Take two cognac virgins, tell them to arrive at a restaurant that looks so ominous, that it looks as if it has been closed all week. Once they push through the doors, encourage them to take off their coats, part with their valuables and place them in a secure locker. Watch them exchange nervous glances as they ascend the stairs for a new experience that will push their sensual boundaries in an unexpected way. Whilst they both know that this new experience doesn’t involve taking off clothes nor participating in anything uncouth, they will be asked to hold onto a stranger’s shoulder, to begin this sensual journey. Watch them, in single file, follow the stranger (who they later find out is blind) into pitch black room. In this room it is so dark that you cannot see the hand in front of your face. Slowly, gently, calmly, the two cognac virgins, led by the blind stranger will take their seat, in this darkened room whereby they will have four delicately placed glasses of cognac in front of them.
Our experience at Dans Le Noir begun much like this. We were invited to sample the new Park cognacs and 8 Place du Marche wines from distinguished distillery, Tessendier & Fils that have recently launched in the UK. Excited by the prospect of learning about the strong, intense flavours of cognacs and the light, refreshing tastes of good wines, we agreed. The setting, Dans Le Noir, sounded incredibly romantic; the perfect venue to marry the masculine connotations of cognac and flirty thoughts connected with small samples of white wine in delicate, large glasses. As we were lead into the dark room by our waiter, we suddenly became much more aware of our other senses now that our sight had been taken away. The room smelt incredible, I could feel my boyfriend’s presence about a foot away but I couldn’t see, feel or particularly hear him. I had no idea how to find my chair, let alone avoid knocking down the glasses of cognac, releasing a scent that was unfamiliar, alluring and overpowering. Spellbound, trapped, excited, we found our way and sat down. After fumbling gently across the table we found the four glasses of cognac and what we hoped were the fingertips of one another…
The first sample we were encouraged to take time to smell before tasting, moving our noses in circular motions across the top of the glass. By moving the liquid and your nose, our connoisseurs explained, that you are able to pick up different aspects of the cognac. The first was Park VS, which to me smelt incredibly strong. The connoisseur described the cognac as bold, which I couldn’t argue with, on my first sip. Immediately my senses wanted to reject this bold, strong cognac, but just before the waiter gently nudged my shoulder with the palette cleanser of chocolate (which I could smell long before it reached me) I noticed that in fact there’s something behind that strong, bold, initial impression. Cognac isn’t just big and heavy; the aftertaste is so different when drunk patiently. You find something sweet lingering on your lips – maybe apricot-like. In this setting it did not seem fitting to say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and yet something rang true in a non-visual sense of not settling for your initial judgement.
The second glass was my favourite. Park Borderies, felt creamier, gentler, with a little hint of a mild spice like cinnamon. I went back for sips of this second glass in between the others, reassuring me that even in the dark and without a sense you often rely on for judgement, that I was able to distinguish flavours and likes and dislikes. The chocolates that we were given in between the tasting also had intense flavours that we were able to enjoy in the dark much more objectively. Usually I don’t stop after one bite of chocolate but there was something oddly satisfying about this small morsel, melting generously in my mouth, after such bold, lasting cognac flavours. Whilst my boyfriend agreed or disagreed about the glasses of cognac that followed, Park XO, a robust blend of flavours such as dried fruits, hazelnut and coffee, and Park Cigar Blend, with its honeyed apple and cedar notes, we became more comfortable with our pitch black surroundings. Completing our cognac experience we agreed to disagree on what scents, flavours and likes we had but as we were gently lead out into the dimly lit bar outside, we were amazed at how sensually powerful the experience of drinking and tasting in the dark had been.
Confident, comforted and able to move around without hesitation in the light, we walked over to the bar to listen and sample the new wines available too. The story of this wine begins with friends, a market place and the promise of delicious charcuterie, fresh, crusty bread and wine that you attach with good memories. Place du Marche aims to share this idea of vitality and social occasion with all that drink it and as we were encouraged to clink glasses with other couples in the room, make friends, mingle, the magic of the wine inevitably worked. I usually prefer crisp, dry white wines but when in Rome, or, indeed when you are at le Place du Marche, you share the wine chosen by your friend, and enjoy it among great company. It was truly lovely, a gentle taste, that you wouldn’t wish to be served too cold at the risk of not noticing the subtle taste of fig and citrusy blend of the semi-sweet white. This particular white’s grapes are handpicked around late October and early November, then gently pressed for juicing. Fuss free yet sophisticated from the branch to glass. 8 Place du Marche has pressed a small range of whites, reds and roses for wine lovers and bonne viveurs to enjoy. Whilst the wines themselves are so good that it would be easy to share between two the idea behind these are to open up a little more to sharing with others that you love too. With this in mind it is worth asking for a few bottles and perhaps even mimicking the Dans Le Noir experience with these loved ones, lovers, bonne viveurs, with eye masks and chocolate….
For more information, please visit: www.cognac-tessendier.com