Since the beginning of my dinners, I have had 27 with the restaurant Taillevent. I want to do a new one in this place that I like, but I don’t know the new chef, Giuliano Sperandio. Director Baudoin Arnould creates contact with the chef so that we can develop the menu for the 260th wine-dinner. Immediately we understand each other. The chef understands and approves the fact that each dish must be consistent for the wine. Hence a search for simplicity that is not a limitation of creativity. On the dishes that I proposed, the chef made relevant additions and suggestions.
The wines were brought to the restaurant a week in advance. When the day comes, I arrive to open the wines at 4 p.m. By a rare chance, all the corks come out whole, except that of the Chypre 1870 because believing that the cork is short, I did not use the long wick, which resulted in the cork tearing. The aromas of the wines are all promising, the Nénin 1961 needing to blossom. The flavors of sweet wines are by far the most powerful and the one that moves me the most is that of Ausone 1937 with a depth of truffle taste. Having finished at 5 a.m., I have three hours ahead of me to think, meditate and rest, chatting with the friendly sommelier manager Paul Robineau. The chef comes to greet me and we finalize the final adjustments. His suggestions appeal to me. At 6 p.m. I open the magnum of champagne and at 7 p.m. the older champagne.
There will be ten of us, including ten males, which should earn us a heavy fine for not respecting parity. There are six new ones, which I really appreciate.
The aperitif is taken standing up in the beautiful, elegant wood-paneled Saturn lounge. Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin magnum 1989 has a strong bubble. In my opinion, it is an archetypal champagne because it has everything we love in a balanced and expressive champagne. If we had to define the champagne we would like to drink, it would be this one. It is consensual and pleasant. The truffle gougères are powerful and the relatively soft ham highlights this beautiful champagne.
To show that the chef wanted to cook for wine, here is how he worded his menu: appetizer / scallops / turbot / lobster / pigeon / stilton / mango / rose financier. I love the intentions expressed in this clean presentation.
Champagne Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial 1966 has a pretty color of pink amber. The palate is round, consistent, very smooth. The evocations of pink citrus fruits are of a certain charm. It is a great champagne from a year that I consider to be one of the greatest of the century. I read on the faces of my guests the astonishment to see that a 56-year-old champagne can be so lively and brilliant.
The pairing of the turbot with the two whites is spectacular. The Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru Domaine Ramonet 1992 is a marvel of white, complex, noble racy. This white is at the top of its game. It is the most subtle of the wines of this meal logically crowned with the place of first.
If the Ramonet is Louis XV, the Château Rayas Châteauneuf du Pape white 1985 is Usain Bolt, because this wine is a bomb of energy, but of subtle energy. This Rayas is joyful and lively and it goes best with turbot. Rayas knows how to combine power and complexity.
The lobster is truffled which will create a bridge with the Château Ausone Saint-Emilion 1937 whose nose and mouth exude truffles. This wine which cannot hide that it is old is of a rare subtlety. To many around the table, it’s a surprise that an 85-year-old wine can have this energy and refinement.
As soon as I raise the glass of Château Nénin Pomerol 1961 to my lips, I know that I am in front of a perfect wine. Its structure is so well assembled that it is in perfect condition. He will no doubt improve further with time, but he is already in ideal shape. It does not have the charm of Ausone, but it is large. The pairing of simple, cooked-to-the-second lobster is perfect with both wines.
The Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Corvées General Gouachon 1945 Tasteviné 1950 is a wine full of subtlety and velvet. The year 1945 gave him a solid balance. It is the expression of a refined Burgundy. It’s Lamartine or Chateaubriand. He’s got everything.
While I had feasted on the promise of La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1992 when I smelled it more than five hours ago, I find this wine too discreet. It is subtle but it does not have the aura of La Tâche, such a noble and conquering wine. Should it have been opened several hours before, it is possible, because this wine has no faults, it is just a little too timid. The rich pigeon failed to tickle him as he found the right partner with the elegant 1945 Burgundy.
When I announced that we were going to drink Château Climens Barsac 1949 first with stilton and then with a mango dessert, I saw the astonishment of the guests that one could look for such opposite pairings. Their astonishment will be even greater when they have found that these agreements are of absolute relevance. The Climens is quite simply the perfect wine, dynamic, powerful but charming like the snake which knew how to push Eve to eat the apple. Everything about this Barsac is luxury, pleasure, refinement. It is drunk greedily.
The financier with the rose is one of my coquetries and it is remarkably executed. And this is the first time that I feel as strongly that the Vin de Chypre 1870 tastes of rose. This heavy, powerful, high-alcohol wine is both sweet and dry, with strong spice. It has an inextinguishable length.
We are all amazed because no wine was weak, even though La Tâche lacked its usual prestige, and all the pairings were brilliant.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such diversity in the votes. It’s incredible. If some imagine that I influence the votes, they will see that they are wrong. Let us judge: we are ten to vote for the five best of ten wines. All the wines had at least two votes, which is very rare because very often there are one or two wines that do not receive any votes. Then six wines were named first, which is really rare. Rayas had three first votes, Ramonet and Climens each had two first votes and Ausone, Nuits-Saint-Georges and La Tâche each had one first vote. Such a diversity of votes is hard to imagine.
The classification of the whole table is: 1 – Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru Domaine Ramonet 1992, 2 – Château Climens 1949, 3 – Château Ausone Saint-Emilion 1937, 4 – Château Rayas Châteauneuf du Pape white 1985, 5 – Champagne Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial 1966, 6 – La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1992.
My ranking is: 1 – Château Climens 1949, 2 – Cyprus wine 1870, 3 – Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru Domaine Ramonet 1992, 4 – Champagne Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial 1966, 5 – Château Ausone Saint-Emilion 1937.
The six new participants are of a certain enthusiasm and have promised to return to new dinners. As usual at Taillevent, the food and wine service was perfect. The chef gave a performance worthy of all praise because he put his talent at the service of the wine. This 260th was a particularly successful dinner.