Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil (in Gift Box) 1996
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.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
This bottle of the 1996 Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil Brut was drinking superbly and represents the apotheosis of Blanc de Blancs, unfurling over the course of three hours with a stunningly complex bouquet of citrus oil, confit lemon, dried white flowers and oyster shell, with hints of praline and pastry cream becoming more pronounced as the wine opens up in the glass. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, deep and multidimensional, defined by the incisive spine so typical of the vintage that, here, is cloaked in layers of crisp fleshy and chalky extract. The finish is long, penetrating and saline. Unfortunately, since the 1996 Salon has been traded so zealously over the last decade, finding a bottle that hasn't travelled too far can be a challenge. But from a perfectly stored bottle, this is just the beginning.
Salon is a unique Champagne. All the emphasis in the production of this exceptional wine is on the singular. It was originally the product of one single man, Aimé Salon; from one single region, the Côte de Blancs; from one single cru, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; from one single grape variety, Chardonnay; and from one single vintage, with no blending whatsoever. Created in 1911 with its first vintage in 1905, Champagne Salon is the creation of Aimé Salon, a champagne connoisseur enchanted then seduced by the terroir of Le Mesnil. After World War I, he was encouraged by his numerous friends to profit more fully from his wine and the house of Salon was created to cater to his new clientele. Headed by Salon until his death in 1943, the house was then left to his nephew. In 1988, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, a family-owned company, became the majority shareholder of Champagne Salon. Today, the house of Salon, along with its ancient neighbor and sister, Champagne Delamotte (the 5th oldest Champagne house, founded in 1760) are directed by one man, Didier Depond.
Associated with luxury, celebration, and romance, the region, Champagne, is home to the world’s most prized sparkling wine. In order to bear the label, ‘Champagne’, a sparkling wine must originate from this northeastern region of France—called Champagne—and adhere to strict quality standards. Made up of the three towns Reims, Épernay, and Aÿ, it was here that the traditional method of sparkling wine production was both invented and perfected, birthing a winemaking technique as well as a flavor profile that is now emulated worldwide.
Well-drained, limestone and chalky soil defines much of the region, which lend a mineral component to its wines. Champagne’s cold, continental climate promotes ample acidity in its grapes but weather differences from year to year can create significant variation between vintages. While vintage Champagnes are produced in exceptional years, non-vintage cuvées are produced annually from a blend of several years in order to produce Champagnes that maintain a consistent house style.
With nearly negligible exceptions, . These can be blended together or bottled as individual varietal Champagnes, depending on the final style of wine desired. Chardonnay, the only white variety, contributes freshness, elegance, lively acidity and notes of citrus, orchard fruit and white flowers. Pinot Noir and its relative Pinot Meunier, provide the backbone to many blends, adding structure, body and supple red fruit flavors. Wines with a large proportion of Pinot Meunier will be ready to drink earlier, while Pinot Noir contributes to longevity. Whether it is white or rosé, most Champagne is made from a blend of red and white grapes—and uniquely, rosé is often produce by blending together red and white wine. A Champagne made exclusively from Chardonnay will be labeled as ‘blanc de blancs,’ while ones comprised of only red grapes are called ‘blanc de noirs.’
Representing the topmost expression of a Champagne house, a vintage Champagne is one made from the produce of a single, superior harvest year. Vintage Champagnes account for a mere 5% of total Champagne production and are produced about three times in a decade. Champagne is typically made as a blend of multiple years in order to preserve the house style; these will have non-vintage, or simply, NV on the label. The term, "vintage," as it applies to all wine, simply means a single harvest year.