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 Huet 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 Huet 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 Huet legacy over the next 55 years, despite spending five years in a German POW camp during World War II.
The Grand Crus:
For all his salesmanship, 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 Huet being the greatest of all Vouvray producers.
The Legacy Continued:
Gaston was joined in 1971 by his son-in-law, Noël Pinguet, and 1979 by chef de culture, Jean-Bernard Berthomé. 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 Huet legend. In 2002, with Gaston ailing, a financial partner was needed to ensure the continuation of the estate’s rich legacy. Anthony Hwang, from New York, purchased a majority stake, and today his children reside at and direct the estate, ensuring that this benchmark producer has a strong future. With Berthomé in charge of winemaking since 2012, the domaine may be making its most consistently great wines ever. It was one of the earliest adopters of biodynamics, and recent wines, perhaps more than any in the domaine’s history, achieve a fascinating level of transparency, purity, and knife-edged balance.
As previously mentioned, at their discretion, the estate produces Sec, Demi-Sec, Moelleux, or Moelleux 1ère Trie (“first selection”) from any of the three principal vineyards. A superb sparkling Pétillant is also made, drawing grapes from all three vineyards, as well as from other small parcels on the estate.
Le Mont—For many insiders, the argument over Vouvray’s greatest vineyard comes down to two sites: Le Mont and Clos du Bourg. Undisputably a grand cru vineyard, Le Mont enjoys a choice site on the Première Côte. With less clay and more stone than Le Haut-Lieu, Le Mont yields young wines of intense minerality. With age, the wines develop great length and finesse.
"The 2019 Le Mont Sec from Domaine Huet is a touch riper than the Le Haut Lieu bottling, coming in at 13.5%, but still utterly classical in all respects. The beautifully refined and still quite youthful nose jumps from the glass in a blend of quince, green apple, beeswax, a kaleidoscopic bath of limestone minerality, a touch of orange peel, lanolin and a topnote of dried flowers. On the palate, the wine is pure, full-bodied and utterly seamless, with again stunning midpalate depth and mineral drive, brisk acids and a very long, nascently complex and laser-like finish. This makes the youthfully reserved Le Haut Lieu Sec seem like a flamboyant and wide open wine, this is so buttoned up right now behind its perfect structural chassis. That said, I do not think I have ever tasted a young vintage of Le Mont Sec from Domaine Huet that possessed more potential, so just tuck it away for a decade and then let the fireworks begin! 2030-2120." - John Gilman
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