The 269th dinner is held at the Pages restaurant. I arrive around 4 p.m. and begin to open the wines. The 1959 Chablis Regnard has an awful corky taste that seems so strong to me that I highly doubt it will come back to life. Conversely, Beaune du Château Bouchard without year that I imagine from the 50s has an exciting scent. I brought a bottle of Château d’Arlay Côtes du Jura white 1973 which will complement the Chablis.
The Angélus Saint-Emilion 1950 emits an unpleasant camphor smell. What will become of the wine, it is difficult to say. The Montrose 1928, on the contrary, has a very engaging sweetness. We should be in front of a great wine. La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1943 is promising. Phew, because it is this wine that should be the crown of the evening.
Château Rayas 1976 and Hermitage Jean Louis Chave 1962 are so solid that there is no doubt. Château Chalon Clément 1906 in an old blown and opaque bottle has a discreet fragrance, which is the opposite of Yquem 1949, which is an olfactory bomb. We can expect a brilliant wine.
I decide to open the champagnes without waiting, which I don’t usually do. The Salon 2006 cork claps in my hand with a loud clang and the scent promises a champagne of great power. The cap of the Veuve Clicquot 1949 magnum comes without any pschitt and the perfume of the wine pleases me enormously. The most beautiful perfumes seem to me to be those of Yquem, Veuve Clicquot and Montrose.
The opening operation ended at 5:30 p.m. and uncertainties remain. The Chablis scares me very much and the Angélus is a question mark. I added two wines to the announced program, the Salon champagne and the Château d’Arlay. So there is no danger.
The staff of the Pages restaurant have dinner at 6 p.m. at Brasserie 116, which is just next door and is owned by the owners of Pages. According to tradition, I go there to drink a beer, which allows me to wait for the arrival of the guests.
We are eleven guests, including four from Spain, two from England, two from Switzerland, one American, one French and me. The four women are all from different countries. The menu was composed with Ken, the chef and with Pierre-Alexandre who combines the functions of room manager and sommelier. It is prepared as follows: appetizers: butternut velouté with 4 spices, mackerel and lemon crud, parmesan shortbread with celeriac / Jerusalem artichoke with scallop tartare / lobster and its yellow wine and Comté sauce / red mullet and its red wine sauce / duck and red wine and blood sauce, ravioli and roasted turnips / hare, celery puree and potato puree / wagyu beef, potato waffle, beef jus / Comté cheese 36 months / tart citrus / financial.
The weakness of the Chablis made me add the 1973 Jura wine, which I will therefore put at the top of the meal, which leads me to ask Ken to provide a plate of mollusk shell for this wine.
We drink the Champagne Salon 2006 standing up, which is glorious. Its perfume is engaging as it is generous, and in mouth, the Salon is full, broad, conquering. This young champagne is absolutely successful.
We sit down to eat and Pierre-Alexandre serves me a glass of Veuve Clicquot Magnum 1949 Champagne. Amazement! The color of champagne is that of a rain-soaked cloud. It is an intense gray and is not engaging. If such a champagne were ordered in a restaurant, the immediate reflex would be to refuse it. Everyone looks for my reaction and the surprise is immense. The nose is pleasant and soft and the champagne has a crazy charm. We even smell a little sparkle. It is particularly pleasant on appetizers which it accompanies with great subtlety. We are all under the spell of this champagne which will receive a vote of second, which is impressive. It is round and offers joyful complexities. It is a great champagne and I am happy that my guests were able to overcome the awful color of this champagne.
I had in mind cockles that would have been cooked to bring out a slightly sweet side for the Château d’Arlay Côtes du Jura white 1973, but in fact the cockles are too iodized for this slightly fragile Jura wine to respond to them. The wine is pleasant but lacks a bit of breadth.
I insisted so much on the fact that the Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume A. Regnard & Fils 1959 would be corked that everyone reacted positively to this wine, which has lost at least 95% of the corky taste it had when it was opened. . A guest will follow it during the meal and will become passionate about it because indeed at some point, all traces of cork will have disappeared, and the wine will even collect votes at the end of the meal. I wouldn’t have imagined it.
The Beaune du Château Bouchard Père & Fils white around 1950 is a wine that I love. Most often it is not vintage and is for great years like 1929 with unforgettable memories. This white wine is joyful, broad, engaging, ready for all culinary alliances. It shines on mackerel as on scallops.
L’Angélus Saint-Emilion 1950 failed to come back to life. A nasty smell of camphor remains. We recognize in the background the taste of a noble Saint-Émilion, but the pleasure is not there. It is therefore the Château Montrose L. Charmolüe 1928 which will accompany the delicious lobster. This wine is great, magnified by a vintage of anthology. Around me the guests are astonished that a 94-year-old wine can have such youth. This is the magic of wine. It has a nice richness, a solid chew. It is a doctrinal wine that knows how to give pleasure.
When I am served La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1943 I see with horror that they are serving red mullet at the same time. In fact Pierre-Alexandre was disturbed by the addition of a dish and a wine and served the wines too quickly without respecting the planned program. I have decided to accept the situation since the rest of the meal will be out of step. You might as well live it with a positive attitude, which each guest has understood and accepted. At the end of the meal, I suggested that our cosmopolitan group get back together in a few months, for a similar dinner with « real » food and wine pairings.
That being said, we were able to enjoy all the following wines without ever suffering in their tasting.
So they serve me La Tâche and my heart sinks. The attack of the wine is so fresh that I am in heaven. It is a marvelous wine, balanced, powerful but subtle, with an incredible charm. This is the eighth Romanée Conti wine that I drink from 1943. All have been perfect and this one is magical. That is charm in my glass. You have to eat the red mullet by calming your mouth and you get there. The delicious duck is more conducive to Burgundy wine.
By putting together the two Rhône wines we will find the coherence of the agreements, with the magical hare à la Royale and the melting and delicious Wagyu. Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1976 surprises me because it has accents of Algerian wines, with coffee and tobacco. It amuses me to think that a Rhône wine could have been hermitaged with a wine from Algeria, but of course this is not the case, because this wine from a year of drought has suffered the consequences. It is a very good wine, adored by many around the table, but it is not one of the greatest Rayas.
Next to him, I have the eyes of Chimène for the Hermitage Jean Louis Chave 1962. What a great, subtle and delicate wine. It has the same extreme freshness in the attack that I felt with La Tâche. This wine is happiness and with Japanese meat, it is a rare pleasure.
The Comté is actually 42 months old, and I find it delicious because its age is not too marked. Château Chalon Clément Jura 1906 has a very pretty color. He is dashing but maybe not enough for his 116 years. I was expecting a slightly more concentrated wine. He lost strength.
The new pastry chef at the Pages restaurant has created a dessert for Château d’Yquem 1949 which is a marvel of taste and relevance for wine. Cheer. Yquem is simply glorious and it shows once again that when Yquem is great, it is perfect. Its fragrance is brilliant and its inextinguishable taste is majestic.
This dinner was anything but ordinary. The atmosphere was one of absolute joy. We voted. Five wines were ranked first. La Tâche 1943 received seven first votes and four other wines had one first vote: Veuve Clicquot 1949, Montrose 1928, Hermitage 1962 and Yquem 1949. The only wines without votes are the Angélus and the two wines of the Jura. Nine wines therefore had votes, each voting for their five favourites, which shows a good sample of qualities.
The consensus vote would be: 1 – La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1943, 2 – Magnum Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1949, 3 – Château d’Yquem 1949, 4 – Hermitage Jean Louis Chave 1962, 5 – Château Montrose L. Charmolüe 1928, 6 – Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1976.
My vote is: 1 – La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1943, 2 – Magnum Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1949, 3 – Hermitage Jean Louis Chave 1962, 4 – Château d’Yquem 1949, 5 – Beaune from Château Bouchard Père & Fils circa 1950.
What about this meal? First of all that it is probably the most cosmopolitan of my dinners with five countries represented. This is due to the contacts that have been created with my subscribers on Instagram, which today exceed 45,000. I did not imagine exchanges of such kindness with very competent amateurs from all countries.
The second point is that the catering industry in Paris is facing a great difficulty in recruiting. Many restaurants, including Pages, are suffering from this condition. Pierre-Alexandre is obliged to be both director and sommelier. When I asked him if he had printed a menu for this meal, with the list of wines consistent with the list of dishes, he had not had time to do so and that certainly played into the inadequacy of food and wine services, but I am also responsible for having added a dish and a wine.
The third point is the extreme understanding and open-mindedness of my guests. Ranking the Veuve Clicquot second of the votes is wonderful. And accepting with a good heart the approximations of the services of the dishes, it is remarkable. And the unexpected did not take away the pleasure of this meal.
It will be a pleasure to meet again with such charming guests.