An unforgettable 1911 Corton in a marvelous lunch as I like themjeudi, 8 novembre 2018

In paraphrasing Baudelaire, I would say: « there are blue moments like children’s dreams ». Let’s look at the puzzle pieces of this lunch at the restaurant Pages. Romain is one of the most faithful of the Academy for ancient wines and one of the most generous. He proposes to me to lunch together to share wines. Knowing his generosity, I accept. He proposes a Y of Yquem 1979 and a Corton Charlemagne Louis Latour 1947. To that I answer by a Mesnil Wine Nature Blanc de Blancs Wine originating from the Champagne Wineries which I imagine around 1940 and a Corton H. Cerf Père & Fils in Nuits 1911. Roman is so surprised that I propose a Corton of 1911 that he decides to add a Bonnezeaux Yves Baudriller 1937. It is the act 1. The act 2 is a long-time friend, Luc, great wine enthusiast and generous, wants to celebrate his birthday and asked me where he could do it with his wines. Through me he will have a table in a fortnight at the restaurant Pages and I’ll be there. Since I have to share five bottles with Romain, I propose to Luc to join us. His lunch participation will be my birthday present.

At 11 am, I arrive at the restaurant Pages with my wines to open them. I put the Mesnil wine in the fridge without opening it and I open the 1911. The bottle is from the 19th century with a neck with very thick glass but very narrow center. The cap is overhung by a rather indefinable crust, probably based on wax. The cork is incredibly small, the size of the corks of the Cyprus wines of 1845. It reminds me of the cork of Chambertin 1811 that I drank maybe thirty years ago, which also had a size of the order of the last phalanx of an auricular finger. A hundred years away, we have the same cork markers. The nose of the wine seems promising to me. It has no age and the level in the neck is exceptional.

Romain arrives, opens the Y d’Yquem and I offer him to open the Corton Charlemagne 1947. The cap is incredibly tight in the neck, which requires me extreme efforts to take it out. The nose is still uncertain, but hope is allowed. The cap of Bonnezeaux 1937 comes normally.

According to the tradition, when opening wines is finished, I go with Romain to the bistro which belongs to the restaurant Pages to drink a beer. There will be no edamame beans but chips. Luc joins us here.

We sit down to table. The menu was developed by Romain with Lumi and the team of the restaurant Pages: amuse-bouches / carpaccio de st jacques, caviar and cockles / Turbot, yellow wine sauce / pigeon salmis sauce / figs, mint and milk / pear chocolate Calvados.

When the appetizer arrives, I am struck by the aesthetic quality of the presentation and I warmly congratulate the Italian cook who created this presentation. Romain, the sommelier, with the same name as my friend, opens the cap, split and held by a ring, Mesnil Nature Blanc de Blancs Wine from the Champagne Wineries I imagined around 1940. The cap comes easily. It is very small and the bottom is in the shape of a beret, which suggests more a wine of the 20s than the 40s.

I smell the wine and its subtle fragrance is mesmerizing. I taste and I am conquered. I say to my friends: it is a wine of esthete, which must be accepted to understand it. That’s good, my friends accept it. We drink a wine of gigantic emotion. It is carried by a very strong acidity which gives it an electric force. And all he suggests is refined and delicate. I fully enjoy this wine, which challenges and shows exceptional vivacity. It is on the tuna carpaccio of the appetizers that the wine expresses itself best. Luc finds in the nose that the wine evokes the yellow wines of the Jura. It’s true on the nose but not on the palate because it has a scathing straightness that belongs only to whites of whites of le Mesnil! What a teasing and enigmatic wine!

Romain the sommelier brings the Y d’Yquem 1979 and before even tasting it I propose to my friends to see how the two wines can be fertilized and I suggest to them to drink the Y, then the Mesnil then the Y and see what happens. Y has a nose that explodes with generous botrytis. In the mouth, it has what Y must have, this morganatic union between a dry white wine and an infidelity of botrytis. He is thundering. And what is interesting is that the interlude by the Mesnil wine gives it an exceptional straightness. The wines are fertilized, as I had supposed. I had a good intuition.

On the carpaccio of scallops, if you take the cockles, it is imperative to take the wine of Mesnil which vibrates on the marine flavors of the hull, and if one takes with the shell the delicious caviar of Sologne of an extreme length, the Y expresses himself madly. This white wine is thundering, at an exceptional stage of completion.

For turbot, the Corton Charlemagne Louis Latour 1947 is served. At first contact, the nose seems a little unstructured and in the mouth it is at the level of the final that I note a lack of precision. And we are going to witness an outbreak which I believe is one of the most spectacular I’ve ever known. The wine was opened shortly after 11am. He had only about 90 minutes of ventilation. He will have to make up for lost time and he does it with a unique energy to the point that in the middle of the dish, he marries the turbot in the most beautiful way. His nose has become straight and happy and in the mouth he is totally coherent. A resurrection like this is rare. It is a beautiful Corton-Charlemagne, without the slightest defect, greedy and rich and ageless. Who would’ve believed that? Probably nobody.

If we want to make the point of the three whites, the Y is the quiet and generous perfection, the wine of Mesnil is Michèle Morgan when Jean Gabin says to her: « you have beautiful eyes, you know » (movie : Quai des Brumes), and Burgundy from 1947, it is the newfound confidence, the return of the prodigal son. We feel good.

The pigeon is served and I pour the Corton H. Cerf Father & Son in Nuits 1911. The level in the bottle is exceptionally high. The color of the first glass is pink, an irresistibly young light pink. There is obviously no doubt about the authenticity of the bottle. The second glass is darker but still very pink. The third is the same color and the whole bottle will be as pink, without an ounce of tuilé. The nose is masterly and from the first sip I am stunned by the perfection of this wine. And the coup de grace is given by the association with the lightly smoked pigeon. Because wine ‘is’ the pigeon, but even more, it ‘is’ the smoked pigeon. The wine and the dish merge. It’s the ultimate gastronomy and the taste of the wine is irresistibly charming. Crazily bourguignon with a slight bitterness and a delicate velvet. All in this wine is courteous. There is a French expression which is: « I will not wait 107 years », when one is annoyed by someone’s delay. There, we drink a wine of 107 years, which waited 107 years that we decided to drink it. And he shows us how happy he is that we drink him. I drink the bottom of the bottle, without the slightest dregs, the pink color barely darker than that of the second or third glass. Juicy, easygoing, racy, delicate, velvety, it has everything to please. I’m so happy with the agreement that I’m bringing a glass to Ken, the cook who cooked the pigeons, to let him feel how good the deal was.

The dessert is delicious but the Bonnezeaux Yves Baudriller 1937 stayed too long in a refrigerator too cold. It will take long minutes for him to enlarge. It is marked by roasted notes of coffee, reminiscent of those of a Royal Kebir Frédéric Lung. The wine is sweet, pleasant, but we are a little saturated and still under the spell of the red wine.

This meal was illuminated by a totally exceptional 1911, great eternal wine that shows the wisdom of the winemakers of the time and a sublime accord between this wine and the delicious pigeon. The kitchen team of the restaurant made a wonderful meal. In a friendly atmosphere we lived an unforgettable moment of communion, linked to our common passion for ancient wines that we venerate. So, it was a « blue moment like children’s dreams » (1) …

  1. The original poem of Charles Baudelaire says « There are fresh perfumes like children’s flesh »

(pictures are in the following article in French. See below)