flecked with perrons, fist-sized pebbles of flint. This eight hectare vineyard is situated below Le Haut Lieu, and abuts the vineyards of Philippe Foreau.
As with Le Clos du Bourg, it is positioned on the first coteaux, around two kilometres further to the east, although top soil here is more profound and the vines need to delve deeper to access the honeycomb coloured tuffeau. LeMont is usually the last vineyard to be picked, regardless of the style of wine produced; its retarded ripening is reflected in the maturation of the wines as they are usually the last to open up, but are generally very long lived.Le Mont was purchased by Gaston in November 1957 from the Saumur based sparkling wine producer, Ackerman-Laurance, who had previously sold the wine under the lieu-dit name of ‘Clos le Mont’, with the 1945, 1946 and 1947 all listed by London based wine merchants, Saccone & Speed, in their 1951 catalogue, priced at 16 shillings and sixpence (one shilling more than Château Leoville Lescases 1947).
At the foot of the vineyard is a semi-troglodyte house, which is the home of the Pinguets. Cut into the honey-coloured rock at the back are the old cellars where the wines would have once been matured. To the side is an old cave with two ancient wooden presses, last used in 1935. It is from here that one takes the 62 stairs cut in the rock in 1968 to access the main Huet cellar. At some point in time, LeMont was also home to the gendarmes, and within one cellar in the house there is an old holding cell. The house was all but derelict when it was acquired by Gaston. In what is now Marie-Françoise Pinguet’s studio where she paints the pictures that adorn the tasting room walls, there once stood another, smaller wine press. Last used in 1978, it crushed red grapes for wine destined to be drunk by the vendangeurs; The Pinguet’s new kitchen was once the cellar floor.
Domaine Huet is the region’s most famous producer. Known for their elegant, flinty style, the domaine’s wines are amongst the finest and longest lasting white wines in the world! Produced from 3 vineyards in varying degrees of sweetness depending on the vintage, the hallmark of Huet’s wines is their unmistakable freshness and natural acidity.
Domaine Huet was established in 1928 and has been farmed biodynamically since 1990. Winemaker Jean-Bernard Barthomé classifies the complicated 2016 vintage as ‘exceptional’ as frost reduced yields by 50% but the harvest conditions were remarkably dry. As a result, Huet produced wines at all levels of sweetness from Sec to Première Trie. These 2016s complete an unprecedented trio of great vintages – following the classical and fresh 2014s and the powerful 2015s.
‘All the wines are very delicate, elegant, pure and superbly balanced expressions of their specific terroirs,’ writes Wine Advocate who gave the wines massive ratings along with Wine Spectator.
‘Green plum and verbena notes lead the way for now, with a flash of quinine on the finish. This is juicy, but still a bit compact overall, with the core of ample pear, quince and ginger flavors in reserve. Just wait for everything to knit together and stretch out, as the purity and length are there. Best from 2018 through 2028.’ – Wine spectator, 94/100
‘From the pebbly flint and deep green clay soils of this exceptional eight-hectare vineyard, Huet’s 2016 Vouvray Le Mont Sec is lean, pure, fresh and aromatic on the flinty/herbal nose that is still young and restrained. Round, lush and silky-elegant on the palate, this is a juicy and very aromatic Chenin Blanc with delicate mineral and tannic grip. Still young but with excellent potential to develop even more finesse and elegance over the years in bottle. Tasted February 2018.’ – Wine Advocate, 91/100