In Honour of Didier Dagueneau

We were saddened to read about the untimely death of Didier Dagueneau, who was killed flying a microlite at the age of 52 last wednesday. ‘Dagueneau was known worldwide as an outspoken and brilliant winemaker’, reported decanter.com.

Many years ago, Angela and I went to see Dagueneau’s artisanal set-up near Pouilly in the Loire, where he had ‘decided to make the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Not at all pretentious for someone who’s been making wine for two years.’

I remember the rows of new French oak barrels, which seemed at odds with the personality of the grape. Not a bit of it. Last night, we dug out a bottle of his from our cellar – a purchase from that visit. It was a 1992 Pouilly Fumé ‘En Chailloux’. You would have thought that a ’92 Pouilly Fumé would have been over the hill by now – teenage sauvignons are often past their sell-by date, and this wasn’t from a great year. Amazingly, the wine was vibrant and alive; balanced, refreshing and delicious.

By coincidence, we harvested our first crop of sauvignon blanc this year from vines which we planted in 2004 on the very morning that Dagueneau died (pictured above). Another twist is that I had chosen to plant half this plot with a clone of the variety that’s used in Pouilly and Sancerre, with the other half of the block being planted with the Bordeaux clone. (At the time, the pépiniériste, or nurseryman, who sold us the plants, thought I was a bit odd – I have no idea whether it was the right thing to do, but time will tell.)

Every chateau has names for their different parcels of vines (like our Trois Hectares), many of which go back many years. This block is called ‘Butte de Graves’, but we have merlot planted in the same parcel, on the south facing different slope, with the sauvignon facing north – so having the same name can be confusing. As a timely hommage to the great man, we have renamed the sauvignon part of the vineyard ‘Dagueneau’. The juice in the tank, from the first crop, is delicious.