I like to make dinners with Gérard Besson. I remember the day when I had a lunch by Guy Savoy, the day his third star in Michelin Guide was official. The smiles were very large, the atmosphere was like after having won a big match. The dinner was by Gérard Besson who had lost his second star. It was largely sadder. Being solid after this very hard event, Gérard has refurbished the decoration but did not change his cook which I find very sensible. With a paradox, it is probably the loss of this star which has made me closer to this chef who is one of the few who understands really what is wine, and what is old wine. For this dinner, he has adapted his recipes to the wines, and it was great.
I came at 5 pm to open the bottles, and it was particularly easy, except for one bottle which had been brought by a friend as a gift. The Lafite 1963 of a friend had the cork which fell in the wine. We had to decant the wine. Alain, the gifted sommelier pulled the cork out of the bottle. It was completely wet.
Around the table, three people had already attended dinners, a couple from Alsace did not know what was going on as the dinner was a gift from people who did not come, a couple of two people who read my bulletins, and the chief reporter of a famous American newspaper and TV Channel who had made a nice article on my dinners. Everyone was aware that we were living a very great event of gastronomy, as Gérard Besson adapted every sauce to the wine that he tasted just some minutes before it was served.
Here is the menu : Superposition de foie gras et aiguillette de bœuf truffée / Brochette de ris de veau, truffe et Pompadour / Huître juste pochée sur un tartare d'algues / Filet de sole braisé au fumet de Saint Jacques, infusion de homard bleu / Une asperge, une morille / Médaillon de langouste au macaroni fourré duxelles / Rouget sauce rouget / Carré de veau de lait d'Aurillac cuit rosé, jus et petits pois à la Française / Cœur de côte de bœuf de Salers servi à point, ragoût d'artichaut vigneronne / Noisette d'agneau du Limousin en chevreuil, navet et oignon fane en chapelure de pain d'épices / Double Brie / Composition d'agrumes "pomelos, clémentine", et inspiration du moment.
I had announced that the Champagne Ayala brut could be from the 50ies as the bottle was particularly dirty, but in fact, the cork indicated to me a year around 1978. This champagne is abnormally sweet, with no great length, but it is happy in mouth, agreeable, and the truffle helps it to be good.
The Champagne Besserat de Bellefon rosé 1966 makes me shiver with pleasure. Its colour is of a yellow white pink peach. The nose is magnificent, and in mouth, the gentle acidity installs itself on the middle of the tongue, and shows an extraordinary nobleness. Generous, remarkably built, this champagne is one of the best ever “rosé” that I have drunk. With the sweetbread it was great, but even more with cuts of mushrooms. I was making movements on my chair as a kid who is unable to hide his pleasure.
The Chablis Moutonne Grand Cru 1959 Long Dépaquit is an immense surprise for the American journalist. It is a magnificent Chablis. The nose is mineral; the taste is as heavy as the one of a great Meursault. It fills the mouth with a great pleasure. The oyster does not cooperate with it, but it is not so important as the wine is sufficient by itself. It is a great Chablis of pure pleasure.
The Bâtard Montrachet 1992 Veuve Morini is largely more understandable by everyone, as it belongs to a “normal” set of tastes. There are flowers but also almonds in this wine going marvellously well with the fish, splendidly cooked. Obviously, this wine is simpler than the Chablis.
The Château Chalon Le Puy Saint Pierre 1959 Vichot Girod has formed with the asparagus and morilles a combination of a total perfection. And what is interesting is that every component of the dish shows a different aspect of this rare Chateau Chalon. The morille is a classic companion. The asparagus makes the wine more wild and I love that. The wine has a length which never ends. I am in love with this wine.
The Château Loubens 1943 Sainte Croix du Mont has shone as it will probably never do again. It is because the sauce of the lobster created a legendary combination. Everyone was aware of living a unique moment of gastronomy, and commented with the others with excitement what could be a gastronomic climax. The wine is elegant, discretely smoked, with elegant citrus fruit. This Loubens is like the Tahitian woman painted by Gauguin, having her naked breast on a plate. The votes made after the dinner have applauded the glory of this wine, so helped by the lobster.
The Chassagne Montrachet red Boudriottes 1972 Marcel Toinet is a surprise for everyone, as a Chassagne is usually white. I knew this wine already, and I knew that 1972 is good. With the red fish, it is delicious. A very comfortable easygoing Burgundy.
The Beaune Perrières 1950 Léon Violland had been smelt by the opening by Gérard Besson and he was afraid for this wine, when I had no impression of a possible danger. The level in the bottle was at one centimetre from the cork which is incredible for this age. The colour is incredibly young. The nose and the mouth are of a very charming Burgundy. For the two sommeliers who served our table, this wine was the surprise of the night, as they would never have bet any dime that it could reach such a quality.
The Nuits Saint Georges 1947 Bouchard Père et Fils has largely less traces of age than what I could have expected of a rather middle-low fill. Very powerful, rich, deep, this wine takes advantage of the beef which seems to be made for it. It is very proper, juicy, full of joy.
The Richebourg 1958 Domaine de la Romanée Conti gives me instantly an immense emotion. The level in the bottle was very high, the cork of the ultimate quality. What a wine. I close my eyes, trying to understand the thousands messages which come to me. It is so subtle. I find in it an incredible number of varied images, as if I were having with me the best ever 100 pictures taken by the National Geographic. Some of you have certainly already experienced that : in a sport, if you are the supporter of a team, every point marked by “your” team is ten times better achieved than the point marked by the opponent. So, DRC is my team. And every great bottle is automatically ten times greater than any other (in the French version of this story, I have used a vocabulary which allows me to say ten times more than what I write in English).
With the Château Lafite-Rothschild 1963 I have been in a situation which I did not like. My friend, who had invited two people for the dinner, when he arrived for the dinner, told me discretely : I would be happy that you do not say that the bottle is brought by me. It should be yours. So, when the lady sitting next to me said to me : “so, one of your wines is dead” I was furious, as I am so proud to have mainly great wines, to have to say : “yes, it can happen”. It was like putting a knife in my heart. The wine was really dead.
Then the historical star of the dinner arrives : Château Rayne-Vigneau Sauternes 1880. The wine had been recorked in 2001. No label, just the capsule of the chateau. The colour is very dark. The liquid is very fluid. The nose is deep, full of citrus fruits. In mouth, the Sauternes has lost a part of its sugar. Its botrytis is very light. I love such light Sauternes as for me they tell wonderful sentimental stories. The dessert made by Gérard Besson is highly appropriate, but the wine is a dessert in itself, a great pleasure.
I have analysed the cook of Gérard Besson. It is obvious that it is adapted to the wines. But Gérard does not work for the wines. He works for the “façon”, for the image of Gérard Besson. So, by every dish, it is the personality of Gérard Besson which can be seen. I like that, as he respects the wines. So, as he is an artist, it is quite normal that he acts this way. All the table was under the charm of all his combinations. As the sauce of the lobster was so great it has influenced the votes. It is the intelligence of the chef to have put the Loubens at its place in the dinner.
Among 11 wines (only mine), nine wines received a vote which pleases me a lot. Four wines got a vote of first, which pleases me too. The Loubens had six votes as first (and what is amazing is that a Loubens 1926, two days later, got also the maximum votes as first too), the Richebourg 1958 got three votes of first. The Chablis and the Chateau Chalon, both of 1959 got one vote as first.
The vote of the consensus would be : Loubens, Richebourg, Nuits Saint Georges, Rayne-Vigneau, Besserat de Bellefon.
My vote has been :
1- Richebourg DRC 1958, 2- Rayne-Vigneau 1880, 3- Besserat de Bellefon 1966, 4- Chablis Moutonne 1959.
As it happens very often, nobody wants to leave the table. The wines were great, the cook was splendid. We have lived a great experience of gastronomy.
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered