After the great vertical of 20 years of Château Angelus, the group led by Bipin Desai is going to continue an incredible gastronomic trip. The next day, lunch by Tan Dinh, with a comparison of Comtes Lafon wines and Coche-Dury wines, dinner by Carré des Feuillants, the next day in Lille in a magnificent restaurant, and the day after, by Guy Savoy. Someone proposes me to attend the dinner by Carré des Feuillants. I do not ask any precision and I say yes.
We arrive in this sympathetic restaurant and we have the aperitif in a nice room at the cellar level. A funny sculpture of Alain Dutournier, some suggestions of rugby, all that reminds of the “South West” from where Alain comes, region of generosity and friendship. We taste champagne Delamotte 1999 and Didier Depond, president of Salon-Delamotte, who attends the dinner as a guest of honor tells us that we are the first in the world to taste this champagne, which is presented for the first time. Of course, that will not change the taste of the champagne, but we are pleased. I had been invited for the first official presentation of Salon 1995. It is always sympathetic.
The first sip indicates that the champagne is a little too “dosé” for my taste. But when I get used, I enjoy this champagne which proves once again that Delamotte, a real Mesnil sur Oger champagne, deserves to have its own place and not only as the small brother of Salon. I recognize some tastes of litchi and pink fruits, of a great delicacy.
We go upstairs in the dining room, where three tables are reserved for our group. I am sitting next to Didier Depond, which makes me happy.
The menu composed by Alain Dutournier is : l’huître, caviar d’Aquitaine, tartare d’algues et écume crémeuse / crevette sauvage tiède en « crème de tête », billes de melon en chutney et gaspacho safrané / cuisses de grenouilles épicées, roquettes et girolles en tempura / rouget barbet au plat, bohémienne d’aubergine, citron de Menton / tendron de veau de lait dans son jus, cèpe debout / vieux gouda travaillé, truffe de bourgogne râpée / pêche rôtie au poivre de Séchuan et marasquin, blanc-manger, brioche dorée, glace au miel de bruyère. I find that Alain Dutournier is now at a summit of maturity. He has explored many new tendencies, and all that seems integrated as a good wine when it has reached 30 years. Some years ago I would have said that two stars are the normal gratification for the chef. Now, I smell a possibility for three stars.
The Champagne Salon 1996 is of an incomparable softness. It is a very polite champagne. The race is obvious, and even if young, it is really drinkable. The 1995, at the same age, was difficult to drink. But this enjoyable and charming 1996 can be drunk even now.
The Champagne Salon 1988 has already got signs of maturity. I find this one, coming from the Salon cellars, more evolved than mine. There is a taste of toasts, of smoke. It is seducing and magnificent.
The Champagne Salon 1976 is served in magnums. It begins to be a little strict, but it is clear that it will open itself. What is very interesting is that the three Salon are never the same during this tasting. They change their aspects by every minute. I would never be able to catch a picture of such champagnes as they are always moving !
With the oyster and caviar, the 1996 is delightful. The salt of the caviar give it an infinite length. I begin to make a ranking : 96 / 88 / 76, but as I get another glass of 1988, probably from a different bottle, I detect a small bitterness which disturbs me. And as the 1976 opens and opens with pleasure, delivering exotic tastes of pure luxury, I rank : 96 / 76 / 88. And I write on my small booklet : the 1996 is my love.
Now, we will taste three Savigny « Narbantons » Domaine Leroy. The 2001 has a very strong smell, showing a solid structure. The 1999 has a smell of too much. I smell a soup of raspberries. The 1997 has a smell which is more delicate, more balanced, more subtle. My first impression in a whole is that these wines are too much worked. In fact, with a sort of paradox, the smell of the 2001 seems the more traditional. I must say that these wines are great. It is just the excess of work which disturbs me.
On delicious frogs, the 1997 is absolutely excellent. The 1999 is too invading for me. The 2001 is very Burgundy like, genuine, wild. I would rank 97 / 01 / 99. The 1997 is a sign of pleasure, the 2001 is a sign of authenticity, and the 1999 of over work. It has to be noticed that the frogs are a real companion for great wines, either red (as to-night), or white.
We taste the same wines on a red fish (rouget). The 2001 is beautiful, the 1997 remains as it was, very pleasant, and the 1999 begins to please me. I imagine that if I had discovered the 1999 only at this moment, I would have forgotten many of my critics.
We will turn now towards some Richebourg Domaine Méo-Camuzet. Of course, I would have loved that Jean-Nicolas Méo attends the dinner as Didier Depond does, to share our comments.
The 2001 has a smell made of alcohol and richness. The 1999 has an absolute subtlety in smell. It is perfect. The nose of the 1996 has evolved towards truffle. The 1993 is a little shy, and the 1991 a little weak. As soon as the course is served, the analysis of the smells is hopeless.
The 2001 is a virile Burgundy, with some savage aspects that I like. The 1999 is magnificent, absolutely immense. The 1996 appears as a little tired (problem of one bottle ?), acidic and unbalanced, but one feels that behind that, a great wine is hidden. I have a memory of a 1996 drunk by Patrick Pignol that I had adored. The 1993 is meaty. The 1991 is light, but interesting and nicely tasty.
I prefer the 1999 by far and then the 2001.
The Chateau Nairac 1997 is a Barsac very simple, of a predictable structure. With the delicious dessert, it becomes active, tasty. Quince is dominating. Pleasant as it is, I understand the choice made by Bipin.
The cook of Alain Dutournier has been brilliant and very mature. The tastes have a great personality, and the choices are intelligent.
Bipin is an expert in the way of organizing such lists of wines and the food which goes together. I have drunk five Richebourg Méo-Camuzet, a Domaine that I adore, and three Salon, my beloved champagne. What would I ask more ?
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered