I can still remember the first time I ever had Champagne Salon, a moment permanently etched on my palate forever. It was in a top-tier restaurant in Epernay in1984 while on a wine tour through France (one that would solidify my career in the wine business!), while enjoying a superb dinner paired nicely with delicious but moderately priced Champagnes. At some point we noticed that the table next to us was hitting it hard – Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne Blanc and Rosé, Moet’s Dom Perignon, Louis Roederer Cristal – all of the top guns were on parade.
They left before us and the Somm, whom we had chummed up to by then, noticed that the group hadn’t finished most of the bottles. He came over and asked if we would like to taste something truly special – and we immediately responded mais bien sur! Expecting one of the big names of the day, I was surprised to see him bring a rather unassuming green bottle to the table – with the name Salon Cuvee “S” emblazoned on the bottle, a wine I had never heard of before.
The next thing you know this hyper focused, racy, supercharged blast of bubbly minerality was ripping across my palate in a way I had never experienced before. This was truly something altogether different. We asked “what is this?!” Our Somm buddy expliqué that “ this is from one single grape variety, Chardonnay; from a single terroir, the Côte des Blancs; a single cru, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; and a single year, from one of the finest Champagne producers in the game”
I had tasted the big names before, and they were great – powerful blends of Pinot and Chardonnay from multiple vineyards to create a house style in a single vintage. But this was different – here was a raw bolt of nervous energy, plugged directly into the terroir of its single site in Mesnil sur Oger. Bam. I will never forget the moment. How had I never heard of this? I was new in the business, but this was amazing!
He went on “not only that, but they only make it in the very best vintages, never more than 5,000 cases per year. It is very rare”. Add to that they release the wine only after ten years, sometimes holding some back even longer.
There were only 37 vintages produced in the 20th century, an average of about 2-3 per decade – compare that to the volume and frequency of a wine like Dom Perignon. It’s minuscule! The last vintage before the 2012 on offer today was the spectacular 2008 – but it was only sold in magnum which will set you back somewhere between $5,000-$8,000 today!
One other note on this incredible Champagne – it will age for decades, and in fact is much better on its 20th anniversary than on its 10th if you have the patience – plus it will probably be worth twice as much! Don’t miss out on a super rarified offer – our top wine of the year!