Last night I was delighted to have Eric Maillot from de Venoge champagne come and present his wines to our gourmet evening. We had a great turnout of new faces and some old friends, and a great time was had by all.
I was fortunate enough to be taken out to de Venoge by Ed from Boutinot in my first year here at the Grosvenor, and it was a very enjoyable two days. We drove over from Paris having flown there from Liverpool. Once there we were given a tour of the cellars by Eric, and a practical demonstration of how they used to disgorge the wines in the olden days. Eric disgorged a bottle of 1978 which we then tasted sans dosage. From what I can remember it was amazingly fresh, with strong autolytic character - bread, digestive biscuit notes, very austere, bone dry but still fairly acidic. We all felt that it would have been better with some dosage. I then was given the opportunity to disgorge a bottle, which I think I did quite well actually!! We were then all given a taste and asked if we thought it was younger or older than the 78. I was the only one to say older, which it was, and it turned out to be a 71, my birthyear!! So when I was planning the dinner, I wanted to show the 71, but alas they only had a few bottles, not enough to serve 45 people. I found out last night, that this is probably the last time anyone will get the chance to taste the 78 now as de Venoge has so little left, they will reserve it for themselves.
So we started the evening with de Venoge Cordon Bleu served from Jeroboam and magnums. I had hoped to serve the whole aperitif from Jero's but we couldnt secure enough to do it, so we had three jeros and four mags. There was a slight taste difference between the jeros and mags, the mags had a slightly smokier, flinty edge to them, whereas the jeros seemed much more rounded and elegant. Eric felt it was possibly that as the larger bottles sell less frequently they tend to have a longer cellar age on them, meaning that the base vintage would have been older as well. This was unanimously enjoyed by everyone, and I think it was the only wine everyone liked.
First course was paired with the 2000 Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay. I quite liked this one, crisp green apples (granny smiths) with slight yeasty flavours showing, very fresh with crisp acidity and clean finish. Very good.
We served their new cuvee the Louis XV for the intermediate course. This wine replaced the Grand Vins des Princes. It is named in honour of Louis XV who decreed that only the wines from Champagne may be transported in bottles, effectively creating the opportunity to make the wines sparkling. Without his decree, Dom Ruinart and Perignon would never have been able to make their innovations and champagne as we know it may never have existed. The wine is bottled in a clear decanter shaped bottle, that came about when Joseph de Venoge wanted something special to present his wines in when he was entertaining guests. The wine itself was a golden amber colour with a rich honeyed nose, very reminiscent of a good white burgundy - a nutty beurre noisette kind of aroma. I think this was one of the best wines of the night, it should have gone really well with the lacquered ribs with five spice and steamed scallop with shoots and sesame.
We poured a 92 Latricieres from Drouhin Laroze for the main, because the boss likes to have some red, and it kind of breaks up the champagnes a bit.
The cheese course was paired with magnums of 1978 Blanc de Blancs. Very very arid, steely dry with a slightly smoky nose and sharp citrus notes on the palate. The dosage worked out at just less than 1g per litre, very very dry, but with the taleggio, salami and truffle "pizza" it worked exceptionally well, even if the cheese reeked to high heavens (I had to leave the restaurant it smelt so bad!!).
The night drew to a close with the NV Rose with dessert, an ile flotant (floating island) - vanilla poached meringue with lemon posset and raspberries. YUM!!
An enjoyable night was had by all, and Eric and Ed managed to charm their way round the room. Talking to guests the next morning, I think its fair to say that de Venoge has a few more fans!!