Wars come and go, but the wine tradition endures

January 14, 2013

German Gewürztraminer grapes

German Gewürztraminer grapes

After five years as a prisoner of war, Gaston Huet quickly became one of France’s greatest winemakers. He also became mayor of Vouvray, a post he held for forty-six years.

At age ninety, he is still active.(1) He spends a great deal of time visiting oenological schools and speaking with aspiring winemakers. His advice: “Forget everything you’ve learned in school. Get rid of bad habits. Come back to traditions.”…

Vouvray is a French region of the Loire Valley located in the Touraine district just east of the city of Tours. Viticulture has existed around the village of Vouvray since the Middle Ages.

Until recently, the one other thing he treasured was the annual reunion with those who had been imprisoned with him at Oflag IV D….

Huet’s belief in tradition is something Jean Hugel fiercely embraced. Over and over again, he told his three sons that “a well-treated wine is an untreated wine,” and that the winemaker should allow Nature to follow its own course as much as possible.

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Never were the wines he made better displayed than in June 1989. That is when the Hugels finally had their party—fifty years after they had planned it. The first one, scheduled to celebrate their 300th anniversary as wine producers in 1939, had to be canceled when war was declared. Now they were celebrating their 350th anniversary.

Gewurztraminer

Gewurztraminer

It was a glamorous event that included a tasting of some of the greatest wines from the Hugels’ cellar. They included the 1945 Gewürztraminer Sélection des Grains Nobles, a wine of extraordinary sweetness, complexity and concentration. “It’s a wine that tastes like it will live forever,” Johnny Hugel said.

 

Don and Petie Kladstrup, Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure (New York: Broadway Books, 2002), 243-44.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 247

(1) Nobility.org Editorial Note: This book was published in 2002. Mr. Huet has since passed.

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