Very sad news. French winemaker Didier Dagueneau died in a plane crash a few days ago. If you've never heard of him, he made amazing Sauvignon Blanc. He was notorious for being outspoken, somewhat of a hermit, and kept a scraggly beard & untamed hair. But his wines sang and made you glad to be alive.
Here is his more on him from the New York Times...
D. Dagueneau, Winemaker, Dies at 52
Didier Dagueneau, an iconoclastic Loire Valley winemaker whose Pouilly-Fumés displayed a purity and subtlety far beyond most other sauvignon blanc wines, died Wednesday in a plane crash.
He died when the ultralight plane he was piloting crashed after takeoff in the Dordogne region of France, his New York importer, Joe Dressner, said.
Mr. Dagueneau was 52 and lived in St.-Andelain, a village in the Pouilly-Fumé region on the eastern end of the Loire Valley.
Working with sauvignon blanc, a grape that made crowd-pleasing, thirst-quenching Pouilly-Fumés and Sancerres but was rarely taken seriously, Mr. Dagueneau sought to show its potential for greatness.
“He influenced the entire region,” said Jacqueline Friedrich, a wine writer who is working on a revision of her 1996 book, “A Wine and Food Guide to the Loire.” “I’ve been tasting a lot of Sancerres, and I’m absolutely amazed by the evolution and how much better they’ve become. That was absolutely his doing.”
With meticulous, almost radical attention to detail in his vineyards, and with relentless experimentation and perfectionism in his cellar, Mr. Dagueneau produced wines that, on first taste, were a revelation.
His Pouilly-Fumés have an unexpected clarity to them. The flavors are intense but nuanced. In the mouth, they are wines of great texture and presence, but not weighty at all.
If his wines made an indelible impression, his personality doubled it. With his long, shaggy hair, his heavy beard and his outspoken manner, Mr. Dagueneau could be an intimidating presence. He cultivated a rebellious image, and at one time he rechristened the street outside his winery Rue Che Guevara.
He was a provocateur in winemaking, too, charging prices well beyond the standard of the region. On national television he compared the drastically low yields in his own vineyards with the high yields of his neighbors, and he did not hesitate to criticize their wines.
“He was wildly disliked in the area, yet people had a great deal of respect and admiration for him, too,” Mr. Dressner said. “The wines were so apart from what was produced in the area that people couldn’t deny the quality of the wine.”
Didier Dagueneau was born in St.-Andelain in 1956. His family was in the grape and wine business — his uncle and cousins continue to produce Pouilly-Fumé at Serge Dagueneau & Filles — but as a teenager Didier had a falling-out with his father and struck out on his own.
At first he raced motorcycles, but after a string of crashes he returned to St.-Andelain and the wine business, said Michael Sullivan of Beaune Imports, Mr. Dagueneau’s West Coast importer. He did not lose the taste for daredevil activities: he was a committed dogsled racer and later took up flying.
Mr. Dagueneau is survived by two children from a marriage that ended in divorce, Charlotte and Benjamin, who in recent years had worked closely with him; his partner, Suzanne Cremer; and their two children, Aaron and Léon.
When he went into business in the early 1980s, he had no holdings, but he was able to get enough grapes together by renting vineyards. Even as a young man he was ambitious, competitive and perfectionistic.
“He wanted to be the absolute best in the region,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He realized pretty quickly that mediocre was the norm.”
The 1980s was an era of steel tanks, high yields and chemical farming, but Mr. Dagueneau wanted to make wine as his great-grandmother had done. His vineyards were organic, and as soon as he could afford to do so, he acquired barrels to age his wines. He was eventually able to buy almost 30 acres in Pouilly-Fumé, along with a tiny plot in Les Monts Damnés, one of the finest Sancerre vineyards. Just a few years ago he bought land and began to make wine in Jurançon, in southwest France.
While his criticism of high yields might have angered mainstream winemakers, he also alienated younger winemakers in France’s natural wine movement by rejecting their imperatives to use only ambient yeasts in fermentation and to avoid using sulfur dioxide as a preservative.
Mr. Dagueneau did not smash all idols. He greatly admired Edmund Vatan, a legendary Sancerre producer, and Henri Jayer, the great vigneron of Burgundy. “He thought of Vatan as his godfather, and he worshiped Jayer,” Mr. Sullivan said. “They were extremely close, like father and son.”
Mr. Dagueneau was eventually able to build his own winery, a scrupulously clean structure that has been likened by visitors to a cathedral. As Ms. Friedrich told it in her book, he conceded that the expense was “disproportionate.”
“I didn’t want to wait and do it bit by bit,” he told Ms. Friedrich. “You’ve got to move quickly. Life is short.”