Saturday, 16 April 2016

Salon 2004 Launch

My kinda bath...
Champagne launches tend to be a bit of a show-off moment and you could argue that we did a bit of that with the Salon 2002 Launch week. The launch this week of the, sadly smaller, 2004 Salon was a lower key affair, deliberately so. A few tastings were put on for press and restauranteurs of course but possibly the main focus was a small, 40 people, dinner at  The Victorian Bathhouse in Bishopgate. Now I had nothing to do with finding this venue but it's a cracker.

Before launching into the evening's activities there are a few other Salon and Delamotte posts you may enjoy:
The food for the evening was good, nicely understated. I am a firm believer that there isn't room for a chef's ego on a plate alongside great wine. One or the other has to be the focus. We were served up a lovely menu of:

Smoked Scottish salmon, wheaten toasts, lemon and samphire tartar 

Broad bean blancmange, golden crispy broad bean crumbs 
Pea gougère, pine nut and parsley butter 
Crispy whitebait, with herb mayonnaise
Hen’s egg starter with asparagus tips
Pan fried John Dory with roast radishes, Jersey royals and lemon thyme oil
Cheese - Gruyère, Manchego, Parmesan

Champagne is a flexible food wine, in fact you often hear of people who go to the top experimental restaurants, be it in Denmark, Spain or anywhere in between, comment that Champagne is about the only wine you can drink the whole way through.
The line-up
So, enough waffle, what did we drink? Well, the kick off was Delamotte Brut NV en magnum, a Chardonnay-heavy blend (55%) that includes both Pinot Noir (35%) and Pinot Meunier (10%). This blend interestingly used to be an equal third split between the three. But under the guidance of "Mr Salon/Delamotte" Didier Depond, our host for the evening, the blend has been swayed towards the house strength - Chardonnay. All Delamotte Brut sees 36 months on the lees rather that the 15/16 months of many houses. It was drinking beautifully, open expressive but with a good focus, a great all rounder. Totally dependable in the good sense of the word.

Once we moved through for dinner and saw the "Champagne Bath" we had a Delamotte double to greet us, starting with Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV which is made from purely Grand Cru fruit. I did not know that of the 320 villages (yes, seriously) that can produce Champagne only 17 can produce Grand Cru. This Non-Vintage (though Multi-Vintage is a better term generally I think) is made from fruit from Les Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Cramant. It has a little toasty element from the longer lees ageing but is so very moreish, it's probably the one wine that for me most sums up what Delamotte is all about. From here we moved to the Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2007. The 2007 is a slightly more complex wine than the Non-Vintage and follows on from the 2004. The fruit comes from four villages, the three mentioned above and also Cremant. Cremant only makes up 10% but Didier feels it is an important element. I found this to have a slight note of cocoa bean and then lovely white fruits and delicate toastiness.
A bit of fun...but clever...
We were now firmly into the "Salon Zone" with Salon 2004 and Salon 1997 served side by side. The 2004 was the focus, it is only the 39th vintage produced. 2004 as a whole was a rather vast, record-breaking even, vintage in Champagne but at Salon it is small at only 42,000bts as opposed to an average, but still insanely minute, 60,000bts This is due to two green harvests done in the vineyard. I am borrowing Didier's word but it is an intense serious and saline Salon, there is so much to come, in many ways it reminds me of Grand Cru Chablis in youth and yet it is, one has to remember, a 12 year old wine. Intense and serious for sure. The 1997 alongside it is from the same DNA but is, and always has been, more open, more flirty, the "Audrey Hepburn" vintage as it has been called. I think those with 1997 in the cellar can be very happy and, if they haven't already, open a bottle. When you drink Salon, or almost any Champagne, please use a decent, tulip shaped glass.
Then with cheese on the way it was time for a wine that the House only has a few handfuls of bottles left - Delamotte Collection Blancs de Blancs 1985. These bottles were disgorged a year ago. In general there is a disgorgement every 6 months of a few wines to form the Delamotte Collection for the next year. Listening to some facts on the 1985 was very interesting. The 84/85 winter was a savage one, -20 for two solid weeks, then spring was cool/cold also but summer was hot with the temp hitting 40 at times. The proverbial "roller coaster". Production was minute with Delamotte making 20% of a normal crop. In many ways Salon making 32,000 bottles was a great effort. This wine was just delightful, some good depth from the ageing but then a lovely biscuity dried fruit edge and as a friend commented, an element of "Flor" a salty, zesty, freshness...delicious.

Things were supposed to end here but there was one last surprise - Delamotte Collection Brut 1970 En Magnum. Now those paying close attention will notice "Brut" rather than "Blanc de Blancs". That is because this is a 50:50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I thought it was fascinating, far weightier than the other wines and richer. I liked it but possibly find the 1985 more to my palate - I am spoilt!

Alas a lovely evening amongst friends has to end somewhere...this had been a lot of fun and whilst I am biased the evening flowed and so did the Champagne...Bon!

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