Let’s face it, this is probably the biggest day of my life when wine is concerned. It goes back a long way. Joël, a madman of all that is antique, had sold me about fifteen years ago a bottle of a boat that had sunk in 1739. The bottle of onion shape was marked by marine erosion and Joel had me said that I should not expect wonders. He then sold me the oldest bottle I drank, whose year was estimated at 1690, which we drank together on a memorable day. Joel is a passionate for antiques and recently he tells me he would like us to share a Tokaji that Christie’s had estimated in the 1860s but had revised around 1840. Joel wants to drink it with me and I suggested that we drink it in my cellar, and that we choose together in my cellar the wine that would allow me to honor his bottle.
I have in my cellar a very important number of bottles of the 19th century of which a good number without readable label which I grouped in boxes. And among them, there is one, without the slightest label, totally opaque, which is the only one that can claim to be of the 18th century. I have other 18th century bottles with labels or markers. This one does not have one. This bottle could be a star of one of my dinners, but I want to share it with Joel because I love the passion that drives him.
There is a wild strike at the SNCF (railway system) for the High Speed Trains (TGV) of the west of France and our program could fall into the water but Joel who lives in Rennes finds a TGV and joins the train station closest to my cellar. I’m going to get him and we’re going together to buy an apple pie that may be suitable for the planned tasting. Sushi will be delivered at mealtime.
We visit my cellar and Joel is much more interested in very old bottles. The 1928 or 1947 do not enter the radar screen of his interests. We visit and I show him the bottle of the 18th century by saying that it is one I imagined for our meeting. He answers me: « I noticed it right away, and it was the one I was hoping for ».
For the aperitif, I open a Champagne Krug Private Cuvée years 50ies. The perimeter of the muzzle is dirty and when I want to remove the cork it comes without any resistance and without the slightest pschitt. The cylinder of the cork bears traces of mold, but the bottom surface of the cap is extremely clean and healthy. I pour the champagne which has a beautiful color of a mahogany gold. The champagne is of an absolute coherence. It is pure, intact, sparkling present but discreet, with evocations of dry Sauternes. Because it elegantly combines the dry and the sweet. What is fascinating is its balance and its unquenchable final. It’s a huge champagne. I had ordered with the sushis edamame which are not as good as those of the restaurant Pages because it lacks the added salt, but they marry divinely with the Krug which is part of the best that I could drink. Such a balance is unique.
I open the bottle of Tokaji # 1840 whose neck was covered with two layers of recent waxes. When removed, the top of the cork very small and very clean gives the impression of being original. When I pull it, doubt is not allowed, a cork of this quality can only be original. The cap is fine, soaked on a third, and everything looks healthy. The nose is so fresh and so precise, felt at the bottleneck, that I wonder if this wine is real, as it is so young. By pouring the wine into the glasses, the very clear and so wonderful gold is unequivocal, it is not possible to copy such a color.
The nose of Tokaji has discreet alcohol and hints of autumn leaves. On the palate there are beautiful yellow fruits and chestnuts, and a great freshness in the finish. It is an airy Tokay. It even has a floral finish. It is elegant and it is very close to sauternes rather dry, like the previous champagne, but with more amplitude and sun. At the first contact of the first sip, I felt the woof of a Tokaji, and at the tasting that follows, it is the Sauternes that is more suggested. On tuna sashimi, the deal is as good as salmon sushi, which showcases the tangy side of sweet wine.
I did not want to read Christie’s expert’s tasting note in advance to not be influenced, but here it is: » short friable cap, amber-colored pure gold and oily consistency. The aromas are sweet with a hint of orange and apricot. The wine is resinous and slightly nutty. Honey with a rose hip fragrance. Touch of balsamic character with a rich and persistent aftertaste ». This is very consistent with what we taste, but I felt more freshness and less balsamic.
The stopper of the 18th century is of a very sparse cork, as one finds for the very old wines of Cyprus. It is glued to the glass and I have to curette it by removing crumbs by crumbs. His powerful perfume exhales well before I finish the operation. Before putting my nose on the neck I think of an alcohol as the emanation is strong and when I bring my nose, there is no doubt that it is a Madeira. The nose is rich, intense and muscaté. Given the bottle I would say it is a Madeira # 1770. A knowledgeable amateur on Instagram told me that the bottle is from 1720 to 1730. Would the wine be older? In any case it is eternal.
Joel had asked me in the course of discussion which wines have impressed me the most and I told him that these extreme wines are always accompanied by a physical reaction, such as shock or chills. Coincidentally, the first contact with the wine of # 1770 makes me take my head in my hands, as if I had just received a punch. It’s a shock and I’m putting myself in a silent bubble. My God, what a shock. In the mouth, the wine is opulent, incisive, sharp. It has classic markers like pepper and liquorice, but a trace of salt is a trail of powder that ignites the pleasure. This wine is a bomb of power and salt transcends it. I immediately think about the Cyprus wines of 1845 which are for me the most complex wines that I have drunk, but here I think we are even higher, with this damn salt that radiates all the other directions that take this wine. There is a lot of sun fruit and this wine with infinite length leaves a heavy trace in the mouth and fresh at the same time. I am groggy.
We are obliged to notice that this wine is very much above the Tokaji 1840, even if this wine is itself fabulous. We reach an unreal peak. And circumstances lend themselves to the seventh heaven, because Joel bought this wine to drink with me and I chose this unique bottle to honor Joel, and everything was perfect. Apple pie is ideal for both wines.
I accompanied Joel to his train. He made me the gift of leaving me his bottle that I will finish with family and that will enlarge my collection of relics. A day like this is the highest reward of my passion.
(the pictures are in the article in French. see below)