The story begins one year ago in May when a group of American wine lovers came to visit several chateaux in Bordeaux. One of them had asked that I organise a wine-dinner for him and his son at the end of the trip. He announced that he would bring a magnum of Haut-Brion white 1949. This was so generous that I decided that I would add to the program a Cyprus wine 1845. And I included in the dinner a magnum of Pétrus 1964.
At the beginning of the year, he told me that he would visit some wine makers, and wanted to register for a wine dinner at the end of his trip. When he announced what he would bring, I decided that it would not be one of my paying dinners by a familial dinner, each of us inviting his children and bringing wines of his choice. I made it according to the usual format of my wine-dinners, and we decided of what we would bring after several exchanges during which, as kids, we improved the quality of the wines, each of us wanting to please the other.
They were four, and they came to my cellar to visit it, making compliments. We drank a Clacquesin, an aperitif made from pine fruits, and we drove to restaurant Laurent in order that they see how I open the bottles. I did it by 5 pm. The only slight problem was the smell of the Pétrus 1947, rather acid. The cork was very dry in the upper part, and very black and greasy in the lower part. It broke into pieces when I opened. The real enigma was the Lafite 1865. It was written by the chateau : recorked in 1986. It is impossible that the cork, which I pulled, being complete, could be of 1986. It is largely older. So, what has happened in 1986? We were in front of several situations of recorking : the Lafite 1865 is supposed to have been recorked in 1986. The Latour was probably recorked in the eighties, the Gewurztraminer was recorked in 1979. The original corks concerned the Chateau Chalon 1864, the Filhot 1929, the Vouvray 1929, the Pétrus 1947 and the Laville 1955.
The opening being successful, Patrick Lair offered us a champagne Jacqueson 1996 very agreeable, subtle, refreshing. My friends went back to their hotel and I thought that it would be proper to open a young vin jaune as they ignored what is Chateau Chalon. I did not want a mistake of analysis when we would drink the 1864. You will see who committed the mistake.
While waiting for them, I tried the dessert because I did not like the idea of an ice cream. I ask to separate the ice cream from the rhubarb, and I did well despite the sadness of Patrick who was afraid to lose the beauty of the preparation for the eye.
Everybody is there so it is in the garden of restaurant Laurent that we try a Château Chalon 1976 with a perfectly adapted Comté cheese of 24 months and a Salers (Cantal cheese) which had nothing to do with the wine. My friends appreciated this particular taste. My friend took the opportunity to offer me a 1943 Climens as it was my birthday (immense generosity), and we went to the table.
Here is the menu prepared by Philippe Bourguignon : cuisses de grenouilles juste rissolées, pointe de curry / araignée de mer dans ses sucs en gelée, crème de fenouil / foie gras de canard poêlé et primeurs en aigre-doux / carré d’agneau de lait des Pyrénées caramélisé, côtes de romaine, fève et morilles / épaule confite dans son jus, fleurs de courgettes croustillantes / comté 18 mois / rhubarbe cuite au naturel, sablé craquant à la cardamome et crème glacée au nougat / café mignardises et chocolat.
I loved this cook, solid, comprehensive for old wines. A great quality and an easiness which pleased us.
The form of the magnum champagne Krug 1976 is of a great beauty. The colour is slightly pink. The bubble is active and powerful. The nose is incredibly expressive. And in mouth, the variety of tastes is impressive. It can be sweet or strict, opened or strong. This champagne could work with an incredible range of recipes. It is a perfect champagne, nicely excited by the discrete curry.
The Château Laville Haut-Brion blanc 1955 has a slightly golden colour. Its nose is perfect. In mouth, I think that it is the ultimate form of what could be a Bordeaux white. This wine is of an absolute exactitude. The cream that covered the crab shortened its length, so we had to dig under the cream to have a wonderful combination : crab and Laville. An immense wine.
I did not notice by opening that the Vouvray d’origine 1929 had a slightly corked nose. But strangely, not the smallest corked impression in mouth. The length of the wine is incredible, and if you imagine any fruit that would exist anywhere on the planet, you would find it in this spectacular wine. The meat of the foie gras is immense and the combination has certainly been the greatest of the dinner.
Patrick Lair, the sommelier who made an enormous work, made everything to please us, so he offered a Vouvray 1951 rather weak which had an advantage : it showed how fantastic was the 1929.
Then, it was the great moment of the dinner. I tasted the Pétrus 1947, and immediately I was disappointed. And as I had with me a Pétrus 1971, I asked if we should open it. The two sons of my friend immediately answered : “open it”. And my friend suspected that I wanted to trap them because by the second try, the Pétrus had largely developed and became very enjoyable. Of course not, and I was prepared to open it, but as the 1947 recovered so quickly when being served, it was not necessary. The Château Latour 1924 was served. It is impossible to imagine that such a young colour can belong to a 1924 wine. I know that Latour needs age, but to see a wine which has a colour of a 1990 is incredible. It was clearly a Latour, and clearly a great wine. Solid, structured, complete. But my heart belonged to the Pétrus which has a smell which is unique, and an emotion which is incredible. On the second part of the meat, the Château Lafite 1865 was served. Emotion, history. We had all that while drinking this unique wine. As for the Latour, the colour of this wine was younger than the one of the Pétrus. The wine is definitely a Lafite, with its precision. A great wine that you could drink as if it would come from the decade 40ies of the 20th century.
Obviously my passion was towards the emotional Pétrus 1947, not as strong as Pétrus can be, but highly romantic, emotional, suggestive. I adored this wine.
The fact to have in front of me three glasses with Latour 1924, Pétrus 1947 and Lafite 1865 represents a gift of our friendship with my American friend. Despite the seriousness of what we drank we smiled, made jokes, and the atmosphere was highly relaxed and friendly.
I am probably the one who committed a mistake on the Château Chalon Clos des Logaudes 1864, the oldest Jura wine of my cellar, and a total rarity. I was disappointed with what I tasted and I made the mistake to say it. Everyone enjoyed this wine very subtle, but I had probably expected too much. One indication : last year by my wine-dinner with us, I made them vote for their 4 best wines. And the younger son of my friend had exactly the same vote as mine, thing which occurs rarely. When I asked him at the end of the dinner which wine was his best, he told me : the Chateau Chalon. I am unable today to say why I made such a mistake of interpretation.
When I had opened the Gewurztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles Hugel 1934, it had largely the best smell of all the wines. It confirmed it when served. A magnificent wine, complex, with a broad spectrum of tastes but a complete integration. An indestructible wine at its best. My decision to put the ice aside was the right one. With the rhubarb it was perfect. Normally the Gewurz was planned to accompany the Vouvray. By opening I had decided to put it there, as it would have killed the Vouvray. I was right. This wine is fantastic.
We enjoyed the Château Filhot 1929 alone, with no food, as a dessert. It is more brown that other Filhot 1929 that I have but I must say that it is the absolute perfection of Sauternes. If we would make an horizontal tasting of 1929 Sauternes, I am convinced that this Filhot would be among the greatest of all. A wine to love.
I did not ask to anyone to vote as it would not fit to the atmosphere. In my vote, I want to celebrate the whites, as their pleasure was immediate and direct, when the pleasure for the red is intellectual.
So my vote is :
1- Filhot 1929,
2- Gewurztraminer Hugel 1934,
3- Krug 1976,
4- Vouvray 1929.
But I would not like to forget the emotion of the Pétrus 1947 and the historical devotion we had for the Lafite 1865.
The restaurant Laurent has performed at a level of perfection which is remarkable. Patrick Lair showed a sensibility which was of a great help to achieve with success what can be considered as an event of the highest quality.
Just read the years :
1864, 1865, 1924, 1929, 1929, 1934, 1947, 1951, 1955, 1976, 1976.
To remember for ever.
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered