Variously described as the enfant terrible of the Loire and an artist in the truest sense, the late Didier Dagueneau is without a doubt an icon of modern winemaking. At odds with his neighbours over the years, Dagueneau continuously pushed the limits of winemaking and at times, professional relationships with his fellow winemakers.
Although from a winemaking family, wine was not Dagueneau’s first choice. An addiction to adrenaline was satiated by a career as a sidecar racer until one too many accidents in quick succession forced an evaluation of career choice. Sadly for the winemaking community it was this lack of fear that would led to his untimely death in a microlite accident in 2008.
The legacy of Didier Dagueneau continues today under the guardianship of his two children, Louis-Benjamin and Charlotte. Taking up the mantle of the family business cannot have been easy given the heights to which their father’s wine had reached. They have, however, confirmed that talent and an obsession with producing the best wine possible is very much a family trait. When writing for the Los Angeles Times in October 2010, Jacqueline Friedrich notes, “We need not have worried. Louis-Benjamin has now completed two vintages on his own, and his 2008 and 2009 vintages are nothing less than splendid, fully the equal of any wine made by his father.”
Didier Dagueneau was motivated by the desire to elevate the perception of wines from Pouilly-Fumé and to this end he devoted his winemaking career to endless experimentation. At times he adhered to biodynamic practises until they no longer produced the quality wines he sought, he dabbled briefly with no sulphur wines but left that because he didn’t care for the way the wines evolved and after trialling indigenous yeasts he returned to using cultured yeasts for the better results he obtained.
In speaking of Dagueneau’s wines, the highly respected oenologist Denis Dubourdieu said, "Didier Dagueneau is one of the great winemakers of our generation; an artist in the truest sense of the word. He makes wine according to an ideal in his head. His wines reveal the finesse of Sauvignon Blanc." Located on some of the highest vineyards in Pouilly-Fumé, the 12-hectare estate produces a number of wines including the renowned Silex, Pur Sang (pure blood or thoroughbred) and Buisson Renard. Wine from a plot of land in Sancerre was added to the portfolio just before Didier died and before that, a sweet wine from Jurançon in the southwest of France, Les Jardins de Babylone.
The signature style of Dagueneau wines is one of purity and an unflinching reflection of provenance. Rather like their founder, the wines of Didier Dagueneau refuse to compromise, borne of a desire to stand apart from the crowd. Recognising this Andrew Jefford when writing for The New French says, “…The silex was not the parody flintlock of popular myth; it was pure, sappy, soaring, rich, finishing with just a hint of stone after rain. I had not been expecting this calm and majestic retreat from the varietal. I learnt something new.”
The ability to embrace the old and the new alongside a fearless experimentation in the relentless pursuit of authenticity is what characterises the wines of Didier Dagueneau and ensures that the mere four to five thousand cases produced each year are eagerly snapped up by wine lovers the world over.