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Jonathan Didier Pabiot

Jonathan Didier Pabiot

Biodynamic Pouilly-Fumé Vibrating with Discreet Energy and Mineral Nuance

Referencing what he saw as a culture of apathy and opportunism in his region, Didier Dagueneau once notoriously opined to Jancis Robinson, “In my opinion, 80% of the growers are thick and lazy.” This was before Jonathan Pabiot’s time, and no such charge could ever be levelled at this progressive grower. Pabiot schooled alongside Didier’s son, Louis Benjamin. While we can only guess whether he knew Pouilly’s Fume’s iconic grower, we can say that a good dose of Dagueneau’s renegade spirit brushed off on a young Jonathan Pabiot.

Frustrated by what he felt was a sterile and conformist teaching environment, Pabiot dropped out of the viticultural school at Cosne-sur-Loire and headed south to work under the uncompromising Faugères terroirist, Didier Barral. The die cast, following two harvests a 21-year-old Pabiot returned to his family estate in 2005. Lucien Pabiot was a coopérateur, yet by 1990 his son (Jonathan’s father—yet another Didier) had built a successful, conventionally-farmed Pouilly-Fumé Domaine comprised of 15 hectares of Sauvignon planted on limestone around the hamlet of Les Loges.

Unwilling to work conventionally, the young grower pulled together 3.5 hectares of vines and began to work organically, independent of his father. Initially sceptical of his methods, it was not long before the elder grower accepted his son’s wines had outshined his own. Within two years, he also began on the road to organics: by 2010, father and son joined forces (and names), to create Domaine Jonathan Didier Pabiot.

Despite the remarkable example of Dagueneau, there are still very few Pouilly producers who plough the soil, avoid using herbicides and pesticides, and keep their yields at reasonable levels. Pabiot is a notable exception to this rule.

Already certified organic, in 2016, this Domaine became the first biodynamically certified producer in Pouilly-Fumé. Centred around 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 geologic range also provides access to mature vines on both Kimmeridgian marl and silex, an allowance used to full advantage in a range of single terroir bottlings.  

Across the Domaine, the vine age averages 30 years. Even from the young vines, yields are low, dipping to 30 hectolitres per hectare for the core release and single-terroir bottlings. De-budding occurs in the springtime to increase the quality and concentration of the remaining buds. Soils are ploughed, and between the rows grasses are planted to compete with surface water and nutrients. The use of copper sulphate is kept to the barest minimum (200g of copper sulphate per hectare, just a tiny fraction of what is allowed under organic certification). With his oldest vines under attack from esca, Pabiot practices the labour-intensive curettage (a ‘surgical’ treatment used to extend the life of his most precious vines).

Pabiot eschews added yeasts or enzymes in the cellar, and given the health of his raw material, uses only small sulphur additions. The grapes are carefully hand-sorted, followed by slow fermentations with indigenous yeast at low temperatures. Depending on the level, fermentation and aging are mainly in stainless steel and concrete, alongside a little neutral oak and ceramic amphorae.

We currently offer five wines. The first wine off the ranks is a limestone-reared Chasselas bottled under the appellation Pouilly-sur-Loire. It’s tempting to describe Chasselas as the Aligoté of Pouilly-Fumé: a once widely planted grape that has fallen on hard times. Pabiot’s example shows us what we may have been missing.

Established in 2018, Elisa is the domaine’s younger vine label. It’s the only wine in the range one might easily identify as a varietal Sauvignon (just). That said, there is ample intensity and texture to set this example apart from the norm. Drawn from mature vines rooted in a palette of soil types, Léon is the domaine’s core Pouilly-Fumé. It’s a statement wine, resonating with a level of texture and length of flavour seldom seen in the region. With the Aubaine and Luminance bottlings, we have a direct comparison of the domaine’s two key soils: caillottes versus terres blanches. Outside of a famous estate in Saint-Andelain, these are two of the most exciting and unconventional wines of Pouilly-Fumé we have encountered: pure and limpid translations of the region’s great terroirs, vibrating with discreet energy and mineral nuance.

Region

Loire Valley, France

Appellation

Centre Loire

Wine Maker

Jonathan Pabiot

“…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

What They Are Saying

“…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 Didier Pabiot

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