The 211st wine-dinners dinner is held at the Guy Savoy restaurant on the first floor of the Hôtel de la Monnaie. My wines were delivered a week ago and at 5 pm I am ready to open the wines. The Japanese journalist with whom I had lunch at l’Archeste is present to take pictures of the opening session. All bottles have exceptional levels, almost in the neck for all. All the corks are original and when they break in two or three pieces, it is due to the irregularity of the glass inside the neck. This is the case of the Carbonnieux blanc 1952, the Gruaud-Larose Sarget 1928, and the oldest wine, the Sigalas-Rabaud 1917, which is just one hundred years old and whose bottle is not industrial but blown. When the glass is pinched inside the neck, the term « bottleneck » is better understood, because the cork does not want to go out. But everything goes well and the aromas that emerge from the wines are all promising and sometimes timid as the one of the Chevalier-Montrachet 1981. The scent of the Sigalas-Rabaud 1917 is so breathtakingly aromatic complex that I take the bottle in the kitchen to let the pastry chef smell the wine, so that he can soak up these paradisiac scents to create a dessert with mango. One cannot dream better as an opening session, with absolute faultlessness.
We are nine diners around the pretty table where all the glasses were placed. There are two American people, one Japanese person and six French people. There are three new and six regulars. There is a female majority of five for four. For this dinner I wanted to launch with the complicity of Guy Savoy a novelty. Yquem Y wine sometimes contains botrytised grapes. Also, instead of putting this Y with the dry white wines that precede the reds, I want to put it just before the end of meal finishing with a sauternes. Guy Savoy for his part would like us to try a Saint-Nectaire and champagne agreement. He would like to have a champagne at the end of the meal. For the Y, I would like a poached foie gras which I love, and we decide Guy and I a madness that will put the poached foie gras right after the cheese. It is daring, but we must know how to explore new adventures.
The menu composed by Guy Savoy, which we have developed together, is: Lobster Surprise / A piece of enormous turbot cooked simply / Pigeon grilled on the barbecue / Sweatbread browned with morels, juice under the crust / Saint-Nectaire cheese, crust and champagne in jelly / Duck foie gras as a spring pot-au-feu / Honey from here and mangoes.
This menu is particularly exciting because everything has been done to enhance the product. Thus, the pigeon will be served without any accompaniment and poached foie gras will be served without its pot-au-feu, to have it in its purity.
As a champagne was placed at the end, I added a champagne for the aperitif. The Champagne Henriot Cuvée des Enchanteleurs 1998 is very reassuring and consensual. Readily, he drinks with joy on the diabolical little sticks of toast with foie gras. It has a little caramel in the middle of the mouth.
Champagne Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises 1999 is more difficult to understand. It is a white of blacks (Blanc de Noirs) coming from prephylloxeric vines, sophisticated, of great race but it is a champagne that is nevertheless intellectual.
When the lobster is served to us, like my neighbor, I waited for a hot dish especially for the sauce creme. The Château Carbonnieux blanc 1952 surprises everyone because how is it possible for a 65-year-old wine to have such a presence, such a balance? It is a very gourmand, subtle, spicy wine that is well suited to the flesh of lobster. The dish if served hot would be even better for wine.
The Chevalier-Montrachet Domaine Leflaive 1981 has an explosive and generous perfume. In the mouth it is round and powerful. He’s an incredible presence. He occupies the front of the stage. It fits well with the turbot.
The pigeon is associated with two bordeaux whose difference of age makes that there is no competition. The pigeon is served without accompaniment which will create superb combinations as the tenderness of the flesh is highlighted. The Château Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre 1976 is a margaux of a beautiful youth rich and truffle that profits full of the pigeon’s chew. It is an ideal wine of balance and accuracy.
But next to him, the 1928 Gruaud-Larose Sarget Chateau, of a quite astonishing level in the neck, has a rare pigeon’s blood colored robe. The wine is elegant. It is lively, round and you feel it brings a little more than the margaux. The year 1928 is so exceptional that this wine would be considered blind as a wine of the sixties. This racy wine must be associated with the word « elegance » which suits it perfectly. He has the highest number of votes: 8 out of 9 possible. It is hard to imagine that at almost 90 years he has this presence.
The Corton Grancey Domaine Louis Latour 1964 makes us enter the world of burgundy, all in sensuality. He does not deviate from this reputation, sensuous, almost sweet, sweet as if sugared and the sweetbread suits him, with a purée of morels that Guy Savoy has adjusted with a grain of mustard so that it excites the combination.
The Clos de Vougeot Domaine Méo-Camuzet 1991 is the wine that made me discover the Domaine Méo Camuzet twenty years ago and I have a special love for this one, full and racy with small accents of Rhône wines, so rich is he. In spite of its beautiful youth one is more attracted on the sweetbread with the Corton.
We will now enter into gastronomic audacity. Guy Savoy invented a Saint-Nectaire treatment for a champagne. So I changed the original place of Champagne Dom Pérignon 1988 which was at the beginning of the meal so that it is served now. This champagne is pure glory. It is in a state of ideal growth. It is wonderful with small honeyed notes of the color of the Saint-Nectaire. We will be some to prefer the pure Saint-Nectaire, rather than with its champagne jelly, even if agreement is possible. This interlude at this time of the meal is awesome.
When I am shown the cassolette where the lobe of foie gras rests in a pot-au-feu, I ask that absolutely we serve only the poached foie gras, without further additions. And the harmony with the Y of the Château d’Yquem 1985 is simply phenomenal. It is so good that I ask Guy Savoy to come and take a little liver from my plate to associate it with a sip of the Y. It’s divine and where I’m proud is that Guy Savoy is considering putting this poached liver into his new menu card. If he gives it my name, as Jean-Marie Ancher of Taillevent had done for scallops, I would be proud as Artaban. Y 1985 is for me one of the biggest Y. It is less botrytised than what I had as a memory, but it is of a roundness and a charm which enchant me. To put a poached foie gras after a cheese, you had to dare. The whole table is conquered by this audacity.
And our palate is ready, what I wanted, to welcome an absolute wonder, the Château Sigalas Rabaud Sauternes 1917. Its color is black, or caramel. While in the bottle the wine is opaque, in the glass it is nicely gilded. Its perfume is to be damned. More than others I have the eyes of Chimene for the old sauternes and there I am conquered. The fragrance is so complex with exotic fruits, mango but also pepper, spices and autumn fruits. I could stay for hours intoxicated by this perfume. In the mouth the wine is a sun. The dessert with the mango is very conform to the taste necessary for the sauternes but what it lacks is the chew. It’s a dessert that we nibble more than we bite. I would have liked dice of mango much thicker and fleshed so that one bites before tasting the absolute nectar centenary to infinite length.
We are nine voters and for once we will vote for the best five wines instead of four usually. What is extremely pleasant is that all the wines have had at least one vote which means that each of the eleven wines was deemed worthy to be in the top five by at least one guest. The disparity of votes is extreme. Gruaud-Larose appears on eight voting sheets, the Chevalier-Montrachet has seven votes and the Sigalas-Rabaud six votes.
Five wines had the honor of being named first, the Sigalas-Rabaud 1917 four times, the Corton Grancey 1964 twice and then three wines were named first once, Gruaud Larose 1928, Y d’Yquem 1985 and The Dom Pérignon 1988.
The classification compiling the votes of each one is: 1 – Château Sigalas-Rabaud Sauternes 1917, 2 – Château Gruaud-Larose Sarget 1928, 3 – Champagne Dom Pérignon 1988, 4 – Corton Grancey Domaine Louis Latour 1964, 5 – Chevalier-Montrachet Domaine Leflaive 1981, 6 – Y of the Château d’Yquem 1985.
My vote is: 1 – Château Sigalas-Rabaud Sauternes 1917, 2 – Champagne Dom Pérignon 1988, 3 – Y of Château d’Yquem 1985, 4 – Chateau Gruaud-Larose Sarget 1928, 5 – Chevalier-Montrachet Domaine Leflaive 1981.
It should be noted that the consensus vote places first and second the two oldest wines of the dinner.
We spoke informally about the best combinations. It is the foie gras poached with the Y d’Yquem 1985 that wins. Then comes the pigeon with the Gruaud Larose 1928 and then the veal sweetbread is put together with the Corton Grancey 1964 and the Saint-Nectaire with the Dom Pérignon 1988, the latter having the palm of originality after the poached liver. I also have a weakness for salty foie gras that is served as a stick for an aperitif on arrival. This is a must for me.
Everyone was impressed by the involvement of Guy Savoy who came five or six times to gather our opinions, make remarks, always smiling and positive. The service of the wines and dishes was impeccable even though the service of the first dishes was too slow.
The dinner setting is ideal. We had an absolutely memorable dinner.
(the pictures of this dinner are in the following article in French. See below)