Coming together this autumn to put on an exhibition of the life and art of Louis XIV in the place he called home, Dom Pérignon and Versailles marked the opening of Louis XIV, The Man and the King with a series of dinners that recreated a typical Table du Roi. And we were invited.
Dom Pérignon and its Chef du Cave, Richard Geoffroy were joint hosts, cracking open the 1976 Oenothèque for our pleasure. Served throughout the meal in fine flutes of a conical, barley grain design typical of the Sun King’s era, the 1976 lived up to expectation.
Unravelling and reaffirming heritage has become a familiar exercise to the more mature purveyors of luxury in the West. Few, however, have as much past to explore as Dom Pérignon the House that founded Champagne, nor find such rich context for its birth.
Dom Pérignon’s founder, a Benedictine monk called Père Pérignon was born and died in the same years as Louis XIV, and while their worlds were far apart - the king and the monk’s lives did collide at the extravagant dinners Louis XIV threw regularly at the palace. The sparkling wine made by Père Pérignon is believed to have made it to these occasions, if the man himself didn’t.
Following an after-dark tour of Versailles, proceedings began in the Oeil-de-boeuf Salon with Chamber music, DP Rose vintage 1995 and liquified oysters. It was here that that the banquet also ended with DP vintage 2000 and edible chocolate truffle candles.
Having meticulously researched the traditions of the Grand Couvert with the help of a leading historian, Richard Geoffroy and the Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège brought new light to the proceedings. The table groaned with elaborate decorations of whole pheasants, candelabra and tiered stands of ‘hors oeuvre’.
Three courses each with four or five dishes apiece followed – ‘Les Potages’ included beef consommé, chestnut soup with truffles, pumpkin soup and bisque, ‘Les Rôts’ featured scallops, Wild duck balls, hare stew and wild salmon on salt, and ‘Les Entremets’, included an incredible morel soufflé, a pile of iced parmesan and to top it all off, a (somewhat molecular) hard boiled egg – the King’s favourite culinary concluder.
Louis’s reign, needless to say, was quite a defining moment in dining and the details of the recreation served as a lesson in the evolution of gastronomy – and perhaps more delicious than the privilege of walking and quaffing fine wine and food in the footsteps of the Sun King, was the fabulous lesson in culinary history.