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2006 Billecart Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois Vintage Brut

2006 Billecart Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois Vintage Brut

97 VM

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Featured Review
The 2006 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart is shaping up to be a jewel of a wine, but it needs time to be at its best. I am surprised by how tightly wound it is. But that only makes me think what it might develop into with time in the cellar. Lemon confit, white flowers, mint, crushed rocks and sage meld together in a bright, crystalline Champagne endowed with terrific purity. The 2006 is 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, mostly done in steel, with just a touch of oak, around 5%. Dosage is 6 grams per liter. Vinous Media

Vinous (Galloni) | 97 VM

Critic Reviews

Created in 1964 as a tribute to the house’s founder, the youngest release is the 2006 Millésime Brut Cuvée Nicolas François, a blend of 60% Pinot Noir from premier and grand crus from the Montagne de Reims and the Grande Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. Almost entirely fermented in stainless steel (only 5% was vinified in oak barrels) and aged for 11 years on the lees, this is a beautifully ripe and rich yet pure champagne with ripe fruit flavors intermixed with chalky notes and brioche/nougat flavors. The palate is intense and concentrated in its rich fruit and substantial depth but also tight, highly elegant and perfectly balanced. The typical finesse of Billecart-Salmon is palatable as well as amazingly pure, with the persistent structure of a great Champagne. The 2006 already drinks dangerously well, but there is no need to hurry, this will go a long way.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 97 RP
The 2006 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart is shaping up to be a jewel of a wine, but it needs time to be at its best. I am surprised by how tightly wound it is. But that only makes me think what it might develop into with time in the cellar. Lemon confit, white flowers, mint, crushed rocks and sage meld together in a bright, crystalline Champagne endowed with terrific purity. The 2006 is 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, mostly done in steel, with just a touch of oak, around 5%. Dosage is 6 grams per liter.

Vinous Media | 97 VM
This wine has always been a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay since its inception in 1964, honouring the house's co-founder. Like the other founder's cuvées, 5% of the wine is vinified in old oak barrels and it then spends 11 years on its lees with partial malolactic fermentation. It has a beautiful mousse and fine, fast-streaming bubbles, and is very tight and reserved at first, opening in the glass to reveal refined sous bois, pastry, tart red apple, rich yellow plum and lifted floral notes. Elegant, complex, long and zesty, it's still very young with its full potential yet to show.

Decanter | 96 DEC
A rounded vintage, with very attractive white peach, apricot and nectarine fruits as well as lemon and yellow grapefruit, dried flowers, orange rind and some clotted cream. The palate has an assertive, sturdy and punchy feel to it. Bright acidity that's lime sorbet-like. Good length and plenty of fresh stone fruit flavors. Fleshy and lively. Drink this now.

James Suckling | 96 JS
Named after the founder of the house, Nicolas François Billecart (who married Elisabeth Salmon), this wine is now at its peak. It is poised between fresh apple fruits and broader, riper maturity. This balance gives a ripe wine hinting at toast and almonds while still with a dry aftertaste.

Wine Enthusiast | 95 WE
Fine and creamy, this harmonious Champagne layers a firm backbone of bright acidity with a lovely range of orange pâte de fruit, marzipan, lime blossom and toasted brioche notes. Tightly meshed and racy, with a long, lightly spiced finish. Drink now through 2030.

Wine Spectator | 94 WS

Wine Details for 2006 Billecart Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois Vintage Brut

Type of Wine Champagne : Nothing like a refreshing, vivacious glass of fine Champagne during a hot summer afternoon. Typically combining Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, each Champagne house has a distinct style. Whether you want to sample a single varietal (such as the 100% Chardonnay blanc de blancs) or a tasteful blend, no region can compete with Champagne.
Varietal Champagne Blend : The Champagne blend is one of the most distinctive styles of winemaking in the world. This illustrious blend of grape varietals hails from northeastern France, in the winegrowing region of Champagne. The magical combination of varietals perfectly marry to the terroir, climate and topography of the region, creating a sexy, seductive and fascinating sparkling wine that is synonymous with success and celebration.

The primary grape varietals cultivated in Champagne and most used for blending are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In fact, there are seven permitted grape varieties in the Champagne AOC (controlled designation of origin) though the other four are so rarely used they are often forgotten (Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc Petit Meslier and Arbane). The three grape varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier account for about 99% of the region’s plantings. Chardonnay is planted to 10,117 hectares, Pinot Meunier is planted to 10,521 hectares while the most widely planted, Pinot Noir, covers around 12,950 hectares.

Chardonnay brings crisp and refreshing nuances to the effervescent wine blend. When used as a single-variety offering, the wines are named Blanc de Blancs, and account for only around 3% of all Champagne bottlings. Pinot Noir is the staple in Champagne blends and interestingly, is planted in more hectares in Champagne than its ancestral home of Burgundy. It is one of just two allowable red grapes in the region. Pinot Noir brings body and mouth-filling structural texture to the blend. When used as a single-variety its creation is called Blanc de Noirs (white wine made from black-skinned grapes). Pinot Meunier, the other red grape permitted in Champagne brings red berry flavors and balances the overall blend. Though historically a blending grape, 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne wines are becoming increasingly popular.

Champagne has privileged environmental influences that give the wines produced here specific, unique characteristics that are often imitated but never duplicated. Its northern location, rugged climate, distinctive soil type and hillside vineyards makes Champagne terroir the only one of its kind. The first distinguishing factor is that Champagne enjoys a dual climate influenced by oceanic currents and continental winds. The oceanic currents help to keep the temperatures cooler, while the continental influence brings precipitation which are both essential for quality grape production.

Terroir is the second major component to the success of the grapes of Champagne to grow and prosper. It is composed mostly limestone (75%) chalk and marl with a limestone subsoil. The fissured medium provides good drainage, promoting the health and development of the vines. Each soil type is important to the stages of development. The chalk in Champagne consists of granules of calcite formed from fragile marine shells and micro-organisms. This highly porous compound assists in water movement into the root system. The limestone, being less porous allows the right amount of water to be collected while restricting erosion. Marl is just as important and contains highly rich minerals which allows the growth of berries with intense flavors.

The third distinguishing factor is the gift of Champagne’s natural landscape where the rugged and hilly terrain greatly assists in water drainage and root growth. The average gradient is around 12% with some of the slopes reaching grades as steep as 59%. The higher elevations receive greater sunlight than lower elevations at the same latitude. This feature alone creates diverse micro-climates within the region allowing grapes grown in different locations and at different Champagne houses to have unique characteristics.

The varietals of Champagne, the terroir of the region along with the oceanic and continental climatic influences come together to create one of earth’s most breathtaking wine styles. From the many styles and offerings, Brut (dry, raw or unrefined) to rose, vintage to non-vintage, Champagne blends offer to the world a euphoric, effervescent experience that cannot be matched.

Country France : Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.



For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.



France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.



France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.



With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.


Region Champagne : The sharp, biting acidity, cutting through the richness; the explosive force that shatters the bubbles as they rise to the surface; the intense flavor and compelling, lively mouthfeel; these are all hallmarks of a good Champagne. Most wines are made from a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, but there are pure-Chardonnay variants and ones that blend only Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. As a result, most wines come with a feeling of familiarity, if not nostalgia. Each Champagne house has its own unique style, so different bottles of Champagne may not resemble each other outside of the core varietal strengths. The soil composition of the subregion is characterized by belemnite and chalk, which lets it absorb heat during the daytime and release it at night. This terroir helps create the feeling of airy, playful lightness of fine sparkling wine.

These wines were originally marketed towards royalty, and you can feel a hint of that elusive blue-blood elegance and confidence while drinking one. A good Champagne carries you away like a hurricane carries small debris, and you can feel the powerful life force in each bubble even. The characteristic Champagne "pop" has become a staple at parties and celebrations around the globe - when you hear it, good times are right around the corner.

Overview

Producer Billecart-Salmon : For over two centuries, the luxury Champagne house of Billecart-Salmon has passionately followed its family motto, “Give priority to quality, and strive for excellence.” This was the axiom set forth by Nicolas Francois Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon, who founded the house in 1818. As it appears, the successful family business has continued to perpetuate its legacy, achieving high international acclaim; their wines enjoyed in homes and top restaurants around the world, their flag-ship Brut Rose considered the benchmark and a bottle from the past, given the distinct honor of being named “Champagne of the Millennium.” Today, Billecart-Salmon is one of the most admired Champagne brands in the world; its label a symbol of excellence. The house remains a family love affair as the seventh generation now contributes to the success and legacy of the family name.

In a region where tradition is followed unfailingly, Billecart-Salmon has been daringly innovative, embracing modern technology when it serves to further improve the quality and efficient production of their wines. The house has successfully developed a reputation for its unusual, yet inventive vinification practice called “double cold settling.” A method that has both set the house apart and increased quality. The gentle and timely process ensures purity of fruit prior to fermentation, bringing forth finesse, balance and elegance – the hallmark qualities of Billecart-Salmon.

Since its inception over 200 years ago, Billecart-Salmon has striven for excellence, overcoming adversities (phylloxera and World Wars) improvising vinification methods to increase quality and helping to alter the face of rose Champagne. Upon the union of Nicolas Francois Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon (both members of families who owned vineyards around Mareuil-sur-AY) the couple founded the house and began producing and selling their own wines (a practice that was uncommon at the time, as most growers sold their grapes in bulk to negociants). Louis Salmon, Elisabeth’s brother and passionate oenologist, joined the estate and dedicated himself to winemaking. Nicolas Francois oversaw all operations and commercial activity.

After several generations of familial inheritance, Billecart-Salmon would land in the hands of Charles Roland-Billecart, who assumed control of an estate ravaged by phylloxera and World War I. He found an empty house, scarce stocks and a looming financial crisis. With the reputation of the house at stake, he implemented the restructuring of the vineyards and the improvement of cellar conditions. After years of reconstruction, his efforts had returned the house to fine standing, increased product quality and returned the house to sales of more than 200,000 bottles per year in the mid-1930s. His eldest son, Jean, introduced to Champagne the technique of “cold settling” (as aforementioned) in the late 1950s, which revitalized the brand, introducing to the world a Champagne that possessed extraordinary finesse and elegance, thus becoming the hallmark of Billecart-Salmon Champagnes.

The brilliance and ingenuity of the Billecart-Salmon family once again introduced another “innovation” in Champagne by giving new dignity to rose Champagne, which until then was considered of second class. Jean Roland-Billecart created Brut Rose, a Champagne very elegant in color and taste (due to its unusually high percentage of Chardonnay – 50%) that has since become the house’s flagship cuvee. This trailblazing effort not only brought the house high prestige, but also helped the world reimagine rose Champagne. In 1993, Jean’s eldest son, Francois, embarked up a radical change; buying back the Champagne stocks from supermarkets to reposition the brand and concentrate the distribution toward independent retailers and fine dining establishments.

In 1999, a monumental achievement befell the house of Billecart-Salmon when a bottle of 1959 Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart was elected “Champagne of the Millennium”. The event took place in Stockholm over a three-day tasting, conducted by a jury of international experts who met to judge which Champagne would win the supreme title. It was attended by the most prestigious houses in Champagne, including Louis Roederer, Dom Perignon, Krug, and Salon. The house’s second entry, 1961 Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart was subsequently awarded second place. Since 2000, the house has invested heavily in prestigious parcels throughout Champagne in order to obtain the finest grapes, constructed a new oak winery (with the reintroduction of vinification in barrels) and has had continuous and flawless transition between family members who have participated in the long-term success of Billecart-Salmon, and share the same maxim, “Give priority to quality, strive for excellence.”

Based in Mareuil-sur-AY (Vallee de la Marne Sub-Region) the stunning and idyllic family home of Billecart-Salmon rests in the heart of the majestic vineyards of Champagne. Traditional Champenois varietals are cultivated from 100 hectares of estate lands (within a 20km radius of Epernay) and also supplement these yields with purchased grapes from top vineyard sites, totaling 300 hectares cultivated across 40 Crus of the Champagne region. The Grand Crus of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are carefully tended in the ethereal vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallee de la Marne and the Cote des Blancs winegrowing districts. The estate also owns a single hectare in one of the few enclosed parcels of Champagne, planted to Pinot Noir at the foot of the Mareuil-sur-AY hill, used to produce a special cuvee named after it.

Billecart-Salmon’s tremendous collection of Champagnes is highlighted by Brut Rose, the wine that changed the landscape of rose in the region, sparking a trend that has become overwhelmingly popular. The portfolio also includes, Brut Reserve, Brut Nature, Brut Sous Bois, Demi-Sec, No1 Meunier Extra Brut, No2 Pinot Noir Extra Brut, No3 Meunier Extra Brut, Cuvee Louis Salmon, (tribute to Louis Salmon) the highly esteemed, rare and complex Le Clos Saint-Hilaire, and numerous vintage Champagnes including Nicolas Francois Billecart 2002, Elisabeth Salmon 2006, and Vintage 2006 Extra Brut. Each cuvee speaks of the exceptional individuality of the region’s terroir. Collectively, the Champagnes of Billecart-Salmon account for 1.75 million bottles on the world market each year. The house enjoys a major presence at the top of the market in each category, particularly their flagship.


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