A dinner with 1937 Romanée Conti and some other rarities
My friend Tomo and I are getting offers from the same wine supplier. He sends an offer for a Romanée-Conti 1937. Alone, I would not buy it, but if we are two, it seems possible to me. Tomo agrees to share it because we are used to buying together. The supplier proposes to join us for drinking. It is agreed that everyone brings an extra bottle and the friend supplier pulls the first on the trigger by offering a rare bottle of Champagne Billecart-Salmon 1949. I propose to bring Yquem 1937, the year of the Romanée Conti and as Tomo hesitates to his contribution, I propose that he brings Yquem 1937 since he has it and I will bring a Corton-Charlemagne JF Coche-Dury 2003. We agree and Tomo launches: ‘I will bring no doubt a surprise’. This is the door open to unreason because obviously we will all have a surprise.
I propose to do dinner at the Taillevent restaurant. At the date, at the same time as Tomo, I arrive at 17 hours to open the bottles and I have the chance to meet on my arrival the chef David Bizet with whom I will build the menu. We understand each other very easily.
The nose of the Corton-Charlemagne does not have the power of the olfactory bombs of the wines of Coche-Dury but it has an extreme elegance. It promises to be great. The bottle of Romanée Conti is absolutely illegible. How did our friend supplier find the name and year? Tomo gives me clues. There is the little crescent label that says it’s a monopoly. One can read in very small letters the word « French », which can only correspond to Richebourg, but it is not monopoly or to Romanée Conti. The year is found thanks to a 7. There is no Romanée Conti 1947, the choice is between 1937, 1927 or 1917. Everything indicates that 1937 is the most realistic, especially as we guess the top of number 3.
The wax is completely removed on the top of the neck so that the cap is bare at the top of the neck. It comes in a thousand pieces because it sticks so much to the glass wall that it is necessary to tear small pieces that the tirebouchon cannot lift. Pieces fall into the wine and I have to catch most of it. The smell of wine is very compatible with that of a Romanée Conti but I am embarrassed by the fact that it is roasted. The wine has most likely been hit hot in a cellar. For wines as prestigious as this one, it’s a pity because the sensible roasting will deprive us perhaps of the emotion of this masterpiece.
As if destiny wanted to make us a snub, the fragrance of Chambolle-Musigny Amoureuses Faiveley Negociant 1929, the surprise of Tomo, is to die for. For me, it is the absolute perfection of the perfume of a Burgundy wine and it is the perfection also of a perfume of 1929. Then this wine could make shade to the star of this dinner. We will see. The fragrances offered by Château d’Yquem 1937 are divine. This wine is a count, what do I say it is a prince, what do I say it is an emperor! Its amber color is of a divine beauty. The ‘surprise’ wines of our friend and mine will not be open for now.
The opening operation being finished around 18 hours we have Tomo and I chatting while waiting for our friend.
The menu designed with chef David Bizet is: glazed veal sweetbreads, steamed morels with champagne / lobster in navarin, return of kitchen garden with pimpernel / pigeon with roasted blood with wild garlic, truffled black olive confit fillet of mature beef, morels with appetites, soufflé apples / cheese / mango pavlova with raw cream / salted butter financiers.
Half an hour before our friend arrives, I open his champagne. What a nice surprise to hear the sound of gas escaping. Pschitt is significant and very important for a champagne of this age. At the time of service we note that the Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut 1949 has the color of a young champagne. The bubble is rare and small but the sparkling is tasty. Champagne does not have a great tension but it is of a rare balance. It takes us to countries where we have no landmark. What is striking is ease, balance and charm. It’s a very big champagne. I had asked that the sweetbread be calm and light. What is served to us is a beautiful dish as a dish, but too strong for the subtle champagne.
The Corton-Charlemagne J.F. Coche-Dury 2003 does not have the usual power of the Corton-Charlemagne of this famous house. It is of a rare complexity and amazes me by its subtle evocations. We thought we were meeting an athlete and we are facing a young poet. What a charm, what infinite complexities! I think I have never drunk a Corton-Charlemagne Coche-Dury so exceptional. All the subtlety registers are surpassed. The deal with lobster is ideal but we should have done without vegetables that bring consistency to the dish but add nothing to wine.
For the two dishes of meat, pigeon and beef, we will drink together the two red wines. Before the dish of pigeon is served, the Chambolle-Musigny Amoureuses Faiveley Negociant 1929 with the ideal perfume is dashing. We immediately feel that it is a Premier Cru and that it does not have the stature of a Grand Cru, despite the fact that it is very exciting to drink, juicy and bloody. Beside him, the Romanée Conti Domain of the Romanée Conti 1937 still has a roasted nose and its heavy and powerful mouth makes this side appear a little burnt which does not prevent to be pleasant, because, one feels it well, the wine is big.
We are served the pigeon. What happiness that none of us is dogmatic! Because there is a small miracle. The magnificent flesh of the pigeon and especially its sauce completely erase the roasted appearance and we discover a true Romanée Conti, vibrant. I even find the salt so beautiful that was hiding until then. We have the demonstration that the wines need to rub to a suitable dish to shine. And we are happy because our fears no longer exist. Although the mature meat is excellent, it is especially the supreme of the pigeon that gives the Romanée Conti its true grandeur. The 1929 is very small next to the 1937 whereas before the dishes it was much more pleasant and distinguished, as it must be a great wine of 1929.
We wanted so much to share a great Romanée Conti that we take full advantage of this rare moment. But there is a sign that does not deceive. Usually one finds in the dregs a supplement of soul because it concentrates all the personality of the wine. But I found the dregs of Romanée Conti less frisky than the wine itself. It is enough, however, that we have had a beautiful moment of grace to make us happy.
What was left of Corton-Charlemagne was very suitable for mature meat and also for excellent cheeses, in my case, a saint-nectaire.
It is now the arrival of the Château d’Yquem 1937. Like the Corton Charlemagne this wine is not thundering, which develops even more its elegance. It’s a huge Yquem, probably the best of the seven Yquem 1937s I’ve drunk. What a great wine of infinite magic, without too much botrytis and good acidity. Wines like this give the image of perfection.
Enter the surprise of our friend, a Champagne Pommery rosé 1934. Its color is very beautiful and very young, the bubble is weak but the sparkling is there. What fascinates me is that it is possible to switch from Yquem to champagne rosé and vice versa without the slightest problem, as if they were playmates. I had asked financiers pastries for this rosé. They are probably the best financiers I have ever tasted. The mango dessert is only for the Yquem and sweet pavlova is not necessarily its best friend. The Yquem well supports the financiers planned for the champagne.
Now comes my surprise that will be one for me too. I had bought Marc de rosé bottles from Ott 1929 and found this marc of immense interest. During a second order of this marc, I received bottles with pink liquid and at the same time two bottles with liquid so clear that I imagined that it was water. When I opened the bottle before the meal, the water hypothesis no longer existed. It was the surprise of my surprise! This Ott Marc Blanc 1929 has no charm at all. It looks more like a slightly bitter grappa. He is very manly compared to his pink cousin. We do not insist.
We are three to vote for our five favorite wines on six wines, the alcohol not being in competition. For Tomo, his winner is the Billecart Salmon and for the friend and me it is the Corton-Charlemagne who is our number one. I almost got scraped when I ranked Pommery rosé before Billecart Salmon but I was very impressed by the Pommery’s ability to coexist with the Yquem.
The consensus ranking would be: 1 – Corton-Charlemagne JF Coche-Dury 2003, 2 – Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut 1949, 3 – Château d’Yquem 1937, 4 – Romanée Conti Domaine Romanée Conti 1937, 5 – Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses Faiveley Negociant 1929.
My classification is: 1 – Corton-Charlemagne J.F. Coche-Dury 2003, 2 – Château d’Yquem 1937, 3 – Romanée Conti Domaine of Romanée Conti 1937, 4 – Champagne Pommery rosé 1934, 5 – Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut 1949.
The appetizers at the beginning of the meal are of a certain refinement which shows the talent of the chef, promised to the most beautiful destinies. All dishes were outstanding but the first two, sweetbreads and lobster were treated more as dishes than as wine guides. On the contrary the following dishes were ideal for the wines.
Anastasia, the sommelier who accompanied us on this magical trip did an excellent service. One of the great qualities of Taillevent is its ability to adapt to all situations. This meal was exemplary, with memorable wines. And the Romanée Conti 1937 will be a great memory.