Brut Sous Bois Champagne NV
In the wine world, the term “Sous Bois” (which translates as “under wood”) is normally used to describe a sort of forest floor flavour, one of undergrowth, dried leaves and mushrooms. However, Billecart-Salmon use it here to refer to the wood employed in the making of this wine. Champagne is created by adding yeast and sugar to a still wine and allowing it to ferment in a sealed bottle. Since the 1950s, the initial still wine has been made predominantly in stainless steel. But before that it would have been vinified completely in oak, as Billecart-Salmon’s Sous Bois Brut has been.
Made from the three classic Champagne varieties of Chardonnnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with most coming from Premier or Grand Cru sites, the wine is initially fermented and aged in oak casks for around 3-4 months. The yeast and sugar are added and the wine spends at least six years ageing on its lees. What bursts from the bottle is a monumental totem pole of a wine – intricately designed, hewn from wood and a thing of towering beauty with a story to tell. And that story is one of grilled brioche, vanilla toffee, tangerine, lemon zest, pear, buttered toast, smoked spices, wood, richness and tradition. Think of this unique wine as a sparkling Meursault and serve with rich, creamy dishes or wild mushrooms.
Billecart-Salmon – often referred to as “Billy” by those who drink it regularly – can be found in the village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, just outside Epernay and off on a limb slightly from the bigger Champagne houses. Despite the immense quality they produce, their location and medium size have kept them slightly under the radar. Rather than loading their Champagne into every shop and restaurant, they’ve drip fed them into expert retailers and the Michelin star restaurants of Paris, which gives them a sense of exclusivity and that this is a brand for those in-the-know.
Created by the union of Elisabeth Salmon and Nicolas François Billecart in 1818, Billecart-Salmon remains under the ownership of the establishing family, which is a real rarity in the big business world of Champagne. Now in the hands of the seventh generation, they continue to focus on the family motto: “Give priority to quality, strive for excellence.” And they do it with aplomb, slowly fermenting at low temperatures to maintain the purity and aromatics of their wines. As Jancis Robinson says, “every Champagne enthusiast needs to be familiar with its wine… Billecart-Salmon is set apart as classy, elegant and understated, both the wine itself and the image the house cultivates.” But, be warned, Billecart-Salmon may not remain one of those hidden gems forever, especially as one of the wines was named “Champagne of the Millennium” by a committee of expert. Interestingly, they also took the second place in that same tasting, which comprised 150 of the finest Champagnes of the 20th Century. As a result, Champagne expert Richard Juhlin warns that this house is “very much in fashion at the moment” and goes as far as to say: “Make sure that you buy wines from Billecart-Salmon before they become as expensive as Krug!”
£9.87 per 100.00ml
SKU No.: 3052590
Style No.: 751311
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