If we consider the calendar as determined by National Education, the 265th wine-dinner will be the last of my « school » year. I will have to hold the 36th session of the Academy of Ancient Wines and then my horizon will be that of the waves of the Mediterranean.
I came a week ago to deliver the wines to the Taillevent restaurant and to compose the dinner menu with chef Giuliano Sperandio. I arrive at 4 p.m. at the restaurant to open the wines with Antonin, the sommelier who will serve the wines for our evening. He smells the wines I open.
The two dry whites have promising aromas, diagnosis shared. The cork of the 1964 Carbonnieux blanc breaks into multiple pieces, like that of the 1934 Cheval Blanc and the 1983 Romanée Conti. The nose of the Cheval Blanc and the nose of the 1945 Fleurie are exciting. The capsule of the Coutet 1958 is a pink orange of rare beauty and the perfume of this wine, of a rare sweetness, is also pink orange. The Madeira 1890 does not have a capsule but a hat braided with reed stems of the most beautiful effect. All the perfumes seemed reassuring to me, ready to blossom due to the slow oxygenation.
A newly loyal friend from my diners came to meet me around 5 p.m. when the reds opened. He gave me a very nice present so I planned to share with him a ½ bottle of Champagne Pol Roger 1969. This champagne is delicious. My friend recognizes in him the soul of Pol Roger, which pleases me. This is how we chat until the punctual arrival of all the participants.
There are ten of us, four of whom I know and five of whom I don’t, registered thanks to Instagram. There are two English, two Americans and one American, one Australian, one Swiss and only three French, of which my daughter is one.
In the magnificent wood-paneled lounge of the Taillevent restaurant, we toast standing with the Champagne Jacques Selosse Cuvée Substance disgorged in 2008. This powerful champagne with strong acidity is of great nobility. He challenges as he is conquering. Gougères calm his energy.
The menu prepared by chef Giuliano Sperandio is: amuse-bouche / red tuna and caviar / langoustine, squid ink risotto / veal sweetbreads with cloves / pigeon with cherries / Stilton / mango / all chocolate.
Champagne Krug Vintage 1982 is of exemplary delicacy. It is soft, calm, subtle, but its apparent calm hides a beautiful power and an imperial complexity. I am won over by this easy-going champagne and to my surprise the Selosse will receive more votes than the Krug, which makes me happy because it proves that my guests were not put off by the wild character of the Selosse. And so it is. The amuse-bouche with pieces of squid is delicious with the Krug.
The beautifully balanced tuna with caviar is eaten with the Pavillon blanc de Château Margaux 1979 and the Château Carbonnieux blanc 1964. I am served with both wines and it is a storm under my head. The Margaux smells of glycerine and the Graves smells of petroleum and camphor. How is it possible that these wines that Antonin the sommelier and I felt were perfect have become that? And I say to myself: « it’s going badly ». The only explanation I see is this: after opening, I asked the sommelier to keep the opened white wines upright in a cool fridge. But some time later, I saw in the refrigerator the two wines lying horizontal and closed by corks that were not theirs. Is it possible that these corks had such an influence on the wines? It sounds amazing, but the difference in flavors is just as amazing. My guests were charming because none expressed a rejection of these two frankly unpleasant wines, even if behind the veil of their impurities one could feel what they could have been. Fortunately, the sequel will fulfill our desires.
The risotto that accompanies the langoustine is divine. This dish is in vogue with Auxey-Duresses Bégin Clonet 1967 and Fleurie Albert Bichot & Cie 1945. The Burgundian is one of the infantrymen who fight valiantly alongside the seasoned officers and this Auxey has a delicate flavor and a pleasant freshness even if its complexity is not extreme. The surprise is immense for my guests to see that a Beaujolais can age so beautifully. Its perfume is charming and the wine expresses itself with elegance. Who would say Beaujolais while drinking it blind? It really is an ideal balance.
Château Cheval Blanc 1934 is a step into the world of ‘real’ great wines. What emotion. I like it because it is soft, full of charm with such a refined fine texture. A real happiness that dazzles each guest. The wine is 88 years old and he is a dashing and seductive young man. The sweetbread is perfectly cooked and the pairing is ideal. Finally we feel on Olympus.
A loyal guest reader remarks that this is the first time that I have put two Romanée Conti wines from the same year in a dinner. If I took this initiative, it is more to associate them than to compare them. Romanée Saint-Vivant Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1983 has for my nose and my palate everything that makes the soul of Romanée Conti, the rose but here especially the salt. And I love. The Romanée Conti Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1983 is beautifully balanced, with a rare consistency, but it lacks a little salt despite its elegant rose. Both wines are a perfect accomplishment. Some find Romanée Conti richer and more complex and we will see this Romanée Conti receive the crowning glory of a banana republic. I like both wines but I have a soft spot for the slender subtlety of Saint-Vivant.
The Stilton is of good quality and forms a very good pairing with the Château Coutet Barsac 1958. The wine is extremely sweet, pink and fresh. It is with mango that the agreement is absolutely perfect. It is the greatest instantaneous emotion of this meal that this anthology agreement. The wine is just lovely. The sorbet is not in continuity with the pure flesh of the mango. The meringue by its sweet character creates a beautiful excitement of the Barsac.
The Madeira Isidro Goncalves 1890 must have been bottled in the 1950s. It has a nice energy combining sweetness and a nice aspect of dry wine. Such wines are pure pleasures. The variations on the chocolate are very nice. A friend will tell me that it is a Sercial.
The cooking was of high quality. The most beautiful pairing is probably that of Cheval Blanc with sweetbread. All the dishes were well done.
It’s time for the votes. La Romanée Conti cannibalized the votes with eight first votes. The other two first votes are the Romanée Saint-Vivant and the Selosse champagne.
The overall vote of the table is: 1 – Romanée Conti Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1983, 2 – Château Cheval Blanc 1934, 3 – Romanée Saint-Vivant Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1983, 4 – Champagne Jacques Selosse Cuvée Substance disgorged in 2008, 5 – Fleurie Albert Bichot & Cie 1945, 6 – Champagne Krug Vintage 1982.
My vote is: 1 – Romanée Saint-Vivant Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1983, 2 – Romanée Conti Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1983, 3 – Château Cheval Blanc 1934, 4 – Fleurie Albert Bichot & Cie 1945, 5 – Champagne Krug Vintage 1982.
The atmosphere was particularly warm. Many did not know anyone but in front of high quality wines everyone was collected with pleasure. I appreciated the open attitude of everyone in front of the dry white wines with unexpected deviations. We are called to meet again.