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19th September 2008

Didier Dagueneau - the loss of a legend

This morning I learned about the demise of Didier Dagueneau, one of the best winemakers on this planet, an emblematic figure of  Pouilly, often referred to as l'enfant terrible and the wild man of the Loire.  He died in an accident of his ultralight at the aérodrome of Hautefaye, Dordogne this Wednesday, 17th September.  Apparently he was on his way to check the pre-harvest condition of the grapes in his new vineyards Jardins de Babylone which he planted in Jurançon and made a stop to refuel his plane, which then got into trouble at take-off.  He was 52 years young.

I visited Didier's place and winery a couple of times in the late nineties - the house, on top of the Saint-Andelain hill with the Che Guevara flag flying high and guarded by about twenty Yukon huskies living behind it in kennels made out of disused oak barrels, was hard to miss.  On the first visit to his winery he immediately told us that he is not an héritier like most of the wine producers into whose laps the wine business had usually fallen and emphasised that everything we would see there was built with his own hands and money.

We tasted his Pouilly Fumés:  En Chailloux, Pur Sang, Silex and Astéroïde - all Sauvignons in purezza and exquisite, the latter made from ungrafted vines.  I remember his very words when he poured the sample:  "The vines will all die if ungrafted, they are sentenced to death, but we would never find out what the wine made out of them will taste like if we didn't try".  On our departure Didier gave us a couple of bottles each to take home with us.  What a shame that they have already been drunk - they can hardly be replaced now.  And what a bloody shame about Didier!  The hamlet of Saint-Andelain will never be the same again and the wine world has lost one of its greatest protagonists.  R.I.P.

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