Who makes the world’s most sought-after, distinctive “one of a kind” Sauvignon Blancs? If Didier Dagueneau claims second, we can’t quite think of anyone who’d dare to claim first. After all, who dare to challenge Loire’s legendary “Bad Boy” (originally known in French, enfant terrible)?
Q: Who is Didier Dagueneau?
Motorcycle professional racer turned winegrower and winemaker Didier Dagueneau is rather like Karl Lagerfeld from the glamorous world of fashion. Outspoken, uncompromising, always ready to push the limit underpin both men’s unprecedented fame and success in their respective fields. The one massive, and apparent difference between the two is perhaps how well-shaved and dapper Karl Lagerfeld perpetually looks; and how burly, unkempt and hippie-style Didier Dagueneau always appears.
Dagueneau started his namesake winery in 1982, after a brief stint as a professional motorcycle racer. He returned to the village of Saint Andelain of Pouilly Fume. Despite having nil oenology training, Dagueneau chose not to opt for the apparent comfort beginning his winemaking career at his family’s own domaine. He soon made a lasting impression on his neighbours as the despicable enfant terrible for all the blunt, unsparing remarks he made about his neighbours’ wines.
In 2008, Didier Dagueneau passed away when flying an ultralight plane and crashed near Dordogne region in Southwest France. He was succeeded by his son and daughter, Louis-Benjamin and Charlotte, whom have proven to the world that the Dagueneau style – his firm grip on quality and pure expression – is here to stay and will sustain beyond generations.
Q: What is the Dagueneau style?
Dagueneau’s Sauvignon Blanc are known for showing an uninimitable level of purity and precision of fruit, well-chiselled minerality and incredible ageability. It is not your Summer’s Darling refreshing quaffer; rather it is meant to be the versatile, show-stealing, mineral-charged white that makes any wine lover proud to present at serious wine dinners.
Credit has to go to Dagueneau for establishing a perfection-first, cost-second (if not last) approach.
The domaine controls its yield to a maximum of 45 hl/ha (three-quarter the average yield of their neighbours). Despite so, they hire double the amount of workers to tend to their vineyards. Everything is done manually and as traditional as possible. Vineyards are tilled by horses, and biodynamic practices have been in place since 1993.
The wines are fermented and aged for about a year in 500L “cigar-shaped” demi-muid barrels, made specially for Dagueneau since late 1980s. Afterwards, the wines spent half a year in stainless steel, and are then bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Q: Didier Dagueneau comes with different cuvees. Which one should I try?
For a quintessential taste of Pouilly Fume, try Didier Dagueneau’s only non terroir specific bottling Blanc Fume de Pouilly. To us, probably the best introduction wine to Dagueneau style.
Beyond this, all bottlings are Single Vineyard expressions – among which barrel-fermented single vineyard expressions Silex and Pur Sang are probably the best known among connoisseurs. They give drinkers a taste of Sauvignon Blanc grown on slatey soil.
If you are looking for earlier drinking, nonetheless mineral-charged Single Vineyard expression, Buisson Renard is a your flinty, rounder-style Sauvignon Blanc option.
The mythical, almost impossible to find Asteroide is for those who wish to taste the finest and rarest Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Annual production at just around 200 bottles, Asteroide is made from 18 rows of ungrafted Sauvignon Blanc vines.
The youngest cuvee of Didier Dagueneau brings us over to the other side of the Loire River to the famous single vineyard of Les Monts Damnes in Sancerre. First vintage released in 2006, Didier Dagueneau’s Sancerre Les Monts Damnes offers drinkers a terroir comparison of Pouilly Fume and Sancerre – crafted by the best Sauvignon Blanc winemaker in the world.
Brief facts about Domaine Didier Dagueneau
- Founded in 1982
- Currently run by Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau, fifth-generation winemaker of the family
- 12 hectares of vineyard holdings including En Chailloux, Buisson Menard (which later inspired the name “Buisson Renard”) , Clos de Calvaire; and most recently a small plot in Sancerre from the famous single vineyard Les Monts Damnes
- Annual production of around 4000 to 5000 cases
- Famously known for hiring 1 full time worker to tend to 1 hectare of vines