Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Didier Dagueneau

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Didier Dagueneau died this morning in a plane crash in Cognac, France. My guess is that he was just in his mid-50s.

I had met the man and tasted with him and I can tell you that he was as kind and generous as he was flamboyant. He put Pouilly-Fumé on the same map as the aristocratic wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. He first made news as a young winegrower when he publicized his labor costs and bill of materials to prove that he was not cutting corners like his neighbors. And aside from his wine passion he was also a champion Iditarod racer.

BenjaminDidier.JPGThe one positive thing that comes to my mind at this time is that he was all over his son Benjamin to get him up to speed to run the estate. Benjamin was apprenticing with François Chidaine, another brilliant Loire winegrower, when I visited at Saint-Andelain a year ago. I remember feeling surprised by how Didier was already pushing his young son to take the lead. He had Benjamin preside over the tasting, while hovering in the background to assist him, and he asked me and my companions to speak to his son only in English so he can get used to speaking the language.

Didier's concern for Benjamin to take responsibility in running the estate proved to be prescient. But he seemed to be at peace that his son could handle the job as the photo I snapped of him below, while he quietly watched over his son do his job, appears to convey. I’m optimistic that Benjamin would be up to the challenge now.

But Didier Dagueneau will be missed dearly. He shone briefly but brightly like an Asteroide, the name of his ultra-rare and seldom seen wine. His rabid ambition, imagination, almost carefree risk-taking, and wild energy brought us some of the most singular wines on the face of the earth.

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