Sweet or Dry?

Salon ChampagneIf you haven’t heard of Salon Champagne, you’re probably not alone. This legendary Champagne was founded by Eugène Aimé Salon, a Parisian furrier, who began making small amounts for his friends at the beginning of the 20th century. The first commercial vintage was 1921, and there have only been 37 vintages since; in 1989, the brand was sold to Laurent-Perrier.

Salon is a blanc de blancs, which means that it’s made from 100% Chardonnay. The grapes are sourced from the legendary vineyards of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côtes des Blancs. It is one of the world’s most expensive bottles of bubbles, selling for about $350 when you can find it.

In an interesting example of reverse chic, Champagne Salon debuted its 1999 vintage recently at a luncheon in the Notting Hill section of London. The menu? A classic dish of fried fish and chips (haddock, specifically), with mushy peas and tartar sauce. Those in attendance reported that the match was perfect, with the mineral character of the Champagne balancing the earthiness of the dish.

At the other end of the spectrum, Veuve Clicquot Chef de Cave Dominique Demarville announced that he will make an experimental batch of extra-sweet Champagne this year. Clicquot is one of the few producers to currently produce a Demi-Sec, which has between 32-50 grams of sugar per liter (3.2-5%). Demarville is going to make a Doux, which contains at least 50 grams per liter, and his version will probably have more than 100. Modern Brut, by contrast, has less than 15, and Salon contains 5.

Not so long ago, extremely sweet Champagne was all the rage. The Cristal that was custom-made for the court of the Russian Czars contained a staggering 250-300 grams of sugar per liter—nearly 20 times sweeter than what we normally drink today, and 60 times sweeter than Salon. In general, the fashion for dry wine of all sorts didn’t take hold until very recently. For most of human history sugar was very expensive, and consuming sweet wines was considered to be a mark of status. If Demarville is correct, perhaps the pendulum is about to swing back.



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