19 May First Taste of 2008 Billecart Louis
Made from 100% Chardonnay and coming from Chouilly (40%), Cramant (33%), Mesnil-sur-Oger (22%) and Avize (7%), with one-third fermented at low temperature and aged in old oak barrels and a dosage of 7 g/L, this is becoming a relatively familiar recipe for this elite House and yet there is nothing familiar about the flavour of this epic new release.
Billecart-Salmon’s elite Blanc de Blancs is named after Louis, the brother of Elisabeth Salmon, who co-founded this illustrious Champagne house over two centuries ago with her husband, Nicolas François Billecart. This is the third release of Louis, and it is, again, completely different in shape and size to the beautiful 2006 (19/20) and crystalline 2007 (19.5/20). The oak was enhanced from 5% in the 2006 vintage to 50% in the 2007 and now it has been knocked back a touch, and this indeed serves to enhance the splendour of the sensational 2008 vintage fruit. I didn’t note that Avize fruit was used in the 2007, but I think it was in the 2006.
Either way, I am confident that this tinkering around the edges has heightened the attack of this incredible wine. The delivery here is something to behold. It is clear from the nose that this wine is made with a horologist’s precision, and while everything starts quietly, there is an uncommon determination here that keeps on coming, leaving you panting with pleasure.
On the palate, 2008 Louis perfectly balances extreme tension and white-knuckle drama with the most enchanting and serene jasmine, white tea, and linden blossom notes. It seems mesmerisingly composed from one side of the glass and hellbent on rearranging your taste buds via a national grid-sized electric shock from the other. I am not suggesting that this wine is too young to approach now because, at fourteen years of age, you can drink it, just be aware that this might be one of the wines with the most potential I have ever tasted from this incredible estate.
As always with Billecart, the bubbles are minuscule, and the colour is as pale as can be, so there are no particular visual clues as to the greatness in the glass, but once the perfume takes hold and it pulls you to the glass, you are entirely within its control. I venture that Blanc de Blancs fans will go gaga when they taste this wine. It further improves on the magnificence of the two preceding vintages, and whether or not this is to do with the oak regime or the exact percentage of fruit drawn from each of the Grands Crus villages, I don’t know. However, I am certain that 2008 is a jaw-droppingly serious vintage and eclipses both 2006 and 2007 in terms of sheer class. Therefore, even at this early age, I am convinced that this is the birth of another perfect wine from Billecart-Salmon, and it is certainly the finest value 20/20 from this magnificent House, too. 20++/20 (Drink now – 2070)