Didier Dagueneau used to be known as the "wild man of Pouilly", not only for his hirsute appearance (long curly hair and a dramatic beard) but also for his ideas. He was recognised as a brilliant winemaker and the best producer in the appelation. The motorcycling fanatic Didier still raised the hackles of his Pouilly neighbours by accusing them of bottling wine cocktails - a mixture of wine and sugar.
He crusaded to redeem the reputation of Pouilly Fume by slashing yields in half and tilling his vineyards with horses instead of using a tractor. The secret of this perfectionist's success lied in his scrupulous attention to detail at every stage of the winemaking process, from vineyard management (biodynamic since 1993) to the cellar, where work proceeds in textbook fashion.
Unlike many winemakers in the Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre regions, Dagueneau did not start his career in wine and raced sidecars in his youth. He said it was only after ‘two falls in quick succession’ that he went into winemaking.
Dagueneau estate makes four different dry white wines, all Pouilly Fumes. The basic wine is the En Chailloux, a blend from several vineyards, which is softer and easier drinking. Next up in quality is Buisson Renard, more flinty in style, but still round, and more ageworthy. The remaining two wines are both superstars from single vineyards, and are barrel fermented. Both come from slate soils with one being called Silex, and the other known as Pur Sang (the french for thoroughbred - a reference to the horse tilling).
The iconoclastic Loire Valley winemaker Didier Dagueneau died in an ultra-light aircraft accident at the tragically early age of 52. Didier Dagueneau’s son Louis-Benjamin (whose name now appears on the wine labels) is now in charge of the domaine.