When she says it’s the thought that counts, she means the number of man-hours you put into it. This February 14th, give yourself a head start and go hunting for this hard-to-find and hard-to-beat Champagne: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé.
For a long time I worked for Danny Meyer behind the raw marble bar of The Modern inside MOMA. Danny never did me wrong, but every Saturday night after closing the kitchen guys would make meatball sandwiches. I’d bring them a tray of beers. Then I would bring all the bartenders together and we’d blast a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé into three rocks glasses and glug glug before we hit the door.
We knew it was special. It was the preferred drink to offer when you were in the weeds and someone else noticed your girlfriend walk in. It has tiny crisp pink bubbles and a dry (meaning not-sweet) finish. But it’s special for one more reason, which I’ll get to.
Pour two glasses while you tell her about how hard it was to find and the people you met along the way. Maybe don’t bring up the Nazis, but think of the first American to have a glass when they liberated Paris.
I highly recommend the NV (non-vintage) bottles that don’t have a year. The numbered vintages will sap your 401K. A 2002 goes for $244.99. I have a 1990 in the cellar that actually is a part of my retirement plan.
Author and Wall Street Journal wine columnist Jay McInerney agrees. “Billecart Salmon is one of the great houses of champagne and their rosé is a classic—my go to rosé for all occasions,” he says. “Their vintage cuvees are among the best.”
Out of 150 champagnes made in the 20th century, the 1938 by Billecart-Salmon has been named the best. This little family’s commitment to their winery can’t be understated. The Nazis invaded two years later and they still managed to save a few cases. A bottle sold shortly after for £3,300. You can get the nonvintage for somewhere between $50 and $80. Not much more than the going rate for a few cocktails plus tip these days.
But for that you do need to hunt. This is a good time to get a wine guy. Keep an eye out. Stockpile. Chat up the folks at your local like they’re the clerks in a record store. When I was pouring it for Danny, there was only one guy who had the account. And he only sold it to people he liked. This meant you couldn’t get it at Jean-Georges or Le Bernadin, but you could drink it out of a paper cup at the original Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.
So save it up. Get it chilled just right for the big date. Pour two glasses while you tell her about how hard it was to find and about the people you met along the way. Maybe don’t bring up the Nazis, but think of the first American to have a glass when they liberated Paris.
Then tell her this:
The first Billecart-Salmon champagne celebrated the love of Nicolas François Billecart and his wife Elisabeth Salmon when they married in 1818 in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. They started a family together that still owns the house and label. They pass it down to each generation with the simple motto taught from parent to child, “Privilégier la qualité, viser l’excellence.”
That’s a good motto for your time together: “‘Give priority to quality, strive for excellence.”