The genesis of the 236th dinner is quite special. In October 2018 I had organized the 228th dinner at Akrame restaurant in Paris. The restaurant is narrow and inside we should have had a table in length which I do not like because three discussions are formed at very long tables. I would rather have dinner in the garden, with a square table. The probability of rain is 40% and the head of the restaurant accepts this solution. The table is covered with umbrellas and hangings to prevent any eventuality. In the middle of the meal, a tornado breaks out and the hanging curtains pour water on guests. We try to sit in the protected areas. All this makes me uncomfortable because I try to make my dinners as perfect as possible.
I interrupt the discussions and I declare that all the participants will be invited to a new dinner that I offer them, to compensate for this misadventure. The guests are happy, both wet and dry, and two guests from the Pernod-Ricard group propose that the compensation dinner be held at the Belle Epoque House of Perrier-Jouët in Epernay. A generosity responds to a generosity.
I came in November to better know the places and study the cuisine of Joséphine Jonot, chef of the place and we have built together a menu for the wines I have planned and for the champagnes of Perrier-Jouët and Mumm.
When the day comes, I arrive around 11 am in Epernay at the Belle Epoque House, so nicely decorated. I have lunch with Alexander to check some dishes to be sure that Josephine Jonot’s cuisine matches what the old wines ask.
Thierry, the friendly and efficient butler responsible for the house serves us Champagne Perrier Jouët Cuvée Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2004 that seduces me with its balance. It is also gourmet, generous and square.
I start the meal with beautiful oysters very iodic, giving the impression of sea waves that slap my face. Then the lobster is served with bisque. The dish as it is designed would be suitable for a white wine, while it is assigned to a red wine. It will take a less assertive cooking and on the contrary a more virile bisque to face a red wine. The pigeon and its pie with a stuffing seem to me absolutely perfect and do not require any adaptation. The crispness that should accompany the mango is replaced by a cream more delicate. While having lunch in the kitchen, we can talk to the chef and I am convinced that tonight’s menu is in good hands.
I have time for a micro-nap before answering the questions of the filmmakers who are filming the event and I’m ready at 3 pm to open the bottles of the 236th dinner.
As we will be fourteen, which is more than usual, I planned several magnums, which pushes me to open the wines from 15 hours. Corks come without any particular surprise and the only uncertain is that of Gevrey-Chambertin Bouchard Aîné & Fils Magnum 1961 which shows a cork scent that seems quite tenacious. Ten minutes later the cork nose is noticeably alleviated but I am not yet reassured. The most thundering perfume is that of Fargues 1989, much more majestic than that of Yquem 1970.
The guests will visit the spectacular cellars of the house Perrier Jouët. We meet at the bar for aperitif with a Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2008. What strikes is its balance and ease. He does not seek to impose himself, he is there, consensual and rewarding. It accompanies with pleasure the small nibbles of aperitif.
There are fourteen of us at the table, eleven of whom were present at dinner at the Akrame restaurant, which was disturbed by the rain, which justified that I invite all present for this dinner, and three are from the house Perrier-Jouët or his group.
The menu composed by Josephine Jonot is: gougères, Pata Negra, parmesan / oysters with seafood flavors / langoustines just seized, small vegetables / saint-pierre with lemon butter / lobster American sauce / low temperature veal, mashed potatoes / pigeon and stuffing of confit legs / poached foie gras / stilton / roasted mango, yogurt cream with green herbs.
Oysters are deliciously marine, iodized, and are perfectly suited to the Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1982 which is of a rare complexity and a romanticism assumed. The champagne is titillated by iodine and finds a nice energy. It is a champagne that is distinguished by the range of its complexities.
The langoustines are absolutely perfect, delicate and subtle and the Chablis Grand Cru Bougros William Fèvre Magnum 1998 is mineral, the archetype of a vibrant Chablis. The agreement is superb. If we alternate the Belle Epoque 1982 and the Chablis 1998, we see that they fertilize and Chablis widens the champagne.
It probably would have been necessary for the Saint-Pierre to be without its pure butter, so that the agreement with the Montrachet Grand Cru Guichard-Potheret Magnum 1988 would have been naturally found. It is a fairly calm Montrachet, low fat and without any botrytis. It is well made and well built, but it does not have the spark of energy we would have liked to find.
The lobster is perfect. It is simple and subtle, much less cooked than at lunch, which gives it a rare charm, and the Corton Grand Cru Bouchard Father & Son Magnum 1959 leaves everyone speechless. The wine has a grain and a chew of absolute plenitude. He is rich, fills the mouth and conquers it. We are facing an immense wine and a transcendental agreement. I expected a lot but I did not suspect he could be so rich. This wine is conquering.
The low temperature calf is divine. Cramant Champagne Mumm 1955 is a marvel of complexity and elegance. It has intonations of white currants and its acidity breathes on the calf. It is a rare champagne by its diversity and the agreement is of a natural which delights us.
The pigeon is superb. While I was afraid he had a cork nose, the Gevrey-Chambertin Bouchard Elder & Son Magnum 1961 as it is more than five hours later does not have a gram of defect. This wine is Burgundy as I adore it, without concession, with a peasant grater, which does not try to please. It is clear that it is a ‘Villages’, but it is so alive and rich that we can only be conquered.
In a discussion with some guests I said that the concept of age does not exist. If a wine manages to survive all the accidents that can affect the cork, then it is ageless. It looks like the Château Bouscaut Grand Cru Classé of Graves Magnum 1929 listened to me because it is incredible. Its color is very dark pigeon blood, which means that it does not have any trace of tile. It is of an incredible freshness. Here is a wine that refreshes, dense, consistent without the slightest defect. The drink quenches but also takes on a field of infinite flavors. I’m so happy. This wine is a miracle. The poached foie gras is not really poached and does not have a chew that benefits the 1929, even if the taste of the liver is good. This 1929 is a marvel and will be my favorite by far.
For stilton and the very successful mango dessert the two sauternes are served together. Château de Fargues Sauternes 1989 is rich and flamboyant. Some prefer the Château d’Yquem 1970 more erased. I prefer the Fargues more glorious and sunny.
No wine was weak. This is the moment of the votes. We are fourteen to vote for our five favorite among the ten wines. What’s interesting is that all the wines had at least one vote which proves that all deserved to be in the top five of at least one guest. Three wines had twelve votes out of 14 possible votes, Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1982, Corton Grand Cru Bouchard Father & Son Magnum 1959 and Château Bouscaut Magnum 1929.
Four wines had the honor of being named first, Bouscaut 1929 seven times, Corton 1959 five times, Chablis and Mumm each once.
The vote of the consensus would be: 1 – Le Corton Grand Cru Bouchard Father & Son Magnum 1959, 2 – Château Bouscaut Great Classified Growth of Graves Magnum 1929, 3 – Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1982, 4 – Champagne Mumm de Cramant 1955, 5 – Montrachet Grand Cru Guichard-Potheret Magnum 1988, 6 – Château d’Yquem 1970.
My vote is: 1 – Château Bouscaut Great Classified Growth of Graves Magnum 1929, 2 – Le Corton Grand Cru Bouchard Father & Son Magnum 1959, 3 – Gevrey-Chambertin Bouchard Senior & Son Merchant Magnum 1961, 4 – Champagne Mumm de Cramant 1955.
Joséphine Jonot made a cuisine particularly suited to wines. The two brightest dishes are lobster, which has created the most beautiful accord, and divinely cooked lobster. Oysters also deserve compliments, such as mango and cream.
The atmosphere was cosmopolitan with Americans, a Norwegian, a Londoner. We ended up with a great rum and those who wanted could smoke cigars in the beautiful garden of the Belle Epoque House.
This dinner was illuminated by great wines and champagnes.
Thank you to Perrier-Jouët for allowing the continuation of the 228th dinner at Akrame restaurant in a setting of such beauty. Long live to old wines.
(see pictures in the article in French)