Biodynamic farming was introduced to Domaine Huet in 1990 but, in a sense, the Vouvray estate founded in 1928 has always followed the will of the cosmos, responding to climate and the earth’s effect on its Chenin Blanc vines. This versatile grape is used for dry, demi-sec, sweet and sparkling wines - in warmer years, only sweet wine is produced, while cooler vintages mean sparkling and drier white wines are vinified. It is simply not Domaine Huet’s way to force the matter and lower quality thresholds to meet quotas - if the grapes are not right for a certain wine, it will not be produced. “We produce what nature gives us” is the philosophy the Hwang family has continued from the estate’s founders.
The Domaine was founded by Victor Huet in 1928 in the gentle hills overlooking Vouvray village in the Loire Valley. From the beginning, the nine hectares of Le Haut Lieu on the Première Côte - Vouvray’s acknowledged premier cru terroir - were planted entirely with the Loire’s traditional grape, Chenin Blanc. And, from the start, Victor’s 17-year-old son Gaston Huet worked beside his father on the land, keeping the notoriously prolific growth of these vines in check to ensure quality. During World War II, Huet served heroically (as his father had in World War I) and was eventually captured as a POW.
After the Liberation, Gaston took over the Domaine and raised its reputation to the very top. He acquired two more parcels on the Première Côte: Clos du Bourg (which Huet began farming in 1953, before purchasing it in 1963); and, in 1957 Le Mont. The estate now encompasses 30 hectares. In 2002, when Gaston Huet passed away at the age of 92, New York businessman Anthony Hwang invested in the winery - his daughter Sarah is now in day-to-day charge and, in 2014, Armit Wines was pleased when she appointed us become the exclusive UK distributor for Domaine Huet. Continuity was assured when the Hwang family took over, with Gaston Huet’s son-in-law Noël Pinguet continuing in the role of winemaker, which he’d held since 1971, with his assistant Jean-Bernard Berthomé as chef de cave. On Pinguet’s retirement in 2012, Berthomé has taken over as chief winemaker.
Domaine Huet is fully committed to biodynamic viticulture - not only, as some producers do, adhering to the practices while rejecting the mysticism, but embracing the theories of cosmic influence too: “Gently, over time, the universe reveals its mysteries.” The producers of Domaine Huet are described not as growing Chenin Blanc, but “discovering” it, helping the vine “find its balance in its natural environment and the energies that surround it” and “reveal the essence of each terroir”.
The three parts of Domaine Huet’s 30-hectare estate remain very much individual crus. Almost all of the wines are the products of single vineyards. The wines from Le Haut Lieu’s rich brown limestone clay tend to emphasise the fresh floral character, fruit complexity and supple texture of Vouvray; Le Mont’s flinty ground produces an intense acidity and deep minerality; while the shallow soil of Clos du Bourg often combines the two extremes and produces wines of wonderful balance and great potential for ageing.
The Domaine is probably most highly regarded for its Mouelleux wines - Chenin Blanc’s acidity balancing incredible expressions of sweet fruit that would put an award-winning patisserie chef to shame - an array spanning rich baked apples, perfumed stone fruit, spiced rhubarb and more. The Première Trie releases are particularly fine. The one sweet wine blended from different vineyards is Cuvée Constance (named after Gaston Huet’s mother) - produced only in the best vintages, it always has a wonderfully balanced sweetness and acidity.
In demi-sec form, Domaine Huet’s Vouvrays are wonderfully succulent but never heavy. Its secs have a clarity and purity, like fruit cut with the sharpest of steel blades. And the Vouvray Pétillant is known for its fine mousse, heady flowers on the nose, and soft orchard fruits and citrus notes, but always chiselled away at by the Domaine Huet minerality, to give it a pleasant edge.
While the discipline that Huet will only make the right wines in the right years is still maintained, sometimes, it seems, the cosmos provides… in 2016, the third great vintage in a row, all styles were produced, despite February frosts which destroyed much of the growth. These wines are therefore rare but well worth acquiring - and Armit Wines has access to these gems.