Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil-sur-Oger 1997
Vintage Sparkling Wine from Champagne, France
The wine is pearlescent - a pale, lustrous gold with a fine, lively mousse. The nose is complex yet ethereal.
Wonderfully refined, it is intriguing and enticing, its minerality complemented by hints of white flowers, acacia and hawthorn. A salty note enhances aromas of bread crust, brioche and the merest hint of green apple and hazelnut.
The palate is quintessentially pure, the very epitome of balance and restraint. Exuberant on entry, the mousse becomes more of a caress, while bubbles dance playfully on the palate. Elegance, finesse, bright vitality, depth and power allied with a lightness of touch—it is difficult to encapsulate so many complementary and contradictory elements coming together in harmony.
Refined, feminine and seductive, voluptuous yet restrained, and superbly balanced, this vintage compares stylistically to the great 1988.
According to Didier Depond, Director of the House of Champagne Salon, this singular wine should be served in a tulip-shaped glass rather than a narrow champagne flute. He says, "We have found that Salon can be drunk in the same way as a great wine. Due to the richness and complexity of its aromas and its exceptional, lingering finish, this style of glass allows the wine to breathe more freely.
Wilfred Wong of Wine.com - "Lightly burnished yellow-gold hue with a halo-like mousse. Lovely aged aromas of citrus, mineral and brioche. Citrus flavors of grapefruit and lemon peel laced with char and chalk. Lively, youthful finish embodies a perfectly dry, acidic brut style. With every release, this quintessential Blanc de Blancs sets the standard for chardonnay-based Champagne. $500 / 785 cases imported."
Connoisseurs' Guide - "That these wines are both expensive and superb as a class comes as no surprise, and yet, even in the midst of such excellence, this bottling stands out for its full, rich, developed, incisively toasty first notes followed by deep, rich, chalky, hazelnut, honey and nicely fruity smells and flavors of extraordinary depth and volume. It captures a perfect mix of richness in its mousse and texture with the slight austerity one wants in Champagne, and, for all of its complexity, it promises to unwind further with age."
Wine Enthusiast - "The fabled Salon's latest release is much riper and softer than the great steely 1996 vintage. This suggests it is likely to be ready to drink soon. In the meantime, the acidity is supremely fresh, with grapefruit edges and green apple flavors. And then there is minerality and a tight, structured aftertaste as a reminder that this great Champagne is always going to be more than its fruit. "
Wine & Spirits - "The pure essence of limestone, this vintage is maturing into the grandeur of a great Le Mesnil Champagne while remaining fresh and lively. It offers rich lemon curd and baked apple flavors, chalky power and gravitas without weight. The flavors remain impacted below the limestone earthiness, the wine's structure and balance suited to extended aging."
The Wine Advocate - "Walnut oil and smoky suggestions of struck flint in the nose of Salon’s 1997 Brut Le Mesnil are joined by intimation of the fresh lime and grapefruit that go on to inform its silken yet vivacious and refreshing palate with metaphorically cooling and sorbet-like refreshment. There is a vivid, hauntingly long, wave-like and buoying exchange of chalk and oyster shell, kelp and iodine with luscious citrus against a backdrop of creamy richness. This superb Salon – slightly more restrained than its 1999 counterpart, but no less intriguing or alluring – will merit at least a decade of cellaring. "
Burghound.com - "An elegant and very fresh but distinctly yeasty nose of stupendous breadth leads to incredibly intense, pure, detailed and vibrant flavors that possess superb depth and simply knockout length. This is a powerful Salon and even though it doesn’t have the solid acid spine of the very best vintages, this compensates by its approachability and terrific mouth feel."
Vinous / Antonio Galloni - "Salon's 1997 Brut Blanc de Blancs is drop-dead gorgeous. There is a beautiful tension between the intense minerality of Mesnil and the warmth of the vintage. Textural depth, brilliance and expressive inner perfume are the hallmarks of this gorgeous Blanc de Blancs. Flowers, mint and crisp varietal fruit linger on the impeccable finish. This is a particularly youthful, vibrant disgorgement of the 1997 that can be enjoyed now or cellared. Disgorged First Trimester, 2010."
International Wine Cellar - "Light yellow with a slow bead. Deeply perfumed nose displays waxy orchard and pit fruit scents, along with toasty lees, woodsmoke and wet stone. Weighty pear and yellow peach flavors are given a bitter edge by fruit skin and quinine qualities, picking up salty minerals on the back end. Finishes with firm grip and powerful echoes of minerals and pear skin. This is already beginning to show complexity. "
Wine Spectator - "A delicate Champagne, with hints of honey and smoke winding through the apple pastry, orange peel and toast flavors. This is well-integrated, but the lively acidity still has the edge on the graphite-laced finish. Drink now through 2018. Tasted twice, with consistent notes."
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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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