Gilles de Larouzière, president of the group, which includes Henriot champagne and Bouchard Père & Fils, organizes a charity dinner at the Château de Beaune for the benefit of the Association for the Climats of the vineyards of Burgundy . Aubert de Villaine, who has carried out the classification of the Climates within the UNESCO World Heritage site, will be the guest of honor and Guillaume d’Angerville, the current president of the association, will welcome us with Gilles.
At 5:30 pm, several of the dinner guests come to visit the historic cellars of the Château de Beaune. Between these walls of 7 meters thick ages the most beautiful treasures of the 19th century of this famous house. We visit, we chatter, we stretch before these flasks full of history which I had the chance to taste the most beautiful florets. We then climb up the towers of the old castle of the 11th century to contemplate the city under a particularly beautiful light in this half of autumn.
We disperse, without having had the opportunity to drink a glass of wine or a glass of champagne, each having to go and prepare for the dinner at 8 pm. Thirsty, I go into the kitchen of the castle where Philippe Prost prepares the bottles of the dinner. He tastes each of them and puts back teh corks, which I do not do. Marie-Christine responsible for the kitchens and the service, which alas will retire at the beginning of next year, welcomes me with a broad smile. She prepares the bouquets of flowers but stops in order to give me a glass of Champagne Henriot Brut NV that I needed. It is very pleasant to drink. Gilles de Larouzière comes to inquire about the state of the prestigious bottles of the dinner. I go to my hotel to prepare.
Shortly before 8 pm our assembly is already almost complete. We are more than twenty, perhaps thirty, in the beautiful drawing-room of the chateau and we taste Champagne Henriot Cuve 38 « the perpetual reserve » Blanc de Blancs of magnum which is elaborated according to the technique of solera and comprises of sixteen to eighteen vintages incremented each year of the new vintage. The champagne is noble but I am not so convinced because it lacks both a bit width and a little depth. But of course it is drunk with pleasure in good company.
We go for dinner and in the orangery we have a large table rather than round tables. This allows our two guests, Gilles de Larouzière and Guillaume d’Angerville, to welcome us for this charity dinner and to explain what will be used for the funds to be raised by this dinner but also by the small charity sale that will be organized during meals.
The menu was designed by the managers of Bouchard and implemented by Philippe Augé the chef of the Hostellerie de Levernois. Appetizers: pressed with foie gras and braised cabbage, dual consumed, celery apples and condiments / carpaccio of Saint-Jacques, cake and caviar Daurenki Imperial, iodized / white turbot sauce with crayfish red legs, butternut and salsify, sauce cremant de Bourgogne / Chevreuil and hare royal style, braised cabbage, porcini mushrooms and autumn fruits, velvet sauce / fresh and refined cheeses / red fruit bar and candied rhubarb, Vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet.
The Chevalier-Montrachet La Cabotte Grand Cru Bouchard Père & Fils 2002 is one of the white wines of the house Bouchard that I prefer. This 2002 is an olfactory bomb. Alcohol appears strongly in my nostrils. In the mouth the first impression I have after power and energy is minerality. It’s like I’m sucking an oyster shell. But this impression will change as soon as the amuse-bouche is served, heavy and tasty, which does not cohabit so much with the wine. Philippe Prost will tell me that the appetizer had been designed to go with Champagne Cuve 38. The wine becomes wider, more civilized with the partridge and I like its strength, its fullness and its warlike character. It is a very great wine of conviction.
The Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru Bouchard Père & Fils magnum 1955 is served before the dish. Because of this, it seems rather frail after the imposing Cabotte wine and I find that to follow the 2002 is not a service to render. But the wine will flourish on the Saint-Jacques dish, ideal for wine. The ingredients of the dish are a little too numerous to ensure a total coherence but the 1955 imposes its refinement and its noble complexities. It is a very great wine of balance and subtlety while knowing to assert itself. As much presence for a 62-year-old wine astonishes my neighbors of tables that are generally unfamiliar with wines of this age.
The dish that resembles a hare à la royale is a real success. It is coherent, powerful and perfectly suited to the Volnay Caillerets Premier Cru Bouchard Père & Fils 1934. What is curious is that the label as well as the menu do not indicate « old Cuvée Carnot » while the cork Philippe Prost shows me, original cork, clearly bears that mention. The wine has a beautiful red color without the shadow of a tiled trace. The wine is rich, powerful and it is necessary for the dish, and it is of perfect balance, percussion, pepper, rich with beautiful red and black fruits. Its finish is brilliant.
Jean Louis Bottigliero the owner of the Hostellerie de Levernois came to see if everything goes well and we reassure him readily because the chef’s cuisine is refined and expressive.
The Beaune Greves Vineyard of the Child Jesus First Cru Bouchard Père & Fils 1928 is presented in bottles of port and Philippe tells us that two vintages were bottled in bottles of porto, 1928 and 1976, I do not know why. The first glass served me seems imprecise in the final and Philippe, very nicely, handed me his glass that does not have this defect. We have with this wine everything that demonstrates the unusual character of the 1928 vintage. There is the charm and complexity of the Beaune Greves I love, but there is a vibration and a rhythm in this wine that puts it to exceptional levels. One feels the richness and the nobility of a wine that does not end and whose final is a blow of whip. The nobility of tone and the subtlety of this wine are rare.
If one compares 1934 to 1928, the youngest, Volnay, is resolutely merry, greedy, the great wine of pleasure while the 1928 is a wine of nobility, of which one must listen to all the nuances religiously. The Beaune Greves was served on relevant cheeses and a very flowing Epoisses, but it would probably have taken a more cooked and subtle dish. This remark is at the margin because this meal was a real success.
A present auctioneer will direct the sale of four bottles from the cellar of the ancient wines of Bouchard in favor of the association Climats of the vineyard of Burgundy. There are 1966, 1947, 1939 and 1937 proposed to the guests. I made the best bid for the Beaune Greves Vineyard of the Child Jesus First Cru Bouchard Père & Fils 1937. It is my modest contribution to the works of this association.
There was a crowd around the table different from that of the other dinners to which I was invited, where I met wine professionals or experienced amateurs. Tonight is more the world of finance and of the charity and some friends of the vine growers. Seeing the astonished eyes of my neighbors, observing that the wines of 1955, 1934 and 1928 can be as lively and expressive, is for me a pleasure of which I never get tired.
It would be impossible for me to classify the four wines of the meal as they have immense qualities in very different directions. It was a memorable meal in a friendly atmosphere.