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Eccentric Winemaker series, Pt 1: Didier Dagueneau, the wild man of Pouilly

“”You idiot” are Didier Dagueneau’s first words to me…. 

I ask him why he chose Sauvignon Blanc to work with – “you don’t even ask yourself the question,” he says. “I had a few scores to settle with the family, so I decided to make wine, to make better wine than them. That was my first motivation. So I decided to make the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Not at all pretentious for someone who’s been making wine for two years.”
– Decanter magazine

You need strong opinions to break through traditions in the Loire, the classical heartland of France.

Known as the “Wild Man of Pouilly”, Didier has been breaking conventions in the Loire for so long now it doesn’t really matter what people say – he’s now the benchmark for Sauvignon blanc around the world.

The Blanc Fume de Pouilly (above) is the entry level Sauvignon Blanc, followed by Pur Sang (label shown below) and then the benchmark for Sauvignon blanc (and you could argue, the Pouilly-fume region): Silex – named after the excellent slate soils.

The wine to covet? Asteroide; like it’s namesake, it only comes around every so often. From a micro 10-vine plot on non-grafted vines, they are so fragile they need constant supervision and love.

If you can find these wines… lucky you; as you can imagine demand is high. And output is low. Not because Dagueneau is cynically playing the market and withholding wines, but because he is a total perfectionist. Slowly horse-tilling the vineyard so tractors don’t compact the soil and hurt the vines… and the wine. And you imagine, in turn, his soul.

What you need to know

Name: Didier Dagueneau

From: Saint-Andelain, Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire, France.

Style of wine: dry white wine but using oak.

Entry level wines: En Chailloux, a blend from several vineyards and then, Buisson Menard

Superstar wines: both single vineyard wines and barrel fermented (unusual for Sauvignon blanc in most parts of the world) – Silex, and Pur Sang (french for thoroughbred; the vineyard is horse-tilled).

Strange fact: the front of the winery has a clock with a provocative gesture as the hands of the clock – a message to his neighbours and critics, perhaps? Excellent. Is he Mad man or genius?

Link: Eccentric Winemaker Series