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|Vin de France
This is a special, long-standing, collaborative project undertaken by Louis-Benjamin and Guy Pautrat, who farm a 7.4 hectare vineyard at the foot of the Pyrenees in Jurançon. This particular vineyard forms the shape of natural amphitheater and all grapes are hand-picked and fermented in barrique. They focus on native, near-extinct varieties like Camaralet, Lauzet, Petit Courbu, Gros Courbu, and Gros Manseng.
From the importer: “Didier Dagueneau was a fourth generation winemaker in the village of St Andelain in Pouilly-Fumé. As someone who always liked to push the limits, Didier left his home town at a young age to race motorcycle side cars on the international circuit between 1978 and 1982. He later added dog-sled racing to his list of passions, and here too, competed internationally for many years during the winter months. Dagueneau returned to his native village in 1982 and in typical Didier fashion, elected to set up his own estate in Pouilly-Fumé rather than join the family fold...He acquired his first parcel, 1.2 hectares of En Chailloux, and began to vinify under his own label in the 1982 vintage. In 1985, he added the now infamous Silex, and in 1988, Pur Sang.
Since the beginning, the wines at Dagueneau have always been raised in oak barrels. Through extensive experimentation, there is always a mix of sizes, shapes and percentage of new and used barrels which are exploited to varying degree depending on vineyard and vintage. The Dagueneaus have worked closely with the world’s top coopers to create some uniquely-shaped, very low-toast barrels (e.g. “cigares” and small foudres) that offer nuanced benefits of lees contact and/or specific oxygen exchange, all tiny facets that add up to a finer product in the end. The current regimen calls for wines to be held in oak for their first year, and then they are transferred to tank and held “en masse” for 5-7 months before bottling. While the wines can be drunk on release, like all great bottles, they benefit from extended aging in the cellar, 5-10 years usually to reach their peak, and can easily hold for 15-20 years or more (many of Didier’s first vintages still drink beautifully to this day!).
Sadly, on September 17, 2008, tragedy struck, and Didier was killed when his plane crashed near Cognac. The world mourned at the loss of one of its visionary winemakers who was 52 upon his death.
Didier was survived by his son and daughter, Louis Benjamin and Charlotte. Both had grown up at the winery, and in recent years, Benjamin had worked alongside his father in the vineyards and cellar and had very much absorbed his perfectionist attitudes and practices. Nonetheless, there were enormous shoes to fill, and the wine world watched with quiet reserve to see whether there would be any questions about the succession of this great estate.
The wines at Domaine Didier Dagueneau deserve their rightful place among the great 'singular' wines of the world. Eric Asimov, in his obituary of the late Didier Dagueaneau in the The New York Times, seemed to sum it up well: 'Tasting a Dagueneau wine for the first time was a revelation. His Sauvignon Blancs had an unexpected purity and clarity to them. The flavors were intense but nuanced. It wasn’t the fruit that was piercing, as in so many Sauvignon Blancs, but the freshness and the focus. As powerful a personality as he was, his wines did not exalt the stature of the winemaker so much as the beauty of the terroir.'"