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Bottle Size: 750ml
...Unfurling in the glass with a delicate bouquet of crisp yellow apple, Meyer lemon, blanched almonds, elderflower and crushed chalk. Medium to full-bodied, deep and searingly intense, it's seamless and complete, with a bracing spine of acidity, a delicate pinpoint mousse, and a long, mouthwateringly mineral finish. This is a serious, built-to-age wine that will really reward patience.
William Kelley, Wine Advocate. Tasting date: September, 2020
Billecart-Salmon is a Champagne house located in the village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ in northern France, founded in 1818 after the marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier all feature in the house cuvée.
The champagnes of Maison Billecart-Salmon are above all created thanks to the knowledge of the men who rigorously cultivate an estate of 100 hectares, obtaining grapes from an area totalling 300 hectares across 40 crus of the Champagne region.
The majority of the grapes used for vinification come from a radius of 20km around Epernay, where the Grand Crus of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay co-exist, in the ethereal vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.
Grapes are sourced from Billecart-Salmon's own 14 hectares (35 acres) of estate vines, as well as from 300ha (741 acres) of grower vines. Today, the house produces around 2 million bottles each year.
The range is broad, encompassing a Brut Reserve and Rosé, Extra Brut, Demi-Sec, Brut Sous Bois, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru and the Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart. The pinnacle of the collection is the vintage Le Clos Saint Hilaire, a blanc de noirs Champagne from vines planted in 1964. The grapes come from a single-hectare plot, which is isolated and enclosed within a wall of stone (or a clos). The wine is aged in small Burgundian barrels and no more than 7000 bottles are produced each year.
For Champagne, the 2007 vintage was reasonably good.
After an unseasonably mild winter, spring bounced into action with a baking April prompting both an early budburst and flowering, although, flowering was uneven despite the rapidity. Rain then signaled the beginning of an unusually cool, damp summer making ripening a slow business. The dank humid conditions made fighting rot and disease an uphill battle, and a vicious hailstorm also cut yields. August finally saw warm weather and cleansing breezes which helped dry out the grapes freeing them from rot. Despite the cool summer, the harvest was still early – a result of the earlier spring warmth – but careful sorting was essential to remove any rotted grapes.
The cloudy summer had generally suppressed sugar levels – and, therefore, alcohol – in all of the main grape varieties. Chardonnay was the most successful but both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier struggled with some berries failing to fully ripen while others fell victim to rot. Ultimately, the most successful wines tended to come from those who had the gumption to pick later maximizing the grapes' hangtime. The most refined wines tended to be those which championed Chardonnay in the blend.
Although some good wines were made, particularly when Chardonnay was the focus, it was, in general, a trying vintage. Most wines are likely to be past their best, but the top examples may well be drinking well now.
In the vineyard, Billecart-Salmon uses some biodynamic principles and eschews the use of pesticides and herbicides. Yields are kept low to increase the quality of the grapes. In the winery, the juice is racked twice – a practice that was revolutionary for Champagne when the house began doing it. Dosage is typically low, and if it is not needed in one particular year, it is simply not used. The wines age underground within the Billecart-Salmon limestone cellars in oak barrels, the oldest of which are reserved for the grand cru cuvées.
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