Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil-sur-Oger 1996
Vintage from Champagne, France
The 1996 Salon is a pale yellow color with a touch of green. It is clear and lively, with fine, persistent bubbles and a stunning bouquet. Initially, the nose offers hints of green apple, which soon develop into lemon and grapefruit combined with pear and kiwi notes. The wine is complex and refreshing on the palate, displaying a burst of minerality. This is a well-made, rich, powerful Champagne, all-encompassing yet subtle, with contained strength.
According to Didier Depond, Salon should be served in a tulip-shaped glass instead of a traditional champagne flute. "Because of the richness and complexity of its aromas, and its exceptional, lingering finish, we've found that Salon can be drunk in the same way as a great wine. This style of glass allows the wine to breathe more efficiently."
Salon uses only grapes from severely pruned vines that are at least 40-years-old and grown on mid-slopes. All of the fruit is picked and sorted by hand.
Pressing is carried out with a traditional press used solely for Salon. Only the cuvée, or first pressing, is used for its wine. The cuvée is the lightest, purest and ripest juice that contains the highest amount of acid. The first fermentation occurs in a stainless steel tank, where the temperature is controlled and freshness preserved. To that end, the wine does not see any oak, nor does it go through malolactic fermentation.
Aging takes place in Salon's chalk cellars for 8–10 years. The slow marriage of acidity and fruit that takes place over time gives Salon its signature elegance, finesse, balance and exceptional depth, as well as a fine, persistent mousse. Riddling is carried out manually, and because the bottle has an embossed relief (the word "Salon") at the point where the bottle begins to taper toward the neck, a special technique is required to prevent sediment collecting in the lines of the relief. The bottle starts out with the embossed relief at the 12 o'clock position. From that point, it is riddled left to right, then right to left, until the sediment is trapped at the top of the neck of the bottle. The wine is hand-disgorged only when an order is received.
Wine Enthusiast - "The latest release from Salon, this just explodes in the mouth with mineral, steel and flint. The tiny mousse has flavors of yeast and just a touch of toast. It is rich, but so austere and structured. Like many Salon Champagnes, this will age for 20 years or more."
Connoisseurs' Guide - "Wouldn't it be lovely if we could drink Salon Le Mesnil every day? This is an incredibly beautiful, sophisticated, lavishly appointed bubbly with an exquisite blend of aged yeast notes smelling of lightly toasted brioche layered atop scents of vanilla, Meyer lemon, chalk and minerals all in the most seamless and creamy of fashions. Its mousse is smooth but energetic and comes with appropriately pinpoint-sized bubbles. Sporting all the finesse that Blanc de Blancs can manage yet rewardingly deep and rich in flavor, this wine is easily the most impressive bottling in this go-round of world-class bubblies."
The Wine News - "Delicate aromas of fresh baguette, pecan and chalk with a whiff of Fino Sherry. Bright citrus flavors with mixed caramel, butterscotch and drying mineral notes that mesh nicely in the close. A broad-shouldered wine with the stuffing needed for aging."
Wine Spectator - "A deep, vinous style, with understated power and grace. The lemon verbena, toast and honey aromas and flavors are propelled by the well-integrated structure and fine bubbles. There's just a hint of greenness, marking its youthful impetuosity. Has great length. Best from 2010 through 2030. 840 cases imported."
The Wine Advocate - "A deep, vinous style, with understated power and grace. The lemon verbena, toast and honey aromas and flavors are propelled by the well-integrated structure and fine bubbles. There's just a hint of greenness, marking its youthful impetuosity. Has great length. Best from 2010 through 2030. 840 cases imported."
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Situated in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côte des Blancs, the House of Salon produces only one Champagne, the Cuvée "S". This Champagne comes from a 2.5-acre vineyard owned by Salon (Le Jardin de Salon, or "Salon's Garden") and from 19 smaller parcels representing 22.5 acres of vineyards in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, all chosen by founder Eugène-Aimé Salon early in the 20th century. There have been no changes to the methods and principles of making Champagne Salon that he laid down over a century ago, and that is certainly a testament to Salon's judgment and discrimination.
About ChampagneView a map of Champagne wineries Champagne is both a region and a method. The wines come from the northernmost vineyards in France and the name conjures an image like no other can. An 18th Century Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon is said to be the first to blend both varietals and vintages, making good wines not only great, but also special and unique to their winemaker. Today, nearly 75% of Champagne produced is non-vintage and made up by a blend of several years' harvests.
All Champagnes must be made by a strictly controlled process called "Méthode Champenoise." The grapes are pressed and fermented for the first time. The blending phase follows and the wine is bottled and temporarily capped. Then comes the second fermentation, a blend of sugar and yeast is added and, this time, the carbon dioxide is kept inside the bottle. This process leaves a great deal of sediment that is extracted through a process of "racking" or "riddling." The bottles are progressively turned upside down until all the sediment is collected in the neck. The necks are then frozen and the sediment is "disgorged." After this phase, the winemaker may decide to add sugar to sweeten the wine. Finally the wine is corked. Some wines move through this process in a couple of months, while others are aged after the riddling phase to build greater complexity and depth.
Champagnes range from dry, "Brut," to slightly sweet, "Demi-Sec." Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are used in Champagne blends, but "Blancs de Noirs" is made entirely of Pinot Noir and "Blancs de Blanc" is made from only Chardonnay grapes. The high acidity achieved by the northern location is crucial to the balance and structure of these wines.
Not every year is a "vintage" declared. In years when it is not, the wines are blended with the produce from other years to create the non-vintage blend, the house style that remains constant from year to year. But in a great vintage year, champagne houses will bottle by itself the unblended year's produce, and use other portions as "reserve" wines to supplement and enrich the non-vintage blend. A vintage champagne can age quite gracefully, and gain complexity just like any other great still wine.
Mild cheeses like gruyere and shellfish pair nicely with Champagne. Also, oysters and Champagne is a popular combination. A full-flavored vintage Champagne can go with almost any meal.
About France - Other regionsWhen it comes to wine, France is a classic. Classic blends, grapes and styles began in the country and they still remain. Think about it - people ask for a Burgundian style Pinot Noir, they refer to wines as Bordeaux or Rhone blends - Champagne even had to pass a law to stop international wineries from putting their region on the label of all sparkling wine.
The top regions of France are: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, Rhone. And these regions are so diverse! It makes sense that wine regions throughout the world try to emulate their style. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are no longer French varieties, but international varieties. They may not be the leader of cutting edge technology or value-priced wines, but there is no doubt that they are still producing wines of great quality and diversity.
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Alcohol By Volume GuideMost wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
- Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
- Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
- Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.