Didier Depond has a problem, albeit one that any head of a company would love to have. As President of Champagne Salon, Depond is constantly inundated by requests for this most exclusive and illustrious champagne. “We are a vintage-only house and each vintage is limited to 60,000 bottles, which is released over three years,” he explains. With these numbers – 20,000 bottles for the world market each year – it’s inevitable that many would be disappointed. As Depond says: “After a while, you learn how to say, no, sorry, maybe next year…”
Founded in 1911, Salon has, so far, only released 40 vintages, the latest of which, 2006, appeared last year. Its quality and exclusivity has made it one of the most prestigious and soughtafter champagnes. Yet, it would be fair to say that Salon is hardly a household name compared to its more-well competitors. “France produces about 300 million bottles of champagne a year, and Salon is just a tiny bubble in the champagne production,” Depond explains. “We’re not a mass brand and, with all respect to the other houses, we have no interest in becoming that.”
WE ARE A VINTAGE-ONLY HOUSE AND EACH VINTAGE IS LIMITED TO 60,000 BOTTLES WHICH IS RELEASED OVER THREE YEARS.
Of course, even if Depond wanted to, there’s no way that Salon can increase its production. “Our house is the vision of our founder, Aimé Salon, who wanted to produce a connoisseur’s champagne,” Depond says. It was Aimé Salon who conceived the blanc de blancs (‘white from whites’) style of champagne and established the house’s philosophy of singularity. “It was Aimé Salon who decided that we only produce blanc de blancs champagne, made entirely from Chardonnay grown in a small village, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger (located in the Côte des Blancs subregion of Champagne), which is considered the best part in that region for Chardonnay,” he says.
The grapes are from a one-hectare parcel owned by the house as well as 19 other smaller parcels in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, chosen by Aimé Salon at the beginning of the 20th century. Not all years’ production, however, make the cut; those that do – the vintages – are cellared in the bottle for a minimum of 10 years, gaining in complexity and finesse. “We have 14 years of stock in our cellars,” says Depond. “Which is a crazy situation financially, but that’s the price you have to pay for the quality we want. In our business, time is our best friend and it is time that will ensure that when we release a vintage, it the best.”
Not all of Salon’s production goes to waste, thankfully. “What we don’t use for Salon goes to our sister house, Champagne Delamotte, which we call le petit Salon,” Depond says. “Just because it’s not good enough for Salon doesn’t mean it isn’t good wine. It is still grand vin, after all.” Delamotte, which Depond also heads, is “a simpler wine, one that is more accessible. It is champagne for anytime, anywhere – my grandmother used to drink Delamotte every morning!”
Delamotte, which was founded in 1760 (one of the oldest champagne houses), produces around 800,000 bottles a year. It has a wider range than Salon, releasing varieties of brut, blanc de blancs, rosé and blanc de blancs millésimé, produced mainly from grapes in the Côte des Blancs. Delamotte has also introduced a special collection of vintages that are cellared for 12 years before being disgorged.
“Like Salon, Delamotte is also a refined champagne,” Depond, who has been with Salon and Delamotte for 20 years, says. “They are discrete brands and very exclusive, and are for wine lovers or connoisseurs as they are great wine – just with bubbles.” There is no desire to compete with better known champagne brands. “It’s not who we are,” he says.
For those frustrated by the scarcity of Salon, the 2007 and 2008 vintages will be released this year and in 2019, respectively. “The 2008 is very special and will only be available in magnums,” Depond says. Which means there’ll be even fewer bottles available? He smiles before saying: “There will never be enough and it’ll be difficult, but, if you do get one, you’ll enjoy it even more.”
Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte are exclusively distributed in Malaysia by Dajin Beverages. Call +603 2717 1818 for more details.