Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebratory Champagne for my first child – Billecart Salmon - 1998 Nicolas Francois Billecart Cuvee

My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world last week. It has been an amazing time since then, and a distinct lack of sleep seems to be barely an issue when you hold a newborn in your arms (though I’m sure that will be tested once I return to work).

The celebratory Champagne I bought for the occasion was the 1998 Nicolas Francois Billecart Cuvee from Billecart Salmon. I’d perused wine shelves and websites to see what Champagne would meet the occasion. In this wine I found a great producer and cuvee from a highly regarded vintage, and importantly it weighed in at a relatively reasonable price of $140 (most rationale people wouldn’t consider $140 for a bottle of champagne reasonable, but in the realms of top quality vintage champagne it is far less than you might pay for other marques).

Opening this with my family I was very glad I made the effort to point this away from anyone in the room, as the cork hit the roof like a rocket, which in itself somehow seemed appropriate for such an occasion, and now there is a permanent mark in the roof of the Prince of Wales hospital that signifies the birth of our son.

Given all that as background, it might sound like a funny thing to say but this wine snuck up on me. It’s certainly not an overtly rich and powerful champagne that immediately grabs your attention, and as the conversation flowed around the family while gazing at the newborn I was rather distracted, and it wasn’t until I was more than halfway through my glass that it dawned on me that I was drinking a damn fine champagne. Elegant and refined, with a great purity of fruit, this champagne has plenty of complexity with flavours of brioche, citrus, and flowers. There is a savoury/saline profile that takes over from the mid-palate that makes it so drinkable and a great foil for the oysters and sashimi we had on the day. It drives through to a lengthy finish that is marked by a refreshing minerally acidity. Cork permitting this will live for many years, with all elements of the wine in perfect balance. Great Champagne. 4.5 Stars

The next act will be to look at birth year wines from the 2012 vintage . . . Eden and Clare Valley Riesling will likely be my first port of call.


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