I know that La Tour d'Argent is an institution but did not realize until I read The greatest wine sale ever known (Independent, October 24) that they have been in business since 1582, a mere 427 years that is.
The article reminds us that their guests ran the gamut from Cardinal Richelieu to Paul McCartney.
Asked by John Lichfield what Bill Gates drinks when stopping by, Chief sommelier David Ridgway says "Oh, I think he
usually goes for a nice Chambertin Trapet 1993." This is one of the
finest of red burgundies, which would sell in the restaurant at about €200.
You can buy a dozen bottles in the December auction for an estimated price
of €600 or €50 a bottle."
Yes the restaurant which the article quotes as having a 400 page long Wine List needs to make room for recent vintages is having a Wine Sale on December 7 and 8, 2009.
Event though their wine master is English, the list is all French selections except for the Ports.
Mind you, John Lichfield writes that the 18,000 bottles sale represents only a small fraction of the 450,000 in the 2 floor cellar.
Looking for a slice of La Tour d'Argent cellar at basement prices, there's Jurancon, a six bottles lot (number 936), for €30 to €40.
The Independent offers background information on this lesser known appellation from Southern France.
"A sweet white wine from the Pyrenees foothills. The wine is produced from a
blend of local grape varieties, including petit manseng, gros manseng and
courbu blanc. An appellation since 1936 (and therefore one of the first in
France), Jurançon used to be a favorite in northern Europe but was
virtually wiped out by the phylloxera plague in the 19th century. For much
of the early 20th century, it was used almost exclusively in the Catholic
mass but has started to recover its reputation as a dessert wine."
The Official Jurancon Site gives us more history on the appellation"Today, the rolling hills of Jurançon are covered with more than 1,000 hectares of vines. We know that the Romans planted vines here over 2,000 years ago and that the name "Jurasoo" first appeared in the Middle Ages. By the 15th
century, the largest vineyards were owned by wealthy landowners and the
viscounts of Béarn, based in Pau, in 1460. This was the beginning of
the Golden Age of viticulture" and they trace "988 as the 1st recorded sale of Jurançon wine at the abbey of Saint Vincent"
Even though Jurancon is better known for its Moelleux (the sweet one), it also produces Jurancon sec which they describe as a "rich, round, dry white wine has plenty of character and good length.
Jurancon Sec has a golden colour with green highlights and a bouquet
that is both floral (broom and acacia blossom) and fruity (passion
fruit, roast almonds and dried fruit)."
Wandering on the long and winding road of wine and history...