When Michael Madrigale — NYC’s legendary sommelier and former Bar Boulud all-star — brings a bubbly to the table, you pay attention. When that bubbly is one of the icons of Champagne — this Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV — you start salivating and running the numbers. You’ll need at least six bottles. 95 points from World of Fine Wine, the UK-based magazine that is THE industry standard-bearer, and a 93 from James Suckling who admitted “I drink this regularly and always enjoy it.” This is one of the finest multi-vintage blends from Billecart we’ve tasted. Three vintages of reserve wines — 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, and 30% Chardonnay of the finrest “first press” juice — comprise this cuvée. And it’s all flash bulbs on this beauty — from the pop of the cork to the slow, persistent bubbles, creamy mousse, bright, full orchard and stone fruit flavors, mouthwatering minerality and laser-like acidity, this is an aperitif game-changer. Direct from the pristine cellars of this 200-year-old estate — don’t blink.
Billecart-Salmon plays an incredibly pivotal role in the story of two titans of wine — given this story, that it is highly sought-after by serious collectors, seems an understatement. 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, and eventually found it 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 the relationship took a nose dive 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. On the verge of 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. And it is just as beguiling today as it was when Rosenthal and Chadderton first discovered its brilliance 40 years ago.