Champagne Salon has recently unveiled its 44th vintage, the 2013, in the UK market through its long-standing agent, Corney & Barrow. This renowned Champagne house, which crafted only 37 vintages during the 20th century, with an average production of 60,000 bottles per release, enjoys a devoted following owing to its limited production. Despite this exclusivity, global demand continues to surge. Earlier this month, Leona De Pasquale met with Didier Depond, president of Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte, at Corney & Barrow’s London office to sample the latest releases and gather insights from Depond regarding the new vintage.
“During the Salon 2013 tasting, four wines from the newly released Champagne Delamotte were also presented. As the president of both Champagne Houses, Depond describes them as “my left and right hands.” Sharing the same DNA and philosophy, they yield distinct results.”
“2013 is a very special vintage for Champagne Salon, and it reminds me of 1983.”
Depond, who has overseen these two Champagne houses since 1997, draws a fascinating comparison. Contrasting with the more austere and tightly wound Salon 2012, the freshly disgorged Salon 2013, now reveals an abundance of floral and fruity notes. While charming and remarkably approachable, it deviates from the norm.
Depond affectionately refers to their younger vintages, such as 2012 and 2013, as ‘baby Salon.’ To him, a typical ‘baby Salon’ tends to be reserved, slightly assertive and sharper, as these Champagnes are made for the long term. He adds, “Even though 2013 is unusually delicious and drinkable at this moment, I think it might behave similarly to the 1983. It started off brilliantly and very accessible, but after six to 12 months, it completely shut down for two years.”
2013 marks Champagne Salon’s 44th vintage since its inaugural release in 1905. Despite a challenging winter and an extended, cold spring, the vineyards were spared from frost in 2013. Heavy rainfall persisted from budburst in April through early July. Grapes slowly ripened under the intense summer sun, with Chardonnay harvest beginning on the 1st of October in Salon’s Le Mesnil-sur-Oger plots. The long-standing tradition of producing a single wine exclusively in the finest vintages, using only Chardonnay from 20 specific parcels, remains intact. However, the question remains: has this unique practice been affected by climate change?
“We have to harvest as early as the end of August since 10 years ago and in fact, 2013 is the last vintage when we harvested at the beginning of October,” says Depond. The winemaking philosophy stays unchanged, emphasising the high quality of the fruit they select while adapting to the new norms. Depond also notes a shift in the vineyards’ vegetation, with more plants, birds, and insects previously exclusive to the south now migrating northward due to temperature changes. “So far, there is no real impact yet, but we continue to observe and monitor the new growing environment closely,” he says.
Talking about the ideal drinking window for Champagne Salon, Depond shares three significant milestones.
“For Salon, it typically begins to show its best 15 years after the harvest. Following that, another noteworthy evolution for the wine occurs between 20 and 30 years after the vintage,” Depond explains. For the Salon 2013, this suggests the perfect drinking time is from 2028. “But I also understand it goes against the current trend of early consumption,” he adds.
Nonetheless, Champagne Salon can be enjoyed at an earlier stage. Depond emphasises the importance of pairing younger Salons with meals, as it enhances the wine’s expression. He notes, “We sometimes overlook that Champagne is fundamentally a white wine with bubbles. This perspective suggests that Salon should be regarded as Montrachet with bubbles.” From simple fare like radishes and Parmesan cheese to indulgent dishes like white truffle risotto, lobster, or even poularde demi-deuil, according to Depond, the options are limitless.
During the tasting, four wines from the newly released Champagne Delamotte were also presented. As the president of both Champagne Houses, Depond describes them as “my left and right hands.” Sharing the same DNA and philosophy, they yield distinct results. In essence, the two Champagnes possess dissimilar characters and serve different occasions. “I drink Delamotte at breakfast and Salon for special occasions,” Depond adds.
When gazing into the future, Depond maintains an optimistic outlook for both Houses. He firmly believes in the importance of carefully selecting their partners, stating, “Some people think it’s impolite to be selective about who you work with, but it’s essential for us, given our limited production capacity and inability to expand our vineyard territory.” Indeed, as new markets emerge worldwide, the demand for both Salon and Delamotte has surged dramatically.
“For Salon, the demand outstrips our production by 100 times, and it’s 20 times for Delamotte. Therefore, we constantly strive to strike the right balance and collaborate with the most suitable clients,” Depond remarks.
Embracing the inevitability of change, Depond believes that the two Champagne Houses must evolve over time, particularly in terms of branding. “It’s still in its early stages, so I can’t disclose more, but I believe it’s crucial to welcome change,” he says. As an example, he praises the Champagne region’s decision to incorporate the hybrid grape “Voltis” into the cahier de charges. “This decision followed a thorough process, weighing both the advantages and disadvantages of the current situation. Whether in Champagne or anywhere else globally, I believe in embracing change and fostering continuous development. To me, there’s nothing worse than stagnation,” Depond concludes.
Champagne Salon 2013
100% Chardonnay from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Aged 10 years on lees, disgorged March 2023, dosage 7 g/l.
Exquisitely intricate and impeccably balanced, the 2013 dances on the palate. It boasts notes of white peach, bergamot, and lemon cream, complemented by a subtle hint of toasted sourdough. It has an invigorating acidity, a delightful texture, and a lingering finish.
Champagne Delamotte Brut NV (magnum)
Base vintage is 2018, aged on lees for 36 months, disgorged April 2022, dosage 8 g/l. 60% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir from Tours-sur-Marne, Bouzy and Ambonnay, and 5% Pinot Meunier.
Pure lemon and white peach fragrances take centre stage. The wine’s texture is gracefully rounded, leading to a charmingly crystalline finish that captivates the palate.
Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV (magnum)
Base vintage is 2017, with up to 10% reserve wine. Aged on lees for 36 months, disgorged July 2022 with a dosage of 7 g/l.
Elegant and subtle, evoking the delectable essence of lemon tart. Pure and linear, a true delight.
Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2014
Chardonnay from six villages in Côte des Blancs. Seven years on lees, disgorged July 2022 with a dosage of 6.5 g/l.
The wine unfolds with the zesty allure of yuzu and lime, culminating in a finish that lingers on the palate with refreshing zestiness.
Champagne Delamotte Rosé Brut NV Grand Cru Le Mesnil-sur-Oger NV
Base vintage is 2019. 88% Chardonnay and 12% Pinot Noir vinified as a red wine. 24 months on lees, disgorged April 2022 with a dosage of 8 g/l.
A radiant salmon pink hue. It bursts forth with the succulent essence of wild berries and strawberries, creating a pleasant fruit-forward profile. Utterly delicious.
Champagne Salon 2013 and the wines of Champagne Delamotte are imported and sold in the UK by Corney & Barrow which is a commercial partner of The Buyer. To discover more about them click here.