Billecart Salmon

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Best known for their Brut Rose, Billecart-Salmon blends tradition and innovation to produce a refined range of classic champagnes. Based in the Mareuil-sur-Ay village of the Vallee de la Marne for nearly 200 years, this house is one of the oldest continually family-owned producers in the region.

40 Rue Carnot, Mareuil-sur-Ay +33 3 26 52 60 22

The Wines

The wines of Billecart-Salmon exude style, intricacy and precision across the range, and the top cuvees elevate this to an even higher level of excellence.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Meunier. The blend varies, but contains at least 45% Meunier. Domi is always careful to blend a balanced wine that isn’t weighed down with a predominance of red fruit.

Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru

100% Chardonnay. First produced in 1997. This wine is made from grapes grown in the Cote des Blancs Grand Cru villages of Avize, Chouilly, Cramant and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Most of the fruit comes from Avize, as Domi finds this region best for a full, round style of Chardonnay. 

Billecart-Salmon Vintage Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru

A vintage-dated version of the Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru. 

Billecart-Salmon Vintage

Approximately one-third Chardonnay, two-thirds Pinot Noir with a dash of Meunier. This wine has the quality of the 2004 vintage to thank for its existence. The fruit from that year was so charming, yet not quite up to the standard of the Nicolas Francois prestige cuvee, that Domi felt it warranted its own bottling. First released in 2009, this wine is a bridge between the non-vintage and the Nicolas Francois. 

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois

One-third each Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier. Another comparatively new wine to the range, the Brut Sous Bois was created to offer a fully barrel-fermented cuvee. Made with the three classic champagne grapes, and with the addition of reserve wines, the wine is never overtly oaky, and expresses the signature elegance of the house.

Billecart-Salmon Nicolas Francois Billecart 

Named in honour of the house’s founder, this prestige cuvee is usually 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. The grapes are 100% Grand Cru from the Montagne de Reims and Cote des Blancs. The wine is partially vinified in barrel.

Billecart-Salmon Grande Cuvee

Made only in the very best years and then only in tiny quantities, the Grande Cuvee is a similar composition to the Nicolas Francois, but has spent at least ten years ageing on the lees. 

Billecart-Salmon Clos Saint-Hilaire

100% Pinot Noir. The first vines in the Clos Saint-Hilaire vineyard were planted in 1964 in the land neighbouring the family home in Mareuil-sur-Ay. This Pinot Noir was initially used to make the red wine added to the blend of the Brut Rose. But when the house experimented with using these grapes to make a white sparkling wine vinified in old Burgundy barrels, there was no turning back.  The wine does not go through malolactic fermentation, ages for at least ten years, and has zero dosage.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose

One of the most famous rose champagnes. Billecart-Salmon is arguably known for this non-vintage rose more than any other cuvee in the range. In the past, rose champagnes were not as highly regarded as their ‘blanc’ counterparts, so it was important that the wine be the epitome of elegance both in appearance and on the palate. For this reason, the house chose specifically to use a high degree of Chardonnay. Today, Domi continues to take diligent care of the Chardonnay to ensure opulence in the finished wine. The colour is attained through blending of a still red wine made from Pinot Noir from Mareuil-sur-Ay. 

Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon

A rose prestige cuvee, on a par with the stature of the Nicolas Francois. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in equal measure, with the addition of less than 10% red wine from mature vines, the Elisabeth Salmon is a wine of depth and character with an unmistakable femininity to its elegance. 

History of the House

The village of Mareuil-sur-Ay has been home to the Billecart family since the 16th century. In the early 1800s, Nicolas Francois Billecart was not interested in the family vineyards, and pursued a career in law. It was not until he married Elisabeth Salmon, whose family owned vineyards in Chouilly and the Cote des Blancs, that he decided to forego the legal profession and enter the wine trade. He established the house of Billecart-Salmon in 1818.

Since then the house has been passed down through each generation, making Billecart-Salmon one of the oldest continually family-owned houses. Today it is run by the sixth generation, Francois and Antoine Roland-Billecart, who work closely with their father, Jean Roland-Billecart.

The brothers are assisted by talented experts, and together they create the quality and style that has been Billecart-Salmon’s reputation for nearly 200 years. Alexandre Bader is the general manager, marketing their champagne to the world. Denis Blee, the vineyard manager, takes great care of the vines and the ageing wines in the cellar. The person tasked with the responsibility of blending the wines to craft the signature house style is Francois Domi, who has been the winemaker at Billecart-Salmon for almost 30 years.

Billecart-Salmon also produces a second label champagne, Charles-le-Bel. The grapes for these wines come from young vineyards that are not yet ready for the Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, but nonetheless make attractive, drinkable champagnes. 

Vineyards and Winemaking

Billecart-Salmon own 15 hectares of vineyards in prime spots for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They have 4 hectares of Grand Cru and Premier Cru land in Ay and Mareuil-sur-Ay; another 4 Grand Cru hectares in Avize, Chouilly and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; and the final 7 hectares are in the Vallee de la Marne village of Damery. 

Their most prized land is a small vineyard surrounded by a stone wall (known as a ‘clos’) of just 1 hectare of Pinot Noir, the Clos-St-Hilaire, which creates a stunning, complex wine of the same name.

The estate-owned land provides about 10% of the grapes they need for their total production. They purchase the remainder from growers who production they oversee, located in approximately 40 crus over 200 hectares around the Montagne de Reims, Vallee de la Marne and the Cote des Blancs.

In the vineyards, Billecart-Salmon regard early harvesting as one of the most important elements of the elegance and refinement of the range. Once picked, the grapes go to their state-of-the-art winery in Mareuil-sur-Ay, built in 2001 to be the most technically advanced in the region. Since 1952, the house has been using a technique known as ‘double cold settling’. This involves leaving the freshly pressed juice in temperature-controlled tanks for 12 hours, to allow the solids to settle at the bottom of the tank. The juice is then racked off the deposits, and spends an additional 48 hours in tanks at a constant temperature of 2˚C. This helps to clarify the must even further, and removes wild yeasts naturally without the need to filter.

After the addition of cultured yeasts, the fermentations (mostly in tank) are unhurried and long, usually lasting around 5 weeks at a temperature of 11-13˚C.  This protracted fermentation helps to retain the aromas of the fruit, especially in the case of Meunier. Once fermentation is complete, the wines stay in contact with the lees for a further 4-5 months, during which time batonnage (lees stirring) occurs every two weeks. Malolactic fermentation may or may not take place, depending on the vintage. Since 1987 the house has fermented about 5% of their total production in second-hand barrels, as a tribute to the past when barrels were a mainstay. These barrel-fermented wines never undergo malolactic fermentation.

Many individual parcels are vinified separately, giving chef de cave Francois Domi around 75 wines with which to create his specific blend for each cuvee. For one of the best known houses in Champagne, the total production remains comparatively limited, and many of the wines are strictly allocated between the various global markets.