The 35th session of the Academy of Ancient Wines is being held, as usual at the Macéo restaurant. We have a beautiful private room that will accommodate the 34 participants who will be divided into three tables.
Each table will have its own wine program :
Table 1: Mathusalem de Champagne Pommery 1966, Champagne Trouillard Cramant Blanc de Blancs 1961, Meursault 1895, Algerian White Targui 1955 (Eschenaueur house in Algiers), Rosé Frédéric Lung 1945, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1941, Château Margaux 1914, Moulin à Vent Louis Chevallier 1926, Grands Echézeaux Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1974, Italian wine Gancia 1919, Vega Sicilia Unico 1967, Vin Jaune Château de l’Etoile 1969, Le Portail Rouge Loupiac R. Bernède 1949, Château Climens 1925.
Table 2: Mathusalem de Champagne Pommery 1966, Château Chantegrive blanc 1984, Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 1973 from Domaine Paul Droin-Baudoin, Riesling Grand Cru Maison Bott Frères 1970, René Dauvissat, Chablis 1er cru Forest 1982, Château Canon 1943, Château Margaux 1934, Vieux Château Certan 1967, Château Latour 1941, Mercurey Levert Frères 1959, Grands Echézeaux Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1974, Rioja Vina Tondonia 1954, Vin Jaune Château de l’Etoile 1969, Haut-Sauternes Bouchard 1953, Porto Dows 1970.
Table 3: Mathusalem de Champagne Pommery 1966, Champagne Jean Pierre Thomas 1960s, Meursault Patriarche 1942, Bourgogne Aligoté La Chablisienne 1979, Royal Kebir Frédéric Lung 1945, Château le Bourdieu Haut Médoc 1976, Château Ausone 1962, Château Léoville Poyferré 1960, Château Mouton Rothschild 1967, Grands Echézeaux Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1974, Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve des Chartes 1947, Vin Jaune Château de l’Etoile 1969, Château Lafaurie Peyraguey 1971, Château Sigalas Rabaud 1959.
Pommery’s Methuselah has been assigned to each table, it is a single bottle shared by all. While Romanée Conti wines and Jura wines are represented by a bottle at each table. So there are 40 bottles and a Methuselah which is the equivalent of 48 bottles and an average of 16 bottles per table. We won’t be short for anything.
In this session, there are two students from the Ecole Normale Supérieure and around ten students from HEC, with very cosmopolitan origins, Japan, China, Taiwan, Austria, etc. As a result, I will make my speeches in English, in Frenglish that even those who do not speak English will understand without difficulty.
I arrive at the Macéo restaurant at 3 p.m. to open the bottles. There are a lot of corks that have become lint and three corks that have fallen into the wine when trying to prick the wick of the corkscrew in the cork. Beatrice, who helps me through all phases of the academy, managed to root out the fallen corks.
At 4 pm one of the most faithful of the academicians joined me to help me with the openings and he brought, according to tradition, the « wine of the openers ». This is a 1969 Dom Pérignon Champagne with a curled cork that looks more like a cork from the 1940s. The champagne is older than its age, but it is delicious. Other friends well in advance, but late for the openings, will have the chance to taste the wine of the openers.
The Mathusalem de Champagne Pommery 1966 is opened by me half an hour before the arrival time of the guests. The cork is sharply narrowed to the point that it rises together with the muselet without any effort. I taste the champagne which I find flat and watery. With Beatrice we had asked ourselves whether we should not have a backup champagne, and we had made the bet not to take it. Ouch!
When the champagne is served at all the tables, because the aperitif will be taken seated and not standing as a precaution against the Covid, I warn our assembly of the risk represented by this champagne but in fact it will behave much better than what announced after the first sip. Over time it becomes more and more lovable and loses the flat, watery side. Gougères help to make it sociable.
Adrian Williamson, who has managed the wine and food service, serves the first course a bit quickly so that the Methuselah is only half-drunk.
Being at table one, I am commenting on these wines. Champagne Trouillard Cramant Blanc de Blancs 1961 has tiny dust in suspension that frightens my Japanese neighbor. Champagne is drinkable and paradoxically it highlights the 1966 Pommery.
The Meursault 1895 is from an opaque bottle that does not allow the color of the wine to be seen. The cork with its texture confirmed the year well. The wine served is black, of a black earth. On the palate it is solid, massive, earthy. It is obviously atypical and I love it for the density of its material. He’s an alien.
At the academy, we love Algerian wines so we are happy to taste a wine that is unknown to us. The Algerian White Targui 1955 (Eschenaueur house in Algiers) is very light yellow in color and very young. On the palate, the wine is solid, structured, intense. It is a magnificent wine that evokes the splendor of Algerian wines of this period of time.
The Rosé Frédéric Lung 1945 is doubly represented in this session at two tables brought by two different contributors who share with me the envy of the wines of Frédéric Lung. This rosé is massive, heavy, powerful and rich in emotion. I love it. It surprises a lot of people at our table who did not expect this wine at this level.
For the delicious red mullet, the two Algerian wines were planned, but I asked that we also serve the Château Mouton-Rothschild 1941. The wine is not perfect, but it has good qualities including a strong truffle, which goes well with fish, to the astonishment of my guests.
It is worth making a remark. To each academy I bring around 160 Riedel glasses that I bought when the academy was founded, to reinforce the glass stocks in the restaurants. At the last academy reunion we had forgotten two racks of glasses here, which are being used tonight and probably haven’t been washed (I guess) which should explain the number of dusty glasses I have had, which handicap the wines I drink. This applies to this 1941 Mouton and many others to follow.
I had announced a probable 1934 Château Margaux from my cellar but in fact it is a 1914 Château Margaux because the cork clearly indicates it. The wine is tall, noble, upright.
The Moulin à Vent Louis Chevallier 1926 is a superb, joyful wine, in total contrast to the stricter Bordeaux. The old Beaujolais are always nice surprises.
I brought three Grand Echézeaux Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1974 for the three tables, all of which have low levels but whose scents at the opening showed no particular flaws. When I love, I love, so the suggestions of salt and extremely clear rose delight me. And I’m delighted that this wine is the best I’ve had since the start of this session. The color of the wine is a bit muted but that doesn’t bother me. For many, and especially for young people, this is their first approach to Romanée Conti wines. They are moved and I am delighted.
The Italian wine Gancia 1919 surprised me when I opened it because its tiny cork has a rounded bottom and slanted like a beret. Such corks are seen for wines from before 1850 and not for a 1919. It is an enigma. The wine is not perfect but its originality is exciting, with its solar and rich tones.
The friend who generously brought in the 1967 Vega Sicilia Unico is tasting this wine for the first time. He is not convinced and I tell him he is wrong, because this Spanish wine has all the beautiful characteristics of the Unico of this decade, the most beautiful of all. I liked his style even though it lacked a bit of power.
The 1969 Château de l’Etoile Yellow Wine, of which I provided three bottles for the three tables, is the ideal companion for the magnificent cheeses brought by generous academicians, including, in particular a Mont d’Or which magnifies the beautiful dense yellow wine and blooming, with an infinite afterglow in the mouth.
The Portail Rouge Loupiac R. Bernède 1949 has a magnificent label. The wine is lovely. It is obviously less complex than Château Climens 1925, but the latter is marked by a slight nose and corky taste which make Loupiac more pleasant to drink than Barsac.
During the meal, academics came to give me to taste wines from other tables. So, I had announced that I bring a Château Canon 1955, but in fact I made a mistake in the cellar and I brought a sublime Château Canon 1943, which, from what I understood was named winner by the table 2.
The Chablis 1er cru Forest René Dauvissat 1982 that I supplied was given to me to taste. Without being flamboyant, it is extremely precise.
They also brought me Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve des Chartes 1947 that I had supplied. And this wine struck me as splendid.
By bringing 23 wines from my cellar, I wanted each participant to have sufficient profusion so that the flaws of a particular wine appear unimportant. From what I heard, the attendees were all over the moon. And for young students, this openness to the world of old wines is a unique experience. Personally, I haven’t drunk wines that make me say « Wow ». Was it the climatic conditions that put the wines on mute, was it my palate, which was not receptive as it should have been, was it the annoyance of having too many glasses that smelled of dust, I don’t know. It will suffice for me to remember the smiles, the compliments, the satisfactions of all the guests to convince myself that this session was a success.
If we consider the objectives of the Academy of Ancient Wines to provide everyone with access to rare and original ancient wines, it is safe to say that it was a success. Providing access to an Italian wine from 1919, a Meursault from 1895, a Beaujolais from 1926, a Châteauneuf from 1947, a wine from Romanée Conti from 1974, is a privilege.
I loved the Grands Echézeaux Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1974, the Algerian White Targui Wine 1955 and the Rosé Frédéric Lung 1945, the Château Canon 1943 and the Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve des Chartes 1947 and Le Portail Rouge Loupiac R.Bernède 1949. So yes, I can say that even without « wow », I drank great wines.
The meal was delicious. The service led by Adrian Williamson was efficient. Béatrice helped with the wine ordering and logistics. So, there is only one desire, and that is to start a new session of the academy.