I had a champagne already written up for this week, but tonight I decided to open the 2006 Silex. It’s the only bottle I have (and after Wednesday, the only one I’m ever likely to get), and it needs many more years in the cellar to show it’s best, but tonight seems as appropriate a time as any to drink it.
Drinking Silex (or Pur Sang, or Buisson Renard, or even the Blanc Fumé or the old En Chailloux, for that matter, not to mention Asteroïde) is an original experience. It could maybe sometimes be recognizably sauvignon, yet in a sense it’s really anti-varietal, it’s sauvignon character subservient to its expression of terroir. The nose of this 2006 is pure minerality: flinty, smoky, assertive, haughty in the way it combines its deeply expressive aroma with a refined, multi-dimensional sense of finesse. I put it in a decanter and a half hour later it reveals a sleekly apricotty, citrusy fruit character, while still markedly infused by that pungent stoniness. On the palate it’s intensely concentrated yet it doesn’t feel like a blockbuster; its power is controlled and focused, its energy harnessed and purposeful, all the while constantly referring back to that deep, profoundly demanding sense of soil. Despite its obvious richness it remains bright and lively, aérien, as the French would say, and the finish is almost painful in its beauty, with a palate-staining depth and a vivid, complex, nearly three-dimensional fragrance that never seems to quit. My friend Eric once said, of a completely different wine in a completely different time, “The finish itself has a front end and a back end,” and that’s the way I feel about this Silex.
I tasted this wine in barrel in February of 2007, which was the last time that I saw Dagueneau. Looking at my notes for the Silex, I wrote at the time: “These ’06s are amazing. Where the Pur Sang is deep and brooding, this ascends, with chalky brightness and superb length.” This was before he opened the 2005s, which were absolutely mind-blowing. Both the 2005 and 2006 vintages were great ones for Dagueneau, but they express themselves in different ways, with 2005 showing more prominent acidity and a silky, almost ethereal perfume; 2006, in contrast, is a little richer and more densely knit.
The things I’ll remember about Didier Dagueneau are his generosity, his warm hospitality, the way that he would patiently spend a whole afternoon with me tasting wines and explaining them in minute detail even back before we ever knew each other. The first time I ever met him was ten years ago on a grey, rainy spring day, when I was essentially backpacking my way through the Loire. I was nobody (I’m still nobody) and he was a veritable rock star, a world-famous icon of a vigneron, yet he welcomed me into his home as if I were an old friend. He laughed when I showed up like a wet cat on his doorstep, bedraggled and soaked, and after giving me a towel, proceeded to dazzle me over the next few hours with a vast, multi-vintage array of sauvignons, the likes of which I’d never tasted before. He had some pressing engagements that afternoon, yet he insisted on driving me to my next appointment all the way across the river in Bué, even taking time to stop along the way to show me some vineyards. I’ve never forgotten that day, even though there would be others to come. I’ll certainly never forget him.