Veteran Loire winemaker Noel Pinguet's sudden resignation from Domaine Huet was over differences with the owning family, Decanter.com has learned.
Pinguet’s unexpected resignation, submitted last October and finalised this month, comes just three years before his official retirement.
He has been in charge of the great Vouvray estate since 1976, and it was planned he should remain until 2015, when he would be 70.
Domaine Huet is the most celebrated Loire producer, and the only one from the region ever to have headlined a Christie’s auction, in 2004.
Sarah Hwang, daughter of Anthony Hwang who bought the estate from the Huet family in 2003, has been appointed president with her brother Stefan as managing director.
Anthony Hwang is a Chinese American businessman who also owns the Tokaji estate Királyudvar. The legendary Gaston Huet, who had established the domaine’s reputation, died in 2002.
Sources close to Pinguet told Decanter.com that he left over disagreements with the Hwang family over wine styles, with Pinguet feeling he was directed not to take the necessary risks involved in making the demi-sec and sweet wines for which the estate is internationally famous, and to concentrate on dry wines, for which grapes can be picked earlier and therefore at greater yield and less risk of losing the crop.
At the same time, orders for long-established and significant customers, including major retailers, were unexpectedly cancelled.
Sarah Hwang said, ‘Although we knew of his intention to retire in 2015, this news came as a surprise to us. I must say that it was difficult for us to see Noël step down, having been a part of the estate for so many years’
She insisted Pinguet had been given the freedom and responsibility to run the winery as he pleased. This allowed him, she said, ‘to continue to follow the philosophy that the estate has upheld for many years. That is, to produce what nature gives us. Looking forward, I can assure you that this philosophy will remain.’
She also said, regarding reports of cancelled orders, ‘I think that the information you’ve gathered might not be accurate.’
Pinguet took over from his father-in-law, Gaston Huet in 1976. In 1990 the entire 35ha estate was converted to biodynamic viticulture. The Huet family retains control of the stock of older vintages going back to 1921.
Written by Jim Budd