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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Peter Richards

Machine harvesting and chaptalisation are jeopardising the reputation of the Vouvray appellation and its wines, according to Nol Pinguet, the highly respected biodynamic producer at Domaine Huet. Vouvray is not an easy wine to sell and global consumption is falling while production is rising. This means Vouvray should be aiming for the quality niche, but the current standard of wine across the appellation needs to be greatly improved,' said Pinguet, who presented ten of his wines at the recent Richards Walford tasting. Pinguet estimates that 80% of Vouvray is machine harvested, which is fine for simple, young wines, but they soon fall apart - and good Vouvray needs at least ten years to express itself. Careful selection and triage is the key at harvest time,' added Pinguet. For example, in 2001 there was a fair bit of grey rot that needed to be weeded out, but the machines are indiscriminate.' He also expressed concern over the practice of chaptalisation. I see wines from nearby at 14% alcohol, which seems to be the fashion, but this just masks the true character of the wine. Real Vouvray is about no malolactic, a touch of residual sugar and low alcohol. I aim for 11.5 to 12.5% alcohol in my wines and I never chaptalise - I guess that makes me something of an extremist in Vouvray.' Pinguet points to the young winemakers and viticulturists in Vouvray as the future for the appellation's quality. He is also bullish about biodynamics. I don't know how or why, but it works, and that's good enough for me,' he said.