We receive our son for the last dinner of his stay in France. My oldest daughter wanting to bring her Christmas presents for the family of her brother in Miami, there will be four of us at dinner. I want to compare two champagnes from 1964 and put together two wines from the domain of Romanée Conti or close to the domain.
For the champagnes there will be the aperitif with a foie gras terrine made by my wife, and the starter will be Kaviari Osciètre Prestige caviar served alone, with bread and butter. For red wines there will be a braised veal cooked at low temperature accompanied by a Robuchon puree.
At 4 pm I open the 1966 Romanée Saint-Vivant Marey-Monge, Leroy Négociant at a somewhat low but acceptable level. The cork comes whole and the smell emanating from the bottle is awful, putrid, and I think that smell is likely to linger, which would make the wine undrinkable. My wife, who smells the wine, is much less critical and believes that the wine will eliminate these bad smells. I don’t agree with her as only five minutes later although the scent is less excruciating, it is still strongly marked by the odor of sweat, almost dry mops and dust. The rule I have set for myself is to always give wines a chance, but I will see a potential candidate in the cellar to replace this wine. Why did I indicate at the beginning of this story « close to the domain »? Because in 1966 Geneviève Marey-Monge, the last heiress of the family, decided to rent out the plot she owned to the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Was the 1966 wine matured and vinified under the old or the new management, I don’t know.
The Grands-Echézeaux Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1952 has a fairly low level, as was often the case with wines from this estate during this period. I plant my normal corkscrew and despite my best efforts I can’t lift it because it’s so hard and compressed in the neck. Once again I see the curious phenomenon that extremely tight plugs in the neck still allow liquid to evaporate, while others, less securely locked in the neck, do not cause any evaporation. This is a mystery. I remove the inoperative corkscrew and take the Durand corkscrew which combines a corkscrew and a bimetallic strip. And unlike what normally should happen, the cork rips to shreds that I pick up with the tools I have. My efforts pay off because the scent of this wine is divine. Rich in red fruits, it promises the best, because this fragrance is straight, precise and rich.
Shortly before 7 pm I open the two champagnes of 1964. For the two corks, the lunula at the bottom of the cork which is glued to the cork does not come out with the top and I have to use a corkscrew to extract these lunulae which are some five millimeters thick. In both cases there is no pschitt and the scents are encouraging.
My son is the first to arrive. We are thirsty, so I serve Champagne Lanson Red Label 1964 in the beautiful bottle in the shape of a keel. The champagne is slightly amber. The bubble is extremely rare. The champagne is divine, giving off an incredible joie de vivre and a formidable charm. The champagne is very sweet, without being able to say that it is heavily dosed. It’s so user-friendly, you can’t help but love it.
My daughter joins us and I serve Champagne Dom Pérignon 1964 to each of us. It has a color very similar to that of Lanson, with an amber which also has small notes of pink color, but it is perhaps due to the lighting and fireplace. This champagne is marked by a fairly strong bitterness which limits the pleasure. The Lanson consequently appears brighter. On the foie gras, the Lanson is imperial and the pairing is superb.
Suddenly, after half the bottle has already been drunk, the Dom Pérignon has completely lost its bitterness and I see its grandeur dawning, made of a complexity greater than that of Lanson. I am delighted because I would like the two champagnes to play an equal game, but the charm of Lanson is formidable.
At table we eat caviar with bread and butter. Dom Pérignon is the best companion for the small savory grains. He recovered part of his delay but the judgment will be final, dedicating Champagne Lanson to incomparable seduction and perfect balance, as well as its length.
I go to look for the two red wines and I announce that it is very likely that the Romanée Saint-Vivant Marey-Monge, Leroy négociant 1966 will not be up to the task. I pour the wine for my children and while I pour the other wine, their doubtful expression calls out to me. They tell me: this wine is good. I hasten to taste it and the result is amazing. The wine has no flaws both in fragrance and taste. The miracle of slow oxygenation has happened once again. My wife guessed more correctly than me.
The Grands-Echézeaux Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1952 is absolutely sublime. Its fragrance is powerful, rich, intense and of absolute purity. In the mouth, the emotion is total, because this wine offers the most beautiful expression of what represents the magic of the domain of Romanée Conti. This wine suggests more than it imposes. It is delicate, elegant, and its mid-palate is a recital of successive complexities. It’s a story. We are in heaven, and veal at low temperature is ideal for highlighting the subtle wine.
So we forget a little the Saint-Vivant, which is a good wine but far from the emotion that the 1952 gives. But it has not said its last word. On an epoisses, a Burgundy cheese, the accord with Romanée Saint-Vivant is incredibly vibrant. They are made for each other, so much so that we’ll decide that the 1966 pairing with époisses is the best pairing of this meal. La Romanée has found with this cheese an extra soul which has made it a conqueror.
My wife made a Tonka bean applesauce topped on each plate with a candied black cherry, all accompanied by trials she made of Kouign-Amann. It is an obvious call to associate it with this alcohol which excited me, the Calvados made by the father of a truck driver of a former company that I ran more than forty years ago.
We voted for our favorite wines. My daughter put the Lanson champagne first, which touches me a lot because not so long ago, she had little interest in champagnes. My son and I have the same classification: 1 – Grand Echézeaux 1952, 2 – Romanée Saint-Vivant 1966, 3 – Lanson 1964 and 4 – Dom Pérignon 1964. Messages of thanks that I received from my children, I remember that they were dazzled as well by the dishes than by the wines we shared. The next stop in these curfew times will be Christmas.
(the pictures can be seen on the article in French, just below this one)