Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart

Some champagnes volunteer their life story within seconds of first introductions, like overworked movie trailers that leave you fully convinced you’ve seen the film. Others churn in your consciousness for days, slowly unravelling their story long after the credits have rolled. My first introduction to NFB 2002 was four months before its release, when it emerged, blinking, into the stark daylight of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ from the depths of Billecart’s cellars. It squirmed, shocked, uncomfortable at first, then began to play an exhilarating script that held me captivated for a full half hour. As always, the greatness of Billecart is proclaimed not by impact or power, but by slowly rising complexity and profound chalk mineral presence. A hint of struck flint reduction makes way for the icy brightness of grapefruit zest, lemon, white peach, then the warmth of figs, and later, yellow summer fruits. A decade in the cellar has set down layers of toast and nuts, even wood spice. Refreshing acidity takes time to uncoil, and minerality rises slowly, super fine, confident and taut, surging on the finish in a cascade of chalk that lingers, undeterred, for minutes. There is nothing overt or glamorous about NFB 2002, yet its delightful poise and intricate craftsmanship clearly proclaim one of the great Billecarts of the modern era, taming the exuberance of 2002 with exacting skill. This is a champagne with many characters and subplots to reveal, to be enjoyed slowly in the presence of the most intimate company — and ideally not until it has rested at least another decade in the darkness. $165 at EpiQure (1998). 2002 landing soon.