The 226th Wine-Dinners Dinner is held at the Exceptional Cellar of the Hotel de Crillon. It is a large room whose walls are windows where the greatest wines are exposed, with a brightness that does not harm their conservation. During the dinner at the Kaviari factory I had wanted to explore the marriage between old spirits and champagnes on caviar dishes. In this dinner, at two moments, we will explore the cohabitation of very old sauternes with rather sweet champagnes on dishes. It is with the chef Christopher Hache that I want to do it because I have the memory of nice dinners that we made before the renovation of the hotel de Crillon.
During a lunch at the hotel’s brasserie we had developed the menu with Christopher and his team including Pablo the pastry chef. All the logistical aspects were developed with the director of the restoration and I was able to measure to what extent all the teams of kitchen, table service and sommellerie are involved. It’s nice to feel such a motivation.
I had delivered my wines almost a week ago and they were set up the day before by Xavier, the excellent sommelier who will follow us all night with Elise, sommelier. Gautier, will manage the service and will be accompanied by Manon. And the chef will come several times to cover our plates with delicious sauces.
At 16:30 I am hard at work to open the bottles. I had brought two bottles of Yquem 1918 to be able to choose at the last moment the one that would be suitable, the lower one having a more sympathetic color. I opened the lowest and the perfection of its rich and flawless perfume reassured me. The 1955 Cheval Blanc perfume is extremely pure and the cork is beautiful.
Due to a tightening at the top of the neck, the cork of La Tâche 1959, very healthy, comes in several pieces. Its promising but still closed odor indicates that aeration will do him good. The cork of Vega Sicilia Unico 1959 comes in many crumbs because the top of the neck tightened and sharp, forbidden to go up the whole. The 1894 Yquem is the only bottle that does not have its original cap. It is marked on the new stopper that reconditioning dates from 1989 but I cannot believe, while it is written, that this cap is so young, because it is blackened in places and splits like old plugs. This is an enigma. The perfume of wine is magic of complexity. The Yquem 2001 opened just after, the darling of victory since he has won all the best ratings since birth, has a fragrance that seems discreet alongside the 1894 which is paradoxical. The wax of the 1869 Cyprus bottle is so thick that I would need a jackhammer to remove it. The scents at the opening are very smoked, even old cabinet. We feel that after aeration it will be big. The most beautiful smell, by far, is that of Rhum 1864, olfactory bomb combining power and incredible sweetness.
While I open the bottles a dialogue is formed with the cooks who prepare the dishes. I will taste sauces, I suggest some attenuations and when we talk about the avocado that would accompany the poached foie gras, I would tend to want to forget it, but Christopher Hache who will join us later, will convince me to keep it.
After the wines are opened and at 18:15, I open the first champagnes. The magnum of Krug Grande Cuvée has a blackened cap that breaks when I turn the top. I get the bottom with the tirebouchon. The perfume is promising and as the format is a magnum, I allow myself to taste this Krug which is divine. Xavier enjoys my glass. He is delighted. The 1962 Krug Collection will need air to flourish and the 1978 Veuve Clicquot Rosé is so powerful, with an explosive bubble that Xavier makes a suggestion that I immediately approve: instead of putting this rosé on the lobster, it would be worth better put it on the pigeon, because there will be no fight with la Tâche and the Spanish wine.
Everything seems on track, I will not need the two spare bottles that I brought. I can change and wait for the guests. We will be twelve, including a woman. The eleven guests all know each other professionally and nine of them have already participated in dinners, the tenth attended a session of the academy of old wines and the eleventh is the only « rookie ».
The aperitif is taken upright. Appetizers are: Quejo Pan & Quail Egg – Tamarind / Gaspacho Sphere / Frog Gyosa. The Magnum Champagne Krug Private Cuvée from the 60ies is rather from the 50ies when we take into consideration the cork and taste. The bottle is beautiful and of great rarity. The champagne is a little amber. In the mouth it plunges all of us into the world of ancient wines because there is no resemblance to current champagnes. It is powerful, sweet, round and offers both red fruits and salt. It has no bubble but a beautiful sparkling, it is very gastronomic and goes very well with the varied tastes of finger foods, the most beautiful agreement being with small tomatoes reconstituted that we bite at once.
We sit down to table. The menu composed by Christopher Hache is: pie – vegetables / shell – coriander / blue lobster – bisque / chicken – broth / pikeperch – meat sauce / pigeon – stuffing au gratin / poached foie gras – avocado / stilton / grapefruit – mango / financial / chocolate – declination.
The Yquem Y 1960 is a beautiful clear gold. The nose is very close to that of a Yquem and in the mouth, while it is a dry wine, this wine of Graves has a lot of kinship with Yquem. It looks more like a light Yquem than a dry wine. It is delicious, round and full but the agreement probably a little too conventional that I proposed with the pie will deprive it of votes at the end of the meal which is unfair because it is a wine of great pleasure.
The soup of shells coriander is accompanied by the Château d’Yquem 1918 because I remembered a successful marriage with a shell soup and Yquem. I probably did not explain enough, I do not know, but even if the agreement was found, it should have avoided coriander and make a broth rather than a cream. We will have to redo the test.
The Château d’Yquem 1918 will now coexist with the Champagne Krug Collection 1962 on the wonderful lobster. The very rare Champagne is completely different from the Krug Private Cuvée of the aperitif. The 1962 is sharp and of great depth. It is an intense and educated champagne. He inspires respect. The 1918 Yquem is of rare elegance. She is a very feminine Yquem who walks around twirling her crinolines and vertugadins. The demonstration is made that a great noble champagne can cohabit with an elegant Sauternes. What is impressive is that the trace of the Yquem in the mouth never ends and never goes out.
And this is where the absolute weapon appears, advised by Alexandre de Lur Saluces, chicken broth, served in a cup, which recalibrates the palate and makes it ready to face the reds. It’s really effective.
We will all be touched by lightning, as the agreement that arrives is out of the ordinary. The Château Cheval Blanc Heirs Fourcaud-Laussac 1955 merges with the zander (pikeperch) in a symbiosis unheard. It is undoubtedly the incredible perfection of the agreement that will propel this wine in first place in the final ranking. The grain of the wine is heavy, truffled like the most beautiful bordeaux of the right bank. I would put this wine on top of the recent Cheval Blanc 1947 that I had the opportunity to drink. This wine is glorious, balanced, rich and full of serenity.
On the pigeon, we will taste three wines because to the two red wines I added the champagne that should have been served on the lobster and that Xavier and I decided to move. La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1959 had at the opening a fragrance that required aeration but promised. He is now subtly Burgundian. It has the beautiful bitterness of the wines of the Romanée Conti estate. He may be a little shy next to Spanish wine. The supreme pigeon showcase it.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée rosé 1978 is a bubble bomb after the previous champagnes that had almost no. It is adapted to the pigeon and finds its place without quarreling of borders with the two reds. It is large and long trace in the mouth, in pink tones that suggest the blood of the pigeon. It is very gastronomic.
The Vega Sicilia Unico 1959 is the quiet strength. His nose was strikingly balanced at the opening. He still is. It’s a Frank Sinatra. Despite his ease he has a rare power that allows him to be most suited to pigeon paw and especially the succulent stuffing. It looks like this « farce » was designed for the Spanish wine.
We will now explore the second challenge of combining an old Yquem with sweet champagnes on the same dish. I put two bottles of Cordon Vert CH.Mumm & Co 1930, one almost full and the other half only. We start with the most evaporated which is an incredible surprise because the champagne is lively, precise, measured sugar, the sweet is elegant. And I’m going to suggest something that I never do, the fuller bottle will be served in the same glass. It turns out that it works and this champagne delights me as it is precise and lively. We would not have given three cents to these tired, torn and stained bottles, but in the glass it’s a marvel.
Beside, the Champagne Moët & Chandon « Mousseux » from the 1930ies that I would rather see from the 50ies is a little clumsy, heavy sugar. It is interesting but the Cordon Vert is much more lively. The Sparkling wine »Mousseux » is not lacking in interest because the sublime poached foie gras enhances it.
Christopher Hache was right to have me keep in the recipe the burnt avocado, sweet as a candy, because it marries wonderfully with the Château d’Yquem 1894 absolutely glorious. This wine has incredible power. While I’m not a foolish lover of reconditioned wines, this Yquem rebouched in 1989 is a perfection and an incredible richness and poached liver enhances it. Complexity, aromatic richness, length and power make it an immense wine that will be the first of my vote.
What is paradoxical is that the Château d’Yquem 2001, a magnificent expression of a Yquem young and one of the greatest in history is almost « pale » next to the former 107 years his eldest. The agreements with stilton then with grapefruit and mango work fully with the 2001.
The Cyprus Wine 1869 is strange because it has smoky accents, but under this envelope it reveals beautiful spices and a beautiful pepper. It is a confusing but charming wine, very interesting for its taste that has nothing comparable. The very successful financiers suit him exactly.
We are twelve to vote for the five favorite among 13 wines since Rhum is not part of the vote. 12 wines out of 13 had votes which makes me extremely happy. Six wines had the honor of being named first. The Yquem 1894 and the 2001 Yquem each had three first votes, L’Yquem 1918 and Cheval Blanc 1955 each had two first votes. La Tâche 1959 and Vega 1959 each had a first vote. The Cheval Blanc who has been on eleven voting sheets with two first and five second votes is the winner of this evening.
The vote of the consensus is: 1 – Château Cheval Blanc Fourcaud-Laussac Heirs 1955, 2 – Vega Sicilia Unico 1959, 3 – Yquem Castle 1894, 4 – La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1959, 5 – Château d’Yquem 2001 , 6 – Yquem Castle 1918.
My vote is: 1 – Château d’Yquem 1894, 2 – Château Cheval Blanc Fourcaud-Laussac Heirs 1955, 3 – Vega Sicilia Unico 1959, 4 – La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1959, 5 – Champagne Krug Collection 1962.
The most beautiful chords are pike-perch and Cheval Blanc then stuffing the pigeon « farce » with the Vega Sicilia Unico.
We take a seat in the courtyard of the hotel. I brought cigars over thirty years old, from the time I smoked. Xavier had put the cigars to hydrate in the cigar cellar of the hotel. For the first time in 27 years I smoked a Cohiba while drinking a Rhum of Saint Martin 1864 absolutely exceptional presence and sweetness, stubborn perfection.
In a friendly and cheerful atmosphere, with an attentive and motivated service, on a kitchen of a talented chef and also motivated, we lived a dinner of very great wines. I wanted to try old Yquem with champagnes on two courses. The experiment succeeded. Off to new adventures.
(pictures are in the article in French. See below)