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Champagnes Salon & Delamotte, 1959-2007 

Salon remains one of Champagne’s most mystical and elusive wines. Since 1905, the house has declared just thirty-nine vintages. This vertical tasting of Salon and sister property Delamotte provided a great opportunity to revisit a number of reference point vintages and also taste the latest releases.
What started off as a simple tasting turned into something much more elaborate than I could have ever imagined when I first made my appointment at Salon. Salon/Delamotte President Didier Depond dug deep into the cellars and opened a stunning range of older wines for a small group of tasters. The Salon vintages went all the way back to 1959. We also tasted a number of older Delamottes back to the 1970.

When Salon does not declare a vintage, the wines go to Delamotte, Salon’s sister property and neighbor. Because of that, the Delamotte Champagnes are often mentioned as an after thought. That is a shame, because the Delamotte Champagnes deserve to be appreciated on their own terms, a point that is made eloquently in tasting top-flight vintages such as 2004 and 1996 that were declared at both houses.

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Stylistically, the two wines are quite different. Delamotte’s vintage Blanc de Blancs, a blend of fruit from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Avize and Cramant, is made in a relatively open-knit style. Unlike Salon, Delamotte sees full malolactic fermentation, which softens the edges and gives it the creaminess to drink well with minimal cellaring. Delamotte’s late-released Collection Champagnes, spend more time on their lees and generally see a bit less dosage than the original release. I have been fortunate to taste quite a few of the Collection wines over the last few years. At their best, they are truly special.

Salon is a much more reticent Champagne. All of the fruit is sourced exclusively from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, starting with a parcel that is right behind the main house. The natural focus and drive of Mesnil is accentuated by the blocked-malo style. As a result, Salon requires extended time on its lees, which also makes it one of the last tête de cuvées to be released. Production hovers around 60,000 bottles per vintage, give or take, which is miniscule by the standards of Champagne

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The entrance to the cellar at Salon

Champagne Delamotte: Blanc de Blancs 2007-1970

This flight of Delamotte Champagnes shows how the best vintages can drink well young, but also age. Some of the older Collection wines in this flight are truly remarkable.
Delamotte’s 
2007 Blanc de Blancs is deep, fleshy and seductive, with lovely textural depth and nuance throughout. The 2007 is a relatively soft, open-knit Delamotte that will drink well upon release. I especially admire the wine's sense of balance and overall proportion, two of the many qualities that give the 2007 its considerable appeal. The 2004 Blanc de Blancs has developed notable

aromatic complexity and nuance over the last few years. Smoke, slate, candied lemon and crushed rocks are some of the signatures. Striking in its precision and nuance, the 2004 is once again absolutely brilliant. Simply put, the 2004 is a phenomenal Delamotte that shows just how compelling this vintage is in the Côte des Blancs.

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A late-release from the Delamotte, the 1999 Blanc de Blancs Collection is a gorgeous Champagne for drinking now and over the next decade or two. Extended time on the lees has given the 1999 much of its texture and overall nuance. Honey, chamomile, hazelnut, dried herbs and apricots form an attractive fabric of scents, aromas and textures. Still quite young, the 1999 has enough freshness to drink well for many years. The 1999 is made in an especially big, phenolic style for Delamotte. Another superb wine, the 1996 Blanc de Blancs Collection (magnum) opens with striking, slightly reductive aromatics. Slate, peach, apricot pit, chamomile and lightly honeyed notes are all beautifully delineated throughout. The 1996 is a vinous, rich Delamotte that is peaking today. Brilliant in the glass, yet also pliant and deep, the 1996 impresses with its exceptional balance and total class. From magnum, the 1996 is especially fine.

The 1995 Blanc de Blancs is soft, open-knit and ready to go. A host of yellow stone fruits, wild flowers and lightly honeyed notes flesh out as the 1995 shows off its radiant personality. A slightly mushroomy note suggests the 1995 is mature. Any remaining bottles need to be finished off. Delamotte's 1985 Blanc de Blancs Collection is the product of a freakish vintage with a brutally cold winter and spring followed by a very hot summer. Rich, powerful and concentrated in the glass, the 1985 is decidedly voluptuous in feel. Scents of hazelnut, orange peel, caramel and earthiness add nuance through to the vinous, textured finish. The 1985 is peaking today, which makes it an excellent choice for drinking over the next handful of years.

Tasted from magnum, the 1970 Blanc de Blancs Collection is just as fabulous as it was the last time I tasted it a few years ago. Specifically, the 1970 offers a striking combination of nuance that has developed in bottle over the last 45 years, yet it also retains remarkable freshness. Scents of orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, herbs and honey add intrigue, but it is the wine's timelessness that impresses most. What a great way to wrap up this tasting. Readers who have a chance to taste the 1970 Delamotte Collection from magnum should not hesitate, as it is truly Spectacular. With a capital S.

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Champagne Salon: 2004-1954

It is hard to pick a highlight or two in this stunning set of Salons back to 1954. The trio of recent stellar vintages – 2002, 1996 and 1988 – all show beautifully. The just-released 2004 looks like it will take its place among the truly epic editions of Salon. Among the older wines, I especially like the 1961. Both the 1959 and 1964 are past prime in my view, but, then again, that is part of what makes wine such a personal experience. In this tasting, all of the Salons from 1995 and older, except the 1959 and 1964, were disgorged à la volée, with no dosage, which means the bottles are not fully representative of the commercially available versions of those wines.

The 2004 Salon has been superb each time I have tasted it over the last year or so. Bright, tense and crystalline, with all of the energy that is typical of both Salon and the vintage in the Côte des Blancs, the 2004 bristles with superb precision and cool, pulsating minerality. The 2004 spent a dozen years on its lees. Over the last six months or so, it has gradually begun to open up, but it is very much a wine for the cellar. Two thousand four is remembered as a vintage with record high yields. Salon (and Delamotte) did a terrific job in keeping the vines well balanced. Production was just 46,000 bottles, as opposed to the 60,000 or so that is more typical. Chef de Caves Michel Fauconnet opted for a low dosage of just 4 grams per liter. This is a tremendous showing. Another highlight in this vertical, the 2002 Salon is also fascinating to taste after the 2004. Rich, opulent and intense, yet also very classic in the Salon house style, the 2002 possesses superb persistence and depth. The radiant vintage has softened the contours and given the wine fabulous depth to match its decidedly powerful personality. At the same time, the 2002 remains quite youthful. Next to the brighter and more finessed 2004, the 2002 offers more of a baritone-inflected expression of Chardonnay.

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The 2004 ages on its lees in the cellar

The 1999 belongs to the family of warm, ripe vintage at Salon. An atypically big, dense wine by Salon standards, the 1999 is somewhat one-dimensional and not likely to improve considerably from here. At the same time, the 1999 has more than enough depth to drink well for a number of years. All things considered, the 1999 has held up well. Didier Depond, the house’s President, describes 1999 as a year with very hot, sunny weather during the summer and into the harvest. Late season rains were an issue for the Pinot, but not for the Chardonnay. One of the surprises in this vertical, the 1997 Salon is super-polished, delicate and refined. The 1997 offers lovely detail and nuance throughout. Hints of candied lemon peel, white flowers and white pepper add an element of brightness that complements the wine's natural richness. Although 1997 doesn't belong to the group of elite vintages at Salon, it does come close to that level. Perhaps even more importantly, the 1997 is aging gracefully and should continue to drink nicely for a number of years.

The 1996 Salon is just beginning to enter the early part of its plateau of maturity. Time in bottle has softened some of the razor-sharp focus the 1996 had when it was first released, but all of the energy it had as a young Champagne remains. A host of candied lemon, almonds and wild flowers punctuate the sculpted, persistent finish. Readers who own the 1996 can look forward to another two decades or more of exceptional drinking. This is the ultimate expression of Champagne as wine.

The 1995 Salon, disgorged à la volée and naturally sans dosage, is rich, ample and creamy. In this vertical, the 1995 stands out for its broad, ample frame and tropically-leaning overtones. So often, Salon is a Champagne of tension and focus. Even without dosage, the 1995 is distinctly more ample than is the norm and yet all the elements come together nicely just the same.

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One of the few disappointments in this tasting, the 1990 Salon comes across as oddly evolved and disjointed today. It is hard to believe this is a representative bottle. After the lackluster 1990, things get back on track quickly with the 1988 Salon, a wine that is absolutely peaking today. From one of the all-time great vintages in Champagne the 1988 Salon exudes power and explosive intensity,

with superb balance and pulsating acidity that gives the wine its drive. A host of candied lemon peel, hazelnut, smoke, licorice and anise overtones meld into the super-expressive finish.

The remaining stock of 1961 Salon

The 1973 Salon is one of the most exotic and flamboyant wines in this tasting. Now at the absolute peak of its maturity, the 1973 graces the senses with hints of orange peel, burnt sugar, butter and smoke. Even with all of its depth and creaminess, the 1973 possesses tons of nuance, not to mention considerable personality. What a pleasure it is to taste the 1961 Salon. Timeless, elegant and super polished, the 1961 has aged exceptionally well. The candied lemon, white flower and almond nuances offer lovely freshness, especially for a wine of this age. Today, the 1961 is sublime. I don't know that there is too much more I can add, except to say this is about as good as it gets for mature Champagne.

The 1959 Salon is the first of two wines served blind towards the end of this vertical. Although the 1959 retains considerable power for a wine of its age, it is also past peak. Hints of orange peel, butter, spice and brown butter give the 1959 its oxidative, fully mature personality. The 1959 is not my cup of tea, but readers who like very aged Champagne might find some pleasure in the 1959, a wine that is hanging on to the very final vestiges of life at this stage. The 1964 Salon, also served blind, is frankly past the point where I find pleasure in wine. The hazelnut, orange peel, tobacco, honey, caramel, spice and mushroom notes are fully tertiary.

Antonio Galloni – Vinous, June 2016

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History

Simply put, it is a grand vin... with bubbles. Salon is a unique Champagne. All the emphasis in the production of this exceptional wine is on the singular. It was originally the product of one single man, Aimé Salon; from one single region, the Côte de Blancs; from one single cru, le Mesnil-sur-Oger; from one single grape variety, Chardonnay; and from one single vintage, with no blending whatsoever.

 

Created in 1911 with first vintage 1905, Champagne Salon is the creation of one man, Eugène-Aimé Salon. Eugène-Aimé Salon’s rather successful career as a fur trader provided him with a luxurious lifestyle, in which he would dine at Maxim’s on a daily basis. However, life was not perfect, and it was additionally marred by bad champagne. The numerous champagne types that he tasted at Maxim’s brought him little pleasure, often spoiling what had, for the most part, been a good day: and, after all, what was the purpose of champagne anyway? Totally frustrated, Eugène-Aimé Salon decided to make his very own champagne – for himself! 

 

At the beginning of the 20th century he just created the Blanc de Blancs. The first known vintage was 1905. Now that the tragedy of the war was over,he was encouraged by his numerous friends to profit more fully from his wine and the house of Salon was created, to cater for his new clientele. Eugène Aimé Salon decided to make a co-operative where he had an access to select the best grapes from number of growers in Le Mesnil village. Salon had access also to entire production of Clos Tarin vineyard (named by the Tarin family) until Krug bought it and named it Clos du Mesnil in 1971. 

 

This Champagne is produced from a one-hectare parcel owned by Salon: "Salon’s garden", and from 19 other smaller parcels in Mesnil-sur-Oger, chosen by Aimé Salon at the beginning of the century. The wines are cellared in the bottle for an average of 10 years, gaining in complexity and finesse. Unlike many another champagne house, Eugène-Aimé only made wines that were of the very best quality. He only wanted the best, and if that was not going to be the case, he would sell the grapes. There were four vintages (1905, 1909, 1911 and 1914) that were exclusively for his own use and that of friends. Of course, that was before they became Maxim’s house champagne in the 1920s. Maxim's was the only customer for Salon unti 1960’s. 

 

The proof that memory and history are important is shown by the bottles in the cellars from nearly all the vintages that have ever been produced at Salon. Headed by Aimé Salon until his death in 1943, the house was then left to his nephew. In 1988, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, a family-owned company, became the majority shareholder of Champagne Salon.

Today, the house of Salon, along with its ancient neighbour and sister, Champagne Delamotte (the fifth oldest Champagne house, founded in 1760) are directed by one man, Didier Depond.

Vintages currently maturing in Salon's cellar are : 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008

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Vineyards

Situated in le Mesnil-sur-Oger, in the Côte des Blancs, the house of Salon has only one Champagne, the cuvee ‘S’. This Champagne is produced from a one-hectare parcel owned by Salon: “Salon’s garden”, and from 19 other smaller parcels in Mesnil-sur-Oger, chosen by Aimé Salon at the beginning of the century.

Nine hectares are managed by 20 growers on a long-term contract and the other one is Salon’s own Le Jardin de Salon vineyard. The average age today of the Salon vines is 40 years. 

Audrey Campos says: “The soul of Salon wines is concealed in the clean-featured, mineral tones and sharp acidity. That soulfulness comes from the soil at Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, which is the most acidic in Côte de Blancs. The old vines extend their roots deep into the earth where they benefit from the mineral riches that abound there. Unfortunately, Le Jardin de Salon had to be completely replanted in 2002 due to a disease that killed off the old vines. That takes time, as Salon’s vineyard yields a proper quality harvest for Salon wines.

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Winemaking

The grapes are picked and sorted by hand. Pressing is carried out at le Mesnil-sur-Oger, with a traditional press used only for Salon.

Only the first pressing, or cuvée, is used. This is the purest, freshest juice, containing the highest percentage of acidity, which is essential to the evolution and vivacity of the Champagne. This alone does not make an unique wine: only the exceptional years are kept for production, when the grapes contain the ideal combination of richness of fruit, sugar and acidity, which happens on average every two to three years.



 

Laurent-Perrier’s chef de cave, Michel Fauconnet, says there were a few changes made to the way Salon was produced after they bought the estate. Greater attention was paid to cleanliness and tidiness in the vineyards as well as in the winery. The most significant change, however, was transferring the production of Salon to Laurent-Perrier, where they had up-to-date production facilities and equipment. The grapes are pressed at Laurent-Perrier in Tours-sur-Marne, which is also where the initial first fermentation takes place.

 

“When working with Salon, all the classical Champagne rules are left aside. The philosophy of Salon sets it apart from all other brands; grapes from a single village, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, and a single grape variety, Chardonnay, is used and the selection of the harvest year is made. No blend of year, no blend of different grapes and no blend of different villages – Salon is absolutely unique. Each spring, we decide if Salon will be produced from the previous vintage or not. If the answer is no, we just use it for Delamotte or if not to for Delamotte then for L-P. When processing Salon I know it is a big challenge, because I have to accept or refuse a whole vintage depending on its respective potential for ageing. The challenge here is absolutely opposite to that of the main task that I accomplish for L-P Brut or Delamotte Brut, for instance. With Salon, I just cannot rely upon reserve wines or previous vintage years to balance the quality of the current harvest. That is why Salon vintages are only released if their natural balance is perfect in a particular sugar content versus acidity, in which Fauconnet remarks and adds that the wine never undergoes malolactic fermentation. With the high malic acidity involved, the wine has a long ageing potential and maintains its youthful green colour for a very long time in bottle ageing.”

 

According to Michel Fauconnet, there is no special procedure required in Salon winemaking itself, just the respect of the grape and the purest extraction of the terroir. This is maintained by using indigenous yeasts and vinifying the wine in stainless steel tanks instead of wooden barrels. Subsequent to this, the wines are delivered back to Salon for a second fermentation process. The wines rest on their lees in the Salon cellars for ten years on average before disgorgement. After disgorging, a low dosage of only 5 to 6 grams of sugar per litre is added. Since the bottle shapes are unique, all of the labelling is made by hand. 

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Inside information

The importance of history / Salon’s reputation relies heavily on its history. Its success at Maxim’s belongs to the past, but its commercial success lies just ahead. The fascination that surrounds it is still based purely and simply on Eugène-Aimé Salon’s initial concept: one village, one variety and one vintage. Today, it is enjoyed by tens of thousands of people.

Salon, if anything, is a terroir champagne without an equal. Its limited availability and unique concept help to create the myth that surrounds it, which continues to lure lovers of champagne in ever-greater numbers. However, does the quality of the wine, with its clean lines and sharp acidic tones, live up to the expectations of consumers? When young, perhaps not, but when mature, definitely!

Although the wine was originally made to please just one man, Eugène-Aimé Salon, he was not alone in his predilection. Salon may be an interesting entry in the history books and Salon’s owners may have changed over the years, but Salon today is one of the most sought after and most difficult champagnes to acquire.

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4 different wines with 47 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  19 wines 

There were actually six celebrations, arguably seven, when I turned fifty, it was one heckuva week.  This evening in particular was also noteworthy.  It was a dinner of only magnums, and 24 of New York City’s finest collectors, most of whom were already friends before (and certainly friends after), all came together to share many toasts throughout the night of their favorite tipples.  By the end of the night, I was feeling fuzzy, slightly warm and definitely tipsy.

2m 18d ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  17 wines 

Moet & Chandon Vintage 1911 / This was a later release; in fact, it was released by Moet to celebrate the 100th year of this vintage.  When first released, it was sold at auction along with a date with Scarlett Johansson.  I’m not sure if the first buyer ever got that date, but I do know that the second buyer insisted if he got that date, Hollywood history might have been a little different lol.  There was a ‘bigger finish’ here per Big Boy, and Jetski admired its ‘smokiness.’  There was so much exotic to this bottle – exotic fruits, exotic fireplace.  It was clearly the most complex, and most people’s favorite.  110 years old never tasted so good (98).

5m 9d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  16 wines 

Chateau Musar 1998 / This is a beautifully mature wine that is delicious to enjoy now. The wine has elegance, persistence and ethereal flavours of dried autumn leaves, black truffles and pu'er tea. Lovely, silky texture, supple palate and a long finish. An impressive wine that rivals the best of Bordeaux

7m 19d ago

 Salon  has updated producer and wine information

9m 16d ago

 Richard Juhlin , Wine Writer (Sweden)  tasted  2 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  31 wines 

Thiénot x Penfolds Blanc de Blancs 2012 / The dosage stored in Penfold's Australian barrels. In all three wines where Peter Gago had a hand and his barrels in the production, you have an added and impressive power and butterscotch oakiness. The wines are simply larger and more expressive than in the steel tank-fermented prestige champagnes from Thiénot. The very best in the trio with a Comtes de Champagne-like opulence and fullness. Even more roasted and coffee-scented than the model and at least as smooth texture. Not quite the same depth and elegance, but it is a fantastic champagne in any case.

9m 16d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  29 wines 

1982 is an iconic vintage for Bordeaux, and for many wine lovers, it’s a reference point as a modern, ripe year that was delicious from the onset. The top wines are still holding up well and show no signs of fading. However, some of the lesser wines are starting to show its age. This ripe vintage has given us a wide drinking window, regardless of the specific appellation and terroir. For those that still have some top 1982 Bordeaux in your cellar, there is no rush to pull the cork. A long life ahead awaits these beauties.

10m 29d ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Latour vertical 1934 - 2005 in Copenhagen / Latour 1961 was, as expected, a monumental wine. Sixty years old wine and not ready yet. Still young and vigorous. Oceans of fruit and tannin perfectly supported by underlying acidity.  Enormous potential! 99-100p.

11m 21d ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  19 wines 

A 1978 Dujac Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes quickly stole the show from the 1985 flight. This was a perfect example of a wine punching above its weight class. ‘Wow,’ started my notes. It was close to the Clos de la Roche with a sappy, sexy nose full of musk, along with great concentration, pitch and a leathery finish. There was not a lot of spitting once the reds came around, and the notes were getting sloppy. I wrote something about putting something to bed, in bed, I can’t quite tell, maybe I was referring to myself lol (97).

1y 1m ago

 Lauren Delmas, Sommelier (France)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  3 wines 

Salon 1996 / Bright yellow hue with a soft and delicate effervescence. Intense bouquet in which the white fruit has evolved over the course of time to develop sweet, buttery and roasted notes such as vanilla and fresh pastries. Powerful notes of mocha and smoke remind us of the wine's 25 years of bottle age. This wine has retained its freshness and elegance as well as the round, intense character of the 1996 vintage. The palate is structured by a pleasant bitterness which results in a saline sensation and intensifies the ethereal finish.

1y 2m ago

 Richard Juhlin , Wine Writer (Sweden)  tasted  2 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  20 wines 

Salon Oenothèque 1961 / 99 points / If I was close to crying in disappointment over the 66' on the Tidelius tasting, the tears really came in the next flight when this bottle disgorged at the same time and with exactly the same low dosage was so lovely that the emotions overflowed. In fact, this wonderfully youthful champagne is the bottle that most reminded me of the world's best wine 1928 Pol Roger Grauves. Here was the same unlikely contrast between youthfulness and nicely mature notes. The scent is so unreal with its euphoric pheromone-like perfume uplifted by linden, geranium, lily of the valley, acacia, ginger, fresh tarragon, mint, lime peel and Sorrento lemon. Glass-clear brilliance and laser-sharp sharpness and precision. Caressing with faint undertones of vanilla, brioche and roasting. Pure flint mineral finesse and swirling little pearl necklace bubbles that dance ballet in the palate. What is missing in relation to 28' Grauves is a well thickened oiliness that may come in twenty years or so. Imagine that a 51-year-old can personify snowmelt, spring winter and the rebirth of life.

1y 7m ago

 Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  8 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  15 wines 

Salon 1997 / 100 points / A very recent magnum. A wine of such extraordinary quality that even the most fizzophobe amongst us could not fail to be converted. Structure, richness, power, and yet a champagne that dances. Ethereal, elegant,
delicate, and lingering. 


In magnum, this still has a decade or two ahead of it. Fresh and full of
both complexity and finesse. White flowers, peaches, glacé lemon, cinnamon,walnuts, and hazelnuts. Creamy texture, impeccable balance. Wonderful. 


Nineteen ninety-seven was not widely declared but there were some fine champagnes, none better than this. In magnum, I looked hard for a reason not to give it 100. I could not find one. It is drinking above the reputation of the vintage. 100. 


Checking notes, I was surprised at how many times I had seen this vintage of Salon. There were occasions from bottles when, as glorious as it was, it was showing more maturity than some, with more mushroom and truffle notes. Scores ranged, but none lower than 96. Unless you have it in magnum, this is a vintage you can very much enjoy now. 

1y 7m ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Salon . In a tasting of  61 wines 

The third long and rewarding BWW2020 -tasting day is now behind. Here is my personal list over 90 points wines! Thank you again for all the other tasters - tasting 146 young fine wines from all over the world is always a hard work day - but because they are "the Best Wines of the World - it makes so much easier and more fun. 

1y 9m ago

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