Every day, I get around fifteen mails offering me wine for sale. My passion is bulimic, I struggle to buy as little as possible. But the emails propose wines that will tempt me, as the salesmen know my wishes. One mail offers two legendary wines: Dom Perignon 1934 and 1948 Salon. Dom Perignon of the thirties are virtually never on sale, and the 1948 Salon is of one year for which I have never seen any offer.
In the email, the prices offered place these champagnes tariff at the level of Romanée Conti of average years. Since ancient champagnes have a large uncertainty factor, these prices are unacceptable to me. But to let those bottles whose photos are beautiful, it would be a mistake.
I call my friend Tomo and I propose that we buy the two bottles together with the idea that we have dinner the two of us to share them. Tomo accepts. Time passes and, remembering the meal with Les Gaudichots 1929 Domaine de la Romanee Conti where we invited Aubert de Villaine, the very natural idea is to ask Richard Geoffroy of Dom Perignon and Didier Depond of Champagnes Salon Delamotte to join us. A date is found suitable for these two characters with overloaded agendas. Peter, a Scottish friend who could not come to the 196th dinner at the Veuve Clicquot location in Rheims wanted to see me to share great champagnes and Florent, a Lyon friend would also like to share great wines. Our group of six forms, and as often happens, generosity turns to excess to the point that we will have nine bottles plus three magnums making an equivalent of 15 bottles for 6, which means 2.5 bottles per guest. It is anything but rational, but how could I refuse?
Deliberately I reduce the list that I submit to Jean-Marie Ancher of Taillevent restaurant where dinner will be held in the exquisite Chinese salon. Make a menu for a champagne dinner is not easy thing, and make a consistent service order is not simple. The result will prove convincing.
The first three champagnes are quite young (relatively) because we will have an oyster and caviar, who get along better with young champagnes. On the sole fish, we have the oldest champagnes. On poultry the two stars that are causing the dinner will be served. And the meal will continue with other additions.
The first three champagnes are opened at 18:30 and the others are opened at the time of service.
A student and railway workers strike makes us fear defections, but an angel is watching over this meal. The six are present and all bottles are served at the perfect temperature.
The menu composed by Alain Solivérès and Jean-Marie Ancher is: Bellota ham shavings / appetizers: Gillardeau oyster jelly seawater / watercress cream and caviar / sole fillets, Paris mushrooms / farm poultry liver fat and black truffle / Chaource, Brie de Meaux, Coulommiers / mango and black sesame.
We are already three at 7 pm also cede us the temptation of Champagne Delamotte Magnum Collection 1970. Its color is slightly amber, the nose is discreet but beautiful promise. I love the image of Didier Depond who says this wine evokes the summer corn, crushed by the sun. This wine is made of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot. It has already passed the barrier of young wines, shows a nice patina of wine « old ». It is pleasantly fine.
Champagne Dom Perignon magnum P3 1975 has a thunderous nose, so young it smells of sulfur! This toddler forty years is a misspent youth. Unlike P3 (code meaning fullness – plénitude) 1982 we drank recently, there is no mark left by the dosage and I found with an infinite pleasure that P3 is able, too, to offer the romantic charm of a Dom Pérignon. We are fully facing a beautiful Dom Perignon. It is charming, a little too dosé but significantly without trace. It’s good.
Champagne Salon 1988 offers us largeness, power and precision. It is slightly amber with only traces of sensitive evolution. This wine is a warrior and is located opposite the Dom Perignon. Which is the preferred one? You must love both. This Salon, is part of my memory among the greatest Salon 1988 I’ve drunk, coming directly from the cellar of Salon.
Tastes and preferences differ around table. For me the 1988 Salon creates the best vibration with delicious oysters, the jelly creating the link, and it is the Dom Perignon that fits better with Bulgarian high quality caviar. If the watercress cream is delicious, it tends to stifle the caviar if used too much.
The three oldest wines are served together. The Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne Piper 1921 has a much too dark and earthy color. If we only had it to drink, we would look at her messages that exist. But the program is so heavy that we do not dwell us.
Champagne Charles Heidsieck 1911 also has a dark color but slightly less than that of 1921. And unlike the previous wine, the message is more joyful. I see evocations of very nice citrus. Of course wine is tired but pleasant.
Our smiles broaden as soon as we see the color of Champagne Moët 1911 poured into our glasses. It is as clear as that of a young wine. The labeling of the bottle gives the impression of having been made in the 40ies. So it would not be an original disgorging unless the dressing was done without changing the cork. The fragrance is beautiful and elegant and the wine is simply divine. It is a marvel of achievement as if all the complexities were assembled by miracle. This is a John Wayne, confident, serene, playing with ease. This wine is an obvious miracle, with endless aftertaste.
Now come together the two starting points for this dinner. Richard Geoffroy notes that the cloak that covers the cork of a plastic shot, is consistent with this vintage. Champagne Dom Perignon 1934 is incredibly young to the point that Peter doubt of its authenticity. Just show him the cork so that he finds it impossible to have built a fake with such a cork that really ages 80 years. And Richard, humorous said, « it’s curious that when wine is perfect, we say that it is a fake. » The Dom Pérignon has it all, charm, complexity and floral or fruity notes that go in all directions. This incredible wine reinforces my preference for champagne with original disgorging, which I find much more holders of emotion than recently disgorged, brighter and different.
Didier Depond raves at the beauty of the bottle of Champagne Salon 1948. It has no label, but the circular ring around the bottom of the cape gives useful indications. The year is embossed on the cape with golden colors which became gray with time. Didier has never seen such a bottle and never drank Salon 1948. And now comes an incredible surprise. The color of the wine is very clear, like the Dom Perignon confirming that Tomo and I made a good purchase. But this wine has incredible tension and strength including alcoholic strength. As it is impossible that this bottle is false, Peter can see that despite the age of over 65, retirement age, champagnes can have an exceptional vivacity. But where is the surprise? The surprise is that the 1948 is much more powerful than the 1988 Salon from a warrior year. So we are stunned, especially since 1948 did not leave a major mark in the history of champagne. This explains why Salon, which millésimait only exceptional years, chose against all odds to make this dazzling 1948.
So a nice purchase with a Dom Pérignon 1934 in the charm and complexity and a 1948 Salon in the brilliant strength, wealth and exceptional power. This dinner is blessed by the gods.
Champagne Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection 1962 magnum, contrary to what I just said above, gives fully justified late disgorging. For this disgorged wine there has less than two months of disgorgement has a misspent youth. I’ve always loved this year for Moët that I consider one of the greatest. And this bottle directly from the cellars of Moët is the ideal of what Moët can offer: a very drinkable wine, smooth, young, incredibly young and fun. It is even particularly joyful.
From now on, we will off-track from the program I had developed with Jean-Marie Ancher, for serving wine added by crazy generosity.
Champagne Moët & Chandon Dry 1949 is a marvel. It is of course very dosé, but it does not feel. This wine is pleasure. He made us feel at what point 1949 is a great year.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut 1929 is a recent labelling with against-label indicating that the wine was disgorged specially for a designated and named person, but without the date. Particularly felt dosage of this pretty wine very sweet, graceful, which like the previous wine shows and let us feel the nobility of its year. With these two very dosed wines, we are on Olympus of champagne.
The Grand Mesnil Crémant blanc de blancs A. Launois Père & Fils 1955 has a name that was completely unknown to me. What is a ‘Grand Crémant « ? I’m pretty overwhelmed by the incredible liveliness and character of this unusual wine. It is elegant and speaks like a lash. I did not make him the honors it deserves because it is already very late.
What of this madness? The first point is the outstanding quality of the wines that we shared because apart from the Piper 1921 and the small weakness of Charles Heidsieck 1911 all others are at the top of their game.
If I had to do a ranking would be: 1 – Moët 1911, 2 – Dom Perignon 1934 tied with Salon 1948, 4 – Moët 1962, 5 – Moët Dry 1949, 6 – Grand Cramant Launois 1955, 7 – Veuve Clicquot 1929.
The first four are at the top of the hierarchy of champagnes. Both winemakers, Didier and Richard, were impressed by the beauty of the bottles and it makes them think about the fact that the current design of the bottles no longer has the same elegance as before.
The menu was beautifully adapted. The oyster and caviar were ideal for younger, sole perfect for older. Taillevent’s service is outstanding. We were accompanied throughout the meal by an impeccable service of wines. In order to make such complex dinners Taillevent is right and the one.
At the end of the meal, we were all under the shock of this rare event, where all champagnes gave what one could expect better. It was the Salon in 1948 that pushed me to realize its purchase with Tomo. I still have the memory of the incredible energy of this exceptional champagne that will remain forever etched in my memory.
(see pictures in the next message on the same dinner)