The 200th-dinner of « wine-dinners » will be held at Pavillon Ledoyen. For this dinner, I chose wines which weigh in my heart, for their rarity or for memories I have with them. Having planned reserve wines, « in case », I decided to include them in the program for that special dinner. We will have fifteen wines for eleven people and as one participant added with my agreement a wine and one alcohol, we are embedded for a dinner of 17 wines.
I came to lunch in this place several weeks ago to develop the menu with Yannick Alléno. At 5 pm, the stage is set for the opening of wines. A cameraman is going to film from 5 pm until one o’clock hour when the guests separated.
The cameraman kept track of my reactions when I opened the wines and one of the guests has witnessed. Never would I have imagined such perfection in perfumes. It’s pretty amazing. I had necessarily doubts for Montrachet 1923 but it offers scents of beautiful pink fruit, the Lafite 1898 is incredibly fruity and young, the Nuits Cailles 1915 is imperial, the Richebourg 1929 is transcendent, Yquem 1888 has a rare seduction. Everything looks above what I expected. The 1961 Lafite has a dusty nose, but from the first minute after the opening we already feel that the wine progresses. Curiously, the Montrose 1928 was superb at the first moment and reveals notes less clear when the wine are transported in a temperature-controlled cabinet in order that they are not served too hot.
While I was waiting for the guests, I answered questions of the journalist filming me.
At the arrival of the guests we drink a Champagne Moët & Chandon MCIII (2014) which is an assembly of twenty vintages and was disgorged in 2014. This is a new concept of Moët & Chandon which is a little in the same vein as what Dom Pérignon does with its P2 and P3 and also, in terms of design, is similar to that done by Krug for their Krug Grande Cuvée. Champagne is good, racy, but it remains very Moët, here with a taste a bit clumsy. It is much more comfortable on appetizers and gains in vividness.
The menu composed by Yannick Alléno is: Salinity: Celery Extraction, blanc-manger and oyster leaf – mushroom pie Fleuree Curry – Time crispy cream bacon / langoustines timbale the sole milk Duxelles gratin and small dumplings butter / blue lobster stew with mashed peas / pigeon wing high flaxseed, large sauce Neuvilloise / Japanese beef with sauce, macaroni gratin and celery hay crust / Comté 18 months ripened for us / Bullion fond raspberry statement basil / Meringue roasted mango, mango vinegar and pepper / Madeleine cooked fragrant minute liquorice.
(menu in French : Salinité : Extraction de céleri, blanc à manger et feuille d’huître – Tarte champignon fleurée au curry – Fuseau croustillant à la crème de lard / Timbale de langoustines au lait de sole, duxelles gratinée et petits raviolis au beurre / Homard bleu en civet à la purée de pois-cassé / Aile de pigeon élevé aux graines de lin, grande sauce Neuvilloise / Bœuf japonais, gratin de macaroni et céleri en croûte de foin / Comté 18 mois affiné pour nous / Lingot friand à la framboise relevé au basilic / Meringue de mangue rôtie, vinaigre de mangue et poivre / Madeleine cuite à la minute parfumée à la réglisse.)
We move to table where two Chinese will take place, one American, one Japanese and seven French. The regulars are nine. The parity is not respected because there are only two women at our table.
The first two champagnes are served together. Renaudin Bollinger Champagne 1943 is a bottle that I bought over thirty years ago. There are a few specks of dust floating in the wine, which makes the color of a light gray champagne. If this champagne was alone, we would like it because even in the absence of bubble, the vinous character of this champagne is very nice. It has a beautiful and typical gastronomic attitude.
But our attention focuses to the Champagne Moët 1914 which is exceptional. This is one of my favorite champagnes and it is the one who made me realize that champagnes over thirty years of age have a great interest. Let’s say it has it all, personality, serenity, balance and intensity. When you drink it, it would be difficult to say it has age. This is its complexity with nice citrus notes, which reminds us, what seems incredible, it has 102 years.
Château Haut-Brion white 1938 has a color of a lemon of a misspent youth. Its structural balance and opulent chews that I did not expect a wine of the vintage give a special pleasure that will be seen in the votes.
The Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 1923 is one of the rarest bottles in my cellar, because this wine is impossible to find. The satisfaction I had felt at the opening continues. The wine is beautiful, beautiful color, darker than the Bordeaux. There is a lot of distinction in this relatively powerful wine but very well designed. Langoustines are wonderful, divinely cooked, and agree at the highest point with the two wines so dissimilar. It’s like a gallant meal of the 18th century.
The three red Bordeaux will accompany the delicious lobster but a little too spicy. The Château Lafite-Rothschild 1898 is one of the largest surprises of the evening. It is just perfect. Its color is beautiful and lively, pigeon blood. On the palate its vitality and truffle taste are a unimaginable youth. For it is inconceivable that this wine can have 118 years. I enjoy every drop of this nectar, which has not the genius of Lafite 1900, legendary bottle, but is very close to perfection.
Château Lafite-Rothschild 1961 paradoxically, as a guest say, is older than the 1898. It’s a good wine, but lacks flame. It should normally provide more complexity than what’s in the bottle.
Château Montrose 1928, which is stamped Nicolas cellar, had me worried for a moment after the opening. He now has a fragrance that has not the slightest fault trace. The wine is great because its year is great, but next to the massive force of the 1898, older by thirty years, it is more fragile, more graceful and slender. This is a very good wine.
The Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Cailles Morin Père & Fils 1915 is one of my darlings because every time it appeared, it shone. Fourteen purchased twenty years ago, this is probably the last we share. This wine is a typical example of peasant burgundy. It is right in his boots, square, strong, simple message and shows that even in 101 years, it has the resource. I love this burgundy franc, which fills the mouth with a simple and direct speech where a small trace of truffle I really like. The pigeon wing suits him well but again the spices are a little striking.
The Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1929 is an exceptional wine. In my memories until the last ten years, it is this wine I considered the best of all that I had drunk of Domaine de la Romanée Conti. This wine is not as bright as the 1929 Gaudichots drunk few months ago which had shown at the top of the wines of this domaine, but it is very large. The typical saline side of wines of DRC is very nicely shown. The taste of rose is more a self-suggestion. Wine is strong, rich, more refined than the Nuits-Saint-Georges, intense and with great length. This is the chiseled refinement that is the main characteristic of this wine. Wagyu beef is a perfect balance, fat is well balanced, and the combination is superb with beautiful burgundy racy and powerful.
Château Chalon Jean Bourdy 1865 is of the most prestigious year in the history of yellow wine. If I drank a 1864 this is the first time that I drink a 1865 which is said that instead of six years and three months he would have spent in barrels it has had more than double time before being put in bottles. The nose was explosive opening. It still is. Hyper strong, solid as a rock, he’s so perfect, permeating, it would be impossible to give it an age. This is probably why it has collected few votes because it is difficult to distinguish it from a recent wine. It’s in my vote and I would like to see it in another dinner in front of complex dishes instead of its traditional companion Comté. But as recalled Yannick Alléno come chat with us, it is I who have suggested the Comté since the menu was already widely furbished with previous hearty dishes.
I wanted to create a break between the yellow wine with such an extreme track and sweet wines. It will be performed by two champagnes. Champagne Veuve Clicquot Rosé 1928 is a little tired, too focused are we on the rosé Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1953 which is much more pleasant and lively. With the delicious dessert with raspberry, this break creates the most beautiful effect.
Château d’Yquem 1888 has a slight smell of cork which, at the beginning did not really affect the taste. This indelicate smell did not exist at the time of the opening. The cork taint develops and reinforces my idea that one should not buy bottles that were reconditioned. The delicious dessert with mango would make Yquem almost charming.
The Wine of Cyprus 1845 is one of my favorite wines, all appellations. That may be the wine I put more frequently in my dinners: twelve times. This wine is a perfume. It smells. Being both very sweet wine and dry wine, it is peppery and evokes licorice which explains the presence of the madeleine that I asked to add to the meal.
One participant came with a bottle of Hennessy Cognac Paradis which is the assembly of old brandies 19th and 20th century. This alcohol is extremely soft and subtle and shows that its complexity is made of very old spirits. I love it.
Then comes the alcohol I had planned, yellow Chartreuse « 75 ° Proof » from the early 30ies. A specialist of Chartreuse to whom I have sent pictures of the label does not know this chartreuse that can obviously not titrate 75 °. He first answered with the date of 1912/1913 but after examining joined my estimation of the early 30ies. If the Chateau Chalon and wine of Cyprus were olfactory bombs, the Chartreuse is a thermonuclear bomb. This alcohol is incredibly fragrant reminiscent of spring flowers and anise. Very sweet, this liqueur is a wonder to finish this incredible journey.
Vote for fifteen wines is not easy. We will vote for our favorite five, leaving out the cognac and the Chartreuse which are in a different world, even if extraordinary. Eleven wines have received at least one vote, which is always a pleasure for me. Excluded of the votes are Bollinger 1943, the Veuve Clicquot 1928 and Yquem 1888 which is logical because of their slight defects. One wine has been chosen by the eleven voters, the Richebourg 1929. Four wines were voted as first: the 1929 Richebourg six times, three times the 1898 Lafite, Haut-Brion white 1938 and the 1928 Montrose each once.
The consensus of the vote would be: 1 – Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1929, 2 – Château Lafite-Rothschild 1898, 3 – Château Haut-Brion white 1938 4 – Champagne Moët 1914 5 – Wine of Cyprus 1845, 6 – Château Montrose 1928.
My vote has the same first four: 1 – Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1929, 2 – Château Lafite-Rothschild 1898, 3 – Château Haut-Brion white 1938 4 – Champagne Moët 1914 5 – Château Chalon Jean Bourdy 1865.
Yannick Alléno made an absolutely consistent cooking for wines, the combinations being a rare accuracy, the spices once or twice were too generous. The dishes have proven smart for wines and desserts an ideal fit. Chef happy to meet us stayed long at our table, chatting with the guests he knows.
The wine service was perfect and the service of the dishes, the restaurant team showing a commitment that deserves mention. This dinner 200th, with exciting guests and fans was at the height of my hopes, the wines are, themselves, above what I expected. Good thing for a 200th dinner!
(pictures of this dinner are included in the article in French of this dinner)