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Delhi Wine Club
Le Cirque: A Meal for a Prince-with the Prince

Posted: Friday, 08 February 2013 11:42

Le Cirque: A Meal for a Prince-with the Prince

Feb 08: Prince Robert de Luxembourg, co-owner of the family-run Domaine Clarence Dillon, the holding company that owns the first growth Ch Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion and more companies in Bordeaux, was in town for his first business visit to India when he met Subhash Arora at a private lunch specially paired with wines from their estates and chatted with him informally over a princely lunch, affirming that company is also an important factor for a great wine experience.

Click For Large ViewWhen I arrived Le Cirque at the Leela Palace in Chanakyapuri last Thursday, also the last day of January at the invitation of Sanjay Menon of Sonarys, to meet the owner of Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, Prince Robert de Luxembourg for an exclusive interview followed by lunch, neither of us knew and I wonder if the Prince did either that the London-based  Liv-ex’s Fine Wine 100 index had risen at its fastest rate in the last two years in January, led by the first growth Graves-based Chateaux Haut-Brion owned by the Prince and his family through the holding company, Domaine Clarence Dillon.

In the highest month-on-month move since February 2011, the index, which tracks the 100 leading labels in the fine wine world, ended last month up higher 2.8% to finish at 268.13 points. Haut-Brion 2008 had led the gainers, up a whopping 10.7% to a mid-January price of £2,924 a 9-L case (Rs. 21,000 a bottle).
Sonarys had organised a dinner in collaboration with Le Cirque for 40 guests at Rs.12,000 a head later that evening, besides organising in Mumbai at Four Seasons, Indigo and Bangalore at the Leela. The same Menu was used for lunch to afford Subhash Arora and Reva Singh an opportunity to meet the Prince and sample the dishes which when paired with wines from different chateaux owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon, would make the meal perfect for a Prince.

Le Cirque is a top-of-the line restaurant within the Hotel Leela, which delivers quality food and excellent service at princely prices. What is lacking mostly, is the company of a Prince though. Prince Robert of Luxembourg, whose eldest cousin is the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, was perfect company for the princely lunch that included Chateau wines of Haut-Brion and La Mission du Haut Brion.

THE Lunch

Click For Large ViewAs we sat down, we were served a chilled glass of  La Clarte de Haut-Brion Blanc 2009. Thisis the first vintage for the limited release of the second white wine of Chateau Haut Brion, earlier known as Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion. A blend of two second wines from both their top two estates, the wine uses mostly Sémillon and a small percentage of Sauvignon (about 10%), giving it fruity and fresh aromas and complexity with medium body. The wine is dry, yet fruity with apples and grapefruit flavours - an elegant wine with good balance. Perfectly suited for the Double cooked Mozzarella with Strawberry and plum Tomato tarar, though the strawberry gazpacho was a tasty additon on the side.

The usually pedestrian potatao gnocchi had achieved a noble status with the addition of porcini, morels and semi-dried cherry tomatoes-surely imported from Italy. Though Chef Micky Bhoite agreed that black truffles could also have turned it into a princely dish, one must admit he had made it memorable for the palate, especially when paired with Clarendelle Rouge 2005 inspired by Haut-Brion (that’s what the bottom of the label reads).

Click For Large ViewClarendelle is a brand created in 2002 through a project under the direct supervision of Prince Robert. Made with bought out grapes in the floating winemaking facilities (at least in principle) the wine is made from grapes similar to those used in the Château Haut-Brion, about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Wines are bought separately and blended at a rented facility. It may not be fair to call it a poor-man’s Château Haut Brion but you may be able to buy it in Delhi Retail - and at a fraction of the price of the princely wine which you might not find in Retail. Drinking younger, with softer tannin, the wine was a great combination with the Gnocchi, especially since it was not as powerful as elegant, not very fruit forward but complex enough with gentle smokiness and full flavours.  

Click For Large ViewPrimo Piatto had the choice of Fig and Duck Risotto or Fig and Radicchio Risotto for vegetarians - both made with mascarpone fondue and Clarence du Haut Brion reduction perfectly matched with Ch. La Mission Haut Brion 2001.  I managed to convince the server to get me half portion of each to try with two different wines. It turned out to be a smart decision. Duck risotto was excellent with Ch La Mission Haut Brion 2001. I simply loved the radicchio risotto with Clarendelle 2005 because of its fullness on the palate and ripe and soft tannins.

Click For Large ViewThe crescendo for this ongoing symphony on my palate was reached with the slow cooked Lamb dancing with Chateau Haut Brion 1998. The medallion resting on the bed of taro (yam like white root) mash was soft on the palate unlike most lamb dishes which might need sharp knives to negotiate through the meat. The lamb and mash morsels were a perfect match with the wine which had matured well to bring out the best in the meat. The wine had cherry aromas, a full mouthfeel and berry fruit flavours that persevered on the back palate. Tannins were still a bit strong but the lamb tamed them very well. The long finish was quite impressive. My only regret was that there was not enough time or the wine to see it open up slowly in the glass to show all its true colours.

It was slightly surprising to see Clarence du Haut Brion 2008, the Second label of Chateau Haut-Brion since 2007 vintage when 'Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion' was re-christened to bring in the Dillon family connection on the wine label. I have often said that in a country like India with obscene taxes, we should not reach for Mars but try for the moon instead. The ‘Clarence’ would work quite well for us, thank you.

Click For Large ViewAlthough not quite ready to drink yet, it still gets ready in 5-8 years whereas the First Growth needs 10 -16 years and it would be even longer to reach its prime- and difficult to bring up this baby under the harsh Indian climate conditions. Of course, it is no replacement for the real thing, I must confess. The softer Clarence du Haut Brion 2008 was a made-for-each-other match for the Cheddar Platter Chef Micky had innovated - hot Soufflé being my favourite amongst an array of different cheddars. Caramelized walnuts added texture and crunchy flavour to the cheeses.

Click For Large ViewThe dessert platter that followed was fortunately nothing but chocolate and petit fours which are easier to resist than the delectable desserts Le Cirque is capable of dishing out.

It is unlikely that if I were to accept the kind invitation of Prince Robert to visit him in Bordeaux where he spends most of his time when not in his home town Geneva in Switzerland, I would be able to enjoy a princely meal like this one. I may have to wait for his next visit to Delhi - hopefully next year.

Subhash Arora


Tags: Le Cirque,Prince Robert de Luxembourg,Liv-ex’s Fine Wine 100 index,Domaine Clarence Dillon,Chef Micky Bhoite

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