Ever wonder what bottle of wine pairs best with your favorite luxury watch? WatchTime and Vacheron Constantin explored the concept in grand style on October 28 at a co-sponsored event held at Privé, the upscale wine bar at le Bernardin in New York City, and featuring watch-and-wine pairings chosen by award-winning sommelier Aldo Sohm, wine director at Le Bernardin.
The evening began with wine and hors d’oeuvres, in which guests mingled amidst vitrines of Vacheron Constantin watches and observed a Vacheron Constantin watchmaker plying his trade at a work bench. This was followed by a sit-down tasting, which began with WatchTime editor-in-chief Joe Thompson introducing Vacheron Constantin North America president Vincent Brun, who in turn introduced Aldo Sohm. After a few brief remarks, Sohm — who in 2008 became the first American voted “Best Sommelier in the World” by the World Sommelier Association — began the presentation, showcasing five notable Vacheron Constantin watches, each from one of the brand’s collections, paired with a wine that Sohm personally chose to thematically accompany it. After the tasting and presentation — which also featured an appearance by Le Bernardin chef (and wristwatch aficionado) Eric Ripert — a selection of plates from Le Bernardin were served for a family-style dinner.
The simplest, most classical timepiece of the evening, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Self-Winding, was matched up with a Champagne from a small producer, the Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Terroirs from Agrapart & Fils, Extra Brut NV. The pairing was chosen, according to Sohm, because both the watch (an uncomplicated three-hand with date window) and the wine are both simple but expressive, clean and simple on the surface with depth underneath. To further express the classical simplicity, the wine was served not in a flute but in a more traditional white wine glass.
“Pascal Agrapart has become one of the best Grower Champagnes,” Sohm commented. “The Terroir is a 100% Chardonnay based and biodynamic-produced Champagne. This Champagne appears very simplistic, yet there is so much focus and depth in flavor.”
Sohm chose a Chablis to accompany the sportiest watch in the lineup, Vacheron’s Overseas Chronograph. The 2012 vintage of the Chablis Premier Cru Forest Patrick Piuze makes a perfect counterpart to the sporty, maritime-influenced chronograph, according to Sohm, because both are suitable for everyday rather than special occasions, and also because the wine (which is 100 percent Chardonnay) comes from the Chablis region of Burgundy where the chilly “offshore” winds of the Seine River subtly impact the flavor and texture of the wines as they age in barrel.
Sohm added, ” Patrick Piuze is the new kid on the block in Chablis and created quite a following. His style of Chablis is perhaps a little richer and yet doesn’t lack on focus and tension. It’s a perfect day-to-day wine.”
Another white Burgundy, the 2008 Meursault Luchets from Domaine Roulot, was paired up with Vacheron Constantin’s Malte Openworked Tourbillon, one of the brand’s skeletonized masterworks from this year’s SIHH (more on which can be found here). Skeletonized watches like this version of the Malte Tourbillon are all about showing off the detail and complexity of a watch movement, which made it in Sohm’s eyes the ideal companion to this wine, from a house renowned for its attention to detail. The Domaine Roulot displayed nutty and brioche notes that were widely distinctive from the other Burgundy Chardonnays in the tasting.
“Jean Marc Roulot is without a doubt one of the most acclaimed winemakers in Burgundy,” Sohm raved about the winemaker. “He’s a fanatic about precision and detail in his wines. The wine has richness and enormous complexity combined with so many layers.”
Perhaps the most clever pairing was the boutique-exclusive Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 — a modern version of a vintage Vacheron Constantin watch made exclusively for the American market — with a well-aged American red, the 1983 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley’s Beaulieu Vineyard. With a bold and fragrant flavor profile uncharacteristic of modern Napa Cabs, this 31-year-old wine is the oldest in the tasting, and the only American one, making it perfect for a vintage-look timepiece reminiscent of the Art Deco heyday of 1921.
Said Sohm: “The ‘old’ California style of winemaking is quite different to the one today. The ‘83 is much more balanced and the wines are less extracted. It reminds me of a much more mature Bordeaux with a hint more fruit.”
Wrapping up the tasting was a lush dessert wine from Portugal, Barbeito Freitas’s 20-year-old Madeira Malvazia Special Reserve. The watch matched up with it was Vacheron’s groundbreaking world-time watch, the Traditionnelle World Time (details on the watch here). Sohm found the Madeira, like the watch’s globe-inspired dial with city ring and 24-hour ring, to be multilayered, and proclaimed both watch and wine to be both rich in detail yet elegantly balanced.
“Madeiras are the most age-worthy wines on the planet,” Sohm declared, “and Barbeito is one of the absolute best producers. The Malvazia has a good amount of concentration and is so multilayered. Part of the layers come from the extended maturing in cask where it finds the right balance and expression in fruit.”