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The Search of the Ultimate White Burgundy is Over!

I found the answer finally!

What was the best white burgundy out there? After doing extensive soul searching for the last three or five years (since I started drinking whites), or twenty odd years since I started drinking wines, I finally found the answer last night.

My crazy friends who truly enjoyed this ultimate search sprang an idea about 3 months ago, decided to drink a bottle of the elusive and exclusive Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne!  Not only was it a label that’s most talked about, but also a label that commands a crazy price tag. A simple search online showed that London merchants are selling the 2001 vintage for S$5,820.. that’s before any GST, freight, insurance, government alcoholic taxes… etc! I’d round it up to be around S$6,250. My friend send his dad a photo and price tag, his father mistaken this as a 12 bottle case price tag, jaws dropped when learned that the price was for a bottle.

Surely, Bok also dropped his jaws for such an expensive bottle. I’m not a spendthrift person, but in order to search for the ultimate white burgundy, one has to splurge once in his lifetime(didn’t Bok tell you I drank on behalf of you? I helped you save unnecessary experimental money! I’m glad you’re reading this article!).

The pain was shared with 4 other friends, so the damage per pax wasn’t as painful, but it still hurts, although I slept soundly last night without having to look back ever.

The Final Lineup
Of course we can’t drink a Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne alone, there must be some other actresses to company this white queen. After a few rounds of discussions and vetoes (the attendees have full veto power, all it takes is one person to say no to have the actress shelved), we decided to pick our past best bottles to accompany this queen, the final lineup:
–    Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet 89
–    Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet 89
–    Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 2001
–    Blind bottle of a ringer that can stand up against the queen
We are supposed to have a killer champagne to kick start the dinner, but our organizer decided to pull the plug last minute, and he’s going to insert a ringer into this flight of white burgundy. He said he won’t bring rubbish, certainly something to keep the queen sitting tight. I rest my faith with the organizer as he’s a no nonsense guy.

Facts on Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 

A bit of facts on Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne, it was planted on a 0.34 hectares land, which amounted to 3 to 4 barrels a year, which produces anything from 1,100 to 1,500 bottles a year. Using DRC Romanee Conti as a benchmark, they hold 1.8 hectares of land, producing some 5,400 to 6,000 bottles a year, and the average bottle costs north of $20,000. Relatively, Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne is cheap in terms of it’s price tag then.I believe it is this rarity that pushed the prices upwards, afterall, this bottle is equivalent of taking a private jet instead of commercial airlines to reach destination.
All bottles were served blind to maintain unbiased opinion.
The first flight was quickly served, containing the Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 2001. My frank and unadulterated opinion:
Glass #1
On the first whiff, very oily, but within less than a minute, it turned floral, more like summer flower submerged in oil. Thereafter, consistently it was mildly flinty, slight smoke and matchstick character.My first few sips and I blurted out “this is very Corton Charlemagne style”,and I flashed through a few makers to try to recall my palate memory to have a signature match, but could not find any. The wine melted on the tongue and dissolved quickly, however, the taste lingered around for quite long. Certainly a big wine in any aspect, a tinge of sweet sour plum and very oily, very blunt. It was holding in the glass extremely well for the 3 hours that I drank it.
Score: 4.5 starsGlass #2
Unbelievable evolution on the nose, watch this: from very muted nose, turned orange, then butter, followed by toffee and coffee, evolved into caramel, and ended up with slight Indian spice! The content was equally impressive. Started off with orange and orange peel. At this point I was having some reference data points, started to recall my drinking experience with Coche Dury’s production I had in the past (Meursault Blanc 2010 & 2012, 1er Cru Caillerets 2010,  Les Rougeots 2010 … etc), their Meursault seemed to have a character of orange and orange peel, but I said how can such character be ported over to Cote de Beaunes’ Corton Charlemagne? Impossible…. But I cannot persuade myself this was not a Coche Dury! Another character of Coche surfaced: lean, tight and focused, extremely soft and refined! Mind blowingly great and gorgeous! At this point I was assured this has to be a bottle of Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne, and I did not hesitate to pen it down as a perfect choice between glass #1 and glass #2!
Score: 5 starsIntermission:
As this was a night to search for the ultimate white burgundy, all of us decided to serve the remaining 2 glasses in blind, just to make sure we have fair comparison. I was as anxious as you to reveal the answer, but you have to hold your breath and read on!

This coming glass is going to rewrite history..
Watch out!
Glass #3
Until glass #2 was served, it was my wine of the night, but glass #3 is going to rewrite history and made my choice extremely difficult.

What a nose! Without tasting the wine, this kind of elegance and finesse on the nose was unprecedented!My palate had to rewire again, as this glass messed up whatever I knew about white wines! I was exclaiming this gotta be the Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet as I always find it very feminine.

The richness of the content was so precise; it was fat and rich at all the right places, not an ounce of extra richness on the wrong place, the wine was in perfect harmony, really seductive. At this point I casted my vote for glass #3 to be my favorite.

Amazing Lasting Power!
However, with top white burgundies, they have amazing lasting power, my experience with white was that, leave some in the glass and revisit them after you have finished up your reds, I bet you they’re still alive. Another point to note about white burgundy was that (and read my lips carefully),people ignored the evolution of the content in the glass, but great white burgundies possessed the most evolutional character!  So I decided to hold on to my verdict till much later.
Score: 5 stars

 

Glass #4
I used to taste 15 different labels at one go, and still can pen down all my notes in details and rank them in order, thus tasting 4 glasses of white burgundies should be a piece of cake, or I thought so. Not so simple at such top level tasting, they all have their own beauty and charm in it’s own way. Then there’s this “potential” element that’s the most difficult to gauge.

As a buyer, I want to buy wines for tomorrow, not for current drinking, so my foresight has to be good and able to spot potentials. 

Nose was a bit dusty (not clean like the other glasses), big and intense, definitely the most assertive nose of the four. Palate was soft but powerful, what a contradictory statement! Let me give you an analogy – driving a powerful but effortless car (perhaps a Bentley?) rather than a rugged car like a Subaru WRX, that’s the difference here. It simply ended with soft landing, no harshness, really subtle and mellow, effortless. Sadly it turned sugarcane at the end of the dinner about 4 hours later.
Score: 5 stars

Verdict, Get Ready! 
My preference on the initial tasting of 4 glasses would have been:
–    Glass #3
–    Glass #4
–    Glass #2
–    Glass #1But over time, I keep adjusting my scores as I have to take into the consideration of the potential and evolution.This was my final verdict:
–    Glass #2
–    Glass #3
–    Glass #4
–    Glass #1The Reveals!!4th Spot
Most Expensive Bottle Doesn’t Mean it’s The Best!

Let’s start with Glass #1 (4th spot), the least favorite of mine. Don’t fall off the chair, yes it was the $6,250 bottle of Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 2001! On hindsight, it deserved to be a Corton Charlemagneas it tasted like one from the palate perspective, but my mind was just trying to rule over facts that this ought to be a cheap ringer (probably some Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne) that my friend brought along as a comparison to the Coche Dury. Time and over again it was proven that the most expensive wine won’t deserve the top spot, so don’t let its price fool you into believing that the most expensive is the best.
3rd Spot
Glass #4 (3rd spot), she was the Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet 89 that I thought highly, but could not stand up to the bigger guys like Glass #2 & #3.As much as I love the powerful but effortless car, I had to downgrade it from 2nd spot to 3rd spot based upon the evolution over time; it doesn’t have the longevity and holding power compared to the rest.

Runner Up!

Glass #3 (runner up) was rightfully Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet 89. I drank this a couple of years ago and was simply stunned by it, easily my top 5 white burgundies in my life. Wasn’t surprised it came in as one of the top spot.
The Winner is…
I was completely stunned!
One of the most underrated vintages of white burgundies!
Glass #2 (the ringer, the winner, and the ultimate white, what was it?), well guys, it was really tough choice between 2nd and 1st, but 1st stood out as it does have a totally awesome character and a huge potential ahead of her. Who says negociant don’t produce great wines? Yes, it was the younger sibling of #3, a Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet 2004!Sorry if you fell off your chair, I was completely stunned! Two bottles of different vintages of Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet took the top 2 spots as the best white burgundies? Surely! The producer is that great! On hindsight, it made sense why 2004 took the top spot, actually many drinkers used red burgundy vintages to reference the whites, which was totally wrong! Red burgundies 2004 was poor, doesn’t mean that Chardonnay can’t make good wines, in fact, it was one of the most under-rated vintages of white burgundies in recent memory. Fielding next to it was another great white burgundy vintage of 1989.
The goal here was to see if a Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne could stand up against the best white burgundies coming from the top plot, obviously I have found my answers tonight that the best white burgundies still belonged to the best Grand Cru plots in Puligny Montrachet, and the best of the best still stays in Le Montrachet plots.
As such, I have to conclude that my search for the ultimate white has just ended, Montrachet is it!
I could continue with my article on the reds that was so rare tonight, they’re truly unicorn wines, but my preference was the whites over the reds tonight, so I didn’t want to rumble on and on. In any case, these were the unicorn reds served:
–    Chateau Rayas 1971
–    Jacky Trochots Clos des Sorbes 1985
–    Gentaz Cote Rotie 1985Unicorns or not, I prefer to rest my dreams with the whites as that was truly a stunning ultimate tasting that’s not going to happen anytime soon for me!
Happy drinking! 

 

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