Salon Champagne and the Art of Taking Time
Salon is a unique champagne. The product of a single terroir, the Côte des Blancs; a single vineyard, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; and a single grape variety, Chardonnay. It is an inimitable work of art that is produced only when the conditions are absolutely perfect. This makes it one of the finest and most exclusive champagnes in the world. Didier Depond, the dedicated President of Laurent-Perrier groups Champagne Salon and Delamotte, elaborates: ‘This is unique in both the champagne and the wine world, we are the only winery with only one cru, one wine and only thirty-seven vintages in a century.’ This exclusivity makes every bottle highly collectable, an invaluable addition to any wine cellar.
The first drop
With winemakers on both sides of his family, it is perhaps no surprise that the ambitious Didier fell into the same business. He cut his teeth at the celebrated Laurent-Perrier, an experience that gave his palate an invaluable training in Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It was here, thirty-five years ago, that he discovered Blanc de Blancs, an unblended champagne made only of a single grape variety, Chardonnay. He will never forget his first taste. ‘It was a huge surprise… fresh, elegant but also extremely complex and with a beautiful balance.’ This experience would change his career trajectory forever.
A champagne born from a vision
Salon was born from the vision of one man, Eugène Aimé Salon. Unlike other winemakers, Salon was not interested in producing blended champagnes. Instead, he wanted to create a wine that showed his love for the terroir that had captured his heart. Using only the Chardonnay grapes produced from the Grand-Cru rated vineyard of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Salon produced an unparalleled Blanc de Blancs. In 1905, he released his first vintage, using a unique time-heavy process that has remained unchanged for over a century. This elegant single-blend remains one of the most exceptional and collectable champagnes on the market today.
An exceptional maturation
Perhaps the secret behind Salon’s exceptional quality can be found in its unique aging process. ‘We keep the wine for a minimum of ten years in the cellar. So, the current vintage is 2007, and the next vintage will be 2012 which we will release at the end of this year. It has already been aged for nine years.’ Unlike other champagnes that tend to degrade over time, Salon grows better with age. Didier recommends drinking his bottles after twenty or even thirty years. He elaborates: ‘This is why many people compare Salon with the great red or white wines Romanée Conti or Petrus. We produce wine with the same spirit.’
The art of patience
It should be no surprise that Salon’s main philosophy is one of fortitude. With exceptional quality ensured at every step, this unique style of winemaking is undoubtedly an artform; just like a painter’s masterpiece, the Salon process cannot be rushed. Didier is certain that the slow process and remarkable longevity of Salon champagne taps into something that is lacking in today’s world. He explains: ‘People today are all very crazy about time, Taplap, Facebook, Instagram… fast news and information. And for us, for Salon, we take the time to produce the best grapes, to produce the best wine, and to drink the best wine. It is really the DNA of Salon. Salon’s value is Time.’
Didier’s presidency has ensured the continuation of Salon’s inimitable quality. As an enthusiastic gardener (a passion that occupies him outside of work), he oversees every element of the winemaking process, and retains an evident respect for his terroir and each of his Grand-Cru rated vineyards. ‘I am always thinking about how to maintain the quality, the quality in the bottles, the labels in the box. All of these details, they have to be the best quality.’
A champagne that celebrates modesty
For Didier, Salon champagne is intended to be enjoyed for every occasion, rather than for a once in a lifetime celebration. Though exceptional as a stand-alone drink, Salon also pairs beautifully with food. ‘I love to drink Salon with simple food. In Japan, for example, we drink Salon with abalone, it’s a fantastic pairing! And not only with seafood, but with meat too, with cream and mushroom. And of course, to accompany beautiful scenery…fantastic!’
The importance of a shared vision
Didier’s champagne has garnered compliments from the very top- including from Burgundy’s Madame of fine wine, Madame Bize-Leroy. But despite these many accolades, he remains humble about his achievements: ‘I would never say Salon is the best. But I work with my team every day to maintain this quality, and to maintain the image of this quality.’ Didier’s young team of five is like the finger of a hand, and a cultural melting pot. Stories and experiences from France, Portugal, Korea and Argentina are mixed together, bringing the best out of this exceptional terroir. After working for over fifteen years together, Didier now sees his tight-knit team as his second family. He explains that over time, they have grown to share the same vision and values: ‘We focus on the quality of the wine. We talk about the wine, the vineyard, the weather in Champagne. We talk about the fundamental aspects to produce good wine.’
A pledge for quality every step of the way
From vineyard to promotion, the highly driven Didier ensures exceptional artistry at every step of the winemaking process. With this ambitiously motivated winemaker at the helm, it can be assured that Salon and Delamotte will continue to produce the most sophisticated and collectable champagnes in existence today.