Sarah is American. She is today the most assiduous of my dinners, whatever the level. And what fascinates me is that she comes from the United States for my dinners without programming anything else in France. She came to the Hotel du Marc of Veuve Clicquot, the Hotel Les Crayères in Reims, but also Mougins Paloma restaurant, and the castle of Yquem, arriving the day before and leaving the next day.
Such a passion fascinates me and she has become a friend of my wife and me. We had already invited her to visit us in our southern home two years ago. We renewed our invitation and as for dinners, she only comes to France to see us.
I pick her up at the airport and according to tradition I open the welcome champagne. It is a Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle Magnum without year, that I received in my cellar of the south in 2009. It thus matured ten years in cellar after the ripening envisaged by this house of champagne. The pschitt is strong, the color is that of a very young champagne, but the cork which became cylindrical shows that the champagne is old.
This champagne is noble, with pretty yellow fruits, and an infinite delicacy. I often call this champagne a romantic and it really is, with a beautiful fluidity, a minerality and an acidity dosed elegantly, and an impressive length in the mouth.
Our friend has traveled all night, we have lunch as a brunch, with an anchoïade, ham Pata Negra, truffle crisps, a Jort camembert a little advanced, strawberries and figs.
It’s frugal, because we’re going to celebrate tonight. By far the most striking combination that extends the length of champagne is pure and simple strawberries. It’s strikingly fresh. Then come the anchoïade very sweet even if it is typified, and the Jort, then the chips.
Pata Negra and figs are too marked for this beautiful champagne.
At 17:00, I open the red wine for dinner, a Vosne Romanée Léon Grivelet-Cusset Merchant 1943 at low level. The top of the capsule is very difficult to remove and the metal center of the top remains stuck on the top of the cap. It happens quite often that bottles which have lost part of their volume show a top of almost hermetic cap. This is one of the mysteries of wine conservation.
The cap is black and the lower part breaks, and I can lift them because it sticks to the glass, and I smell the wine. This is a happy surprise because the scent is engaging and sweet. This is good news.
At 19 :00 I open the Champagne Dom Pérignon 1964 level to one centimeter under the cap, which is good. At the twist, the top of the cap comes alone. It leaves in place the last thickness of cork, which I remove with the corkscrew. The pschitt is non-existent and the nose is discreet.
There will be no aperitif and the menu will be: terrine of duck foie gras, zucchini flowers, lamb chops with spices of Provence, zucchini cakes, pear sorbet, caramel cream with salted butter and speculos grains.
On foie gras, Champagne Dom Pérignon 1964 is a miraculous apparition. It has a lot of fruit, ranging from plum to kumquat as citrus fruits coexist with late summer fruits, and what is striking is the abundance of its complexities. While the Grand Siècle is brilliant, the age gives champagne of 55 years a complexity without equal. He is tall, long, magnificent, powerful. The foie gras enhances it.
For zucchini flowers, I think it’s the most suitable red wine. The Vosne Romanée Léon Grivelet-Cusset Merchant 1943 has a slightly tiled color. The nose is charming but does not mask some acidity and in the mouth, it’s ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. The attack is superb, nicely fruity, cheerful, and the finish is stuck, short, showing acidity and bitterness. It’s fun because it all starts with a smile and ends with a question. The lamb chop is so good and tasty that it provides support and reinforcement to the wine, to the point that we do not feel the need to open another bottle. The dish is eaten with greed, without weariness for the wine.
For dessert we take the Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle Magnum that shows a liveliness even more sensitive than at noon.
On the terrace overlooking the sea which rocks us with its rippling, we finish our glasses of champagne, happy with this simple but tasty meal of friendship.
The next day at lunch, there are spicy sausages (andouillettes). It does not seem appropriate to drink the rest of 1943. It needs a wine that supports the shock. I open a Vega Sicilia Unico 2004. The color is almost black. What is fascinating about this wine is that it has a black fruit attack, a full-bodied mid-palate, and a fresh finish that slaps like a whiplash. I am in love with this Spanish wine, even when very young.
After the quiet of the afternoon we prepare the evening meal with Sarah, our American friend. There will be small langoustines just fried for a few seconds and sole. We will see for what will follow. I have shelled all the langoustines and I understand better why I do not feel able to cook: it takes a patience that I would have difficulty to acquire. But the langoustines are ready.
It seems to me that it’s the Vosne Romanée Léon Grivelet-Cusset Négociant 1943 opened yesterday that will best suit langoustines. And the surprise is important because the finale of the wine, which bothered me yesterday, has softened and became consistent. The wine is pleasant and its grain has enough power to accompany the subtle langoustines in perfect harmony. What a nice surprise !
The Burgundy also accompanies soles, but the harmony is less harmonious.
Vega Sicilia Unico 2004 is associated with Camembert Jort and bitterness is combined wildly.
Passion fruit sherbet is served with sweet heart-shaped pancakes and the Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle Magnum without year, opened a day and a half ago, is even more glorious on the galettes, the sorbet not to be confronted.
The next day, the third day of Sarah’s stay in our southern home, it’s a big dinner coming up.
Red wine will be one of the wines that I cherish particularly. When I communicated through the press, it often happened that I was asked what wine I would take with me if I lived on a desert island. And I always answered the Côte Rôtie La Mouline Guigal 1990 because this wine gives me the image of the perfect solid and indestructible wine, absolute condition for a wine to be preserved on a desert island.
I open the bottle around 4 pm and the bottle seized in the cellar had a dusty exterior smell, which I still feel when the cork is removed. I am not able to say if this external smell has spilled over the content. There are enough ‘Plans B’ in the cellar so I do not get alarmed.
At 18:30 it is thirsty, so with Sarah we finish the magnum of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle nibbling a pesto gouda that goes well with champagne, combining spices and sweets. The two-day champagne is always so dapper, and it’s the magnum effect.
At 7 pm I open a champagne whose year is sensitive to Sarah, a Champagne Dom Ruinart 1973. The bottle is of rare beauty. The colored capsule is also very beautiful and the cork is healthy. The pschitt is very weak but the bubble is active. Discreet but active. The color is amber, lighter than that of Dom Perignon 1964. In the mouth, this champagne is an extreme refinement, elegant and complex. While I am an unconditional worshiper of Dom Perignon 1964, I am obliged to say that this Dom Ruinart 1973 is more precise, finer than the 1964.
I inadvertently opened a can of anchovies, which should not be associated with Ruinart. Small sardines appear and accompany the champagne well. But the natural harmony is with the terrine of duck foie gras.
The chicken from our friend butcher is incredibly tender and the potatoes cooked in oil and impregnated in the oven by cooking the chicken that roasted just above are diabolically greedy. As soon as I feel the Côte Rôtie La Mouline Guigal 1990 I am fully reassured, there is no shadow of a dust in the assertive nose of this wine. In the mouth, thousands of small lamps light up in my brain, reminding me of the moments when I tasted this wine that I love, the archetype of the simple and perfect wine, complex while being legible, greedy and joyful. There are accents of garrigue in the rasp of this wine.
Everything in him is full, reassuring, carrying pure pleasure. And the association chicken, potato and this Côte Rôtie should be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For me, everything is happiness.
Also the meal could stop there. No need to reopen the Vega Sicilia 2004 which remains a little, no need for Jort, because we have tasted the summit of gastronomy of simplicity. A passion fruit sherbet and a glass of water made us return to earth.
I love the three stars, but from time to time, such immersion in pure and accessible pleasure by its purity is a necessity. The 1990 Mouline is an important point of passage in the quest for the Grail.
(see the pictures in the three following articles)