Salon Le Mesnil Champagne

Salon - a kick ass blanc de blancs Champagne


Salon is a small Champagne house in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger that makes one of the best Champagnes period!

They are unique as they only produce one Champagne, only in the best vintages, and it is a Blanc de blancs (100% chardonnay) Champagne. Yes, they make only one wine, and only in the best of years. There is no non vintage or other wine, only a fairly rare and expensive prestige cuvée. About 20,000 to 40,000 bottles are produced in declared vintages.

Most blanc de blancs Champagnes are fairly light and ideal aperitif wines, but Salon is a power house. A big, full bodied, massive, nearly scorching dry Champagne, which pretty much demands aging of a decade, preferably two. For example, the 1996 was pretty unpleasant on release, although you could tell it had plenty of everything needed except for time in the bottle to come together. I splurged and put a few away.

Salon tastes of nuts, coffee, vanilla, toast - very complex with a bit of everything. When young there is lots of lemon, lime, and other citrus - sometimes a bit too much! It's on many wine geeks wines to "try before you die" list,  but unfortunately has gotten very expensive around the 1996 vintage.

Until recently, I had stopped buying Salon, because although every bottle I've ever opened was superb, I experienced extreme bottle variation. Bottles from the same vintage bought from the same retailer at the same time often tasted very different, although they were all superb. This was around the 82 to 85 vintage. Plenty of people insist I'm mistaken and Salon is always consistent, although that hasn't been my experience - at least in the past. I will agree whole heartedly that every bottle has been consistently superb, save for one bottle of 83 Salon that I suspect had less than ideal storage.

According to Brad Baker, The Champagne Warrior, until Laurent-Perrier took over after the 1988 vintage, "the cellars were not necessarily the cleanest" which was partially responsible along with storage (provenance) issues. There shouldn't be any issues with the 1990 vintage on except for provenance.

So what does Salon do with their grapes in years they don't produce Champagne as well as grapes not up to their demanding standards in years they do?  Well, Salon, together with Delamotte, is owned by Laurent-Perrier, and Delamotte gets first shot at Salon's unused grapes. And Delamotte sells for a lot less than Salon. Delamotte non vintage brut is under US$40, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs around $80, while Salon sells for closer to $300! I need to try more Delamotte!

Salon is one of the best Champagnes around, period! Always vintage, always Blanc de blancs, and always much better if not begging for 15+ years of ageing. If you love Champagne, and like big powerful ones, Salon should be on your list of ones to try.