A decade ago, I had the desire to create meetings between amateurs who collect old wines and have in their cellars wines of low levels. I would have called this new formula « the case of the low levels« . I let this idea sleep in a corner of closet and some days ago I receive the mail of Pierre, a friend: « we must save the soldier Salon 1971« . In his mail he explains that the magnum of Salon 1971 has dangerously dropped in volume and that he sees no alternative but to share it with friends. A group of six is formed and this is an opportunity to bring low levels bottles. Having been very satisfied with the recent lunch at Le Gaigne restaurant, it is the one I propose and that my friends accept.
When I arrive at 11 o’clock to open the bottles, Pierre is already there. I open the whites and the reds. Many corks are torn. That of the Richebourg of the domain of Romanée Conti 1956 is black and dusty while the cork of Haut-Brion 1952 is of a cork perfect although it is older. I wish to open the champagne magnums but Pierre would like to wait before opening them. He will later regret having dissuaded me.
During the opening session, Chef Mickaël Gaignon came to discuss the menu: amuse-bouche including an acra au colin and a soup of asparagus / terrine of pork and chorizo / green and white asparagus / fish / pigeon / beef and Morels / cheese / raspberry dessert. I noted with great pleasure that the chef has simplified his recipes to focus on pure tastes. It was successful.
I open the Champagne Krug Private Cuvée magnum 50 years that I brought, which lost between 40 and 50% of its volume. The cork breaks when I want to pull it and I remove the bottom with a corkscrew. As soon as I feel the champagne I know it is a win. The champagne is of a beautiful gold, a joyous perfume and in mouth it is a marvel. The word that comes to me immediately is « sun. » This wine that has a sparkling strong bursts of honey and sun. What grace and especially what depth. We would never tire of drinking it.
Pierre opens the Champagne Salon magnum 1971 which has lost about a third of its volume. Right away we are on another planet with this champagne. It also has a beautiful sparkling and a more discreet fragrance. It is romantic and the white fruits and white flowers so close to Salon abound. It is much shallower and not as long as the Krug but it plays on its romanticism. We go from one to the other without any problem, from sun to romanticism according to our own desires.
Pierre opens the Champagne Barry Extra Sec 1/2 bottle 1928 which has a perfect level and is dressed in labels that are incredibly fresh. And there, I have a taste shock that is directly related to the vintage. This champagne gives me a punch to the heart. He does not have the power of the Krug or the charm of the Salon, but he has that spark of grace that leaves me speechless. It is fleeting but emotion electrifies me. Hierarchizing the three would be impossible. The biggest instant shock is with the 1928 and the deepest is the Krug, while the Salon is a ray of spring.
On the asparagus the agreement is not going to be obvious because the chef mixed the green and the white which are like dog and cat. The Château Laville Haut-Brion 1952 has level very close to the bottom of the shoulder and the color is rather pretty, more beautiful than the picture that announced this wine in the exchanges of mails. Alas, the wine is flat and cannot catch our desires.
The Chablis Vercherre 1934 that I brought is of a very dirty bottle whose level is very acceptable for a 1934, of the order of 6 cms perhaps. The wine is superb and generous. To say that it is a Chablis is probably difficult but the wine solid and frank is very great pleasure. It is tasty and long, broad on the palate. Decidedly 1934 does wonders.
Usually I never put the burgundy before the Bordeaux. But the pigeons to be served before the beef are going to make an exception.
The Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1956 that I brought is low level like those I already drank, including that of my birthday that had so moved me. This one is even better. He breathes in the lungs the soul of the Romanée Conti who carries me with his signature of roses and salt. This wine is archetypal of the domain like the previous one, having less suffered what exacerbates less the markers of salt and roses, more integrated here. What a nobility this wine has. Richebourg and pigeon feed on each other.
The Corton Marey & Liger-Belair 1914 comes from a very beautiful bottle with the thick glass so characteristic of this era. I could not see the level because the bottle is very opaque. The color of the wine is dark and if it is drinkable, I am embarrassed by a tiny point of cork. The wine is drunk but the emotion is not as palpable as it should.
The Château Haut-Brion red 1952 is beautiful. While it appears after the burgundies, its natural class justifies it fully at this time of the meal. It is rich, ample and deep with notes of truffles and charcoal and a heavy grain giving it a beautiful presence. With the beef the agreement is superb. The level was a bit low, but totally acceptable for a 1952.
We now return to champagnes with bottles at normal levels for their ages. The 1964 Champagne Piper-Heidsieck has all the charm of the year 1964, one of the most solid in history. And it’s a strong companion.
The Champagne Deutz Brut rosé 1981 is ideal for the dessert with the raspberry, inscribing in the line of the chords color on color.
The Champagne Besserat de Bellefon 1966 that I brought believing that it is a rosé is actually a white. It is also one of the two mythical years of the decade 60, and displays a good ease, but it is I who have much less ease because this meal is once again a debauchery of generosity leading to abuse.
The chef has managed to simplify his cooking to give primacy to the main product, which is necessary for old wines. The service was impeccable and we were placed in a small private room which allowed us to enjoy exceptional wines in the best conditions.
We did not vote, but the strongest emotions for me were the Champagne of 1928, the Richebourg 1956, the Krug years 50, the Salon 1971, the Haut-Brion 1952, the Chablis 1934. It is time that I launch as soon as possible « the Case of the Low Levels« . With the friendly friends of this lunch, we have a solid hard core. To repeat quickly!
(see pictures in the article in French, just below this one)