Along with Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, Salon is probably the best known and certainly the highest-priced Blanc de Blancs style produced in Champagne. Like Comtes, it’s pure Côte des Blancs Chardonnay, but while Comte is a five grand cru blend – Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Oger and Mesnil-sur-Oger – Salon is made purely from le Mesnil-sur-Oger fruit.
Salon, which is based with sister brand Delamotte (see separate entry on page 20) in the village of Le Mesnil, is unusual if not unique in Champagne in producing just one, always vintaged, cuvée made from the 1ha plot behind the winery, plus 19 other small plots. Total production is usually around 60,000 bottles, but in the case of the 39th release from the 2004 vintage this was reduced to 42,000 bottles and 3,000 magnums, following two green harvests in the summer. As president of the house Didier Depond notes, there were worries that the large yield generally seen in Champagne that harvest would lead to some dilution.
At the launch in April 2016 the ’04, if not closed, was pretty linear, though it clearly has the power this cru typically exhibits with a zesty freshness that suggests a long life ahead. There was another opportunity to taste some wines from the Salon back catalogue, an exciting prospect as typically these wines age extremely well, slowly over a very long period. In their youth, they are often unapproachably steely and quite impenetrable – even unattractive. In a line-up of eight other vintages from the celebrated 2002 back to 1966, while the ’99 is developing very nicely a peak was reached around the ‘88 which has developed an amazing saline, chalky complexity.