Does wine glass style make a difference when you’re drinking Champagne? Will a wider glass kill the bubbles? Denise Medrano the Winesleuth and I find out, tasting the truly remarkable Billecart Salmon Extra Brut NV and 2004 vintage along the way.
This blog was written to go alongside the video on my YouTube channel HERE.
FIRST, THE VINALOGY:
We think the Billecart Extra Brut Non-Vintage is like actor Michael Fassbender: it’s lean, elegant and understated, with a lot going on under the surface. Squeaky clean and precise, it has lemony, brioche aromas with a gorgeous, floral lift and cool minerality that makes it utterly irresistible. The 2004 on the other hand, is more Sean Connery than Michael Fassbender: softer around the edges, fuller-bodied and rich, with candied fruit, red apple and lots of toasty brioche flavours. There’s a whole new level of complexity with this voluptuous, vintage version, but it’s effortless and SO worth paying attention to.
THE BLENDS & TECHNICAL DETAILS
Extra Brut NV: 40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. No dosage is added and it’s had 5 years of bottle age before release (standard is 3.5-4 years for the Brut NV).
Extra Brut 2004: 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. No Pinot Meunier added as it ages too quickly in the bottle. 3g/litre dosage. 20% is vinified in 5 year-old oak barrels.
‘Extra Brut’ is a style of Champagne and refers to its final degree of sweetness. The sweetness level itself is determined by the amount of sweet liquid (‘dosage’) that’s added to the Champagne once the sediment has been removed (‘disgorgement’) and after several years of bottle aging. The dosage is usually a blend of reserve wine and sugar, but this can vary. Billecart-Salmon’s Extra Brut NV has no dosage added at all, so the resulting style is very, very dry, even though you are allowed to add up to 6g/litre of sugar and still call it ‘Extra Dry’. The 2004 vintage varies slightly in that it has had 3g/litre added, but this is still incredibly low when you consider that the likes of Veuve Cliquot Brut NV and Moet et Chandon Brut NV have around 13g/litre. For the various sweetness levels from ‘Brut Nature’ all the way up to ‘Doux’, check out this useful site by Francis Boulard.
WHY THE NEW GLASSES?
Two reasons: Billecart-Salmon wanted to create something beautiful to celebrate the release of the Extra Brut, but they also wanted to make a glass that would coax out all the layers of complexity that this Champagne has to offer. They commissioned Jean Pierre Lagneau, ex-director of Spiegelau to work his magic. These were our thoughts…
DO THE GLASSES REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
In a word, yes. While the Champagne was gorgeous out of both glasses, there was no denying that the flutes gave simpler aromas, more on the lemony, mineral side, whereas the specially designed glasses made sure that we knew we were drinking something special. They offered up layer upon layer of aromas. The difference on the palate was obviously less marked, but the perception was still that the wine was much more complete from the wider glasses.
DO YOU LOSE BUBBLES?
Well, yes, a little, but the glass seemed to hold them more than a standard white wine glass would. What you lose in fizz however, you more than make up for in terms of aroma and flavour.
Tough one really as with Champagne, the shape of the flute is as much about ceremony as it is the wine itself . With such a high class cuvée however, I would definitely be tempted to use a slightly wider glass in the future, such as the one designed especially for this Champagne as I’d miss so much otherwise! For more regular, branded, non-vintage Champagnes however, I’d be happy to stick to the flute.
PRICES & STOCKISTS
Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut 2004 – RRP approx. £60 from Harrods and Berry Bros & Rudd
Limited edition gift box incl 4 glasses and 1 bottle of Extra Brut NV: RRP £150 at various independent wine merchants
It was a tough challenge, but somebody had to do it…
See Denise Medrano and I in action HERE!