Robert Parker 95P
The Salon 1999 Brut Le Mesnil – disgorged already in 2011 and dosed with a pretty typical six grams of residual sugar – displays faintly fusil and quarry dust notes as well as hickory nut, almond, walnut and toasted wheat piquancy on the nose. Polished and subtly creamy in texture yet brightly juicy with apple and lemon, this displays an uncanny sense of lift and refinement, perfectly complementing the honeysuckle and heliotrope perfume that waft inner-mouth. You could lose yourself in the ineffability of this wine’s floral diversity and in its resonantly nut and grain low tones. Hints of apple pip lend subtle additional piquancy on a long and at once soothing as well as stimulating finish, with suggestions of oyster liquor becoming prominent as the bottle stands open for a few minutes, and serving to milk the salivary glands for all that they are worth. Follow this for at least a decade.
Salon – totaling 40,000 to 60,000 bottles in years when it is produced (that’s expressed as 750 ml. each; though magnums are becoming a significant and increasing share) – is still informed to a significant extent by its two founding blocks of massale selection vines in the heart of Le Mesnil and adjacent to the nowadays shared Salon-Delamotte facility. But there are some 20 total parcels – totaling 30 acres – under contract expressly for Salon, most of which are farmed in-house, and each of which is vinified separately. Of course, “expressly” has to be qualified. Salon has been made in fewer than 40 vintages (the exact number is disputed) since its commercial inauguration in 1921, and nowadays the fruit from its vineyards goes into bottlings of Delamotte in years when – after due consideration leading up to (potential) assemblage – no Salon is “declared.” “C’est pas de Rocket Science, pas de secrets,” remarks director Didier Depond – whose cellarmaster here, responsible also for Delamotte (and indeed, Laurent Perrier) is Michel Fauconnet – implying that it’s normally evident at harvest whether a given vintage will merit showcasing. Salon, which never undergoes malo-lactic transformation, is that rare thing among Champagnes: one designed expressly for aging, whether in the bottle or as part of the selective late disgorgements undertaken for specific clients from their sur point reserves. (Though one need only have a substantial income or an intense desire in order to acquire the “normal” disgorgements, the latter-sort are no doubt beyond the means or influence of all but a very few wine lovers. I was lucky enough to visit on a June day when a bottle of 1988 was being disgorged for a client, and the small amount of wine evacuated into my glass so as to be replaced by dosage – a non-dose Salon, bear in mind, that doesn’t otherwise exist –demonstrated formidable depth of mineral-like and secondary nuances as well as stamina, grip, and mouthwatering salinity.)