Jacques le Divellec is one of the few chefs who had « asked » me to make a dinner with my wines. I was not a regular client of his restaurant but we had met, I had talked about what I do, and he had written to me that he would be pleased to make one dinner with me. We had prepared one dinner for someone who has asked me to make it by Le Divellec, and the dinner had been cancelled. We wanted it, we did it at the first possible opportunity. He invited me three or four times to check the recipes, and it was an occasion to talk about gastronomy with a man who is of the generation of Bocuse or Chapel or Alain Senderens or Troisgros more than of Guy Savoy, Philippe Legendre, Alain Dutournier. He has made a great number of books about cooking fishes, but as he told me, he can cook other products. What pleases me is that Jacques, who is over 70, behaved as a school kid before an exam. He was so anxious to perform. This attitude pleases me.
The opening of the bottles by 5 pm went extremely easily, as if it was so normal ! But I have had a big surprise. I had announced that the Latour 1934 was a bottle reconditioned in 2001. But I have wrongly read the label. Because, when I tried to pull the cork, it went in thousands of broken pieces. And I read the label printed by the castle : it is “recoated” in 2001, which means that the cork was not pulled out. Just a new label was put and a new capsule. This is extremely strange for me that someone brings a bottle to the castle just for one label. But it was a good surprise, as I prefer largely an original fill to a refilled bottle. I imagine that the castle decided to not recork because the fill was perfect (one millimetre below the basis of neck). I had bought it in auction probably a few weeks after the recoating, which was made to prepare a sale.
The people attending the dinner are five couples of young managers living in Swiss, whose origins are not all Swiss : Italian, Polonaise, Holland, France, but of course also Swiss. When I met them, I was extremely sad. Because the women are so pretty, so lovely, so full of pure beauty that I find it is a waste to put so many magnificent women on the same dinner.
As the weather is fine, I lead the group under the trees of Esplanade des Invalides to give some recommendations how to enjoy best the dinner to come and how to approach old wines. As a little wind announces the cold of the night, some women are shivering, which adds to my sadist pleasure.
The menu of Jacques Le Divellec is extremely vast :
Pieds de cheval de pleine mer / Carpaccio de turbot du pays breton / Bouquet printanier à la fricassée de casserons et coquillages / Grosses langoustines, au foie gras de canard poele / Mammifère rôti, échalotes confites, ail en chemise / Bar sur peau sauce lie de vin à la grenaille de Noirmoutier / Cassolette de homard à la nage de truffes / Bécasse rôtie sur canapé, purée de ratte / Comté affiné / Stilton / Composition fruitière d’agrumes.
Jacques, as we decided, has simplified the recipes, concentrated on the purity of the main product.
The Champagne Pommery 1987 never deceives me. I do not know why, but this year is not considered in champagne, but this one pleases me. Extremely easy to understand, easy to drink, it has a simplified message, but a message of pleasure. The oysters (horse’s foot is the largest flat oyster) work magnificently with the champagne (I am more and more addict to this combination), but their size is much too large for so pretty mouths of the beautiful women. It should have been yearling’s feet. What struck everyone is the complete continuity between the taste of the salted oysters with the taste of the champagne, gaining length with it.
The Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil 1982 is a piece of glory. The profoundness of its structure is impressive. The turbot is the fish whose meat is the most spectacular when not cooked. It has taste, and has not the impression of a carpaccio. And with the Krug, it is spectacular. I could notice red fruits, smoke, tropical flowers in this imperial champagne.
The “casserons” are small “calamars”, and the Laville Haut-Brion blanc 1958 which had taken a golden colour took advantage of them. The nose is extremely elegant, and in mouth, it is a going process. The wine invades my mouth progressively, leaving its deep trace with a rare elegance. But it is with “bulots”, very tasty “fruits de mer” that the Laville shines really. Objectively, it is not as brilliant as the 1955 and the 1948 drunk recently, but it is a great Laville.
The Bâtard Montrachet Domaine Ramonet 1992 is largely easier to understand, as it is a set of tastes that everyone knows. Laville seems to be an ancient wine compared to this mad rodeo horse. What a power! What a flash of myriads of lights. What is interesting is that a wedding for three will be formed. And I notice how it is easy to go from the langoustine to the foie gras and reversely. And the wine shows different aspects with the two. Obviously, the star is the langoustine, marvellously cooked.
The sea mammal (think of Moby Dick) has a meat which is intense, pronounced. And it is truly animal, not fish. With such a rare and unallowed meat, the Château Margaux 1962 will particularly shine. It seems that the year 1962 is magnificent to create precise combinations. Because one of the best combinations of the year 2005 had been a lobster made by Yannick Allémno with a Duhart-Milon 1962. Here, the combination is perfect. The Margaux uses its soft sensual charm, all in sweetness, to capture the male meat. Fabulous.
What is strange is that the Château Latour 1934 plays a similar strategy. Normally I have with Latour the image of La Fayette when Margaux is Gina Lollobrigida, but there, the Latour wants to play the Lady of Shangai. With the fish (“bar”), the wine performs extremely well, and it would be difficult in a blind tasting to say which is the youngest between the Latour and the Margaux, despite 28 years of difference. The density of the Latour is greater than the one of the Margaux.
But no need to choose between the two when comes the Cahors Clos de Gamot (Jouffreau) 1929 which will climb the stairs of “Festival de Cannes” largely as first. The fill was surprisingly high, the colour is of a young wine. Its nose is agreeable, but it is in mouth that the miracle happens. It is not a powerful wine, but what strikes is its balance. It is above any preconceived idea. Helped by the lobster and the truffle, it shines with an unexpected glory (unexpected at this level).
Some people will say that I have not any objectivity (which I confess), because when I take a sip of La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1992 I am nearly ready to forget the two divine beauties sitting next to me. For the first time in my life I eat these small birds that our former president François Mitterand loved, and which are forbidden. The beautiful ladies will eat them with more courage than their husbands. The other bird works very well with La Tache, whose taste, enigmatic as I like, is a pure wonder.
The Château Chalon Jean Bourdy 1928 associated, very classically to a Comté not too old is generous, singing, and has pleased to everyone a tour table. I had added this wine to please my friend who organised this dinner for his birthday. He was happy.
The Château Loubens Sainte Croix du Mont 1926 has created an immense surprise to everyone at the table. When you say “Sainte Croix du Mont”, it means a second wine compared to Sauternes. But believe it or not, the Château d’Yquem 1988 was a challenger compared to the Loubens! Yes. The Loubens has acquired a charm, made of tea, of citrus fruits, or mango, which gives it a personality which is unapproachable. The Yquem was of course very nice as usual, but it was largely more expected.
Among the smiles, the joyful talks, we had to vote. 8 wines got a vote among 11, and 5 wines got a vote of number one, which pleases me a lot, because it shows the general quality of the wines I brought.. I love that several wines can be considered as the best for the people attending such dinners. The Loubens 1926 got three votes of first, as did the Chateau Chalon 1928. The Chateau Latour 1934 got two votes as first and Krug 1982 and La Tache 1992 got one vote as first. The consensual vote would be : Loubens 1926 (two Loubens ranked first in two dinners, this is rare), Château Chalon 1928, Château Latour 1934 et La Tâche 1992.
My vote was : 1- La Tâche DRC 1992, 2- Cahors Clos de Gamot 1929, 3- Loubens 1926, 4- Château Chalon Bourdy 1928.
Concerning tastes, no vote was made, but the meat of the langoustine was for me the greatest. The greatest combination has been the lobster with the Cahors 1929. But the “bulot” with the Laville 1958 was a great match too.
Jacques Le Divellec was extremely generous. He has proposed tastes that some of us had never experienced. He was motivated, and simplified every recipe for its best. The whole team was committed. He took the challenge and realised it. My wines performed, and I keep in mind the beauty of the women of this dinner, nearly equalling the charm of La Tache .
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered