Richard Geoffroy, the man who makes Dom Pérignon, had to cancel at the last moment his presence at the dinner of vine growers in early December that I organize every year. He missed this dinner, as I missed him, to spend beautiful moments of friendship. I have a pretext to see him: in storing my cellar, a friend found a rare bottle that I did not imagine to have: Dom Pérignon 1929. The level is not beautiful. With whom could I better enjoy this wine, if not with the one who is in charge of it today? All happy that a date was found, just after the end of New Year festivities, I am like a schoolboy who goes to his first gallant date. So, I load my bag of six bottles, although I know it is not reasonable. I want so much that this moment is beautiful.
The day said, weakened by a cold or flu, I do not know, I hide my red albino eyes behind sunglasses that make me look like Kim Jong Il. I booked Laurent’s restaurant a small intimate lounge overlooking the Champs-Elysées gardens, so that my physical transformation remains in the shade. I open the bottle of Arche Lafaurie 1901 and a dazzling perfume floods my nostrils, even through the misfortunes I endure. It is not the same with the Romanée Conti 1956 whose level is low, which reveals odors of dust and especially fatigue. My prognosis is very pessimistic for this wine. Since I do not know what Richard will bring, I leave my other contributions in the state, we will decide on his arrival.
There are three of us in this delicious little room, Richard, my wife (who does not drink) and myself. Richard brought in his musette three Dom Pérignon Enoteca, 1996, 1990 and 1962. As we are two to drink, the equation is complicated to solve. Richard sees my contributions of champagnes: Dom Pérignon 1929, Moët 1959 and Pommery Gréno 1949. I chose three great years in « 9 ». Richard is as much a kid as I am also wants to drink the three that I brought. Of the six champagnes, the only one that will remain aside, in « reserve », is the 1996. With the help of Philippe Bourguignon, we will compose the order of the wines that will order the order of the dishes.
The menu resulting from our cogitations and the suggestions of Philippe Bourguignon is: amuse-bouche / toast « Melba » with the truffle black / royal sea urchins and coral au naturel / « Fregola Sarda » in a sauce poulet / quail gilded casserole, Roasted with offal, celeriac wedge with black olives / 36 months Comté / cheese-cake and fresh mango on a lime shortbread.
The Champagne Moët & Chandon 1959 expresses at first a certain fatigue and a final slightly game. But it assembles very quickly, grows, especially on the delicious toast with smoked fish. The gently spicy acra had swollen his chest. The fish, perhaps trout, gives it length and straightness. I see Richard very attentive. He explains that spending his time studying wines of recent disgorgement, he must calibrate his palate for wines of initial disgorgement. I evoke the pink fruits. My wife who does not drink but smells the wines evokes exotic fruits and Richard says: guava. And that’s it. As for the other champagnes of original disgorgements that I brought, Richard is struck by the importance of the fruit, which is much more present than on champagnes of recent disgorgement. The blossoming of the champagne is spectacular, and the finale that was imprecise and game becomes very clear and charming. The bottom of the bottle gives a wine of more gray color. Richard is struck to find components that are those of champagne Moët, especially in the course of wine in the mouth, which expounds his message very quickly, at first contact. If this champagne is beautiful, it is far from the Moet Brut Imperial 1928 drank on New Year’s Eve, which was outstanding.
The great moment arrives. The sommelier gives me the first drops of Champagne Dom Pérignon 1929. I am afraid, because of the low level. But this is ecstasy. I feel that we are going to live an exceptional moment. When he drinks the first sip of this wine, Richard has the face of the goldsmith who has just found an enormous gold nugget. Everything leads us to meditation, for the wine is of an extreme dimension. I ask to be called Philippe Bourguignon to make him taste this beverage. I know that Philippe does not like sharing wines drunk at a table, because there would be bidding on the part of his loyal customers. The exception is possible since we are in a private room. What about this wonder? The color is of a beauty that shades to that of the 1959 which appears clearly more gray. The nose is of delicate refinement. It is a rose with a rare scent. In the mouth the fruit is clear, rather towards the tangerine and the jammed fruit. Finally the final is of a rare nobility. Unlike the 1959 which took time to flourish, the 1929 is perfect from the first to the last drop. And importantly, the wine will remain perfect until the end of the meal, very late. This can be understood by the fact that the wine has lost some of its volume in the bottle. Contact with air made it invulnerable. It is rather incredible that such a bottle gives a wine of such purity and nobility.
The question that teases me is this: « Richard, you who have the opportunity to taste all Dom Pérignon, at what level would you put this 1929? ». And the answer is: « at the highest level ». The royal sea urchin gives a fine tension to the champagne, but one can imagine that he would not need it even if the chord is pretty.
The Champagne Dom Pérignon 1990 has no label. This is the reserve of the chief of cellars. Looking at the codes of the tiny label, it can be deduced that it is an Enoteca. After the two previous champagnes, the return to earth is rough, because the bubble is so active that I feel it like so many daggers thrown on my tongue. The champagne is rich, of great complexity where the white fruits abound, but it is especially a rocket wine, which has such a tension that it tears the palate of its inextinguishable trace. When I return to 1929, I am delighted to love the old champagnes, because the 1929 appears of extreme comfort. The 1990 highlights the aromatic richness and fullness of 1929.
The Fregola Sarda makes me want to try the red. It will be necessary for me to put my pifometer on the shelf of obsolete accessories, because to my surprise, what is poured into my glass is a living wine, which no longer has the signs of old age and dust ‘opening. The Romanée Conti domain of the Romanée Conti 1956 exposes a little too its alcohol, but the wine is there, complex, subtle and very Romanée Conti. Very quickly he shows thunderingly the rose and salt that sign for me Romanée Conti. Having recently drunk in the cellars of the domain a Romanée Conti 1956 who had remained all his life in the domaine, I see the differences. That of the domain has incomparable freshness and grace, whereas this one is more square, more powerful, more alcoholic and perhaps a little less discreet. All that makes the miracle, the mystery of the Romanée Conti is exposed here with the sound set a little strong. But she is there, alive, vibrant, and Richard is moved. He becomes aware of what makes the magic of this wine without concession, which does not try to seduce, but exposes all its complexity.
Never, having brought these two bottles, the 1929 and the 1956 in the middle of the six bottles, I would have imagined that one reaches such summits. The red wine improves at every moment, it is a happiness.
On the quail, Champagne Dom Pérignon Oenotheque 1962 is served. I had already drunk it with Richard in the cellars of Dom Pérignon. It is of extreme charm. But it is clear that the late disgorging, by delivering a wine of a rare complexity and a virginal freshness, also gives a bubble much too lively, almost anachronistic compared to what one would expect. Because we do not necessarily want to drink a champagne with a crazy youth. Needless to say that this champagne is nevertheless of extreme seduction, but when we return to 1929, we are all acquired to the disgorgement of origin. For Richard, it is extremely interesting and to my question on the interest of keeping in the cellar also wines of initial disgorgement, Richard answers me that he does so since 1996. I envy in advance the Amateurs of the 2060s and beyond who will be able to compare the initial wines and the late disgorgement on wines that have been kept under the same cellar conditions. La Romanée Conti continues to be splendid on the quail.
The Champagne Pommery Gréno 1949 is a golden yellow. The nose is discreet but noble. On the palate, its course is very different from that of Dom Pérignon and Moët. We love this champagne that evokes more corn, but also beautiful yellow fruits. The champagne is long. It probably does not have the complexity of the Dom Pérignon but it shows to what extent the year 1949 is raced and gives wines of high distinction. The Comté marries amiably with each of the wines that are in our glasses.
The wine we are going to drink now has a high emotional value for me. The bottle is extremely pretty. It is a year of which, from memory, I have only one bottle. To open it for Richard but also for my wife who tolerates and drinks the sauternes is a rare pleasure. The Château d’Arche Lafaurie 1/2 bottle 1901 had at the opening a perfume that had conquered me. But now I think it’s wrong. It smells good, but in the mouth, it tastes a short wine, a little extinct even if it is pleasant. My anticipation skills are again being questioned. But it is also the mystery of wine. La Romanée Conti seemed condemned and resurrected, and the Sauternes, who were to be brilliant, fell asleep again.
Tasting the last remnants of my glasses, it is the structure of Romanée Conti that seems to me the most glorious. The temptation would be great to put it first wine tonight, but I will not, because I already drank a Romanée Conti 1956 more moving even if this one rocked me in his arms with nursery rhymes that sing all the mysteries of this adored wine. I will put first a Dom Pérignon which is most probably the biggest of those I have drunk. I felt with him an emotion, a desire for meditation that justifies this choice. My ranking will be: 1 – Champagne Dom Pérignon 1929, 2 – Romanée Conti domain of the Romanée Conti 1956, 3 – Champagne Dom Pérignon Œnothèque 1962, 4 – Champagne Moët & Chandon 1959.
Throughout the evening, we felt the magic of this event of sharing and friendship. Richard is a charming, sensitive friend who listens with respect to the messages of the wines. We were happy to be together, to communicate on rare wines. The capacity of reception, listening and service of the restaurant Laurent is an absolute example. Philippe Bourguignon is the most talented of hosts and his teams have done a job of high precision, with a commitment that is sensible. We must say bravo. The cuisine is serene, tasty and knows how to serve the wines.
To conclude, I will say selfishly that I am glad that Richard Geoffroy could not come to the dinner of winegrowers. For if he had come, would we have known this intense moment?
It was a moving evening of great communion.