Feature Story

30 Under 30: Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau | Vigneron, Loire

The daughter of a château owner. A sommelier. A golfer. The son of a photographer…There’s a lot of young talent in the wine business, coming from different directions. These 30 are rising to the top.

We canvassed our colleagues in the world of wine to find the most creative and accomplished young talent in wine today. All of them are 30 years old or younger; some of them make wine, while others sell it. All of them are names to know: This is the next generation in wine.


“Some clients think I’m the trainee,” says Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau, who has taken over his for his father, Didier Dagueneau, at the famed domaine in the Loire Valley’s St-Andelain. “Some don’t even respond when I greet them…”

Now 28, he was, in fact, a trainee as a child, tasting finished wines in the cellar as well as musts, lees and grapes—green, ripe and rotten. He pursued his father’s trade with diligence, earning a degree in viticulture and spending a year working under Francois Chidaine in Montlouis and another in the vineyards of the Langue-doc with Olivier Jullien. Meanwhile, Didier Dagueneau’s name had become synonymous with terroir-driven Loire Valley sauvignon blanc. He was a master of phenolics, a dog-sled racer and a risk taker, challenging convention with his wines and his personal style—a shoo-in at any Jerry Garcia look-alike contest. Tragically, Didier’s ultralight plane crashed into the Dordogne and caught fire a few short weeks before the 2008 harvest.

"Benjamin remembers joining his father in Burgundy for a tasting in the cellars of Henri Jayer. While poouring a Cros Parantoux, Jayer told Didier, "I wanted to treat myself this weekend and opened a Silex, et bien, it was corked!" Didier went back to smelling his glass and responded shyly, "I think that your wine is corked, too." Jayer put his nose above his glass and retorted: "Yes, but you can really smell the wine behind it!"
Benjamin picked up the role masterfully and courageously,” says Olivier Jullien of Mas Jullien, a close friend of both father and son. “He manages to express his terroirs in a very pure, essential way.”

The success of the 2008 and 2009 vintages has reassured oenophiles the world over. At the helm of both the St-Andelain property and the family’s venture in Jurancon (Les Jardins de Babylone), Benjamin continues to raise the bar. He and his sister, Charlotte, have given the estate a surge of new energy; aside from their work on the wines, they’ve installed solar panels on the winery roof. “To continue to keep alive what my father built is important to me,” he says. “And the domaine must continue to evolve in that same spirit.”


This feature appears in the print edition of Fall 2011.
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