Producer Profile

Billecart-Salmon

Champagne, France

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Billecart-Salmon

Champagne, France

The creation of the renowned Champagne House was from the marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon. From their union, they decide to found Maison Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-AĂż, the family’s home town. This has been a family story since the beginning with Louis Salmon, brother of Elisabeth and a passionate oenologist, getting involved in the creation of the wines. Thus, over 7 generations, each member of the family has endeavoured to continue the family tradition, staying faithful to the same motto: “Give priority to quality, strive for excellence”.

The champagnes of Maison Billecart-Salmon are above all created thanks to the knowledge of the men who rigorously cultivate an estate of 100 hectares, obtaining grapes from an area totalling 300 hectares across 40 crus of the Champagne region.

The majority of the grapes used for vinification come from a radius of 20km around Epernay, where the Grand Crus of Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay co-exist, in the ethereal vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.

Location: Ă„y, Champagne France

Working with us since: 2020

Total area under vine: 100ha

Viticultural standards: Most of their practices are certified as organic or sustainable, and they hope to attain certification for 100% of their land by 2025

Website: www.champagne-billecart.fr/en 

Interesting fact: The family is most proud of its pristine gardens that surround the main house in Mareuil-sur-AĂż, both of which were redesigned in the 1920s, the gardens are welcome to visitors.

Billecart-Salmon Wines

How does Antoine Roland-Billecart define the house style? “Freshness, elegance, fruit style and wine style. We always want to remind you that Champagne is a wine. Prior to Champagne, we produce a wine.” He notes that viticulture is quite distinctive at the 46th parallel, about as far north as wine cultivars will ripen. “We really have to take care of the fruit. We’re not alcohol chasing for maturity, we’re more into freshness.”

Billecart Salmon obtains their wine grapes from 14 hectares of House-owned vines and grower vines from 40 crus across Champagne (mostly around Epernay.) The Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes come from the expressive Grand Cru terroir of Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.  Billecart Salmon practices some biodynamic principles in the vineyard, avoiding pesticides and herbicides. Yields are kept low to improve the grape quality, and harvest tends to be earlier. The House’s philosophy is that early harvest yields a more delicate and elegant Champagne. Total production is capped at 2.5 million bottles annually.

Now, the crown of Billecart Salmon’s vineyard real estate is the single parcel Le Clos Saint Hilaire. This vineyard is planted exclusively with Pinot Noir vines. The one-hectare of Pinot Noir vines is enclosed within a stone wall and is ploughed by horses. The fruit is used to make the vintage Clos Saint-Hilaire Champagne, which is limited to 3,500-5,500 individually numbered bottles per year.

Billecart Salmon employs a unique winemaking method involving cold settling and cold fermentation taking inspiration from breweries. This takes place over three weeks to a month – much longer than other producers, and a first among Champagne makers. In the 1950s, Billecart Salmon established a cold settling technique using stainless steel tanks where the pressed juice undergoes a primary cold settling for about 12 hours to allow the heaviest must solids to sink to the bottom. The must is then racked into clean tanks and chilled for another 48 hours. The second settling is colder (down to 2ÂşC), eliminating wild yeasts and other heavy elements without using enzymes, filtering or a centrifuge. The must then undergoes a cold, slow fermentation (just under 13ÂşC) of about 30 days in oak casks or steel tanks. Billecart Salmon has more than 400 small and 24 large oak casks for vinification.  Each parcel is vinified individually by cru and by grape variety to allow traceability. The low fermentation temperature helps preserve subtle fruit aromas and the great finesse that these Champagnes are known for.

The wines are bottle-aged in 17th-century underground chalk cellars for nearly a decade before release. Another interesting aspect of winemaking is the very low dosage used after disgorgement – under 6g/l, equivalent to Extra Brut dosages.

At a three-day tasting in Stockholm in the spring of 1999, several Champagne authorities such as Richard Juhlin, Serena Sutcliffe and Robert Joseph set about to identify the “Champagne of the Millennium.” Among the wines that were judged were superlative cuvĂ©es from such esteemed houses as Dom PĂ©rignon, Krug, Taittinger, Pol Roger and Louis Roederer. The results of the tasting had the 1959 singled out as the “Champagne of the Millennium”, while the 1961 finished second. Needless to say, Roland-Billecart was glad he reconsidered!