The Loire Valley lost one of its more influential and iconic winemakers with the passing of Jacky Blot on May 15 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 75.
Widely credited with uplifting the reputation of Montlouis and the entire Loire Valley, Blot crafted some of the French region’s most concentrated and complex Chenin Blancs, championing a new completely dry, terroir-driven style.
"Jacky was one of France's great growers and one of the most generous, kindest human beings I've ever met," David Hinkle of Skurnik Wines & Spirits, Blot’s longtime U.S. importer and friend, told Wine Spectator. "He touched so many people with his passion and infectious enthusiasm and has left an incalculable imprint on the history of wine, inspiring so many young producers and helping set the stage for so many of today's great dry Chenins, Cabernet Francs and bubbles."
Blot began his career in the French military as a parachutist before becoming a wine broker in the Loire Valley. In 1989, he purchased Domaine de La Taille Aux Loups in the underachieving Montlouis commune, just across the Loire river from Vouvray, where he set out to craft Chenin Blancs that were complex, dry and vibrant, rather than the mass-produced sweet versions the region was then known for.
"Jacky felt with all his heart that sugar was something that blurred the underlying beauty of Chenin Blanc and hid the vineyard specificity of place," said Hinkle. He felt "it was used to mask defects. His desire from the start was infinite purity and freshness and balance."
He soon earned a reputation throughout the Loire as a trailblazer, pioneering organic viticulture and ambient yeast fermentations, practices that were highly unconventional in the early 1990s. In the cellar, he experimented with similarly uncommon techniques such as fermenting in barrel and blocking malolactic fermentation. Working with low yields and vines more than 50 years old, Blot set a new bar for quality and revolutionized the reputation of Montlouis. (He may have also ruffled some feathers in Vouvray.)
"Montlouis was a little like the conquest of the West," Blot said in a video interview with the Skurnik team in 2017. "It was an appellation that was in the shadow of Vouvray for a long time, with no reputation but with affordable vineyards, which led to many outsiders with a lot of passion but not a lot of money coming in. There are many now farming organically; we are no longer alone." Exciting change occurs not in regions where "business is easy and you live life well," Blot argued, but rather in the lesser-known places that are underappreciated.
Blot acquired Domaine de La Butte in Bourgueil in 2002, where he—alongside his son, Jean-Philippe—took a similar approach to crafting Cabernet Francs of unusual purity and finesse, which are widely recognized as some of the best in the region. Blot is also well known for his complex sparkling Chenin Blancs, especially his bone-dry Montlouis "Triple Zero" with zero chaptalization, zero liqueur de tirage and zero dosage—the three stages of the sparkling process where sugar is introduced.
Blot’s work galvanized a movement in the Loire Valley, with many young vignerons looking to him for inspiration. He is survived by his wife, Joëlle, his children and several grandchildren. Jean-Philippe, who began working with his father at 17, will continue to helm the wineries.
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