An incredible « unknown soldier » probably prephylloxeric, was immense
I bought a cellar which is a cave of Ali Baba, because there are wines that are part of dear desires. All are over 140 years old. The wines arrived in my cellar and I put them in areas that I organized to make me dream. Of course, when my son comes to Paris, I want urgently to show him. We spend long hours looking at the bottles and putting nearby the bottles I already had that are from the same origins. We are talking, we are like in a dream and I think of tonight’s dinner. My wife being in the south, we will be two. It is tempting to take a bottle in the new shipment and in a natural way I take the lowest of the many bottles of Cyprus 1869 wines that are one hundred years older than my son. A bottle, the only one, has a level at half height. I take it.
We need big champagne and it will be a beautiful 1973. To begin, we will take champagne more likely without risk and it will be a 2005. It lacks something else. When a young collaborator helped me organize my cellar, she had stored unidentifiable wines in specific places. In one of the places, the bottle ass that I see is likely to be from the 19th century. Depth, irregularity of the circumference of the bottom of bottle, all sign the seniority. I look at the bottle without indication. It must be a white Burgundy whose color is beautiful. Another bottle has the same bottom but not quite. That’s when I see a Bordeaux bottle infinitely smaller than the broad and Burgundian dresses, and what strikes me is the incredible finesse of the crease of the bottom of the bottle, between the cylinder and the ass. The ass is deep but everything in the bottle is frail. With the help of a lamp I try to see the color of the wine and I have a click. It is this bottle that must be chosen.
We go home and at 5 pm I open the bottles. The Bordeaux wine capsule is blue, a dragonfly blue softened by the years. And on the top of the capsule there is a marine anchor on which rests a bunch of grapes. Nothing else is visible. Classically the cork is crumbling because there is in the middle of the neck an extra thickness that strangles the cap. We must tear the plug so that it is removed. Even in crumbs we see that the quality of the cork is very beautiful. The level in the bottle is mid-shoulder. When I feel, I am surprised that there is such a generous red fruit. The promise is beautiful too is it appropriate to leave the bottle quiet in a rather cool atmosphere.
The bottle of 1869 Cyprus, which has lost nearly half of its content, has on the contact disc between the surface and the glass a myriad of white bubbles which are frankly uninviting. But it must be said that I chose the most injured of all the bottles. The cap is covered with a huge light wax hat that is cut with a knife. The cap is not two centimeters long and as often with this type of wine, it has twisted, the bottom of the cap having nothing horizontal. The cap smells of vinegar and the wine in the bottle smells of vinegar. It seems bad to me.
For the aperitif we will have small sardines, sausage, pâté, and for the dish we will have delicious ribs of lamb prepared with many spices of the south and for the continuation, we will improvise.
Pierre Péters Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne The spirit of 2005 has a color that is darker than I could imagine. The bubble is active. The champagne is beautiful, but what is it young! I lost the taste for so young champagnes. The more time passes and the more the qualities of this Blanc de Blancs are shown. It is with the sardines that it is the most alive, more than with the sausage or the pâté. It’s really a champagne of gastronomy.
My son cooks lamb chops and we taste the unknown wine. The nose evokes red fruits. It is generous. On the palate, the wine is a miracle. It has intonations of beautiful red fruits with an exemplary freshness. Its length is unreal. Immediately I think of Chateau Margaux 1928 because of the red fruits and the feminine side of the wine, but it is clear that the wine is much older, because the bottle is from the 19th century and cannot be a re-used bottle. So I’m looking for what it is. It is a wine so feminine that it evokes me a Margaux. But it has such an aromatic persistence and such freshness that it must be an eternal wine. And the idea comes to me that it could be a prephylloxeric wine. As it is necessarily the 19th century, as it has the nobility of a first grand cru classé, why not imagine that it is a Chateau Margaux 1870 or a prephylloxeric year of this castle. And that’s when I remember that I have a Château Margaux 1887 whose capsule is blue. I’ll have to go look in the cellar. But for now I want it to be a Chateau Margaux 1870. No one can contradict me, I do not try to convince anyone, but there is an important point that deserves to be reported. I drink with my son many very great wines. This is the first time I say to him during a meal: « Let’s be silent and concentrate on this wine ». I would not be far from thinking it’s the biggest Bordeaux I’ve drunk, but if I want to be objective, Mouton 1945 or Lafite 1900 have more presence. But in terms of charm, I do not see any wine that could offer such a beautiful romantic fruit associated with such length. The prephylloxeric character is felt because of the youth of the wine and especially the impression that this eternal wine would be the same if it was open in one hundred years.
My son and I are knocked out. We look at each other as two athletes who have just realized that they have finished running a marathon. We know that we have accomplished a feat. That’s what we feel. And all the more so because we do not know what we drink. This moment of grace has a particular importance.
After this unforgettable moment that justifies more than ever the risks that I took to buy bottles that are of no interest to many people, what to drink? The Cyprus wine, which had long held a belt of white bubbles, lost them. The wine looks much more pure. And there is no longer any sketch of vinegar. But after a wine as extraordinary as this Bordeaux, the Cyprus wine, even getting rid of its defects, will not shine. Also, as the aeration makes him progress, let him one more day to aerate.
I open the Charles Heidsieck Royal Charles Brut Champagne 1973. The bottle is beautiful and very original. His label is like new. The stopper breaks and even with the corkscrew it cannot be prevented that the cork bottom also breaks. The color of the champagne is magnificent; a light blond gold, the imperceptible bubble at the exit of the cap gives way to a sparkling very clear and very active. The champagne is lively, vibrant, and sharp as the blade of a samurai sword. It is huge and shows that if the champagne Péters has great qualities, it cannot fight against the effect so beneficial of age. I take some Camembert on the Royal Charles. We then nibble biscuits and chat about everything and anything.
It seems to me that we have probably never been so moved by a wine like this unknown Bordeaux with incredible red fruit and the length and freshness of the greatest wines that we have drunk.
(pictures of this dinner are in the article below)