Dinner is held at the Taillevent restaurant. For the opening session of the wines at 5:30 pm, two journalists including a Canadian who had visited my cellar come to photograph and ask questions about the opening method. I officiate and very curiously, the situation of the corks is the opposite of that of a dinner last week. At the previous dinner, the corks, as swollen, were extremely hard to remove. Tonight, on the contrary, several corks seem to retract and rise without difficulty. The atmospheric pressure would have as much effect, I do not know, but the contrast is very clear between the two dinners. One of the journalists having come with two friends just for this session, I make them smell the wines. The most spectacular perfumes are Y d’Yquem 1980 and Yquem 1959. The most uncertain is that of the Grands Echézeaux 1982. There are beautiful promises with the Palmer, La Landonne and Musigny.
The guests are punctual. We are ten, only men, which is extremely rare. There is a Canadian, a Japanese, three amateurs of province and five Parisians. We take the aperitif standing while toasting with a Champagne Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection 1983 magnum disgorged in 2010 brought by one of the guests. The champagne is very nice, full and greedy and relatively simple in its message. As it is easy to drink it is drunk with ease. I had envisioned that we now only drink half of the magnum, to finish it after the sauternes, but the champagne is drunk so well especially with the gougères more than with the ham toasts that the magnum is quickly finished.
We sit down to table. The menu created by Alain Solivérès is: gougères and toast of ham / oysters in seawater jelly / cod (bar) of steamed line, Brittany bouquet in velvety end / blue lobster, red wine sauce / pstry of pigeon and foie gras, cèpes and roasted pear / hare « à la » royale by a spoon / crunchy mango-passion / madeleines.
The Vintage Champagne Krug 1982 is a slightly amber color and Adrien the very concerned and motivated sommelier tells me that at the opening an hour ago, the bubble state was almost nonexistent. But the sparkling is there. We immediately feel that it is a racy champagne, lively, perhaps less romantic than other Krug 1982 that I have drunk. The oyster jelly is a marvel with this champagne but we must avoid the small cream with shallot too vinegary for this beautiful champagne of extreme refinement. It is a gallant musketeer. It’s the aristocracy of champagne.
The next wines will come in pairs, two on the same dish and for the three series we will see a rather particular phenomenon. In all three cases, one wine behaves very much above what one can expect and the other wine is a little weaker than one would expect.
The fish is delicious, a little cooked for my taste, but it will be a beautiful stooge of the two gourmet whites. The Y of Yquem Bordeaux Superieur white 1980 is of a very pale color for its 37 years. It is a blonde color of summer wheats. Its nose has unbelievable power. It is invasive. In the mouth it is a blinding sun as it takes possession of the palate. It is rich with unbridled generosity. It is also of a rare greediness and I perceive as in the successful Y d’Yquem botrytized grape berrys mash behind the screen.
It could be difficult for Corton Charlemagne Bonneau du Martray 1972 to be associated with the Y but in fact this wine plays on a register so different that it is possible to go from one wine to another without any discomfort. The scent of this wine is elusive as the eyes of an oriental dancer who plays with her veils to hide them. There are thousands of exotic aromas. In the mouth it is all in suggestion, slender but devilishly charming. We are not at all in the register of powerful Corton-Charlemagne, we are in the territory of expressive wines. I am glad that this wine received a vote of first by one of the faithful of my dinners.
The lobster is absolutely superb and will stick perfectly to both Bordeaux. Château Palmer Margaux 1964 is thundering. This is the absolute success of Bordeaux wine. It is sunny, beautiful red fruits full of sun, it is full, it is long, with infinite end, and it is just the pleasure of an absolutely readable wine.
Château Haut-Brion 1928 is much more difficult to understand. Its dress is a black red. The disc in the glass has a pigeon blood red of very beautiful expression. In the mouth it is a monolith. It reminds me of an anvil, it is so heavy, powerful, and terribly ingambe for its 89 years. But it lacks a little desire to charm. Too rigid in its taste of truffles, it remains stuck on this message. In some ways it takes advantage of the exceptional vintage that is 1928, but it will disturb a little some guests to the point of not having a vote.
The pigeon chausson is a rare treat. The Grands Echézeaux Domaine Romanée Conti 1982, which had an uncertain nose at the opening now has a nose that evokes a little soap. It’s fleeting but it discourages guests. There are all the components of what makes the charm of the wines of the DRC Domaine, but it lacks the rhythm and a supplement of soul which makes that one would have liked it. He too will have no vote.
So there is no fight possible with the Red Musigny Comte Georges de Vogüé 1966 which is the absolute definition of a large Musigny. What a richness in this joyous, welcoming and charming wine like a Franck Sinatra. We are well with this wine and the heavy and delicious sauce of the chausson gives this Musigny an exemplary liveliness. Everyone would be happy to make this Musigny be his ordinary, his daily wine and four guests will rank it first. Burgundy at this level is only happiness.
The hare à la royale is a compromise between the wise hare of Michel Rostang and the savage of l’Ami Jean. It is perfect, associated with a Côte Rôtie La Landonne Guigal 1984 which surprises the whole table, because who would say that a 1984 can have this charm and this power. It’s clear that this is not a Côte Rôtie of a powerful year, but the charm acts, the juicy wine just playing, like a Jeff Bridges or a Clint Eastwood. I love this Côte Rôtie that matches the hare.
The waiters who followed us tonight have laughed because I have made many compliments for dessert as it is successful, with an acidity that sticks to the millimeter to the sublime Château d’Yquem 1959. If they have laughed, this is because I am not the last to criticize desserts, which are so difficult to associate to old sauternes. But here I wanted to emphasize this great success. This wine is first of all a color, as rich and deep as the alcohol that we will drink just after. It is then an intoxicating perfume, diabolical, of an infinite charm. Finally on the palate there is both a nice sweetness but especially an extraordinary acidulous freshness. We eat the grapes. This wine is a perfect Sauternes. Glorious, accessible, it is only pleasure and leaves a mark indelible in the mouth.
This is why it is imperative, before tasting cognac, that the palate is calm. This is the mission of Champagne Delamotte Collection 1985 which is ideal because it has both the liveliness of the blanc de blancs and a beautiful depth. Not only does it recalibrate the palate, but it makes us happy. So let’s take advantage of its well-typed personality.
It’s now time to taste the Cognac Louis XIII Rémy Martin presented in a beautiful carafe Baccarat. I had tasted it a few days ago to check if this cognac could find its place in such a dinner. There are many features that I liked a few days ago. Velvet, nobility and accomplishment. But it is certain that after so many wines drunk during this dinner, the palate is less receptive than it would have been if we had shared fewer wines. It is however of a rare nobility, appreciated by many guests. I had asked Alain Solivérès small madeleines neutral to be a support tasting. A guest will note that larger madeleines would probably be more adequate. Whatever, this cognac is masterly, with refined sweetness.
We are ten to vote for four favorite wines among eleven wines since voting for the alcohol would not make much sense. Eight wines out of the eleven had votes and the number of wines that had the honor of being named first is five. The 1966 Musigny had four first votes, the 1964 Palmer had three first votes. Had a first vote Y of Yquem 1980, Corton Charlemagne 1972 and Château d’Yquem 1959.
The compilation of the votes would give this ranking: 1 – Château Palmer Margaux 1964, 2 – Musigny red Count Georges de Vogüé 1966, 3 – Château d’Yquem 1959, 4 – Y of Yquem 1980, 5 – Champagne Krug Vintage 1982, 6 – Corton Charlemagne Bonneau du Martray 1972.
My vote is: 1 – Château Palmer Margaux 1964, 2 – Red Musigny Count Georges de Vogüé 1966, 3 – Château d’Yquem 1959, 4 – Y of Yquem 1980.
It’s pretty rare that my vote is strictly the same as that of the consensus but it happened, probably for a dozen dinners.
The atmosphere of this dinner was cheerful, the fascinating discussions between guests of professional and geographical horizons very different. The Palmer, the Musigny and the Y have largely « outperformed », by presenting themselves well above what could be expected. The cuisine of Taillevent is always relevant for old wines. The service of wine and dishes is exemplary, it is the strength of Taillevent. This happy dinner is a great dinner.