2002 Champagne Billecart-Salmon, Cuvée Nicolas François, Brut
Stephan Reinhardt - 07/12/2018
Evolving nose displaying nuances of lemon, cream and complex notes of truffle and mushroom. Fresh and structured with a pristine finish.
Simon Field MW, Decanter (Oct 2021)
About this WINE
Billecart-Salmon is one of the few remaining Champagne houses to be owned by the original family and was established in 1818 by Nicolas-François Billecart.
Most of Billecart-Salmon's fruit comes from a small vineyard holding, though this is supplemented with grapes bought in from the Marne Valley and the Montagne de Reims. Meticulous production techniques, from the use of their own cultured yeast to its long, slow, cool fermentation, ensure that the family has 100% control of production.
Billecart-Salmon is renowned for the quality of its delicate rosé, while the Brut Réserve (a blend of three vintages) is a beautifully harmonious and balanced wine. All have the ability to age very well.
Rosé wines are produced by leaving the juice of red grapes to macerate on their skins for a brief time to extract pigments (natural colourings). However, Rosé Champagne is notable in that it is produced by the addition of a small percentage of red wine – usually Pinot Noir from the village of Bouzy – during blending.
Recommended Producers : Billecart Salmon (Elizabeth Salmon Rose), Ruinart
Which grapes are included in the blend, and their proportion, is one of the key factors determining the style of most Champagnes. Three grapes are used - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
26% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay and it performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk slopes south of Epernay. It is relatively simple to grow, although it buds early and thus is susceptible to spring frosts. It produces lighter, fresher wines than those from Burgundy and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the richest long-lived Champagnes produced.
Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends - it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.
The final component is Pinot Meunier and this constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Its durability and resistance to spring frosts make the Marne Valley, a notorious frost pocket, its natural home. It ripens well in poor years and produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks ageing potential, but this does not deter Krug from including around 15% of it in their final blends.
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Cuvée Nicolas François was created in 1964 in deference to Billecart-Salmon’s eponymous founder; with the 2002 his successor, François Roland-Billecart feels that the wine has scaled new heights, with both the superb vintage conditions and the age of the vines, not to mention the subtle winemaking which now combines oak and stainless steel for the first fermentation, all conspiring towards perfection.
The extended ageing, over nearly a decade, has engendered greater autolytic harmony, hitherto concealed behind the wealth of orchard fruits and chalky zest. The palate adds notes of white tobacco, white peach, supple spice and intimations of Burgundian poise. For the more whimsical taster, Proustian madeleine may be detected, perhaps recalling great bygone vintages and posing the very real possibility that this will surpass them all.
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