Tomo is the friend with whom I like to open rarities of my cellar, because he has the love for wine but also because his cellar contains, also, jewels, most often different from mine. We try to balance our contributions, the best we can.
At 5:15 pm I arrive at Taillevent restaurant to open my wines. The bottle of Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1942 has a beautiful level which is relatively rare for the estate’s vintage wines, which have an unfortunate tendency to evaporate quickly. The glass of the bottle is blue as it was the case for the bottles of the war. When I remove the capsule, the top of the cork is black and I feel the earth, as often. The cork comes full which required a lot of work. It is black and almost burned on the top while the bottom of the cork is very healthy. The scent of wine surprises me because it exhales a deep red fruit like those I had felt with very old Clos de Tart in the cellars of this Domaine. The nose is delicate, subtle and promising.
In my cellar, the second bottle made me an eye and I had trusted him despite a level between low and mid-shoulder. In the dark restaurant decor because the lights are not all lit, the bottle smiles less. I uncapped La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol 1945 and I see that the cork is slightly down in the neck, 6 millimeters perhaps. If I want to prick the corkscrew, I think that the cork will slide down, because the top of the cork is as vitrified which makes the pointing of the wick extremely difficult. Then begins a delicate surgery because I can hardly remove anything without tearing the cork into a thousand pieces. The reason is that the top of the neck is narrower than the neck. I crumble everything and I even have to go fishing for the few pieces that have fallen into the liquid. I feel the wine is pretty repulsive. There is a pretty acid scent and mop that would put off more than one. Being used to these smells, I hope that everything will be fine. My only fear is that the taste could be a little roasted because other bad smells are likely to disappear. I brought with me a Burgundy relief wine from a yea that Tomo loves, plus a half-bottle of a young Yquem and finally a surprise I want to make to Tomo.
I do not open anymore and I leave the other three wines in place because I have a scheduled meeting with Chef Teshi of the restaurant Pages for a dinner that I will do with him next week. Tomo had told me that he would meet me at the restaurant Pages and I’m surprised because he is already there, and more exactly at the brewery next to the restaurant Pages. He informs me that he has brought something to drink. It is a Champagne Dom Pérignon Reserve Abbey Vintage 1993. Apparently this wine is reserved for the Japanese market. I had never heard of it. In the brewery 116 Pages a table is formed with Teshi the chef, his wife, his assistant in the kitchen, Tomo and me and we build the menu of the future dinner while clinking on the champagne brought by Tomo.
What strikes me is that this champagne is not assembled. It lacks consistency. He has milky aspects. It does not lack mystery, it is drinkable and one can imagine that in about fifteen years it will be assembled. But for now, that’s not it. The bottle still dries up in joy and the beans Edamame call a Japanese beer ideally made for beans. We greet everyone and walk back to the Taillevent restaurant.
Champagne Krug Cuvée Ambonnay Blanc de Noirs 1998 is the contribution of Tomo. This is a very pleasant surprise because this champagne, which is now 20 years old, enjoys a good maturity. Coherent, noble, he will accompany some dishes with happiness. I like it so much that so far I have never been more excited about this more expensive champagne than other more complex Krug vintages.
On the first dish called Carabineros, which evokes both carabiniers and the Caribbean, Tomo has a desire for white wine. He asks the wine list and he will offer us a mythical wine, a Corton-Charlemagne Jean Francois Coche-Dury 2002. While we discussed to balance our contributions here Tomo makes a princely gift. What a proof of friendship!
Thibaut, the sommelier who accompanies us opens the wine, makes a face and makes us feel the cork that smells strongly cork. He plans to change bottles. I suggest we test another year of this wine but Tomo orders the same year and especially since it is the last bottle of this vintage in the restaurant. We taste the wine spread. The cork is not so sensitive in the mouth and it is especially the flatness of the wine which appears and its absence of length.
The second bottle is much better, the wine is pure and crystalline, but one is still far from what must be a Corton-Charlemagne of Coche-Dury, an olfactory and aromatic bomb. The shrimp dish with green vegetables is absolutely delicious and we are doing with Tomo the remark that it is unthinkable that the Taillevent does not have three stars.
The next dish is a cold lobster with a heavy cold bisque served in a cup. The small tomatoes that accompany the lobster are enemies of the wine and the dish is less built than the previous dish. White wine goes well with lobster meat, but bisque calls bordeaux.
The 1945 Pomerol La Fleur-Pétrus bottled by T. de Vial & Fils is served now. The nose is not totally precise but it is rich and glorious. The mouth is sublime, without the slightest defect. The slow oxygenation that acted for more than four hours worked miracles. With bisque the agreement is sublime and it is still very paradoxical that this wine of 1945 is more powerful and more invasive than a Corton-Charlemagne of Coche-Dury. It delights me and I push a sigh of satisfaction because the intuition that I had for this wine proved to be justified.
I pour a glass of Bordeaux to Thibaut who will be drunk also by Anastasia, sommelier in chief. Both will be captivated by the youth of this wine which is a pomerol in the soul with its heavy truffle and charcoal imprint.
On the ‘épeautre’ which is an emblematic dish of Alain Solivérès, the white wine and the bordeaux adapt perfectly and it is thus that one can measure to what extent the velvety red wine is rich and complex and conquering.
The veal that had been suggested by the butler and Anastasia allows the Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1942 to enter the scene. The nose is so fruity that I am a little lost, while Tomo says to me: « it’s really Romanée Conti ». Having drunk this wine already three times there is no reason that I have the slightest doubt, but such a fruit is a bit anachronistic. Does Tomo feel my reserve, I do not know, but he shows me the cork that clearly indicates the vintage, and given its condition it is unthinkable that there was a refilling. In fact, it is by tasting the delicious artichokes candied that I felt the appearance of salt which is an essential marker of the wines of the Domaine de la Romanée Conti. Everything came together and my joy became total. It is a brilliant wine and here too the two sommeliers to whom I gave a glass were astonished by the vivacity of this Burgundy.
At this point, I prefer Bordeaux to Burgundy, while Tomo prefers the opposite, but gradually my love for the Richebourg will only grow.
There is so much wine that a cheese is needed and I’m happy with Saint-Nectaire who can mate with four wines, champagne, white and two reds. He is so welcoming and sweet.
There is enough champagne for a dessert. Tomo had told me that he wanted to eat little and I see him order Suzette pancakes. He offers me to take two out of the four planned but I will stay firm on one. This crepe should belong to UNESCO World Heritage because it is perfect, everything is miraculously measured. It’s time for me to bring my present for Tomo, because the trace of orange in the pancake sauce calls him. It is the bottom of the bottom of the bottle of Malaga 1872 that I made taste during several meals including that with the girls of the friend who had sold me these bottles. There is only dregs in thin plates but enough wine to penetrate the eternal beauty of this 146 year old wine. Tomo is thrilled because even if the dregs stick to our palate there is an incomparable aromatic richness.
What to say about this meal? First of all Taillevent is a restaurant where the welcome and service are second to none. Then the traditional cuisine deserves three stars because it is solid and subtle. The choice of wines with risks on my side and the strengths of the choices of Tomo have structured a meal of very high level. And the generosity of Tomo who offered the Corton-Charlemagne touches me a lot.
We only dream of one thing is to expand this circle of generosity to collectors who would not hesitate to open their wonders. There are so many bottles waiting for that.
(pictures are in the article in French)