Wednesday Wines – Episode 149 – A preview of 2005 Billecart-Salmon, Le Clos Saint-Hilaire

2005 Billecart-Salmon, Le Clos Saint-Hilaire, Champagne, France (the 2006 vintage is £450 at


This is a preview note as this wine is not yet released for sale, but Goedhuis & Co. (, Berry Bros & Rudd (, Hedonism ( and Whisky Exchange (above) have all taken allocations.

I have written extensively about this unique Blanc de Noirs cuvée from Billecart-Salmon, and you can read about all of the previous releases of Le Clos Saint-Hilaire in Wednesday Wines Episode 88.

Named after the patron Saint of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, the village where Billecart-Salmon has its HQ, this one-hectare plot of Pinot Noir vines was planted in 1964 and it sits behind the winery.  These vines give rise to some of the most fascinating and flamboyant wines in the Billecart portfolio.  This wine was entirely vinified in oak barrels and it sat on its lees for 170 months.  In addition, the other statistic of note is that it has a dosage of only 1g/L.

As luck would have it, I tasted this wine on my son’s birthday.  As it happens, I was flying to Australia early the following day and, not wanting to wait a week to publish my thoughts, I put the bottle in an ice bucket and then tasted it in my office while Rollo and his 6-year-old pals were running around outside.  I elaborate on this setting because after I wrote this note, I poured some glasses for the various parents who came to pick their children up from Rollo’s birthday tea.  Now it is very unusual to be offered a glass of elite Champagne when you are marshalling your sugar-high-child out of the door, but I thought it might be interesting to hear the impressions from a group of wine lovers, none of whom had tasted Le Clos Saint-Hilaire before.

First, my thoughts.  Billecart held this wine back and released it after the gorgeous 2006 vintage. There must have been a reason for shuffling the pack, and it seems to me, both on the nose and palate, that this is a more robust wine than the ’06. The colour gives a very real guide to the volume of fruit in the engine. It is a stunning old gold with pale green hints and softer amber hues. A decadent perfume captures the senses with layers of mandarin, honey, wax and patisserie shot with faint red cherry highlights, and this means that I spent as much time sniffing my glass as I did sipping this wine. Over the course of an hour, the nose broadened further with more exotic tones and even hints of spice. The palate follows a similar theme, with ultra-fine bubbles teasing the taste buds but not distracting from the overall persistence of the depth of fruit notes.

This is a rich, mouth-coating wine, and the acidity does all it can to hold it in perfect equilibrium. Of course, it is drinking now, but there is enough of a battery pack to last at least a decade, and I wonder if it won’t make two decades with ease. It is hard to tell because the luxurious ballgown of flavour hides the mineral and acid tones so cleverly. This is another sensational LCSH, and they all have such distinct characters it is truly a wine of the soil and the vintage, and this makes it one of the most honest and thought-provoking of the super-premium Champagnes.

As a matter of fact, and with full disclosure, the five parents who tasted (at first blind) this glorious wine all went weak at the knees. Weaker still when I showed them the label and told them its story. Even Rollo gave it a thumbs up when he insisted on sticking his finger in my glass and tasting the flavour – after all, it was his birthday.

Over the years, the average production of this wine sits well below 5000 bottles, so if you are a fan or would like to taste a sublime Champagne that is genuinely worth its price tag, look no further.  (19/20 Drink now – 2035)