It’s not every year that Billecart-Salmon releases it’s Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon rosé but lucky for us they’ve deemed the 2002 ready to drink now. The Cuvee Elisabeth is named for wife of the founder of the Billecart house, Nicolas Francois. Nicolas has his own prestive cuvee and in 1988, Billecart decided to name their prestige rosé in tribute to the co-founder of the house, Elisabeth Salmon.
The 2002 is 50/50 chardonnay/pinot noir blend, coming from Grand Cru vineyards. 7% of the pinot noir used is the still wine used to give the champagne its copper coloured hue. The berries used to make the still wine are hand selected to achieve that beautiful, bright colour that this rosé champagne sports. Colin Palmer, Managing Director of Billecart-Salmon UK, told us over lunch that the rosé is only released when Francois Domi, chief winemaker of Billecart believes it’s ready. For this reason, the cuvee is not released in chronological order which is why not all the vintages are available. Even when they are released, it’s made in such small quantities that they quickly sell out. It’s so special that it’s even packaged in it’s own specially designed box.
Billecart had chosen Morton’s Club in Mayfair to kick off the launch and we were treated to a delicious lunch paired with some of their other champagnes before the big reveal.
We had the Extra Brut Non-vintage, as an aperitif, of which I made a video with Winebird TV, click here to see the video. It was still delightful and great with the anchovy tapanade served with breadsticks.The Extra Brut is a zero dosage champagne but doesn’t suffer from being overly acidic or tart as the fruit is perfectly balanced. Aromatic and fresh with complex aromas of brioche anad dried fruit, on the palate – biscuit notes and flavourful white fruits, great to drink on its own. The Billecart-Salmon Blanc de blanc followed, which was great with the crab salad starter.
A whole seabass was roasted and presented at the table to eat along with the Billecart-Salmon 2004. There then followed some detailed discussion about the marketing of champagne. Someone suggested that champagne houses now start to label what exactly is the champagne that you’re drinking. For example, do people really know what a blanc de blanc is? If you’re in the trade or a Champenois you do but if not, more then likely it’s good luck guessing what that means (it means the champagne is made from 100% chardonnay). That was just one example but there are many, and what about non-vintage? Someone at the table espoused using the phrase “multi-vintage” as non-vintage is really a blend of many different vintages. I think that would make it even more confusing for the consumer but it did make for a lively debate around the table. As for labelling of champange, well, I suppose it’s a good idea but if they ever decide to do that, please put all the info on the back label – the front labels are much too beautiful to be cluttered up with the names of the varieties. Of course, the Champenois would probably be aghast at putting the name of the grape on the label but they’re starting to do it in Bordeaux so who knows what the future may hold….
After all the talk, we were ready for the Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon 2002 rosé. What a beautiful champagne – a rich copper colour, shimmering in my glass. It brought to mind a shiny, new American copper penny – just gorgeous. The nose was just as fabulous, loads of aromatic red berries and a hint of citrus. On the palate, lots of dancing bubbles ( I do love those bubbles) and a rich but delicate wine, spice and red berry flavours. We drank it with a fresh strawberry and cream dessert – heaven! I could have had another one of those strawberry desserts!
The Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon 2002 rosé is now available from independent wine merchants and retails for around £150 a bottle.