The 2005 Brut Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is sublime. Silky and understated, the 2005 is a model of class. The mousse alone is utterly captivating. Dried pear, gentle hints of spice, dried flowers and mint are some of the many notes that grace the 2005.
In this vintage, Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is quite soft and medium in body, a Champagne of refinement more than power. Orchard fruit, white flowers and bright saline undertones frame the long, very pure finish.
Drink 2023 - 2030
Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com (March 2023)
About this WINE
Champagne Billecart-Salmon was founded in 1818 in the village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ near Epernay. It remains family-owned and run; Mathieu Roland-Billecart represents the seventh generation here, following in the footsteps of founders Nicolas-François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon.
A family tasting committee meets weekly, joined by chef du cave Florent Nys. The eight-person panel includes three generations of the family, notably including Jean Roland-Billecart (who alone has over 75 vintages of experience). Not one cuvée is released until every member of the committee agrees on the blend.
Billecart-Salmon is a large Champagne House, with around 100 hectares of vines of its own. The process of organic conversion for the vineyards was started in 2019. The house also buys fruit from growers covering another 300 hectares of vines. Most of the fruit comes from the Champagne sub-regions of Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs.
Brut denotes a dry style of Champagne (less than 15 grams per litre). Most Champagne is non-vintage, produced from a blend from different years. The non-vintage blend is always based predominately on wines made from the current harvest, enriched with aged wines (their proportion and age varies by brand) from earlier harvests, which impart an additional level of complexity to the end wine. Champagnes from a single vintage are labelled with the year reference and with the description Millésimé.
Non-vintage Champagnes can improve with short-term ageing (typically two to three years), while vintages can develop over much longer periods (five to 30 years). The most exquisite and often top-priced expression of a house’s style is referred to as Prestige Cuvée. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
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.