Didier Dagueneau, one of the greatest winemakers and certainly one of the most remarkable personalities of our generation, passed away in a small plane crash on September 17, 2008. His son, Louis-Benjamin, has since taken over winemaking responsibilities at this small, 12 hectare estate. Louis-Benjamin has maintained the same 12 person team that his father had and he has maintained the same extraordinary attention to detail that catapulted Didier to winemaking super-stardom. So while the man has passed, his wines, his winemaking conviction, and the meticulous work done in the vineyard and the winery remain. 2008 was a small harvest as there was a very destructive hailstorm in July, but the fruit was healthy and the weather beautiful in September, so the fruit that remained made for beautiful wines.
Didier was not an advocate of biodynamie, he was not an advocate of natural wine, he used some sulfur, disliked natural yeast fermentations and did not want to sell his wine because it was organic. He wanted to make the very best wine imaginable by guiding the minerality of his sites into the bottle. He was a strong-willed guide and didn’t suffer detours and dogmas.
Click here for an excellent recent article on Didier’s son, Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau.
Wine Advocate on Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau:
Didier Dagueneau’s son Louis-Benjamin (whose name now appears on the label) is in charge of the domaine that his recently-deceased and much-lamented father brought to such notoriety. Benjamin Dagueneau – whose intense focus is obvious – has been working alongside his father for several years, and the crew here – one person each for the estate’s 11 hectares (27 acres) – are no doubt exceptionally capable of carrying on. The 2009 collection (whose Pouilly-Fumés weigh in between 13 and less than 14% alcohol) promises to be the best group of Sauvignons rendered in that year. A late June visit offered my first opportunity to taste the Dagueneau rendition of Sancerre Monts Damnés (of which 2005 was the inaugural but 2007 effectively the first commercial vintage).i
All of the 2009s were still in barrel when I visited. The 2008s – harvested a mere two weeks after Didier Dagueneau’s death in a flying accident at age 52 and in bottle for only two months when I tasted them – are also superb as a group. The fermentative and élevage regiment here has for some time been entirely in larger barrels, in particular demi-muids and customized, 350-400-liter, cigar-shaped casks of Dagueneau design that maximizes lees contact. Fermentative temperature is controlled when necessary by inserting an exchanger. In view of how long Didier Dagueneau’s success had been recognized and how many ambitious Loire attempts at wooded Sauvignon prove inexpressive of their fruit and sites but depressingly similar to one another, one would think that the “methode Dagueneau” should be studied and adopted by at least a few other ambitious Loire growers, but if that’s happened, I have not tasted it!
Incidentally, this is one domaine where (already high) prices have not remained static, so unfortunately it’s simply a fact now that you have to make the same well-justified sacrifice to experience these wines that you would in order to put top-notch Burgundy on your table. (Incidentally, while this is the subject for another time, the nobly-concentrated Dagueneau Jurançons – of which I tasted a 2005 and 2004 – are magnificent, with superb detail, magical levity, as well as irresistibility rather than over-the-top sweetness. “The idea is to have a balance with high acidity, not a confiture,” remarks Benjamin Dagueneau. “Chateau d’Yquem is very good, but heavy. These wines aim at something a little more Germanic in style.” I was already grinning before he said this!) - David Schildknecht, eRobertParker.com # 190, Aug 2010
Didier had always been interested in making sweet wine and had made several successful examples in the Loire. In 2002, Didier teamed with up his friend, Guy Pautrat, and purchased a few hectares of Petit Manseng in a vineyard shaped like a natural amphitheatre at the foot of the Pyrenees in Jurancon. The 2004 vintage was the first release and it was a great one.
The wine is full, rich and viscous yet supported by mouthwatering acidity. The aromas and the palate feature peach and apricot flavors as well as caramel and citrus notes.
.. the nobly-concentrated Dagueneau Jurançons – of which I tasted a 2005 and 2004 – are magnificent, with superb detail, magical levity, as well as irresistibility rather than over-the-top sweetness. “The idea is to have a balance with high acidity, not a confiture,” remarks Benjamin Dagueneau. “Chateau d’Yquem is very good, but heavy. These wines aim at something a little more Germanic in style.” I was already grinning before he said this! - David Schildknecht - eRobertParker.com # 190, Aug 2010