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Noel Pinguet Leaving Domaine Huet

2012 February 24
by Mike

Some big news: Noel Pinguet is quitting Domaine Huet after more than 30 years as its winemaker. The son-in-law of the legendary Gaston Huet, Pinguet is leaving because of differences with the domaine’s owners, the Hwang family. The Hwangs want to increase production of the estate’s dry Vouvrays; Pinguet objected to the change and decided to leave three years ahead of his planned retirement from the celebrated Loire domaine.

This afternoon, I emailed Mannie Berk of The Rare Wine Company, which imports Huet to the United States, to ask about Pinguet’s rumored departure, and he sent me the following:

Noel is indeed leaving. There’s an article in La Revue du Vin de France that is basis for the rumor. If you haven’t read it, here it is:

http://www.larvf.com/,vin-noel-pinguet-domaine-huet-vouvray-loire-touraine-biodynamisme-hwang,10341,4026010.asp

The long and the short of it, from my point of view, is that he will be a loss to the estate, but we owe it to the estate and its long history to put his departure in context: this is not the end of Huet’s long period of greatness. Some points:

The quality will not change. In fact, the quality and consistency have only improved in the Hwang era. And I think that committing to a larger proportion of Sec wines (which the world has warmly welcomed and, as the RVF article notes, has been encouraged by the Hwangs) will only strengthen the demi-sec and dessert wines at this estate – refining the selection of fruit for these cuvées.

The long time cellar-master/vineyard manager, Jean-Bernard Berthomé, and Noel’s hand-picked successor, Benjamin Joliveau, are both staying on and committed to building on the strong base they’ve inherited from Noel (and Gaston Huet before him).

Furthermore, as the RVF article points out, Noel had already planned his departure (in 2015). The team he leaves behind is highly skilled and passionate.

Just looking back over the past 2 or 3 years, you get a strong sense of the positive influences the Hwangs have had on the estate. I am absolutely confident in the future.

13 Responses leave one →
  1. February 28, 2012

    Christo. There ceratinly was a time when Noël was travelling to Hungary to look after things but I’m told he stopped doing this but, as I say, I don’t know when. I’m sure we can assume that he won’t now have any further involvement in Hungary.

  2. February 28, 2012

    I read he was still ‘consulting’ but never knew the extent. He’s still listed as the main consulting winemaker on their website but that could mean many things.

  3. February 28, 2012

    Christo. I believe Noël ceased to be involved at Királyudvar a little while ago but don’t know when or further details.

  4. February 28, 2012

    Noel and the Anthony Hwang run Királyudvar as well. Is Noel leaving behind that delicious juice as well?

  5. February 26, 2012

    I have just posted a further update on this. Noël actually handed in his resignation at the end of October 2011 for reasons as outlined in La Revue du Vins de France. Post includes statement from Sarah Hwang, the new president of Domaine Huet.

  6. RobinC permalink
    February 26, 2012

    It’s interesting how readily one can find connections on the Internet, and how possible it is to follow up on them given the time and interest. Yes, I took the quiz and I’m 5-8. I’m not sure why I’d want to get out of my bubble though.

  7. February 25, 2012

    Many thnaks Mike. Still I think a more abrupt departure than previously envisaged but with Noël leaving with dignity and still some involvement.

  8. February 25, 2012

    Jim, thanks for this. Also, a great scoop with the letter from Noel Pinguet, which I encourage everyone to read.

  9. February 24, 2012

    Mike. Like you I hope the very high quality will continue. The domaine has only ever made demi-sec and moelleux wines when conditions have permitted. Despite the warmer years it is still more difficult to make sweet wines in Touraine than it is in Anjou.

  10. February 24, 2012

    There’s a good discussion over on winedisorder.com. Several people have suggested that with the warmer growing seasons in the Loire, making a true Vouvray sec is becoming increasingly difficult. It’s an interesting point, and adds a wrinkle to the chatter regarding Pinguet’s departure.

  11. Wicker Parker permalink
    February 24, 2012

    My palate tells me that Huet’s demi-sec and moelleux wines need not be further refined. I mean, they’re already glorious.

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