Tasting Report: Champagne Billecart-Salmon, 2019 Releases
In the Champagne world, Billecart-Salmon is a comparatively tiny operation, its 2 million bottles produced each year but a pittance in comparison to monsters like Moet and Veuve. But new CEO Mathieu Roland-Billecart seems to care not at all. At a recent lunch at Auberge du Soleil in Napa, California, Roland-Billecart poured several current releases and ensured the table that quality, not quantity, was and will always be the focus here. Billecart-Salmon is a luxe brand — even with its nonvintage bottlings — and often difficult to find, but, based on my run-through of 6 of its 11-ish bottlings, decidedly worth seeking out.
NV Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru – Bright lemon notes and crisp apple notes meld perfectly with a light brioche note. Slightly nutty, it’s complex, refreshing, and impossible to put down. Amazing for a nonvintage wine. A / $75
NV Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose – Red table wine is blended in to pink up this rose, and it also adds a certain richness to the experience. Florals and strawberry notes perk up in classic rose Champagne style, and while this dulls some of the nutty/bready complexity found in the Blanc de Blancs, it’s quite delightful on its own. Pair with dessert. A- / $75
NV Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois – This expression is entirely vinified in oak, which imbues the wine with a certain tannic quality and a slight grassiness. The overall experience is a bit tight and restrained, the wood draining out some of the fruit quality. Just not as opulent as other Billecart expressions. B / $75
2008 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut – 2008 is considered an all-star vintage in Champagne, and this Extra Brut bottling is the proof of it. It starts off with mineral and quite salty/briny notes, a maritime character that is rarely found even in great Champagne bottlings. With huge acidity, its bright apple notes and a hint of fig are even more expressive. A perfect wine. A+ / $80
2006 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs “Cuvee Louis” – A unique Blanc de Blancs, bold with bread and yeast-driven notes, touched with evergreen and lychee fruit notes. Gorgeous with oysters, thanks to a meaty quality that beefs up the body. A- / $140
2006 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut “Cuvee Nicolas Francois” – A bit drier wine, with a pushier, powerful body. With none of the yeasty notes of the Cuvee Louis, the wine lets nutty and fresh brioche notes shine alongside growing grapefruit character. A / $160