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2009 Puligny-Montrachet, Les Referts, 1er Cru, Domaine Arnaud Ente
Domaine Arnaud Ente is one of the hottest wine properties in Mersault today and arguably Burgundy's brightest rising star. Stylistically Arnaud's wines lie somewhere between the rich, generous, hedonistic style of Dominique Lafon and the linear, precise, mineral, citrus character of Coche Dury.
Arnaud's family is originally from the north of France. His father married the daughter of Puligny vigneron Camille David and Arnaud was born in 1966. The vineyards from this connection are currently being exploited by Arnaud’s brother Benoit (and by an aunt who sells in bulk to negociants). While working at the legendary Coche Dury, Arnaud married Marie-Odile Thévenot in 1991 and the following year started work in Meursault, farming vineyards rented from his father-in-law, vigneron Phillipe Thévenot.
During the 1990s Arnaud's wines attracted a lot of attention for their opulent style, due to his preference to pick late for maximum ripeness. Since 2000 the wines have displayed a more complex, naturally acidic style with enhanced minerality, which reflects the move to a programme of earlier picking. His wines are now amongst the very finest in the village.
Arnaud's aim is to do the best possible job from the vineyards he has available to him. He currently exploits 4 hectares with a total workforce of four people: himself, his wife Marie-Odile and two employees. Few, if any, other domaines have as high a ratio of man hours per hectare.
Arnaud is every bit as meticulous in the cellar as in the vineyard. The grapes are sometimes crushed before pressing in a hydraulic press, before the juice is settled and then put into barrel. Large 600 litre barrels are used for his Aligoté, Bourgogne Blanc and some of his regular Meursault cuvée. The rest is vinified and matured in normal barrels for the first year, without much emphasis on new oak. With the thoughtfulness for which Arnaud is known, the percentage of new wood barrels used for his top wines has dropped from 35% to 20% and a variety of different barrel types are now used to increase the complexity of the final wines.
The white grapes are usually crushed, though not always, before pressing. The must is left to settle for 24 hours then the clear juice and fine lees are put in barrel for 11 months ageing before being racked into tank for a further six months maturation. They are bottled without fining or filtration. As well as the wines listed below there are interesting cuvees of Aligoté and red Bourgogne Grande Ordinaire (gamay) both from vines planted in 1938, and Bourgogne Blanc.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
Puligny was one of two villages (along with Chassagne) which gained permission in 1879 to hyphenate the name of its most famous vineyard, Montrachet, to its own.
The reputation of Puligny-Montrachet is based around its four Grands Crus. Montrachet labels often boast a noble, triumphant ‘Le’ in front of its name, lest you dare confuse it with any lesser wine. It has much to be proud of, with many considering Montrachet to be the greatest white wine in the world. At its best it has an intensity, complexity and elegance that make you wonder how such a wine could be made from mere grapes.
The luxurious and explosive Chevalier-Montrachet is not quite as deep, although it is probably the next best. Only marginally less impressive, and rather more consistent than Montrachet is the richly textured Bâtard-Montrachet (also shared with Chassagne). Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet is equally good, with the focus on honeyed finesse and exquisite balance rather than richness.
These legendary wines are supported by a host of fabulous Premier Cru vineyards capable of reaching Grand Cru quality. Brimming with flavour and intensity, Le Cailleret and Les Pucelles (which both lie across the road from Le Montrachet) are prime candidates, along with Les Demoiselles, Les Combettes and Folatières.
Sandwiched between the larger Chassagne and Meursault, Puligny produces wines that are more striking than any in the Côte d’Or, portraying a floral elegance alongside a stylish, steely concentration. They are very different to Meursault: more refined and delicate, and less rich.
Village level Puligny-Montrachet from top growers can be very good indeed, but is all too often unexciting and disappointing. Grands Crus normally need at least eight years before they can be broached, and last for 20 or more. Premiers Crus should generally be enjoyed between five and 15 years of age; village wines from three to 10 years.
In theory, you can find red Puligny-Montrachet, but it scarcely exists anymore, and is rarely worth the price tag.
- 114 hectares of village Puligny-Montrachet
- 100 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (17 in all). The best vineyards include Les Demoiselles, Le Cailleret, Les Pucelles, Les Combettes, Les Folatières
- 21 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Le Montrachet (part), Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet (part), Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet
- Recommended Producers: Leflaive, Carillon
- Recommended Restaurant: Le Montrachet (excellent cuisine and good wine list; also an hotel)
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