December 31 dinner with a miracle which makes me happy

New Year’s Eve is the next meal. We will be eight, including seven drinkers since my wife will only drink the Yquem. There are four faithful friends of our Eve parties and meals of August 15th. A couple of restaurateurs will be present for the first time.

Everyone is busy cooking, my wife and a friend running the operations. The setting up of wine glasses with a final rinse is like a ballet set by Maurice Béjart. From 4 pm I begin the opening of the wines. I already open the two champagnes for the beginning of the meal, then the dry whites and sweet whites that are in the same conservation zone. The nose of the 1996 Bâtard Leflaive and of the 1989 Yquem are pure and perfect.

It is then the turn of the reds. The cork of Pétrus 1983 crumbles into a thousand pieces because of a light and porous cork. And what is curious is that this fragile cork played its role perfectly because the level of the wine is in the neck, without any loss by evaporation during 34 years. Conversely, the cork stopper of the 1959 Palmer had leaked wine since the level is mid-shoulder. The nose of Pétrus is perfect. The nose of the Palmer needs to benefit from a long aeration.

I have planned for this dinner two wines from the domaine of Romanée Conti, La Tâche 1957 and La Tâche 1969. The reason is as follows: La Tâche 1957 has a low level and must be drunk. The 1969 with a very satisfactory level is in support and extra.

I pester because the quality of the corks of the two wines of Burgundy is notoriously low. When I want to poke my corkscrew into the 1957 cork, the cork slides down. I try to sting and when I turn the corkscrew, the cap turns, without I can make the corkscrew penetrate. It took several minutes before I could push in the corkscrew and lift the cork, black on more than half of its length and putting fat on the neck. The smell of wine is appalling, the dust dominating. This smell has so penetrated the wine that it seems to me impossible for the wine to come back to life.

When I sting in the cork of 1969, it is same initial scenario, the cap turns in the bottleneck, tends to lower if I push and also ask me time to prick it without it falling in the neck. The cork is less damaged than that of 1957 and the smell of wine reassures me because everything indicates that the wine will be reconstituted. But I pester because everything indicates a low quality corks and also poor storage conditions by previous holders of these bottles, which had to keep them in cellars too hot.

The cork of Châteauneuf du Pape Clos Petite Gardiole 1946 is much healthier. It is the color of the wine that appeals to me, because the wine is a little cloudy and much too pink. There is uncertainty for reds.

I’m fine, my wife is beautiful, the first friends are ringing at the door. The Christmas Eve of December 31, 2017 will begin.

The friends arrive in our southern house to share at eve on December 31, 2017. As the organization and conduct of this dinner follow the rules and precepts of my dinners, although it is a friendly dinner where all are invited, I will classify it within my wine-dinners.

The aperitif begins with Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Magnum 1985 Champagne, which will accompany truffle sautéed white boudin in thin slices, a chiffonnade of Cecina de León, this delicious beef smoked meat, and bread brought by a friend restaurateur. “Bread Pump” is traditionally served on December 24th. It is made of flour poured on the bottom of the grinding wheel when the pressing of the olive oil is finished, which will “pump” the flower of bottom oil and allow this special bread with orange blossom .

The champagne is glorious, a yellow discreetly green and golden. It is powerful, serene and balanced, and it is very high above the other examples of this champagne that I already have. It is broad, impregnating and conquering. With each component of the appetizer it creates an accord of a rare natural. I am conquered by this flamboyant champagne.

We sit down after everyone has solved an enigma to find his place and here is the menu that I developed with my wife who made it: caviar Osciètre alone / Caviar Osciètre on raw scallop shell / Seared Scallops / Scallop Coral / Seared Royal Bream Fillets / Sirloin Steak Medallions / Mashed Potatoes with Truffle / Camembert Jort Wooden Box / Pomelos Supremes / Mangoes / Madeleines of chestnut honey.

On caviar abundantly served, caviar osciètre prestige of Kaviari, Champagne Salon Le Mesnil sur Oger 1990 is the absolute perfection of champagne. We drank Salon 2002 in magnum two days ago. The 1990 Salon is at the top of Olympus. Everything is balanced, perfectly dosed and the champagne sings a solemn opera of greatness and divine perfection. We are in front of an exceptional champagne at a time of his life of perfect balance.

The combination caviar and raw shell with sweet notes finds an exciting resonance with Salon 1990. Each taste is pure and the combination is natural.

On seared scallops, Bâtard-Montrachet Domaine Leflaive 1996 brought by a friend also forms an agreement based on the purity of tastes. The travel of the wine in the mouth has the shape of a Chinese lantern. That is to say, the attack is fairly thin, fluid and the mid-palate is large, all in size. The heavy and rich wine is thundering in the middle of the mouth. The wine is not totally perfect but it has an immense charm, heavy and full.

The corals of the shells will accompany the two Bordeaux that will engage in a small game as sometimes one, sometimes the other will come out winner. In the beginning, the 1983 Pétrus seems more strict and uptight than the 1959 Château Palmer, velvety and feminine. And with coral, it is the 1959 that wins significantly.

A small miracle will occur on the fillets of king bream. Pétrus throws its starched neck to the nettles and becomes sharp, scathing, brilliant. And the agreement is divine, highlighting a pomerol of high purity very truffled, the Petrus being more complicit to fish. The two very disparate Bordeaux showed themselves on their best day, one on the coral and the other on the sea bream.

I go down in cellar to bring up the three wines already open since about six hours that will accompany the meat. Taking in hand La Tâche 1957, the horrible smell at the opening is always present and my verdict is that the wine will be undrinkable. I bring back the wines and I announce the death of 1957.

I pour in my glass La Tâche Domain of the Romanée Conti 1957. I’m sniffing. There is no unpleasant odor. This means that the bad smell stuck to the bottleneck of the wine and did not mark the wine. I inform friends and I taste the wine to the color tired and there, it is as if an anvil fell on my head. It is the shock of Christopher Columbus discovering America: this wine summarizes all by itself all that makes the DNA of the wines of Romanée Conti. This wine is a mountain of roses placed on a salt marsh. There is the rose, there is salt and for me, it is all the Romanée Conti that bombard me with its excellence. How can this wine that I was going to exclude summarize the estate as well, with as much charm and persuasion?

I pour the wine to everyone as well as the other two wines. The meat is perfectly cooked and the truffled puree is sufficiently typical but calm to play the accompanying role to the wines.

La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1969 is much more orthodox than the 1957. It has a nice fruit that the 1957 does not have. She has the charm of La Tâche, a delicate velvet and the rose is more discreet. This wine is all in elegance. It’s a great wine. But the 1957 rascal and crazy is ten times more exciting as it is off-track, apart from all the oenological cannons.

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Clos de la Petite Gardiole 1946 is a UVO, an unidentified vinous object. Its color is raspberry pink and the wine is slightly cloudy. And his taste is nothing of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He is sweet, delicate, out of the ordinary. What is incredible is that this pleasant wine will stay as it is throughout the meal, without moving an inch. It is pleasant, curious, out of the ordinary and if you accept a change of scenery and astonishment, it is pleasant to drink.

We have already eaten so much that the confrontation between the Jort wood box and red box camembert will not take place. We open a Jort box wood that finds with both La Tâche relevant agreements. All landmarks are undermined: dorade with Petrus and Camembert with La Tâche, all the purists will scream, but it works!

After these three reds of which only the 1969 is orthodox and in conformity with what we hoped for, Château d’Yquem 1989 puts us on a path of pure pleasure, so much the gold of this Yquem is perfect, round and serene. The accord with the supremes of pomelos prepares the more greedy agreement with raw mango dice. It appears that sautéed mangoes would have been more in continuity with the sensual richness of the Yquem.

The little madeleines with honey are to die for. Champagne Dom Ruinart rosé 1990 with the nice bottle is unfortunately corked. If we accept to drink champagne, forgetting the bitterness created by the cork, there is a very significant freshness that champagne offers. But it is useless to insist.

About an hour ago we had exchanged hugs and greetings and it’s time to vote.

We are seven to vote for five wines to choose from the ten dinner wines. I never imagined that my preference for The 1957 La Tâche would be shared by my friends at the time of the vote. Because this wine is by far the winner. My friends have talent! Four wines had the honors of being ranked first, La Tâche 1957 four times, The Salon 1990 once, as the Petrus 1983 and the Palmer 1959.

The consensus vote would be: 1 - La Tâche Domain of the Romanée Conti 1957, 2 - La Tâche Domain of the Romanée Conti 1969, 3 - Château Palmer 1959, 4 - Pétrus 1983, 5 - Champagne Salon Le Mesnil sur Oger 1990, 6 - Yquem 1989.

My vote is: 1 - La Tâche Domain of the Romanée Conti 1957, 2 - Champagne Salon The Mesnil on Oger 1990, 3 - La Tâche Domain of the Romanée Conti 1969, 4 - Pétrus 1983, 5 - Champagne Veuve Clicquot Vintage Ponsardin magnum 1985 .

The fact that a wine that any sommelier or amateur would have refused to serve is the winner with a large lead over the others is a sparkling gift that makes my heart warm. Nothing is more gratifying for me than seeing a war-wounded man win the battle.

Agreements were extremely brilliant at this dinner. The Cécina de León with the bread pump on the Veuve Clicquot 1985, the caviar on raw shell with Salon 1990, the gilthead seabream with Pétrus 1983 were summits even more gratifying than they are unexpected.

This friendship dinner gave the best start to the new year.

To see the pictures of this dinner, you can go to the article in French on ly blog, followed bya many pictures of bottles, corks, and plates;

Wonderful tour and descriptions Francois.

Question: Did the off odor of the 57 remain in the bottle after it was empty?

Happy New Year! champagne.gif

I just checked now and the bad smell is no more there. But it makes more than 3 days since it was opened.

Thanks as always, François. Compelling notes.

Thank you François. I live vicariously through your notes.

We all do, Mike.

Wonderful report, happy new year!

Just curious, what temperature do you recommend serving white burgs or Yquem at?

Very lucky guests to spend New Years Eve dinner with you!

The miracle that makes me happy is the joie de vivre that your posts convey. I always read them even though I know I will never drink the wines. For me, they are the equivalent of the the pillow fight scene in Vigo’s Zero for Conduct.

For me the miracle is that, in his inimitable way, Francois was able to serve these bottles to an audience of hundreds/thousands [cheers.gif]

Francois could you please tell us the French name of this bread that you mentioned? I’d like to look it up

Once again, Bravo!!

The French name of the bread is a name that I heard for the first time : “pain pompe”. Never heard.
It means that when the pressing of the olive oil is finished, you have what remains at the bottom of the press machine which is named “flower of oil”. You throw flour on it, you add some liqueur of orange flower. You take it and bake it.
It is delicious and can be used either with salted or sugared products.

The bread was made by one of the guests. She is a cook and has one star in the region in the south of France where I live.

Once again thank you for the nice words which motivate me.

I consider my wines as my children. When a wine stinks by opening I am sad as if one of my children would be hurt by a car on a crossroad. You should see my face and my anger.

I smell many times to see if a recovery is possible or not. For the 1957 LT, I thought it was impossible that the wine recovers. But I give always a chance. I clean the inner part of the neck with my fingers and I tell to myself that I have magic fingers that will resuscitate the wine.
Pure fiction, but it helps me to expect miracles.

And when the miracles occur, whatever wine is concerned, I am like David Hamilton jumping on his car when he has won a Formula 1 race. And I must say that it is an important part of my passion for wine, because to drink a perfect wine which is perfect as expected gives not the same adrenaline as the wounded wines which come back to life.

This 57 was so perfectly the definition of DRC wines that I was like walking on water!

The temperature of service depends on the season and on the climate conditions.
During my stay in the south, I served a magnum of 2002 Salon. This champagne needed to be extremely cold due to its extreme freshness.

On the contrary, I served old Grande Cuvée Krug which needed to be served rather warm, to have the fatness of the champagne expressing itself.

In winter I would like that the Bâtard and the Yquem express their large aspects. So, to be served at 1° or 2° less than red wines, but not more.

The red wines were served at 16 / 17° C.

Read the whole thing with a smile on my face throughout. Isn’t that why a lot of us have dived into this? To find those moments of pure amazement?

I’ve been fortunate to have several bottles of the 89 D’Yquem recently. The good bottles have been superlative and the one I had in London (just before seeing you) was probably my #4 wine of the year.

Thanks again for sharing your end to 2017.


Indeed. Drinking wine should be a search for great moments. A quest. François conveys that better than anyone else I know of.

Concur that temperature depends on time and setting of service, as to a degree selection of wine, too.