Domaine Huët, the prominent Loire Valley estate known for its fine sweet and dry wines from the Vouvray appellation, has been bought by a renowned Hungarian producer of Tokay and his business partner.
Winemaker István Szepsy and Chinese-American financier Anthony Hwang now hold 80 percent of the 99-acre estate, which produces 12,500 cases annually. The remaining 20 percent of the shares belong to Noël Pinguet, son-in-law of the late Gaston Huët and winemaker at Domaine Huët for the past 17 years. The purchase price has not been disclosed.
"Now Noël can focus on an artisan approach to winemaking without any short-term financial constraints," said Hwang.
The deal was finalized recently after two and a half years of discussions among Hwang, Szepsy and Pinguet, as well as Gaston Huët, until he died last year at the age of 92.
Hwang said that he has long been a lover of Domaine Huët wines and that he became keenly interested in investing in the estate after hearing that it could be up for sale. "Even more importantly, I saw that Noël Pinguet is very much like István Szepsy -- an excellent winemaker and a man of integrity," Hwang explained. "And ultimately, the character of the winemaker comes through in the wine. That is why I invest in great winemakers, not wine regions."
According to Hwang, at least $1 million will go toward lowering the winery's existing debt, as well as to buying new barrels and other improvements. The partners plan to reduce yields in the vineyards, which include the famed Clos du Bourg, Le Haut Lieu and Le Mont. The 12-acre Vodanis vineyard will be sold because it is not up to par in quality with the other three vineyards, Hwang said.
"Domaine Huët makes spectacular sec and demi-sec wines," said Hwang. "But Noël and I believe that they can be even more spectacular."
Hwang first joined up with Szepsy more than three years ago to create Királyudvar, an estate that concentrates on sweet wines from the Tokay region. Hwang's son, Stefan, also formed a joint venture with the Szepsy family to start another Tokay winery, Zemplen Ridge, which opened in 2002.
Check our ratings of Domaine Huët wines.
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