Tina Gellie reports on ageing, dosage and food pairing ideas from a masterclass at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2016 in London held by Didier Depond, president of Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte.
‘There’s no point in me making a Champagne that’s nice to drink now,’ Didier Depond, president of Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte told a packed room at the London Landmark Hotel.
‘If it’s nice now, that means it won’t last,’ he explained. ‘I make wines for my children and my grandchildren to enjoy in 50 years’ time.’
Depond, joined by Rebecca Palmer of the houses’ UK importer Corney & Barrow, hosted the first masterclass of the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter. ‘Normally we start to drink Champagne at breakfast, so this is the perfect time for me,’ he joked.
About Salon and Delamotte
Neighbours in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, in the heart of the Chardonnay-producing Côte des Blancs, Salon and Delamotte became part of Bernard Hinault’s Laurent-Perrier group in 1986 and were joined in 1988. Depond has been president since 1997 but with the company for 30 years.
Salon is a cult blanc de blancs, released after 10 years on its lees, made from its own 1ha single vineyard plus grapes sourced from 20 other grand cru sites in Le Mesnil. Production is about 60,000 bottles only in the best years; in the past century just 37 vintages were released.
Delamotte, founded in 1760, is one of the oldest houses in Champagne, producing about 800,000 bottles annually – small when compared with other brands in the Laurent-Perrier group, such as Moët & Chandon with 40 million. While Delamotte makes a rosé and a non-vintage blend, its star wines are the NV and vintage blanc de blancs.
‘Chardonnay has better potential to age than Pinot Noir,’ Depond told the room. ‘Pinot gets fat and evolved, while Chardonnay retains its freshness, so blanc de blancs will always last longer than blends or blanc de noirs.’
Matching Salon with food
And the complex mushroom, truffle and forest floor notes of mature Chardonnay means older blanc de blancs are perfect with rich, gamey meat,’ explained Depond.
‘They are a great match with grouse,’ he said. ‘You’d think a red would be what you’d want, but older Salon is perfect. I even had jugged hare with Salon 1966 and it was better than old Rhône or Bordeaux.’
Brits prefer older Champagne
British wine lovers appreciated older Champagnes more than other nations, noted Depond when attendees tasted Salon 1988 (of which there are only 60 bottles left) and Delamotte’s Brut Collection 1970 (disgorged six months ago, with 700 magnums left). ‘These are at the perfect maturity for the English taste,’ Depond said. ‘Beauty in age – like the old lady you have to love!’
‘Too much dosage is like too much make-up on an old lady’
He referred to age and beauty again when discussing dosage – the addition of sugar to balance the Champagne. ‘Dosage is like the salt in a recipe for a chef – you need it as a final touch. Our wines are a low, extra-brut style: 5g/l for Salon and 6g/l for Delamotte.’ Too much dosage, which he said stands out on mature wines, ‘is like too much make up on an old lady – it’s ridiculous! You have to love your lines and your age; celebrate your history, not cover it up!’
The wines tasted were:
Champagne Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs 2007
Champagne Salon 2004
Champagne Salon 2002
Champagne Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs Collection 2000
Champagne Salon 1999
Champagne Salon 1997
Champagne Salon 1996
Champagne Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs 1995
Champagne Salon 1988
Champagne Delamotte, Brut Collection 1970 (magnum)
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