Back in the olden days, and the olden days are always the best ones (or, rather, were) my then employers were the UK representatives of one Mr Arnaud Ente. Burgundy was much more affordable in those days though sales of sought-after wines to staff were restricted. As such, my colleagues and I would buy Mr Ente’s Bourgogne Blanc at EP time, along with that of Leflaive and Fichet. They were good days.
Ente’s wines remained under the radar, and were sold to a small group of clients who knew exactly what they were doing, and to a luckier small group of clients who were well looked after by their account managers. And then, maybe a couple or three years ago, the prices started to explode. Wines that were a few hundred pounds per dozen on release were trading at a few thousand per dozen, and then – this is where the relative value bit starts to come in – they started trading at Coche-Dury levels.
Coche-Dury pricing has long been, well, elevated. It is now, with Ente, up there in the heavens. Village Meursault will set you back £400+ a bottle, the premier crus even more. Like Rousseau’s Clos St Jacques, these are wines that only those lucky enough to have an allocation of, or the very rich, will enjoy. Oh. And the very lucky. And that would be me. So: a small dinner at Noizé. Ente vs Coche. With my bottle of knackered Roulot.
Round one: 2008 Meursault, Ente vs 1996 Meursault, Coche-Dury
Well, these days a 1996 white Burgundy gets a round of applause just for being alive, so bravo.
Then the battle begins. The Ente shows exactly as it should do: all nervous energy, buzz, and razor-like precision. The intensity isn’t quite as over the top as it can be but this is a pristine example of just how good this man is. There is a hint of the vintage in its silk-lace acidity.
Then the Coche. I’m still genuinely impressed that it’s all in one piece, more so because it is so fresh. What is has on the Ente is complexity, which unravels with more time in the glass. This is seriously good. Why can’t all white Burgundy keep like this? An outstanding treat.
Sideshow Bob: 2006 Meursault Narvaux, Roulot
The question here is all about oxygen, the interaction of which with wine is key to all stages of the wine’s life. That white wines don’t seem to keep as well as they used to is well documented. That no one really knows why is rarely admitted (there is no one culprit; they are multiple). But at what stage is a bit of an oxidised character a fault in itself? Next to the Ente and the Coche this was knackered, or at least more developed than maybe it should have been. On its own, with a bit of chicken, it would have been perfect, fully mature, evenly developed white Burgundy. Herein lies one of the many challenges of judging wines.
Round two: 2007 Meursault, Caillerets, Coche-Dury vs 2008 Meursault, Sève du Clos, Ente
I’ve had both of these before. Both are impossibly rare (I had to look up the Caillerets last time I had it; it’s a tiny plot in the top left-hand corner of the eponymous Volnay vineyard) and both are impossibly good. Indeed both have prompted me to prose before: HERE and HERE
The Sève du Clos is, as with the 2008 Meursault, immediately Ente. Precision, edge, and that buzz of energy. The vines here are more than a century old, and that, rather than the terroir I reckon, is where the depth comes from. The flavour profile has just the one direction, though the power, weight and length are exceptional.
The Caillerets is as rare as the Sève du Clos. The last time I tasted it I was positively blown away. Second dates rarely have the impact of the first (unless, well, you know) and, initially, that was the case here. Though with time in the glass, this, and the Ente, developed and danced and slowly undressed. This has loosened up in the past couple of years but is still very intense, balletic, Meursault at its best.
We then moved to red. 1969 Clos de Bèze, Clair-Dau (knackered), then 1979 Musigny, Jean-Claude Boisset (corked, but you could see some real quality underneath). This made 2000 Echézeaux, Denis Mugneret the winner of the red Burgundies, though this is a good, rather than great wine.
2005 Rasteau from Gourt de Mautens followed. Blind, I was somewhere between very young and very posh Moulin à Vent or Côte-Rôtie, so not far off. I’d like to try this, or something else from the same producer, again.
Wine of the night, or at least the wine that I could have drunk all day, was 2002 Graacher Himmelreich Eiswein, J.J. Prum. Brilliant. Fresh, deep, grapey in the very best sense of the word, and a sweet wine that cleanses the palate rather than oils it. Perfect.
I thank my companions for their company and their impossibly generous vinous offerings.