Corney & Barrow celebrated the launch of Champagne Salon 2002 with a full English breakfast, which of course included shaved truffles and Haricots a la mode Delamotte (baked beans, cooked in Salon’s sister wine, if you really need to ask). The nice upstairs room at Mess at the Saatchi Gallery was flooded with sunlight, on a morning of such luminous gorgeousness (such as only Chelsea can provide) it was no surprise to see London’s finest wine hacks turned out in force. Corney’s even coaxed Decanter’s Sarah Kemp out of her lair in the Blue Fin Building in Southwark. Full-on full English, bacon-wrapped sausages and all, washed down with vintage Champagne at ten o’clock in the morning is what they call a no-brainer.
Salon, of which the 2002 is only the 38th vintage since the founding of the house by Eugene-Aimé Salon in 1905, is produced in minute quantities: there are 62,000 bottles and 5000 magnums of this vintage. Compare that with Dom Perignon’s six million plus (according to most best estimates) and you begin to see what ultra-exclusive means. Corney’s share their allocation with Vineyard Brands in the US, Alfa in Singapore and Paolo Pong’s Altaya in Hong Kong, leaving about a pallet and a half for us, and guests including Matthew Jukes snapped up cases there and then, so that’s a few less already.
Chef de cave and Salon Delamotte president Didier Depond described 2002 as ‘one of the very best vintages in Champagne. I compare it with 1982 for quality.’ 2002 is the first vintage since the 1999 (which was launched in Notting Hill’s fish and chip restaurant Geales in 2011).
According to Depond, Salon is the only house not to produce a 2000 vintage, which he dismissed as ‘very trendy – a perfect marketing vintage.’ Nor a 2012, though of course they have very much less choice of grapes: Salon is made from pure Chardonnay grown exclusively in Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côte des Blancs, from a one-hectare plot owned by them, and 19 other smaller plots.
Vinification is in stainless steel and there is no malolactic fermentation. The 2002 was disgorged at the end of 2013 after ten years on the lees.
|'Say "Haricots"': Didier Depond of Salon|
He eulogised the 2002’s ‘pale, yellow green’ colour, and ‘explosion of white flowers’ on the nose. ‘I love the vivacity,’ he said. Rebecca Palmer, Corney & Barrow’s leather-clad associate director and Champagne buyer, said the wine is ‘captivating and enigmatic: gossamer-fine, [its] tiny bubbles seem to skim weightlessly over the palate.’
Indeed. A light-gold hue tinged infinitessimally with green, and – apart from the white flowers, the blossom, the fine acidity – a lovely hint of rain-washed hedgerow. And those bubbles do dance.
Others agree (although not exclusively: a well-known critic did murmur afterwards that he was ‘underwhelmed’). Jukes obviously loved it, and Richard Hemming, who writes for jancisrobinson.com, praised the wine’s ‘quiet authenticity’.
‘It’s convincing,’ he said. ‘At twelve years old, it is just hitting its peak, and will surely keep going for decades. I've tasted quite a few vintages of Salon, and the 2002 is one of the best at a young age, with the potential to be their best ever.’
Champagne Salon 2002 is sold exclusively by Corney &Barrow in the UK, priced at £1,325 per case in bond. One case only per customer.