What could possibly be more elegant, more festive—more of a celebration in itself—than a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Champagne? Just about the only thing we can think of is a magnum of the Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, an exquisite 100% Chardonnay stunner from our top-selling Champagne house.
Billecart-Salmon, after two centuries in operation, is still owned and operated by the Billecart family, who sources Chardonnay for the Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru from five prized villages in the Côte des Blancs. The final blend consists of one-third reserve wine from the terrific 2009 vintage, perfectly incorporated with another 4-5 years maturing on the lees, gaining richness and remarkable complexity. James Suckling, Vinous, and Wine Spectator all sang the bubbly’s praises with 92 points, but Spectator said it best: “Everything is in its place.” The radiant color, the steady stream of delicate bubbles, and the white peach and citrus, which give way to brioche, hazelnut, and a beautifully chalky finish—from the crisp and iconic white and silver label to the very last last sip, this is pure Grand Cru class.
Billecart-Salmon’s history stretches back two centuries, but nothing conveys the cachet of this stellar Champagne house like the story of its relatively recent introduction to the States—and the pivotal role it played in the story of two titans of wine. In his book Reflections of a Wine Merchant, the now-legendary importer Neal Rosenthal recalls the time in 1979 when he went on the hunt for an exclusive Champagne to offer the clients of his New York shop. He eventually found Billecart-Salmon, through the notoriously mercurial importer Robert Chadderdon. All was hunky-dory between the men for a short while, and the Champagne was a sensation at Rosenthal’s shop. But eventually the relationship took a nosedive, and Rosenthal had no choice: travel across the pond to Mareuil-sur-Aÿ to plead with the proprietor face-to-face to give him his own allocation of Billecart-Salmon.
That Neal Rosenthal believed Billecart-Salmon was essential to his survival—and therefore merited a trip abroad—speaks volumes of its importance among the upper echelon of Champagne wines. Now in their 200th year of operation, the house is still owned and operated by the Billecart family, and still producing the exquisite bubblies that seduced, then drove a wedge between, two of the most famous figures in U.S. wine importing.
Every drop of Billecart-Salmon is special—that was true when Rosenthal and Chadderdon first discovered Billecart’s brilliance 40 years ago, and it is just as true today. The Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru epitomizes the exquisite balance, the class, and the Blanc de Blancs verve that can’t be achieved anywhere other than the sacred soils of the Champagne. It really does not get any better than that. Sock a few away in the cellar, because a bottle of Billecart should always—always—be an option.