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  1. Tasting Notes
December 12, 2023

2013 Salon Le Mesnil: Beautifully poised

The latest release of the 100 percent Chardonnay from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger is a lovely, linear wine of grace, purity, and poise.

By Michael Schuster

A reminder—that this is the sole wine produced by Salon, only in what it considers to be outstanding vintages, from Chardonnay alone, and exclusively from grand cru Le Mesnil-sur-Oger on the Côte des Blancs. The juice selection is the very finest, from the first pressing, fermented in stainless steel and typically spending between eight and ten years on its lees before release, with a dosage of 5–7g of sugar per liter.

The 2013 viticultural year

Next, a brief look at the viticultural year for this most recent expression of Salon, its 44th in 120 years. A very cold, wet winter meant that both budburst, in late April, and flowering, right at the end of June, were two to three weeks late, setting the scene for the latest harvest in more than 20 years, starting on October 1—a 20th-century norm, not a more recent, globally warmed, climate-change one. Salon itself describes the 2013 summer weather as being of “intense heat […] accompanied by spectacular sunshine,” but also disrupted by scattered storms and hail. Ripening warmth, yes, though still a worryingly uneven fruit ripeness come September. But autumnal cooling and seasonal rain notwithstanding, September did come to the rescue, with much of it blessed by warm, dry, sunny days, bringing the Chardonnays to “a good alcoholic content and excellent acidity.”

On the Salon website, the account of the wine in English describes it, inter alia, as arriving “like some Greek god […] distinctive for its extraordinary stature, which will forever set it apart.” Creator’s poetic license, of course, but suggesting a scale and power that was not quite how it spoke to me on the day I tasted it, as you can see from my tasting note.

Tasting Salon

Tasted at UK agent Corney & Barrow in London on September 11, 2023

2013 Salon Le Mesnil Cuvée S

(Aged on its lees ten years; dosage 7g/l; disgorged March 2023)

Pale gold; light and relatively closed to smell, subtly white peach in character, with little development on the nose as yet, no obvious autolysis, still very young and primary on first impressions. A beautifully balanced, fairly concentrated, medium-full wine, with a vital defining acidity. This is dry, with a great purity of fruit at its core, gently chalk-infused, prolonged and constantly caressing in its super-fine Chardonnay mousse; long, fresh, and restrained to taste, with all the finesse you expect from Salon. A graceful, racy, supple-yet-fresh performance; creamy, succulent, gracious, gratifying. It is also a wine with magnificent length, marked above all by its gorgeous fruit persistence. A beautifully poised Champagne, with a particularly graceful bearing, and a surprising ease of composure and accessibility at this relatively young age for Salon. However, it is underpinned by a tensile acidity and with such a harmonious balance, that it will surely age splendidly, too.

Here are all the completeness, scope, fine texture, and harmony you expect from Salon, all its usual quality hallmarks. But mezzo forte, if you like, in scale and dynamics by comparison with some of its notable immediate predecessors—2012, 2008, and 2002, for example—without quite the mid-palate richness, energy, and volume of aftertaste, the extra dimensions of (what are regarded as) the grandest of vintages. You sense the challenging, edge-of-the-seat ripening curve of its growing year in the wine’s more restrained character. Among more recent vintages, it puts me in mind of a tauter, somewhat more concentrated version of the gentle beauty that is 2004. For me, then, a really lovely, linear expression of Salon, rather than a grand, imposing articulation of the cru. Not quite “like some Greek god […] distinctive for its extraordinary stature,” that is. Goddess-like, maybe, if we run with that metaphor?

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You could drink this with great satisfaction already, but it will doubtless relax into a more complete pleasure with another decade’s aging, to be followed by years of rewarding cellaring potential. Salon’s president, Didier Depond, suggested that it might harden somewhat in bottle over the next few years. I couldn’t say. But you’d have a great deal of delight in following the possibility. Now to 2050. 95

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