The evolution of wine prices changes consumer habits. Some wines have become inaccessible. So when I get offers that I cannot handle alone, I call my friend Tomo, to see if he would accept a joint purchase.
This is the case of a Romanée Conti 1954 that tempts me enormously. We know that after the 1945 harvest, the vines of Romanée Conti, prephylloxeric, were about 200 years old. Exhausted, they had produced only the equivalent of 600 bottles, so they were torn off. There was no Romanée-Conti during the six years that followed, and the Romanée Conti 1954 is therefore made by young vines.
Aubert de Villaine had told me that he was surprised that the wines of the 50s, coming from young vines are as complex as wines from old vines and the only non-scientific explanation he gives is that during the uprooting, they left on the spot torn roots which had to form a kind of amalgam which enriched the young roots. Seeing an offer of a 1954 I could not miss the opportunity to verify. Tomo had the same desire. We bought it.
We discussed additional inputs and we quickly agreed. I brought the Romanée Conti and my contributions the day before dinner. Tomo joins me on dinner day at 5 pm at the restaurant Michel Rostang, for the opening of the wines. I had kept from the dinner of the day before a rest of Trottevieille 1943 that we will drink after the champagne. Tomo smells it and he is very happily surprised.
I open the Musigny Count Georges de Vogüé 1943 and the cork comes whole. Very oddly enough, it is inscribed on the cork « Vieilles Vignes » while this inscription does not appear on the label. Who’s right, the cork or the label? A priori it is the label, but we do not know. We will see.
The bottle of the Romanée Conti 1954 shows a very nice color that had played a role in my desire to acquire this wine. The level is very acceptable, 5 or 6 centimeters from the cap. When I pull the cap, the upper half is dry and covered with pale green mold. It’s not very engaging. The second half has no defect, but the bottom of the cap is narrowed, this half being more conical than cylindrical. Life is not simple. The scent of wine is still vague but everything suggests that time will do its work.
The Yquem 1954 has a very nice level and a beautiful dark mahogany color. The cap is broken in its lower part on the one hand because the plug is soaked, but mainly because the top of the neck is tightened and prevents the cap from going out.
Everything is over at 5:30 pm so we have at least two hours left, which allows us to chat. I would like to open the Ruinart 1949 in advance. Tomo is perplexed. It will be open less than an hour before we drink it. Opening it earlier would have been preferable. The cork broke to the twist and was pulled out with a corkscrew, without pschitt.
We build the menu with the kind advice of the butler and Baptiste, the friendly sommelier and we choose: frog legs parsley parsley roasted natural, watercress coulis / duck ‘Miéral’ blood, served bleeding in two courses, red wine sauce with blood and foie gras, consommé of duck / hot soufflé with fresh verbena, caramelized raspberries, raspberry verbena sorbet.
Champagne Ruinart Brut 1949 has a pretty golden color. The bubble is nonexistent but the sparkling in the mouth is well preserved. What is surprising at first contact is that champagne is extremely sweet. He is not a Brut. It is more dosed than a champagne « American taste ». But this sweetness will quickly disappear when the champagne will be confronted with amuse-bouches and the entrance. It becomes lively and reminds me of the Dom Pérignon of the 40s, which have beautiful, caressing subtleties. This champagne becomes with time more and more pleasant and gastronomic.
Three small bites are served as an aperitif, simple and neutral tastes. It adds a nice preparation that gives the impression of eating a green soup while the preparation is solid. It’s extremely elegant but the restaurant should know, when customers go to drink the wines we brought, that this soup will never be compatible with what we drink. This does not prevent this dish from being talented.
The frogs’ legs are delicious, but the cromesquis croquettes have envelopes too thick, which weigh down the chewing of this dish. Château Trottevieille Saint-Emilion 1943 enjoyed a good day after being opened yesterday. It is dense, rich, truffled and very pleasant.
The Musigny Count Georges de Vogüé 1943 has a very beautiful color. His perfect nose is straight and strong, showing a rich burgundy’s image. In the mouth what impresses me is the purity and precision of this wine. It is magnificent and its vigor is that of a wine of twenty years. We are happy. It is likely that it is ‘Vieilles Vignes’ because it is rich and brilliant.
We should have filmed Tomo and I when we took the first sip of the Romanée-Conti Domain of the Romanée-Conti 1954. It was a shock, an illumination and a big smile on our two faces meaning: « That there is, we have one, tonight we are going to have a huge Romanée-Conti « . Because she is wonderful. What happiness. We no longer hold up, we welcome, we are happy. The same morning, speaking with Aubert de Villaine, he told me that 1954 being a rather weak year, the estate had kept a lot of this year’s Romanée Conti. And once, sharing a 1954 with Hubert de Montille, Hubert had kneeled, to signify that he drank a miraculous wine. Well, what Hubert de Montille felt, we feel it. What is fascinating is the salt, the marker so full of Romanée Conti that you cannot go wrong when you drink. This salt is elegant, strong, skeleton of taste. The faded rose, often associated with this wine is not present. Salt transports the wine and gives it complexity and length. I think this 1954 is one of the five biggest Romanée Conti I’ve had the chance to drink. And it is confirmed that this terroir is brilliant in the small years. We check what Aubert de Villaine had suggested to me, is that the complexity of this wine, the infinite range of flavors is not at all that of a wine of young vines.
And we measure the grandeur of Romanée Conti in juxtaposition with the Musigny. We can consider the Musigny as absolutely perfect, joyful rich and fruity, but Romanée Conti is stratospheric and takes us to infinite heights. The gap is breathtaking. We feast like crazy young people.
What is interesting is that it is the Musigny that is most suitable for duck blood. Romanée would have been more at ease on a pigeon or a poached foie gras.
We could ask ourselves the question of our enthusiasm: are we laudatory because it is Romanée-Conti and because we wanted it? The answer is of absolute certainty, given by the Musigny. This Musigny is immense, perfect in its definition, but the Romanée Conti transports us to a hundred cubits above. Doubt is not allowed.
The soufflé is delicious and goes well with the Château d’Yquem 1954. It was dark in the bottle and in the glass it is nicely gilded. He has all the class and the generous complexity of Yquem and is part of the Yquem who ate their sugar a little. I love it. We had so many wonders that we only have one glass of this delicious Sauternes. I will bring it home and Tomo will do the same for the Musigny of which remains a quarter.
Dinner at the restaurant Michel Rostang is a pleasure. Everyone is welcoming in this house that breathes the atmosphere of a family home. Baptiste is a very competent sommelier. The service is attentive and smiling. The chef was kind enough to present the accompaniments separately so that we could enjoy pure tastes. The blood duck is a divine dish based on ducks of unparalleled quality.
This dinner is for Tomo and I the crowning of our passion. We drank one of the most beautiful Romanée-Conti that it is possible to drink, totally typified, a wine that is unlike any other. For four hours we were on a small cloud, realizing a dream. This dinner was a miracle thanks to an anthology Romanée Conti.
(see pictures in the article in French)
Addendum : message received from Aubert de Villaine when he read the bulletin #840 where this dinner is mentioned.
It is wonderful that you followed him with a Yquem 1954, a year that must have been as difficult in Bordeaux as it has been in Burgundy.
I still have a little criticism to make of you, that of having truncated the explanation that I gave you about the strange and even almost implausible complexity of the Romanée-Conti 1954. Explication certainly not scientific, but all of which the meaning comes from the fact that the vine had been carried on all its life until 1945 in provignage, that is to say that a vine to provign was curved in a small pit and gave one, two or three new vines by the eyes of one, two or three of his branches, and that he rotted in the soil at the same time as his roots. Too bad to have skipped this explanation because it is not the rooted roots but even more the decaying vines that have enriched the young roots.
In any case, I am happy for you that you had this experience.