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Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Jimi Hendrix of Sauvignon Blanc


Yesterday morning, while traveling over the Cognac region, Didier Daguneau was tragically killed in a small plane crash. In a year of insufferable loss, which included the passing of the American wine pioneer, Robert Mondavi, this legend of the Loire seems to have struck me the most painfully. The self-taught, passionate maverick seemed to attract as much praise as he did disdain, and at 52 years young, things ended well before they should have, and with far too much undone.

While I didn’t know Didier, I knew his wines and felt his influence. A larger than life individual doesn’t belong in a tucked away nook of the wine world, but then again, maybe he didn’t belong on this earth at all. Like the late, great Jimi Hendrix, un-taught and untamed, they saw things innately, and in a light that few others could even contemplate. While Jimi’s tool, the guitar, seemed merely an extension of his body, Didier’s vehicle came in the form of a plough, alongside the horses which cultivated the earth beneath him.

What can Sauvignon Blanc become? Or for that matter, what is the unrealized potential of Pouilly Fume? When Jimi looked at a guitar, he saw, or perhaps felt things that you and I never could. We look at the guitar and crave notes for understanding; we illicit instruction from an experienced guide in order to reveal a path. Jimi created his own path. While we certainly couldn’t follow that path, his vehicle gave us a ride that we’d never even dreamed of. That is how I see Didier’s journey, from the outside looking in.

Tasting Sauvignon Blanc comes w/ a set of expectations. Bright acidity, zingy citrus overtones and perhaps a wee-bit of cat piss or freshly cut grass flavors accompany the fore-mentioned tenor as bass notes. A Pouilly Fume carries along a similar set of things to look for within a distinct frame that’s enshrouded w/ a smoky, gun-flint like symphony. Didier’s wines carry their own set of expectations; they beg you to expect the unexpected, to expect everything. He saw something no one else saw in Sauvignon Blanc. He felt something no one else could touch in the soils of the Loire. When we taste his wines, we experience the electric sounds that Jimi created in the shape & form of the unimaginable intensity and piercing minerality of a tune that only Didier could play. Purple Haze could very well be the Yin to Pur Sang’s Yang.

I encourage fans of Didier’s wines & listeners of Jimi Hendrix’s music to unite this evening & honor them both. Pop a cork and just push play. Things are forever different because of their existence, which may no longer be on this earth, but remains the life blood of their craft. Experiencing their work first hand is the eulogy they deserve. Cheers.

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