I stopped in at Salon/Delamotte in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger this morning to taste a few wines, and was very pleased when Jean-Baptiste Cristini, export director for the two houses, generously opened a 1993 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs that he happened to have lying about in the fridge.
I often feel that Delamotte is a highly underestimated house. It’s a quiet, discreet style of champagne, and I’ll admit that it took me many years to reach the point where I felt I properly understood the wines. They are not champagnes that are well-suited to blind tastings (although you could argue that none are), nor do they show well in large, group environments such as trade tastings, as their delicate, introspective character is often overwhelmed. Due to this, they are sometimes interpreted as being insubstantial, which I think is not the case. Just because someone doesn’t speak loudly doesn’t mean that they haven’t got anything to say. You just have to be paying attention.
This 1993, however, was anything but shy, demonstrating an unusually opulent and generous depth of aroma for a Delamotte champagne. It had come from some old stock that had been languishing unclaimed in the cellars, and Cristini had seen fit to appropriate some bottles because, well, wine is for drinking. In addition, it had been disgorged sometime in 1999—it seemed that ten years of post-disgorgement aging had filled this out in both amplitude and complexity, resolving the fruit flavors and allowing them to evolve with refinement and richesse, but also reinforcing the sense of minerality and the inimitably vibrant chalkiness so typical of grand cru chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. Today this was at an absolutely perfect point of drinking, balancing a lingering freshness of primary fruit with more developed aromas of honeycomb, toffee and vanilla bean. Delamotte’s wines usually take at least fifteen minutes to half an hour after opening to expand and reveal themselves, but this was immediately all seductive and come-hither from the get-go, and I don’t see how anyone who professes to appreciate mature champagne could fail to be charmed by this wine. I imagined it alongside some equally refined preparation of langoustines and white truffles, the mature succulence of the wine playing off of the sweetness of the shellfish, while the complex, tertiary notes of old chardonnay complement the earthy fragrance of the truffles. Cristini did not go into the back and whip this out for me, unfortunately. But if I saw this wine on the list of a Michelin-starred restaurant, I would be inclined to explore its possibilities.