Caviar, antique alcohols and rare champagnes, a trip in the unknowndimanche, 15 avril 2018

The caviar house Kaviari has in the 4th arrondissement of Paris a « factory » which is very nicely decorated. From time to time Kaviari invites chefs to come and design lunches on their caviars. Thus, responding to the invitation of chef Valerie Costa to come to lunch when it was her turn to be in the kitchen, I discovered Caviars Kaviari and met the General Manager Karin Nebot.

The idea came to me to associate my champagnes and my spirits for one dinner. The dinner of tonight is held at the Manufacture Kaviari. We will be twelve, one of the faithful friends of my dinners having invited ten people to constitute the table. Philippe Turquet is a cook who from time to time participates in the development of menus for caviar. I came here a few weeks ago to do some testing, and I asked him that the priority be pure products rather than the « façon » of presenting them. It is always a little frustrating for a chef to fade in front of the product, but Philippe has lent himself with a success that should be noted. Pascale Karin’s efficient collaborator made the purchases and the products were of high quality.

I arrive at 5 pm to open the wines and later the champagnes. Several ideas came up for me to compose this dinner. The first is that caviar must play a major role in more than half of the meal and it then fades when we arrive at cheeses and desserts. Indeed the fact to want to marry the caviar at every moment of the dinner in improbable agreements will not suit my wines.

The second idea is to take risks to try agreements and perhaps to create wonders. So in the program there are three wines or spirits that I have never tasted. The third idea is to check how can behave alcohol that is served at the same time as champagnes or wines. It is therefore a pioneering, adventurous experience that I wish to share with the guests of the meal.

There is in the program a Vodka of 1867, perhaps from Macedonia, which came from the Parisian cellar of the Duke of Windsor. I had asked a Russian-speaking friend to explain the Cyrillic label. She had trouble reading because it is not Russian but she confirmed two things: the date of 1867 is a vintage and not the date of creation of the distillery (as the Chateldon water that we drink is not vintage 1650) and it is probably a vodka fruit (?). I fact due to some people who saw the picture, it could be a Serbian plum Slivovitz. But at that time I thought of vodka. When I want to open it, a very hard concretion exists at the cork top. I try to break it without pushing the cork down but irresistibly it falls into the liquid. I decant the liquid very amber and with a string I manage to get out the cork while contracted, which impresses Napal who works in the kitchen and is watching me do. I clean any dust from the bottle and I can put the alcohol in its bottle. I did not want to take the risk that the cork would disintegrate in the liquid by polluting it. I open the wines between 5pm and 6pm, some Champagnes young around 6pm and the oldest at 7pm. Among the wines there is a totally unknown wine of 1916 for which I was without illusion. His nose delights me. Everything is fine.

When the guests have arrived we take the aperitif standing with a Champagne Dom Ruinart 1988 and we take at will caviar with small wooden spoons. The caviar is Transmontanus which is the blackest caviar of this house. The slightly amber champagne is of a magnificent fullness. It is tasty and the salt well measured caviar makes it even more greedy. The year 1988 succeeds in champagnes and this Dom Ruinart reaches a level of great excellence.

The menu that I composed – for once it’s me alone who composed it – and made with talent by Philippe Turquet is: caviar osciètre with oyster, caviar osciètre with warm oyster / caviar osciètre and scallops in carpaccio / osciètre caviar and saint-pierre cooked at low temperature, new candied turnips, white butter, turnip juice / Comté 18 months / Stichelton of the house Bellevaire / mango dessert just seized / mango gingerbread / lukewarm financial with nuts and hazelnuts.
The first dish with the two oysters hosts two champagnes. Champagne Substance Jacques Selosse disgorged in 2013 is a beautiful champagne noble who ideally enjoys being disgorged five years ago. It is noble and lively, but the competition is tough with the Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil 1985 which is in a state of absolute perfection. What nobility. If we were to make a watch comparison this champagne would be like a tourbillon watch, the complication much sought after by amateurs. Noble, tall, seigniorial, this champagne is in a state of grace.
With the delicious raw scallops, we will try an alcohol and a champagne. What I suggest to my guests is to make a path « dish – champagne – dish – alcohol – dish » so that we do not telescope the two beverages. We always have the dish in between. The Champagne Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial 1964 is extremely amber. It is soft because it is dosed but it is well sparkling. It has accents of sauternes. He is very sensual. The agreement with the shell and the caviar is magical. I had tried during my preparatory meal in this place the Eau-de-vie Kummel 1943 and I was conquered. We take a little caviar and a little shell and the extremely fresh alcohol, aniseed chili and cumin taste form a splendid agreement. But the most alive is the following. When you take the shell right after the alcohol, you have in your mouth the memory of cumin and it’s great. The sugar in the shell cannot prevent the Kummel’s flashback. I check with joy that the alcohol does not crush neither the dish nor the champagne. This scheduling is convincing. This is a convincing experience.
Now, there is something unreal about having three drinks in front of us from 1915, 1916 and 1867. Two are over a hundred years old and one is over a hundred and fifty years old. They are associated with the saint-pierre.
The Blanc Vieux d’Arlay Jean Bourdy 1915 is a wine that I cherish in this sublime year. It breathes the nut and in the mouth it combines density and lightness. It would be impossible to give it an age as its fluidity exceeds time. I love this beautiful and so fluid expression of Jura wine.
Carcin Wine 1916 is a complete unknown. I had met a collector of antique empty bottles who has in his house in the center of France a real museum of the history of glasses and bottles. In a Breton castle he had acquired dozens of antique empty bottles and had also taken full bottles which he sold me several rarities including this one and some wines of the 18th century. I searched on internet and could not find anything that really explains this wine. Here is what I took off from the Web: what we read is rather Carcin, but it could be Larcin. Carcin can be a synonym for Quercynian. Larcin is a Bergerac wine. We would be in the wines of Cahors. But the glass of the bottle is engraved Birmenstorfer Wein which is a Swiss wine from Birmenstorf north-west of Zürich. It would then be a Swiss wine. But it could have been bottled by a merchant with any wine.

Through the very nice bottle I could see a very clear liquid. I had added this stranger to our meal, accepting in advance that the wine is tasteless. At the opening, the very pure perfume seemed pretty close to that of the Jura wine of 1915. The proximity of date had also played in my choice but it is especially the exploration of the unknown that animated me. On the palate I am so captivated that this wine will be the one I will put in number one in my vote. This wine, which I am unable to guess the region is a dry wine, resolutely dry. The Swiss track is plausible. But what is crazy is that it has a minty freshness in the finish that I have never met so well for a white wine. It is fresh, has no age in taste, enigmatic and good and its final freshness. On the caviar is a magic moment. I would not bet on this wine and this feeling of an unknown taste enchants me.

The Probable Vodka with Macedonian fruit 1867, from the parisian cellar of the Duke of Windsor, is incredibly amber. His taste clearly evokes a taste of vodka. But it seems to be a Serbian Slivovitz that is a plum schnapps. Everyone can be wrong, especially with alcohol of this age. The alcohol is there, but not very strong. There is a bit of rough in the taste but overall this alcohol is delicious. It is enigmatic, complex and twirling and appreciable, we can go from one to the other of the three wines and alcohol without feeling the slightest taste break. This improbable juxtaposition is one of the curiosities I like to inspire.

We now close the door to the dishes around the caviar to return to a more conventional part of the dinner. The Comté is excellent but a bit dry. He is very tasty. Chateau Chalon Jean Bourdy 1929 is a divine nut but I find it a little less powerful, a little more fluid than the 1929 that I already drank of this excellent wine.

Château d’Yquem 1946 is a beautiful amber color with almost pink tones. His nose is rich with a thousand complexities and sweet as rare pleasures. With the creamy Stichelton the agreement is superb. And what is confusing is that another chord is found with the perfect slices of mango pan-fried with a trace of honey. This Yquem is magnificent of accomplishment. And its adaptability is remarkable. The trace in the mouth of this wine is indelible, joyful and greedy.

The gingerbread was considered with the Yquem but I thought it preferable that the Yquem only rubs the mango and it is a Champagne Dom Pérignon 1978 that closes the meal. He is divine, magically accomplished. His serenity and balance make him a great Dom Pérignon that I could have included in my vote.

It is time to vote and it is very difficult as the wines and spirits are different. What gives me great pleasure is that the eleven wines have had at least one vote, which means that everyone has been deemed worthy to be in the top five by at least one guest. The other satisfaction is that six out of eleven wines were deemed worthy of being first by at least one of the guests. The Yquem had five first votes, the 1915 Blanc d’Arlay and the 1978 Dom Pérignon each had two first votes and three wines had a first vote, the 1985 Krug Clos du Mesnil, Carcin Wine 1916 and Vodka 1867. In my vote if I had retained the pure quality I would have put the Clos du Mesnil first, but the Wine of Carcin 1916, complete enigma surprised me so much that it is him that I have retained.

The vote of consensus is: 1 – Château d’Yquem 1946, 2 – Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil 1985, 3 – Old White d’Arlay 1915, 4 – Probable vodka with fruit of Macedonia 1867, 5 – Vin de Carcin 1916, 6 – Champagne Dom Pérignon 1978.

My vote is: 1 – Vin de Carcin 1916, 2 – Château d’Yquem 1946, 3 – Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil 1985, 4 – Eau-de-vie Kummel 1943, 5 – Probable vodka fruit of Macedonia 1867.

What to say about this dinner? The Manufacture agreed to host one of my dinners and contributed to the success of the experience. The purchase of high quality products and a chef who agrees to play simplicity to deliver pure products without unnecessary façon, these are two major assets. We had not planned a sommelier and I had to take on this role. It is imperative for a sommelier to ensure the service of the wine if we imagine new experiences.

I wanted to take risks with wines or alcohol that I did not know, because it seemed to me to be part of the experience. We were lucky that all the wines were good. It gives me a furious desire to start again. I will try to convince those who have itching to mix caviar, rare alcohols and large champagnes.

With particularly nice and open diners, we had an anthology dinner. 1867, 1915, 1916, 1929, 1943, 1946 …. time has no hold on great wines.

(pictures are in the article in French concerning this dinner)