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Domaine Jonathan Didier Pabiot

“A-League” Biodynamic Pouilly-Fumé
Domaine Jonathan Didier Pabiot
Surprisingly, this was our first visit to Jonathan and Nina Pabiot in Pouilly-Fumé. Of course, we’d met at a trade fair in France, which is how we came to be shipping the wines. However, our last two attempts to visit the domaine ended in heroic failure. The first missed appointment ended next to the cemetery in Vouvray with smoke bellowing from the car engine; the second when Air France misplaced our luggage, turning our schedule into a weeklong black comedy.

Better late than never. Pabiot’s cellar lies just outside the hamlet of Les Loges on the banks of the Loire River, surrounded by some of the domaine’s beautifully tended vineyards. Before we arrived, one of our growers had already paid Jonathan Pabiot the ultimate compliment: “If you had no idea what was in your glass, you wouldn’t know it was Sauvignon Blanc.”

Pabiot is what you might call the strong, silent type—a man of actions, not words. In 2006, instead of joining his father’s established estate, he set up his own small, 3.5-hectare organic domaine following an apprenticeship with Didier Barral in Faugères. Didier Pabiot was initially sceptical of his son’s retrograde methods but soon accepted that his son’s wines outshone his own. Within two years, he also began the road to organics, and by 2010, father and son joined forces (and names) to create the 20-hectare Domaine Jonathan Didier Pabiot.

Already certified organic, in 2016 this became the first Pouilly-Fumé domaine to achieve biodynamic certification. Centred on the stony caillottes of Les Loges, the vineyards stretch across the entire appellation, with mature vines set across the villages of Villiers, Charenton, Tracy-sur-Loire and Saint-Laurent-l’Abbaye. The soils of Pouilly-Fumé vary considerably, and this geological range gives Pabiot access to mature vines on both Kimmeridgian marl and silex, an allowance he uses to full advantage in his range of single-terroir bottlings.

The vines have an average age of 30 years across the domaine. Yields are low even at the young-vine level, dipping to 30 hl/ha for the core release and single-terroir bottlings, resulting in amplitude and richness that few in the region dare to achieve. The grower we mentioned earlier was right; this is not an address to come to for green varietal flavours or the Pouilly-Fumé you read about in textbooks. “There is so much green Sauvignon here,” says Pabiot, “and that’s what I am trying to avoid.”

And avoid mean and green he does. The flavours are not of gooseberries, asparagus or micturating felines, as Andrew Jefford once so fabulously put it. Elisa, the entry-level Pouilly Fumé, is nuanced, silky and chiselled rather than acidic. The Aubaine cuvée floats out of the glass with enigmatic Alsace-like perfumes and lees-polished texture. Then, you have the smoke and chalk-infused intensity of Luminance. Cropped from a hillside of terres blanches limestone, it’s a rock-reared white of great texture and presence. Whichever wine you choose, you can expect a charismatic French white that articulates the stony soils of Pouilly-Fumé like few others.

The Wines

Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Aubaine 2022

Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Aubaine 2022

Pabiot’s first single-terroir Pouilly-Fumé comes from mature vines in Tracy-sur-Loire on caillottes, a weathered limestone soil of Portlandian origin with lots of stones on the surface. Specifically, Aubaine is hand-harvested from one hectare of Les Champs de Cris high above the river on a plateau—a vineyard Pabiot describes as “a joy to work”. Aubaine and Luminance are made identically. Both are hand-harvested, naturally vinified and raised mostly in concrete—with 20% old oak and porcelain amphora—for 18 months. So, the difference comes down purely to the two terroirs: caillottes versus terres blanches.

Aubaine translates as ‘something to appreciate’, and this is the marginally more approachable of the two single-vineyard wines we offer today. It shimmies out of the glass with smoky yellow fruit, ground almond and marjoram herbal tones. Riper citrus notes on the palate join gliding texture, all framed by cool, zesty structure. It’s easy to see why Pabiot has had his run-ins with the appellation’s tasters; for all the best reasons; there’s nothing typical about this stimulating Blanc Fumé de Pouilly.

Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Aubaine 2022
Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Elisa 2023

Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Elisa 2023

Previously labelled Prélude and now named after the winegrower’s youngest, Elisa, this is the first Pouilly in the range. It’s drawn from the domaine’s younger vines, and shrewd yields and precise farming elevate this above the norm. The vineyards cover the gamut of Pouilly’s soil types from a selection of lieux-dits, including limestone, silica and flint. The grapes are pressed as bunches with some crushing for structure, and aging occurs in stainless steel tanks on the lees for eight to 12 months. Despite the price, this bottling is the domaine’s smallest. It’s also the most citrusy, oozing fleshy ripe lemon, grapefruit pith and flecked with florals and juicy white fruit, all neatly cosseted by chalky salinity. It’s a great window into the Pabiot style.

Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Elisa 2023
Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Luminance 2022

Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Luminance 2022

Formerly called Prédilection, this cuvée comes from a parcel of vines planted on terres blanches, or Kimmeridgian marl. This beautiful, steep, terraced vineyard close to the cellar in Les Loges was planted by Didier Pabiot, and the vines are now 50 years old on average. The very poor soil has an active lime content of over 70%, which makes the vines struggle, giving a saltier, more coiled style than Aubaine. In Burgundy terms, you could imagine the difference between Chablis and the Côte d’Or.

Luminance is a statement wine in the best sense, resonating with a level of mouthwatering vinosity and seamless flavour seldom seen in the region. The palate is polished, pure and tense, with a grippy density packed with chalky grip and wisps of smoke overlying the swell of quince, apricot stone and touch of exotic richness. Already exciting, it has the potential to grow into an enthralling Pouilly-Fumé, given the chance. 

Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Luminance 2022

“The new Didier Dagueneau? That’s easy; it’s his son, Benjamin. But Benjamin has a soul brother, Jonathan Pabiot. Together – well, each at his own domaine – they are making the best, most probing, and most exciting Pouilly-Fumés.” Jacqueline Friedrich, Wines of the Loire, Volume 1

“…make no mistake, there are certainly some stunning wines to be found chez Pabiot; you just have to make sure you get the right Pabiot, as there are plenty of them around Pouilly-Fumé.” Chris Kissack, The Wine Doctor

“Jonathan Pabiot sees what most of us can’t in Pouilly-Fumé: a compelling appellation with distinctive soils and the ability to show itself with specificity and depth.” Jon Bonné, The New French Wine

“This estate is definitely in the Pouilly-Fumé A league.” Rebecca Gibb MW

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