Review and Analysis of 2012 Billecart-Salmon Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs and Elisabeth Salmon Rosé

By | 30 May 2024

The latest thrilling vintage releases of the Mareuil-sur-Aÿ house’s top cuvées

By Anne Krebiehl MW

“We do not put our ancestors’ names lightly on a bottle,” said Mathieu Roland-Billecart of Champagne Billecart-Salmon. The seventh generation of his family to run the Mareuil-sur-Aÿ-based Champagne house, he was in London to launch two of Billecart-Salmon’s founders’ cuvées: the 2012 Elisabeth Salmon Rosé, named in honor of Elisabeth Salmon, co-founder of the house in 1818 with her husband Nicolas François Billecart, and the 2012 Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs, named after Elisabeth’s brother Louis Salmon, who was the first cellar master of Champagne Billecart-Salmon.

With numerous 2012 Vintage Champagnes already released, Roland-Billecart only sketched the year briefly. He said that these 2012 wines were like “a glimmer of hope” for growers who then, as now, have to contend with the ever-changing challenges of radically different and increasingly unpredictable growing seasons: “From what was a pretty terrible beginning of the season, with frost, dryness… Hell… the lot, we managed to pull a great vintage, because as we say, août fait le moût, or August makes the must. We had lower yields and harvested in the second part of September.” What he describes is a year that saw a wet beginning, spring frosts and even hail, followed by a warm summer punctuated by heat spikes and a gentler September. In the end, August and September spelled both ripeness and fine acidity. “2012 sits somewhere between 2002 and 2008,” Roland-Billecart said. “It is not a monster of leanness, like 2008, or of concentration, like 2002. It has more meat on the bone than 2008 on release.”

The exhilaration of the release tasting was amplified by the opportunity to savor both the Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs and the Elisabeth Salmon Rosé from both bottle and magnum. This served as an exquisite comparison, as the wines from the magnum—blanc de blancs, in particular—extremely exhibited an alluring hint of reduction. Roland-Billecart clarified that, in contrast to the bottles that were aged under crown cap, the magnums were aged under natural cork. This makes the comparison an intriguing one, displaying the variant paths set for the wines by the distinctive bottle sizes and closures which were uniquely different at this point.

Sourced strictly from grand cru grapes, the 2012 Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs is predominantly harvested in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger (60%), Cramant (23%), and Chouilly (11%). The current cellar master, Florent Lys, elucidates: “Cramant imparts minerality, Chouilly and Oiry provides finesse, and Mesnil-sur-Oger grants structure and longevity.” Remarkably, one quarter of the wine was fermented in petite oak casks. The wine was solely aged for 115 months on its lees and was disgorged in February 2023, with a highly restrained 3.9g/l dosage.

Also worth mentioning is the 2012 Elisabeth Salmon Rosé, made from premier cru (15%) and grand cru (85%) grapes. The 55% Chardonnay blend originated from Chouilly, Avize, Mesnil-sur-Oger, and Cramant, while the 45% Pinot Noir was sourced from Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Aÿ, and Ambonnay. The blend included 8.3% red wine, surprisingly, not from the customary Valofroy parcel in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, but from various parcels in the village. There was a mere 2.9% of the base wines fermented in oak while the wine was aged for 115 months on lees and disgorged in February 2023, with a dosage of 3.8g/l.

Roland-Billecart shared a Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs from 2004 and an Elisabeth Salmon Rosé 2002 for comparison, both crafted prior to the introduction of the ID codes. These codes allow for deeper insight into the wine’s background at, despite the occasional conflict with the information released by the house on launch. More than technical data, these mature wines showcase the delectable aging potential of Champagne, and Billecart-Salmon specifically, especially when bottled in magnum. These wines are also testament to the careful craftsmanship and exceptional quality attributable to the house’s founding members.

2012 Billecart-Salmon Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs (Code 12 12 33)

On first introduction, the nose is greeted with a mellow richness, tinged delicately with fresh cream scented with a hint of vanilla. A second inhale finds an elegant blend of ripened lemon and yellow apple, sweetened with a frisson of something riper, juicier, and more aromatic, akin to ripe passion fruit. Upon tasting, the citrusy punch of this concentrated blend becomes apparent, melding together fresh Amalfi lemon, dried lemon peel, and lemon oil. This flavors intensify as the bubbles dissolve, leaving a lingering impression of concentration, ripeness, and freshness. All this is carried on a solid, compact body, reverberating with a chalky depth. Subtle yet profound. | 95

2012 Billecart-Salmon Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs (Magnum) (Code 12 12 49)

The scent profile is heightened, with the dominant elements being of a spicy, savory nature, rather like moss and lichen with a hint of flint striking a reductive note. A balance of robust lemon freshness and concentration leaves an impression on the taste buds, leading into a complex reduction. This wine exudes a palpable energy and vitality, acting as if it’s thrilled to finally be imbibed. The magnum of Louis Salmon is known for its captivating spirit and charm. | 96

2004 Billecart-Salmon Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs

This particular blend of Louis Salmon utilized Chardonnay grapes from Mesnil (amounting to 50%), along with contributions from Chouilly (at 30%), Avize, and Cramant (both at 10% each). Before being disgorged , the wine was matured for 130 months on lees, and had a dosage of 6g/l.

The aroma is reminiscent of delicately caramelized salted cashew nuts swirled in melted butter. Adding to this is a slight tinge of duxelles, joining the olfactory dance with a zailing note of Golden Delicious apple, representative of passing youth. Further air exposure reveals a whiff of chervil, providing a sense of freshness. The palate holds a rich display encased within a sleek body, all layered over a fluffy mousse. Strong umami, an undercurrent of profound saltiness, and a hint of stony depth merge together to evoke an irresistibly savoury mouthfeel. Notwithstanding its light footing, the impression this wine leaves is deep, intense, and designed for gastronomic treasures.| 94

2012 Billecart-Salmon Elisabeth Salmon Rosé (Magnum) (Code 12 12 34)

The nasal sensation of Red Delicious echoes the undertones of a summer pudding. This incredibly promises the roundness that will very soon manifest on the palate. With beautiful hints of redcurrant adding an aromatic highlight. The palate is undoubtedly creamy and rounded. The core feature is a bright redcurrant luminescence that acts like a lightning rod penetrating deep into the chalk, and seemingly brings in a breeze from a very distant, ancient ocean. The bubbles are creamy and smooth, evenly spreading a satin-like fruity sensation. An extraordinary blend of red-fruited, tart cleanliness, oceanic depth, and creamy richness that lends extended length. | 95

2012 Billecart-Salmon Elisabeth Salmon Rosé (Magnum) (Code 12 12 48)

The redcurrant highlight seems to have achieved wings and strength from a bit more reduction. The palate here exhibits even more of the oceanic, which is now distinctly salty, hinterland. This is affecting both the vibrant redcurrant fruit and the subtle autolytic richness. This does not interfere with the wonderful purity. | 96

2002 Billecart-Salmon Elisabeth Salmon Rosé

October 2013 saw the disgorging of the 2002 Elisabeth Salmon Rosé with a dosage of 7g/l.

The 22-year-old wine presents its last remnants of berry fruit now adorned by an uplift of white truffle, hinting at caramelized berry juices at the edge of a tarte aux fruits. The primary impression on the creamy palate is one of unity, an amalgamation of fruit, soil, and depth. Its freshness and profundity still vibrant, it imparts a creamy, almost floral depth, constantly accompanied by the truffle element, flickering with notes of berry at one instant, and chalk at the next. Definitely an experience in itself, it portrays an impressive blend of unique evolution and remarkable youthfulness. | 97

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