This week’s In Vino Veritas tasting went straight to the top. Audrey Campos, Export Assistant at Salon Delamotte, stopped by to take us through a vinous tour of these two epic Champagne houses.
Salon and Delamotte, two separate Champagne houses managed under the Laurent-Perrier group, are located in Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger, about 12 kilometers south of Epernay. Laurent-Perrier also includes Chateau Malakoff and De Castellane and is the fourth largest Champagne group, after LVMH, Vranken-Pommery and BCC, respectively.
Salon was originated in 1867 with the birth of Eugene-Aime Salon. After gaining some international exposure and with a keen love of life, Eugene-Aime produced his first champagnes in 1905, 1909 and 1911. In 1921 Maison Salon was officially formed. Salon’s claim to fame was established during the 1920s when Salon was the house wine at the renowned Maxim restaurant in Paris. Furthermore, after the success of the 1928 vintage, the house began its international climb, gaining recognition from wine connoisseurs worldwide. Eugene-Aime died in 1942 and in 1963 the family sold out to Besserat de Bellefon. In 1989 Besserat de Bellefon sold to the Laurent-Perrier group, the current owner. Today Salon is celebrated as one of the finest champagnes on the market.
Salon is considered the original Blancs de Blanc and to this day the house is a single varietal, single vineyard producer of 100% chardonnay-based champagne from the Le Mesnil-sur-Oger grand cru vineyard. The average age of the vines is 50 plus years and the microclimate is unusually warm as compared to the typically cool climate that the Champagne region is known for. Salon only makes one label, its vintage Salon. Since 1921 the house has only produced 32 vintages with an annual production of around 50,000 to 80,000 bottles during these vintage years. The house uses no malolactic fermentation and the champagne is known for its characteristic high natural acidity and very long ageing potential. All vintages are aged for a minimum of 8 years before release. Furthermore, even though the traditional methods of elevage in wood casks have since been abandoned, the champagne still maintains its characteristic nutty aromas and woodsy character. The 1990, 1995, 1996 and 1997 vintages are considered exceptional and are expected to age very well. The current vintages, still ageing in the cellar and pending release, are 2002, 2004 and 2006.
Delamotte was founded in 1760 and is the fifth largest producer in champagne. In 2008 the house distributed 700,000 bottles throughout 60 countries worldwide. Delamotte produces four labels, a non-vintage brut, a non-vintage blancs de blanc, a vintage blancs de blanc, and a brut rosé. Similar to Salon, although much more affordable, Delamotte is known for its Blancs de Blanc and other chardonnay-dominated champagnes. The house blends wine from the three Côte des Blancs grand crus, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize and Oger. The pinot noir and pinot meunier used in Delamotte’s Brut and Brut Rosé come from Bouzy, de Tours-sur-Marne and d’Ambonnay. 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 are recommended vintages.
NV Delamotte Brut
Blend: 50% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir, 20% pinot meunier
Tasting Notes: Straw yellow in the glass. A fruity nose with a light complexity and aromas of light toast. This wine is light-bodied and expresses strong minerality and apple flavors with a citric finish. Drink now.
Rating: 14/20 (WS 90)
Price: $50 @ Wine Spectator suggested retail
NV Delamotte Blanc de Blancs
Blend: 100% chardonnay from Côte des Blancs
Tasting Notes: Straw yellow in the glass. A fresh, elegant, and complex nose with aromas of caramel, orange, citric peel, and floral hints. The mouth is very acidic, light to medium-bodied with flavors of grapefruit and a crisp finish. Drink now or hold for a couple of years.
Rating: 15/20 (WS 86)
Price: $35 @ Wine Spectator suggested retail
1999 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs
Blend: 100% chardonnay from 3 crus, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, and Oger
Tasting Notes: Golden yellow in the glass. A freshness on the nose, expressing elegance and vibrancy and aromas of apple, mineral, nut and flowers. A well structured and balanced, medium-bodied wine with good minerality and flavors of apple and lemon on the midpalate. Drink now through 2020.
Rating: 16/20 (WS 92)
Price: $90 @ Wine Spectator suggested retail
NV Delamotte Rosé
Blend: mostly pinot noir, some chardonnay
Tasting Notes: A beautiful copper color in the glass. Good structure on the nose with aromas of raspberry and cherry. A medium-bodied wine with great structure and balance. There are flavors of raspberry, followed by sour cherry and spice on the midpalate, ending with an appley finish. Drink now.
Rating: 16/20 (WS 88)
Price: $99 @ Wine Spectator suggested retail
Tasting Notes: Light straw in the glass. Great freshness and elegance on the nose with good spice, minerality and lemon cream aromas. Balanced and medium-bodied in the mouth. This wine is fruity with apple flavors coming out immediately, followed by nice citrus notes. Drink now through 2020 and then some.
Rating: 16/20 (WS 93)
Price: $500 @ Wine Spectator suggested retail
Tasting Notes: Sauternes-like golden hue in the glass. A very particular and complex bouquet on the nose. Aromas of dried fruit, almond and fig, opening up to a box of raisins. The effects of oxidation add to the complexity and intrigue. A complex structure and smooth texture in the mouth. The attack is nuts with almonds and hazelnuts. The midpalate is lemony, and the finish lingers over to apple. Drink now.
Rating: 16/20 (WS 90) By far the most complex wine of the night
Price: $220 @ Wine Spectator current auction price