Happy Champagne Friday! The last day of the month actually falls on a Friday this month, and the sun is properly shining. There is a lot to celebrate!
The choice this month is Billecart Sous Bois. I first tasted this Champagne on the 26th November 2019, when we hosted a dinner with Billecart and it became an absolute hit. Ever since we started our Champagne Friday themes, I have wanted to incorporate it into our Champagne Friday tasting. As a team, we are all still working from home, but hopefully, by the end of next month, this may be changing.
I have long admired Billecart-Salmon. It is one of the most iconic Champagne houses and still in family hands. Founded in 1818, it has just celebrated its 200th anniversary. As with many old wine estates, it has a romantic start. The story starts when Nicolas derived from a long line of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ vintners, married Elisabeth Salmon, who brought a parcel of vineyards as her wedding dowry. Yet, it was Nicolas’s business savviness together with the oenological expertise of his brother in law, Louis Billecart that created the success story. 200 years later, this wonderful Champagne house is still in the hands of the 7th generation and is firmly established as a house that focusses on elegance and purity.
In terms of technical detail, The Sous Bois is made with the traditional Champagne blend of equal proportions of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The Chardonnay comes from the Côte des Blancs, the Vallée de la Marne. In return to traditional champagne methods, it is vinified in old oak casks at low temperatures, allowing the fermentation to slow down, which in turn encourages the purity of the fruit to be expressed with more ethereal and delicate aromas, which is the signature of the Billecart-Salmon style. Sous Bois sees partial malolactic fermentation and is aged on lees for 6-7 years to give those wonderful toasted hazelnut and brioche notes and bottled with 7gr/l of residual sugar to balance the vibrant acidity.
I tasted this in the morning in the garden in the summer sun, which is the opposite of how I tasted it last year when I tasted it in the evening alongside a beautiful dinner at Taillevent. My tasting note is below:
I think this is my favourite Champagne Friday Champagne so far and definitely the most indulgent! Having long been a fan of the Billecart Rosé, I was surprised that I had never heard of this cuvee until it was served at a dinner last November. Having re-tasted it today, on a sunny Friday morning in the garden, it tastes just as good as mid-winter in a restaurant with dinner. Sous Bois literally means ‘under the wood’, referring to the traditional style of vinifying the wine in wood. This doesn’t add any flavour, but gives a textural element to the Champagne, which is simply enthralling. On the nose there is honey, brioche, baked apples, accacia with a touch of cinnamon, which follows through on the palate with hints of toasted almonds and a long lingering finish that keeps evolving. This is superb by itself, but would also shine alongside lobster or clams or even autumnal dishes with ceps or game or as the Parisian chef Jean-Pierre Vigato suggests “the Brut Sous Bois is like an epicurean tale which is to be enjoyed at the end of the afternoon, on the terrace at Apicius for example, or even with a good cigar.”
We wish you a wonderful weekend. Happy Champagne Friday!
Champagne Billecart-Salmon, Sous Bois, Brut @ £270 per 6 bottle case in bond