Alain, Didier, Julien and Patrice are faithful of the academy of ancient wines and among the most generous members. The excuse to meet up is that Patrice bought a nice bottle of Yquem 1947 that we agree to finance in common. Didier takes the initiative to create a dinner around large bottles brought by everyone and his friend Sintija joins us. She has no experience of ancient wines but she will learn very quickly during this meal.
I am responsible for finding a restaurant and quite naturally the choice is that of the restaurant Pages. Didier makes sure that all the bottles reach either the restaurant or my office so that I can open them at 5 pm at the restaurant. We are so crazy that there are more than three wines per person. So I will eliminate some of them based on the results of the openings. The corks are quite difficult and break into several pieces so that the opening operation lasted an hour and a half. There are very motivating fragrances.
The Champagne Comtes de Champagne Taittinger Magnum 1964 of Julien has a low level. The cape that covers the cork is eaten by mold around the top of the neck. It takes me several minutes to clean around the cork so that no dirt falls into the wine. When I can grasp the cork it comes instantly because the bottom cap disc is so narrowed that it has a size of less than half of what it should. The color is unappealing, earthy and gray. On the palate champagne without bubble is flat. Drinking gives no emotion so Julien asks for a bucket so that we can empty our glasses. I’m the only one to keep my glass because I want to see how this champagne with pale accents can evolve. During the meal I could see that the platitude of the champagne disappears, that the wine is growing, but without being able to offer a sufficient emotion. But it became drinkable.
From memory and without support of a menu that would have been printed, the menu that I developed with the chef Teshi during the opening session of the wines is: amuse-bouche in five flavors including a broth, a raw fish , a piece of onion, a piece of cauliflower and another preparation that I have not memorized / Ozaki beef in carpaccio / raw scallops with a risotto / monkfish with shells and cabbage leaves / cod with a meat sauce and small potatoes / three pieces of beef, Simmental, Charolais and Wagyu, the three having had a long-ripening / just pan-fried mangoes / dessert of the day with red fruit sorbet, pomegranate seeds and caramels.
The champagne of 1964 having had a short life on our table, I open the Champagne Brut Imperial Moët & Chandon 1959 which is one of my contributions. Under the pretty cape the cap exudes a black glue. My fingers are getting dirty quickly. When I turn the cap it breaks and the bottom gets stuck in the neck. I try to sting with my long wick but I cannot push in as the cork is dense. With a normal corkscrew I finally lift the lower part. The wine could not be in contact with the black glue. The wine served has beautiful bubbles and a magically clear color. We drink and this champagne is superb, balanced, serene, glorious like all the old Imperial Brut of Moët. He accompanies amuse-bouche who are a little too intellectual for the champagne who would like more sweet flavors. The champagne is excellent but it may be a little too classic and not enough scoundrel.
We start the series of whites. When Julien announced a Chablis Faiveley 1928, I wanted to confront him to a Chablis Faiveley 1926 that I had in cellar. The level of 1926 is low so I had taken a 1955 White Hermitage in case it would be necessary, which we will not need. Raw shells are ideal for showcasing these two whites. What strikes me right away is that these two wines have identical DNA. They have the same freshness, the same chiseled precision of the message and they differ only in volume, the 1928 being wider and the body more assertive. I had fun saying that I still prefer my wines and that the more graceful and romantic 1926 I like more but in fact both are of immense purity, the 1928 being, thanks to its year, more conquering. The performance of both wines is impressive.
Didier insisted that I open the Côtes du Rhône Brézème Domaine Pouchoulin white 1952 low and whose cork wax had been decapitated a long time ago. At the point of pointing the corkscrew the cork slipped, impossible to prevent from falling. It had to be decanted and the color was not very inviting. Served now it is drinkable but its emotion is very weak after the two chablis. Didier, defending his baby told us the esteem he has for this domaine which the 1906 he drank is a marvel. As he repeated at least ten times it was necessary to remind him that what we drink is not the 1906 but the 1952, wine rather weak.
For monkfish, it is the Bâtard-Montrachet domaine Claude Ramonet 1964 of Sintija which is served. His color is beautifully young. The wine is pure, merry with good acidity. It is delicious with the monkfish and it is especially the hulls that make it vibrate the most. It is a beautiful wine but I think it does not have the full panache of a Ramonet. He is tall but not dazzling.
We now go to the reds and I let serve three wines, two of 1928 and one of 1929. This is to be noted because these two years are legendary. The Château Carbonnieux red 1928 of Alain is an absolute marvel. Its color is blood red. The wine is rich and heavy, with an infinite velvet and a heavy grain of truffle and charcoal. This Carbonnieux is at the top of Bordeaux wine. It is absolutely huge. I am deeply moved.
When I have my lips on the Hautes Côtes de Beaune Bouchard Ainé 1929 of Didier, I get a punch to the heart. Because this wine is a seduction of an unbelievable sensuality. The Carbonnieux is King François 1st commanding the troops in combat. This Côtes de Beaune is Suzanne in the bath, it is the Odalisque of Ingres, it is the absolute seduction. I am so charmed that I lose all objectivity. We are faced with the absolute seduction of Burgundy but especially of the year 1929.
The third wine that accompanies the cod that subjugates everyone by its relevance on wines is the Corton-Grancey Grand Cru Louis Latour 1928 of Patrice. After the other two, he has a lot more trouble positioning himself. If he were alone in a meal, we would be ecstatic, but after the two sacred monsters, he lacks a little vivacity and emotion. He is still rich enough. We are thrilled to taste these three wines so perfect.
For the three pieces of beef we add two more reds. Clos Vougeot Bouchard Père & Fils 1955 of Sintija creates a fascinating break. Because all of a sudden we discover a wine ‘young’ (everything is relative) and incredibly Burgundy. He has this exciting rasp of wild Burgundy wine. He is lively, active and does not leave anyone indifferent. I love it.
The Châteauneuf du Pape Henri Bonneau Réserve des Célestins 1976 of Julien is struggling to pass after the other four. Julien is sad but I think he has no reason because this Châteauneuf is good. It is very good but its message seems simple after the wines of Burgundy. For him too we can say that if he was drunk alone in a meal, as for the Corton Grancey 1928, we would feast, because it has a coherence and a nice chew that are pleasant. Meats are delicious and Simmental is the most suitable for wines because it combines firmness and intensity of taste. Wagyu would be better suited to young and rich wines.
The three sauternes are served at the same time on mangoes. I start with the Château d’Yquem 1947 which we are all co-contributors since we shared the cost. This Yquem is royal, deep, complex with myriad complexities, but above all it has a boldness, a fatness, that differentiates it from the other 1947.
The Château Suduiraut 1947 of Patrice has a color as dark as the Yquem. It is powerful and very close to the quality of the Yquem. The difference is the diabolical fat of the Yquem, while the Suduiraut is an exemplary purity and a beautiful complexity too.
After these two legends, the Château La Tour Blanche 1920 that I brought is a gringalet. Its color is much clearer than that of both 1947 and it is translucent while the other two are opaque. In the mouth he is graceful, he ate some of his sugar and he is a romantic that I love. He too would be a star if he was alone on the table.
We are a little groggy not by the alcoholic load of wines but by the conjunction of so many perfect and legendary bottles. Several times we had in front of us together perfection and eternal wines, which we would find in the same state and with the same emotion if we could taste them again in fifty years from now.
Didier would be very happy if this dinner he had initiated could be counted among my wine-dinners. It would be more logical to count it as a session of the academy for ancient wines but as I opened all the wines and as I composed the menu with the chef we can make an exception for this dinner which will be the 221st. Because of this, we have to vote.
We are six to vote for our five favorite wines among the 14 of the meal. Three wines had the honors of the first place. The Yquem was nominated four times first, the Hautes Côtes de Beaune Bouchard Ainé 1929 once and the Brut Imperial Champagne Moët & Chandon 1959 once also. Ten wines out of fourteen were in the votes which is particularly brilliant.
The vote of consensus would be: 1 – Château d’Yquem 1947, 2 – Hautes Côtes de Beaune Bouchard Ainé 1929, 3 – Clos Vougeot Bouchard Père et Fils 1955, 4 – Château Carbonnieux rouge 1928, 5 – Champagne Brut Imperial Moët & Chandon 1959.
My vote is: 1 – Hautes Côtes de Beaune Bouchard Ainé 1929, 2 – Château d’Yquem 1947, 3 – Château Carbonnieux rouge 1928, 4 – Clos Vougeot Bouchard Père et Fils 1955, 5 – Château La Tour Blanche 1920.
It could stop there, but Julien takes in his bag a bottle of a Marc de rosé Domaine d’Ott 1929, in a bottle of rare beauty which is the historic bottle of wines of the estate. On the nose, the alcohol seems strong and dry. On the palate it is of a softness and a sweetness which makes that one would drink without stopping. This marc is diabolical, I love it.
Chef Teshi made dishes that stuck perfectly to the wines. Thibaut has done an intelligent service of wines and despite the smallness of the table I was able to line up the 14 glasses of wines plus alcohol in front of my place. Apart from the champagne of the beginning, all the wines presented themselves to the best of themselves. None of us imagined such a success. It was a memorable dinner that proves that the 90-year old wines still have a lot of energy.
(pictures can be seen in the next article in French)