As in my family the agendas are very busy, it was decided to celebrate several birthdays, including mine, on the same day. As I consider that my cellar is mainly devoted to my children, I wanted to make of this familial lunch something to remember for long. My collection has a value if it lives, which means if it “disappears” by being drunk. I go early in the morning to open the wines in the cellar as it is very warm around us. The La Tache 1943 has a rather low level, but seems very possible. La Tache 1943 has been one of the greatest wines of DRC that I have drunk. I put away the capsule, and the smell is of awful vinegar. The cork is black and greasy. The smell of the wine is very bad. If the wine comes back to life it will come back from a very low level.
I open the Romanée Conti Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1954 and the capsule astonishes me. It is the capsule of a négociant. The label indicates « Monopole » and Leroy. Is it the Leroy capsule ? The capsule had been slightly destroyed by the decomposition of the cork, and the cork is as black and greasy as the one of the La Tache. I am a little furious, because wines of 1954 should never show such an evolution of their cork? Why does it happen so often with wines of Romanée Conti?
The wine smells badly. So, here are two wines that any sommelier or any wine maker would throw away. I am so upset that I would decide to never buy again old wines of DRC if I have so many bad surprises. But I will keep quiet, as it has probably happened that I have bought more risky bottles from DRC than from any other domaine, just because I wanted to have DRC wines. But anyway, I am upset.
I tell myself that one thing is sure : the monster that I will open now is a wine without any problem. I put away the capsule, and what do I see : the top of the cork is black. And there is already some signs of the earth that stays in the top of cork with DRC wines. Oh my God! Incredible for a Montrachet DRC 2000. How is it possible ? A bad evil is probably chasing me.
Children and grandchildren arrive, the new generation has lunch, and on small cakes with cheese and Patanegra ham comes a champagne Salon 1985. It shines in a very unique way. I had had Salon 1983 which was good, but the 1985 is several stairs above. This champagne justifies why I love Salon. The bubble is very active, the colour is of a young champagne. In mouth it is a rare pleasure. I see white and pink flowers, pictures of David Hamilton suggesting the beauty of teen girls. But this is a mask. Because behind that, the personality of this champagne is extremely strong. In westerns, the hero is never standing where the killers shoot. This champagne is in the same situation : it delivers a taste which is not the one you would expect. The whole family adored this champagne.
On a foie gras just grilled, very simple, the Montrachet Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2000 is unbelievable. For my son, it is the greatest white wine of his life. I must say that I have adored it. Because the wine controls completely its strength. For example, the wine does not dominate the foie gras. They cooperate on a mutual agreement. The nose is impressive, exposing an incredible complexity. In mouth, one would expect a bomb, but it is not the case. If it is a space invader, it is a pacifist one. What is amazing is the spectrum of all the complex tastes that are shown by this wine. Green citrus, liquorice, and all what one can imagine. Its set of suggestions is infinite.
On a beef filet in a pastry with truffles and potatoes, three reds. The La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1943 comes first. I had examined its smell hour after hour, and I concluded that the wine would be ready for dinner. There are still some wounds, but let us examine also its brother : Romanée Conti Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1954. I have drunk twice La Tache 1943 which belong to my favourite DRC wines. I had never had the RC 1954. I had not been very convinced by the RC 1952 (too young vines) but the RC 1956 initially judged as a weak RC was for me very romantic. So, to see that these wines have wounds today makes me unhappy.
I say it. And my wife, who does not drink, ask me the good question : if the label would not indicate DRC, what would you say about these wines? And I said honestly that if the wines were not DRC, I would praise and describe their real qualities, as they are good wines. And my son interrupted me by saying : you say the contrary of what you want to teach other people : just like what you have in the glass, without being influenced by the label. I agreed on his comment but I must say that to open three DRC wines for the same lunch is not very usual for me, and I would have liked that it would be 100% what I wanted. It explains why I am so severe. Because the wines were truly nice. I have had by a few moments an image of the perfection of Romanée Conti, but is was only by a few moments.
My children were like the corner of a boxer who has put three times one knee on the floor during the last round. As the corner manager says, trying to be convincing : “you have it in your gloves. Go, you will win”, my children said to me : « look, Daddy, it’s a great wine ! ».
As we were talking and as I was drinking, we arrived at the last drops. And then, a flash. One single flash, but worth everything : I had the flash of a great Romanée Conti. My sad face turned to a happy smile. Is it self persuasion? I do not care, I had it. It was like the green ray when the sun sets, that I see many times and that my wife has never seen. You have it or not. I had my flash of Romanée Conti. Is it real or invented, I had it as the green ray.
The La Tache had also some moments when it woke up. But, having the memory of great 1943, it was not enough to please me. The end of the bottle had nice expressions.
And here is the magic of wine. The Beaune Clos du Roi Louis Latour 1959 had given me not any problem by opening, with a very straightforward smell. Immediately, it gives in the glass a wonderful Burgundy. For my daughter and my daughter in law who do not share our necrophilia obsessions, this wine is very pleasant. And it is. It is charming, well built, nicely representative of this great year. But objectively, this successful wine seems absolutely simple when compared to the complexity of the two DRC wines. So, even if wounded, the DRC wines were above a very nice 1959 wine. The messages of the two DRC wines were largely greater than what I said, due to my anger to have not the perfection.
On a Tarte Tatin that my wife makes in a perfect way, the Château Caillou, Barsac, crème de tête 1929 created a pure moment of gastronomic ecstasy. The wine is ambered as caramail. The nose is intense as it happens with “crème de tete”. In mouth, it is a sun shining on a great day. The length is infinite. The wine is absolutely magnificent, and could compete with many of the greatest Sauternes.
I wanted to create for my children an event which they would remember for long. Seeing their reactions, I think that this has been done, as they were largely more tolerant that I was. My only satisfaction, apart from the familial satisfaction, is to have given a chance to two DRC wines that 99.99% of people would have thrown away after the first smell. I was obstinate, and the wines have had a chance to deliver their message, even if it was with a too low voice. If, as I have noticed, my children have been pleased to try these wines, I am happy to have insisted.
In a whole, when wine is concerned, am I happy or am I unhappy ? It is very difficult to say.
I am probably happy, as the important thing is to share, and the success of a wine is an additional reward. The Montrachet, the Caillou and the Salon have given to all of us a sufficient pleasure. The rest is a plus.
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered