As I had to prepare the wines for the « academy for ancient wines », I had time to go to the « maison du Japon » (Japan’s house) where there was a tasting of wines of Beaumes de Venise. The lovely Japanese woman who prepared the event and insisted that I come welcomes me with a large smile which is more Parisian than Japanese. I am not very fond of the muscats, as it is always the same. So when you have drunk them 50 times, it is time to try something else. I have more nice surprises with the reds, very simple wines, but genuine when they are well made. I try some sushi and other preparations of a pure elegance, and I leave this meeting.
The academy will hold its third official meeting in Résidence Maxim’s. We had used up to now another place where we could eat cheese, but cheese for a long tasting becomes a little boring. So, we tried the idea of a dinner. I worked on that with a very motivated team, and an intelligent chef who listened to me and simplified his recipes. The team really wanted to succeed.
At 3 pm, I begin to open the bottles, some people coming to help me and to try to catch some tricks that I use by opening the bottles. We talk with pleasure and among more than 40 bottles, there are no corked bottles. Two bottles have a very low fill. One seems really dead. The others will take benefit from oxygen, which will cure all the small imperfections that I can imagine from their smell.
Despite a strike of the Underground (French metro), almost everyone is on time. I had prepared in case of late arrivals that we begin with the champagne that my family used to drink : champagne Léon Camuzet NV from Vertus, probably aged with 15 years. It has already a very pleasant evolved taste, and I could see among the crowd of nearly 50 people the ones who were already ready to accept such tastes and the ones who were not. They will have learned a lot tonight.
We are approximately 50 for 50 wines. The wines are split in 3 groups, in order that everyone drinks approximately 17 to 19 wines. Here is the detailed list, by order of service :
Group 1 : Champagne Léon Camuzet environ 15 ans - Champagne Gonet 1973 - vin nature de champagne Saran, blanc de blancs Moët 1950 - Bâtard Montrachet Chanson 1959 - Montrachet domaine Bichot 1943 - Château Saint Georges, St Georges St Emilion 1961 - Château Taillefer Puisseguin Saint-Emilion 1966 - Château La Louvière rouge 1967 - Chateau La Gaffelière 1949 - Château Montrose 1934 - Château Gruaud Larose Faure Bethmann 1928 - Fleurie Beaujolais 1943 - Richebourg Charles Noëllat 1974 - Vosne Romanée Réserve Reine Pédauque 1945 - Cave Jean Bourdy, Blanc vieux d'Arlay 1907 - Domaine du Pin 1ères Côtes de Bordeaux 1937
Group 2 : Champagne Léon Camuzet environ 15 ans - vin nature de champagne Saran, blanc de blancs Moët 1950 - Bourgogne Aligoté Barozzi 1950 - Montagny Barozzi 1949 - Meursault (?) 1953 - Tokay de Riquewihr 1966 (Dopff et Irion) - Riesling Kaefferkopf 1983 Jean-Baptiste Adam - Riesling Sélection de Grains Nobles Hugel 1976 - Clos Joliette 1974 Jurançon - Vin Jaune d'Arbois 1966 domaine de la Pinte - Cos d'Estournel 1966 - Château Pontet Canet 1964 - Château d'Arsac Margaux 1925 - Gevrey Chambertin J. Faiveley probable 1947 - Château Chalon Jean Bourdy 1928 - Coulée de Serrant Nicolas Joly 1983 - Barsac (?) 1937 - Rivesaltes ambré 1955 - Maury 1928
Group 3 : Champagne Léon Camuzet environ 15 ans - Champagne Deutz 1978 - Pouilly-Vinzelles 1956 de Cabet-Frères - Montrachet Bouchard 1988 - Château Bellefont Belcier (Saint Emilion) 1964 - Mouton Baron Philippe (d'Armaillac) 1959 - Château Haut-Brion 1925 - Bourgueil Sélection Vieilles Vignes 1989 du Domaine des Ouches - Cave Jean Bourdy, Côtes du Jura rouge 1945 - Hautes Côtes de Nuits J. et M. Gauthet 1969 - Volnay 1957 de De Moucheron - Beaune Champimonts 1er Cru Joseph Drouhin 1948 - Gevrey Chambertin Marius Meulien 1933 - Corton Clos du Roy L.A. Montoy 1929 - Montlouis Demi-sec 1983 de Fradin-Georges - Banyuls hors d'âge, Dom du Mas Blanc, Parcé, sostera - Rivesaltes ambré 1955 - Cognac trois quarts de siècle Tiffont # 1874.
The profile of each group was different, the choice that I made depending on several criteria that I tried to use to make it the more compatible with the wish of some people to sit together, with the will that people drink the wines that they brought, the will to equilibrate the levels according to the inputs. It must be said that the quality of the meeting depends on the quality of the wines that the people bring. When people are generous, we share great wines. This dinner was very generous.
The meal was very intelligent : grosses gambas de la Méditerranée à la plancha / volaille fermière des Landes rôtie, écrasé de pommes Charlotte à l’huile d’olive / sélections de fromages de Bernard Antony / les abricots Bergeron en tarte feuilletée à l’amande de Provence, éclats de pistache.
Everyone remarked that the menu was proper, that the service of the wines was proper, even if it can be better, when we will be used to work together.
I was in Group 1. Here are my comments. The champagne Gonet 1973 is obviously « advanced ». The bubbles exist but fragile, the colour is amber. So we enter in another world. When one accepts this situation, one begins to understand all the subtleties. This is a very expressive champagne, of a high subtlety, that I would see with truffles or foie gras. The vin nature de champagne Saran, blanc de blancs Moët 1950 is very similar. The bubble is very scarce, and it is very dark yellow. On our table, two members will find it absolutely delightful. Personally I preferred the Gonet, as the Moët had a small bitterness after the middle of the mouth.
The Bâtard Montrachet Chanson 1959 is a delicious wine. The yellow colour has still green aspects which is a sign of youth. The roundness gives a pleasure without any complication. I love it because it is mine (which is a very regular attitude of all the academicians), but it is really a great white of a great year. The Montrachet Bichot 1943 has a nice level for its age, and a brown colour. It shows a little its age, but one can feel what it could have been some years ago. Anyway, really agreeable to drink. One member gives me a glass of Montrachet Bouchard 1988. I recognise it without any hesitation as I know these Montrachet by heart. It is fantastic, but, for my pleasure, it does not diminish the interest of the Bichot 1943.
I see with horror that the wine that Jean Hugel had given to me for this occasion as he could not come by himself was served to Group 2, when I had planned to let it be tasted by Group 1. Very quickly I grabbed (with tact) the rest of the bottle and poured half a glass that I shared with the sympathetic woman with a killing lovely smile sitting next to me, an academician of the first days, and who attended some of my dinners. This Riesling Sélection de Grains Nobles Hugel 1976 is a fantastic wine. What a charm, what a complexity. I love the Rieslings of this year. The golden colour, the length, are impressive.
The Château Saint Georges, St Georges St Emilion 1961 is also one of my babies. It is extremely balanced and secure. One member of our group falls in love with this wine. The colour is extremely ruby, very young. The fill was in the neck. A very comfortable wine of a good year. The two following wines were more uneasy for me. The Château Taillefer Puisseguin Saint-Emilion 1966 and the Château La Louvière rouge 1967 show obviously a certain lack of structure. They are not very dense and intense, so age does not help them. Very drinkable, but with a too discrete message.
This helps the Chateau La Gaffelière 1949 to shine. This is something serious. The year 1949 helps this wine to show exactly how La Gaffelière can be at its top, as I had already checked with great years like 1929, 1928 and 1904. When you drink such a wine rounded by some decades, you wish you could drink it every day.
My admiration goes to Montrose 1934 whose message is exactly in the historical line of Montrose, and is certainly above many of the Montrose 1934 that I have already drunk. Very pure, archetypal, it shows how great the terroir of Montrose is.
I know quite well Gruaud Larose 1928, either the Faure-Bethmann or the Sarget. This one is a Faure-Bethmann, which is as supple as a 1928 can be. What is very curious is that I see every wine, up to now, performing exactly as the year should command. I find it unusual as wines always give surprises. This 1928 is a great wine. And it shows with evidence the interest of the Academy. Many people attending this event would never drink such a wine if it were not by such a meeting.
Suddenly, my heart beats, I move on my chair, I get thrilled. I meet a great wine. And I am even more excited when I know what it is : a Fleurie 1943. The nose is to die for, nose of a Burgundy Grand Cru more than of a Beaujolais. I love so much these surprises.
I have no memory of the Richebourg Charles Noëllat 1974, because, as I went from one table to the other, it is very probable that I was not poured with this one. But the Vosne Romanée Réserve Reine Pédauque 1945 counts twice ! This is a wine ! Completely Burgundy, with a fantastic nose, and all the seduction of Burgundy which touches my heart. I had asked one table to be able to taste one of my kids, the Gevrey Chambertin Marius Meulien 1933 which had pleased me so much by opening. The colour is unbelievable of youth. The nose is spectacular. And in mouth, it has the power of an aircraft carrier. I am so proud ! Because 1933 belongs to the obscure years, and this wine is perfect. Now, we have the contrary example of what I said before : this wine performs as never a 1933 should. I will rank it as first of my personal vote.
And the performance of weak years continues, as the friend who, by the previous meeting, had brought a delicious Figeac 1925 brings me a glass of Château d'Arsac Margaux 1925. It is lovely, with evocations of raspberries, red fruits. Very adorable testimony of a polite wine.
I expected a lot from the oldest wine of the dinner, the Blanc vieux d'Arlay Cave Jean Bourdy 1907. But a disagreeable taste of glycerol disturbs the tasting. We can imagine what it could be, but only imagine. Fortunately, someone brings me from another table a Château Chalon Jean Bourdy 1928 which is exactly as it should: brilliant. An immense long and endless wine.
One of my babies, which I had tried in one of my dinners, Domaine du Pin 1ères Côtes de Bordeaux 1937, creates a surprise for the entire table. Who would expect that a Premières Côtes de Bordeaux could perform at this level? Of course, 1937 is an immense year for Sauternes. But anyway, this appellation should never show that. It showed.
I had brought some other of my children that I did not taste : Gevrey-Chambertin Faiveley # 1947 and the Corton Clos du Roy 1929. If I had brought so many wines, it is because the registrations for the Academy were very late. I was afraid to have not enough members, so, to provocate registrations, I had added some wines. It seems that it helped as 50 was the number I wanted to reach.
I tasted a fantastic Côtes du Jura rouge Cave Jean Bourdy 1945 ten times better than the same that I had drunk some weeks ago by the fantastic tasting of 120 Jura wines. This wine is made to be drunk by a dinner, and when I drank it, it showed me how sophisticated this wine, so ignored, can be when it gets age.
I had said to a charming woman, one of my beloved academicians that the level of her Volnay Moucheron 1957 was particularly low. She came to my sit with a provocative face : “taste”. I tasted. It was good. She was proud of that.
One academician had brought something incredible : a Cognac trois quarts de siècle Tiffont # 1874, cognac which has been made by melting two barrels, one of 1854 and one of 1904, which, due to evaporation, gave only 120 bottles. The blend was made when Mr. Tiffont was 100 years old, in 1979. I have rarely tasted such a precise cognac, with an extremely elegant wood. A very remarkable cognac.
It is difficult to make a ranking of what I have drunk, but I love to do it, because no ranking will hurt any wine, as all the wines are different. I ranked so : first, Gevrey Chambertin Marius Meulien 1933. Second, Bâtard Montrachet Chanson 1959, third, Montrachet Bouchard 1988. Fourth, the Fleurie 1943. And I give a special mention to the cognac, the Riesling Hugel 1976, the Vosne Romanée 1945 and the Montrose 1934.
The generosity of the members has been great, which is a key factor. Some members have had access to wines that they would never dream to taste one day. I think that this session of the Academy has been a great success. The way it was planned and organised seems to please everyone. It’s time to decide to make a new session.
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered