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April 14, 2016

Diary Of A Vintage Champagne

The growing season got off to a slow start in Champagne, even in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. For Champagne Salon, 2004 could have started better. Despite this, the crop looked so abundant, that the decision was taken in July to perform a ‘green harvest’ (thin the crop) to ensure optimal fruit concentration. Cool, rainy conditions during August saw the grapes struggle to ripen.

2004 Chardonnay grapes at Salon

Finally however, on the 2nd September and up until autumnal conditions arrived on 23rd and harvest began, the weather set fair. Glorious sunshine brought the crop – plentiful yet carefully contained – safely and surely to a level of ripeness that was simply perfect together with extraordinary acidity.

This was an extraordinary show of power from deep inside the vines, an explosion of quality that had had been building quietly for an entire year, deep within the earth, in the vines themselves, the product of the soil, the wind, the rain, the sun, until finally, surpassing all our hopes, this champagne surged forth: like a serene volcano, it simmered quietly before unleashing its true nature, as if by surprise, with the Salon 2004 vintage.

Bottles fermenting in Salon's cellar

The Finished Wine

It is all there in the glass, the enticing promise that is Salon 2004. Clean and lively on the palate the wine’s intense freshness and minerality deliver on its aromatic promise – an impressive nose with notes of minerals, gunflint, stones, smoked tea, just a touch of mint.

Redolent of the ocean with its iodine, seaweed tang, it conjures up images of basalt cliffs, a Giant’s Causeway thrown up by ancient volcanic eruptions, beaten smooth by the incessant pounding of the waves. Time has done its work. Through the medium of the vine, sun, soil, water and air have worked their alchemy to forge this Salon 2004, carrying the promise of a great future, with inimitable poise.

photo by Leif Carlsson
photo by Leif Carlsson

 

The quiet vintage

Taut and edgy in the mouth, the wine is all purity and fine acidity. The magnificent salinity of this great white wine, still in its first flush of youth, offers a suitable foil to the ripe chardonnay fruit, emerging gently but surely, with hints of brioche, warm bread and fresh yeast characters tiptoeing in behind. The wine becomes rounder as it airs in the glass, revealing a beautiful vinosity, the curve counter-balancing its acidity to perfection. And on the finish, the merest hint of bitterness, the signature of so many truly great wines.

Read this next: 5 Easy Ways You Can Improve Any Wine

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