By good fortune, today I was able to attend a lunch at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, hosted by Billecart-Salmon, which served to introduce the recently released Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 2002.
Arriving rather early, we sat on a rooftop terrace in the shadow of Arthur's Seat, sipping the excellent and bracing Vintage 2006 (a polyglot and slightly unhelpful name, omitting to mention, as it does, that this is an Extra Brut champagne, with a dosage of only 1.5g/l). The Vintage is a fairly new venture for Billecart, this being only the second release, but as we sit enjoying the sun and the fizz it is definitely my favourite Billy.
Some indeterminate time later we are ushered into a room which has never knowingly had any item of decor removed, ever, and there presented with the Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2004. Immediately, this is my favourite Billy. It's honeyed, with a glorious perfume of white flowers and biscuit dough, and even a little buttery. The palate matches the nose perfectly, and the mousse is billowingly soft (all of today's champagnes were decanted, which allows the wine to breathe and lessens the rasping initial carbonic acid bite of a freshly popped bottle). Over time, as the fizz lessens, the wine becomes ever more vinous. Not in an obvious, Burgundian Chardonnay1 sort of way, mind you. Vinous, but still Champenois.
Production of the Blanc de Blancs is 30,000 bottles, using grapes sourced from five villages in the Côte des Blancs - I wonder which of the six Grands Crus was snubbed? Avize, Cramant, Chouilly, Oiry, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger or Oger?
After a slightly embarrassing interlude (the food was distinctly fleshy, and I had foolishly assumed that in 2015 an establishment so prestigious would automatically be acreophage-friendly) the raison de déjeuner is poured. The Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 2002 is intense, complex, interesting, and distinctly youthful. Aromas of white and yellow flowers vie with fresh blonde wood and, oddly, malt. There's honey as well, but an older, spicier honey. The palate is balanced and rounded, salt and honey and lemon pith all complementing each other. As with the Blanc de Blancs there's a vinous quality which champagne rarely shows. Whilst I'm enjoying this fine fizz immensely, the Blanc de Blancs remains my favourite.
The Nicolas François is produced using Pinot Noir from Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ along with Chardonnay from Avize and Chouilly.
Billecart-Salmon is arguably the best of all the champagne houses. It gets my vote for its ability to produce wines that manage to fuse delicacy and intensity, finesse and sheer unadulterated hedonistic joy. Long may it thrive.
(Oh. We may well have drunk some Gevry-Chambertin and 30 year old Coteaux de Layon too. I wasn't really paying attention to the other wines)
1: I love Burgundy. But who can resist the opportunity to use 'Burgundian' as a put-down?