Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois

2007 base. 1/3 each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, vinified in barrels averaging 15 years of age. Disgorgement 2014 or 15 here.

You notice some butterscotch upfront, but then it melts into caramelised apple tart and dried peach. Freshness is still there with some juicy papaya and a little squish of citrus, whilst some creamy milk chocolate and a developed layer of polished wood and peppery spice add up to a lovely set of flavours. 07 (and the Chardonnay) keep some keenness and bite on the palate, although it is quite plush and up-front in terms of shape. Meunier feels like it is in charge! Billecart really do have a way with it. You feel the connection with the NV Brut Reserve. 16.5

Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2008

65% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims, Marne Valley and Äy and 35% Chardonnay from mostly Grand Cru sites in Le Mesnil, Chouilly, Cramant and Oger. 9 years on lees, disgorged with 4 g/l dosage. Last tasted in September 2019. This bottle is rather more developed than that showing, with quite heady roasted yellow apples, lemon meringue pie and unsulphured dried apricots. There’s some nice fuzzy, slightly wild pear and a succulent core of yellow fruits on the palate, which is still intact but tending towards a slightly nutty, dried-out austerity. Missing a streak of energy. 16.5

Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis 2006

The Blanc De Blancs Cuvée Louis 2006 is also coming around a bend in the track. It’s a terrific wine this (and probably more so in a vintage drawn in finer ink than 2006). A lovely brush of sea air, bristling with some yellow grapefruit (charred at the edges) and apple sweetness. It’s not one of those straight-as-a-die, fine sandpaper Blanc De Blancs; it’s quite bold and forward, and possibly a bit of a teenager right now. Again I would wait a few years. It won’t outlive the N-F. B, and it doesn’t quite achieve the same level of refinement. It certainly has some interesting track ahead, though.

17.5

Date Tasted : 07/06/2019

Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart 2002

Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart 2002 still wears quite startling youthfulness, with sweet mango and anise-tinged pear tart and a lovely malic focus on the palate still burning a bright white light. Some meat is building around the bones now, though, with a touch of brown sugar and controlled, subtle toffee notes bringing some warmth into the picture. This is a slowly-moving wine and I would not worry about over-development if I held onto it; in fact, I would now wait three or four years for it to settle fully into a new pose. A very beautiful Champagne.

18

Date Tasted : 07/06/2019

Billecart-Salmon Vintage Extra Brut 2008

This really grabbed me. 65% mostly Aÿ Pinot Noir together with 35% Grand Cru Chardonnay, cold fermented in steel. This is crystalline – salinity frames a delicate starfruit exoticism, with asian pear, apricot and those flashes of jackfruit that always make me think of the combination of ripeness and reductive control. This has the most gorgeous light-footed mousse, tapering off in a fine, soft-meringue line of sharp apricot pastry. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Champagne with a texture quite like this – it’s tricky to describe. Perhaps there are a few more chinks in the armour compared to the Nicolas-François Billecart 2002 that followed, but it would be difficult to resist drinking this now. Heresy, perhaps.

17.5

Date Tasted : 07/06/2019

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV

This is a blend of 2008, 2009 and 2010. 100% fermentation in old barrel, with 60% from a perpetual reserve system that will eventually form the whole cuvée. A third each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with 6 years on lees and 7 g/l dosage. John Atkinson MW explained that Billecart has made a big move towards oak usage during his time there, going from having a few barrels tucked away to being the third or fourth biggest user of oak in Champagne. “We are petrified of oxidation”, he says, which seems to be a sensible state of mind given the direction that some 100% oak wines veer towards.
Although it is positioned just above the other Non-Vintage wines in the portfolio, it feels as if it is humbly leading the peloton for the evolving Billecart approach with its winter-spiced red pear and subtle pepper and sandalwood. A bit of village-fête apple pie is very Meunier – a grape made for old oak and so totally at home here. Retaining its citrus freshness whilst weaving in this savour and spice, it is the sort of wine that could stand to gain further complexity from the fractional, multi-vintage blending that is in the pipeline. One to follow

16.5

Date Tasted : 07/06/2019

/ Billecart-Salmon, Champagne, Classic Blend, NV