Didier Dagueneau is a visionary: For the last 12 years, he has sought to improve the reputation of authentic Pouilly-Fumé throughout the world by breaking the rules.
A staunch critic of overproduction, he cultivates only 11.5 hectares (about 1.5x the size of Central Park's Great Lawn) biodynamically and sparing no expense. One vintage he went so far as to publish photocopies of the invoices for the pickers who hand-harvested his vineyards.
Wine writer James Turnbull has laid it out in a style that we can't improve on.
Here is a translation of his notes on Didier from his book "Vallée de la Loire - Grandeur Nature" "A young rebel with convictions
Dagueneau's non-conformity has helped him more than hurt him: his long tousled hair, his bushy beard, his intense gaze, not to mention his passion for sled dogs have all earned him the nickname "the madman of Saint-Andelain" and made him very popular with the [French] press.
Authenticity and perfection
What does Dagueneau have that the other don't? He is extremely meticulous and possesses a special intuition where winemaking is concerned. His goals are always authenticity and perfection. To obtain grapes of the highest quality, his vineyard workers spend at least three months carefully de-budding even after a severe pruning earlier in the year. And when the grapes are perfectly ripe, the harvest is done by hand, so that only grapes of impeccable condition are picked, the others are either thrown out or left on the vine to be picked later.
His new winemaking facilities, specifically adapted to Dagueneau's techniques, use gravity for moving liquids and allow him to apply his ideas without the slightest compromise. After fermentation, the wines are aged in a beautiful cellar containing big barrels and "cigares" (small,long oval barrels made especially for him). The cellar is kept quite cool to limit interaction between the wine and the oak, thus avoiding an overly oaky aroma in the wine."
Lover's of Dagueneau face a dilemna: the wines are perfectly capable of improving with 10-20 years of age, but also are completely irresistible when young.
Note that the wines are as esoteric as Didier, they are not easy-going but rather challenging, intense cuveés that truly push the limits.
Seekers of soft, butterry will be sorely disappointed (Didier is opposed to opposed to malolactic fermentation for Sauvignon Blanc "no matter how acid the vintage.") Those with an open mind and that love steely, crisp minerality will be justly rewarded.