My friend Tomo and I receive offers from the same wine supplier. He sends us very frequent emails proposing us beautiful bottles. He has become more than a supplier since we have shared very fine wines together at friends’ meals. It is thanks to his findings that we could taste a mythical bottle, Les Gaudichots Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1929. A few months ago I see a mail proposing a bottle of Romanée Conti 1943. I drank several times La Tâche 1943 and the Richebourg of the Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1943 but never the Romanée Conti of my year of birth. The price proposed is such that I class this message without following. Shortly after, I meet Tomo who asks me if I received this offer. I tell him that I did not follow it and he tells me: « we buy it the two together ? « . I answer yes. We inform the supplier who answers us with a question: « Do you agree that we drink it at three? « . We accept without hesitation.
The decor is planted. Tomo takes delivery of the bottle, each proposes to add a bottle to the program. The wines are delivered a few days before the dinner at the restaurant Taillevent. Tomo joined me at 5:30 pm for the opening of the bottles. I first open my complementary contribution, a Montrachet from the Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1998. The cork is splendid and the smell that emanates from the bottle is imperial and glorious. This wine promises wonders.
The bottle of Romanée Conti 1943 has an illegible label but fortunately one reads « ti » at the place where Conti can only appear if it is a Romanée Conti. The wax at the top of the neck is very cracked and non-existent on the top of the cork but the age of the cork makes it possible to think that the bottle has not been unclogged and plugged. Through the glass, one reads clearly the year and in big letter the indication Romanée Conti. I very slowly lift a nice long cork and the inscriptions are very legible. The first smell is engaging. Feeling more intensely I think the perfume is that of a Romanée Conti who would have a very light start of roasting. We are therefore oriented towards suggestions of truffle. Tomo is less reserved than me but the bottle that follows will justify my remark.
The bottle of the Richebourg of the Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1937 has a very beautiful level as that of Romanée Conti. The color is more sustained but this is normal for a Richebourg. The label is very readable with the year torn but reprinted, and a counter-label indicates a bottling by Joseph Drouhin, as was done at that time. The cork is almost impossible to lift because the glass of the neck is not cylindrical but constricted, which prevents the cork from rising easily. It breaks into three or four large pieces and many small pieces. The perfume is enchanting. It has a magisterial fruit. These scents are promising of a great rich wine. We therefore have two very distinct perfumes, the Romanée Conti tending towards a discrete truffle, a fine distinction but no fruit and the Richebourg of the Domaine de la Romanée Conti generously distributing beautiful red fruits.
Once the bottles are opened, we discuss the menu with Jean-Marie Ancher the restaurant manager. For Romanée Conti, I would like to go to truffle as pure as possible and I suggest truffles under pastry. Jean-Marie will check the supplies in the kitchen and reserve three truffles of 50 grams each which will be cooked under the crust. For the Richebourg, I ask for a pigeon. Jean-Marie suggests to us for the Montrachet a lobster cooked in cocotte lutée (hermetically closed with pastry) and for the champagne I ask for scallops just pan-fried « turn and return ». Jean-Marie asks me what accompaniment and I answer: « nothing. »
Two hours later our friend who had added the bottle of 1937 arrived. Stéphane Jan the chief sommelier of the Taillevent opens in front of us the Champagne Krug Vintage magnum 1961, wine offered by Tomo. The cork breaks and Stéphane pulls out the bottom with a corkscrew. We do not hear a pschitt. The bottle is amazing because the label has the mention « Champagne Vintage » which is not followed by the year which is just indicated by a typewriter inscription, very small on the bottom left corner of the label. And, even more surprising, the bottle top collar says basically « Vintage », but the year is not mentioned. It is very curious and fortunately the year is clearly legible on the cork.
The color of the champagne is very clear. The bubble is weak but the bubbly is there. The attack is joyful, clear and it is between the middle and the end of the mouth that one feels a bit of bitterness and a little dust that cuts the final. This impression where the attack is splendid and the final dusty will last a long time but I indicate that for me, everything will go back into order when we eat the appetizers because what is lacking in this champagne is dishes, which would correct its dusty side. We go to the table. The gougeres of Taillevent are legendary and round the champagne. A plate of ham very tasty and greedy will appear on table as by a turn of an illusionist. Our wine seller friend is impressed by the fact that champagne does not show any trace of dosage. The scallops arrive, just pan-fried and without any accompaniment and the agreement with the champagne is sublime because the sweetness of the shell almost completely erases the impression of dust. The champagne is good at this point and we will keep the rest of the magnum for dessert.
On the very rich lobster, the Montrachet of the Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1998 has the unforgettable perfume of the great montrachets with a breadth and opulence of dream. In the mouth it combines a nice minerality, a good fat aloi but what impresses me most is the sensation of total perfection. This wine is built according to the number of gold, giving on all its perspectives perfect architectures. Full, rich, round, deep, infinitely long, it is one of the biggest montrachets I have ever had. I am delighted, carried by the ultimate gluttony of this wine.
La Romanée Conti Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1943 appears now. The color is beautiful, of an intense pink. The nose is rather discreet but very pleasant. The tasting will be done in a very intellectual way because all three we want to find in this wine what makes the charm and exclusivity of Romanée Conti. I look, and like when you make a puzzle, you always find pieces to place. There is saline in this Romanée Conti, but I do not see the rose faded. I notice the truffle side which is not unpleasant at all. But I lack that extra soul that creates the extreme emotion that one expects. What I also miss is the typical character of prephylloxeric wines, but afterwards I think that it was in what I considered to be roasted that the prephylloxeric roots of wine were found. I had the last glass with the dregs which gives a richer, more coherent wine and closer to what I expected. The truffle superb and pure under its crust is a remarkable dish that matches wine very well.
When the Richebourg of Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1937 is served to us a smile illuminates our faces because the scent of red fruits is superb. A wine of superior essence is held there, thanks to this fruit so expressive. The wine is full, rich and full of happiness. But something totally unexpected is going to happen. For the pigeon, the sauce is too reduced and the dish is too salty. And this excess of salt to which I am sensitive will inhibit, for me, the Richebourg which is then more coarse or heavy. And the unbelievable happens: by tasting the Richebourg, then, after her, the Romanée Conti, it is she who suddenly becomes sublime and romantic, just as I love the Romanée Conti. This wine of 1943 whose limits I saw, followed by a triumphant Richebourg at its entrance, becomes divine, the true Romanée Conti as I love it. I returned at least a dozen times on the chain Richebourg then Romanée Conti and I realized that the Richebourg so triumphant was inhibited by the salt of the dish and Romanée Conti on the contrary became without the slightest defect. This incredible feeling left me in deep astonishment. How is such a reversal possible?
For me, the Richebourg had its moment of glory before the dish did not hinder it and conversely the Romanée Conti had her moment of glory when she already had in our plans left the scene.
We finished the Krug on the dessert, showing good qualities but also small traces of dust, weaker than at the beginning.
Discussions were going on and what is unbelievable is the lack of consensus. Each has his favorite wine and defends it tooth and nail. For the supplier friend, it was the Richebourg 1937 that he brought by far the best. For Tomo, it is the Romanée Conti 1943 which is his favorite wine because he did not feel the reserves that I could have. For me it is the Montrachet 1998, with its absolute perfection, which is my hero. As often everyone has the eyes of Chimene for the wines he brought. The main thing is that we wanted to taste legendary wines together. And we all agree that we drank very fine wines. If I have pointed out here or there small weaknesses, each of the wines has brought us happiness. Tasting a Romanée Conti 1943 is a privilege and the emotions she has given us are considerable. The Richebourg, valiant warrior has offered us fruits of great wealth. This is a dinner that we can be proud of, because finding that a wine is not totally perfect does not prevent intense emotion.
I asked Jean-Marie Ancher to print the menu. As he likes to make jokes, here is how he called it: scallops grilled according to Audouze fashion / blue lobster lentil, chestnuts, apples and olives Taggiasches / black truffle puff, fried duck foie gras Roasted Racan pigeon, truffle sauce, soufflé potatoes / ripened cheeses / caramelized apple, creamy acacia honey, spiced bread ice cream.
The service of the Taillevent is exemplary and the complicity with the extravagant meals that I ask them to do is total. Overall the food was perfect. We lived at three a meal that will count in our memories.
(pictures of this dinner are in the article just below)