What I love about Billecart-Salmon is that for a big(gish) name/brand, they have the heart of a family business. Yes, you can find the wines in the big wine retailers alongside some other much bigger names, but the profile belies a philosophy of family, quality and community.
This comes across immediately in a visit to the house and because not everyone will get to visit the house, I want to share my visit to
Billecart-Salmon. So you can take my experience in to your next tasting of one of their champagnes and see if it doesn’t taste a little different for knowing a few more things about the family and history behind the champagnes.
When I visited in June 2018, it was my second visit with my guide Jérôme Lafouge… Jérôme also hosted me in 2015 and I hope he will let me pop in again for my next visit in 2020.
Quick background and context… Billecart-Salmon is a négociant or a house (more about what that means here) and owns 200 hectares of vineyards and they buy grapes from another 100 hectares.
Producing about two million bottles a year, Billecart-Salmon is a small to medium sized house. In comparison, Moet & Chandon produces 30 million bottles, Veuve Clicquot 19 million, Mumm 8 million and Louis Roederer 3.2 million. Pol Roger and Bollinger producer about the same as Billecart-Salmon. Read more about how much champagne is produced here.
Based in the village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (about 10 minutes from Epernay, located in the Montagne de Reims), the house is still managed from offices beside the original family house, where the CEO still lives.
1. Billecart-Salmon is still family-owned
Originally founded by Nicolas François Billecart and his new wife Elizabeth Salmon in 1818 upon their marriage, it is still today one of the last family owned and managed négociant houses in Champagne.
Elizabeth’s brother Louis Salmon was the first winemaker at the house, and just recently the seventh generation has come to take the reins, with the CEO since 1992, François Roland-Billecart, handing over to his cousin Mathieu Roland-Billecart at the end of 2018. Billecart-Salmon’s Chief Winemaker also recently changed, with Florent Nys taking over from his mentor, François Domi. François was chief winemaker for 33 years, working with Florent since 2005.
2. The house just turned 200 years old!
When I visited Billecart-Salmon in June 2018 it was a week after the house’s famous bicentennial celebrations.
While my invitation to the birthday bash seemed to have gotten lost in the post 🤣 🤣 🤣, I still had a pretty good time on my tour and tasting.
3. They just released a limited edition ‘Bicentenary Cuvee’
Just 1,818 magnums were produced, paying homage to the house’s founding date of 1818. This was a very limited release and each magnum cost £1,500! But don’t hold your breath for a taste… I don’t know of ANY of the special
cuvée making it to Australia for sale.
The Bicentenary Cuvée is a blend of…
- four vintages – 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2012
- wines from eight grand cru sites in the Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs
- Pinot Noir dominant (92%)
4. Billecart-Salmon was voted as having the top two champagnes of the millennium
In 1999, Antoine Roland-Billecart secretly signed Billecart-Salmon up for the “Champagne of the Millennium” tasting organised by Richard Juhlin in Stockholm.
A committee of experts held a blind tasting session involving 150 vintages entered by producers. The Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 1959 was chosen as the winner… and the 1961 vintage came second.
The full results are outlined below.
Top 10 Champagnes by the Jury:
1/ Billecart Salmon 1959
2/ Billecart Salmon 1961
3/ Gosset 1952
4/ Dom Pérignon 1964
5/ Dom Pérignon 1961
6/ Pol Roger 1959
7/ Dom Ruinart 1979
8/ Krug Collection 1961
9/ De Venoge Des Princes 1979
10/ Paul Bara 1959
5. Billecart-Salmon produces 11 champagnes plus the special 200th anniversary edition
- Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve
- Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
- Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs
- Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut
- Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois
- Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2008
- Billecart-Salmon Demi-sec
- Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2002
- Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2006
- Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elizabeth Brut Rosé 2007
- Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis Blanc de blancs 2006
- Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Le Clos Saint Hilaire 2002
- Billecart-Salmon limited edition ‘Bicentenary Cuvée’
Links to information about each wine is coming soon!
And you can also read about my tour through the Billecart-Salmon vineyards and cellars here.
You can make an appointment to visit the house via their Billecart-Salmon website here. If you visit, make sure you tell them I sent you!
I want to thank Jérôme and the family for welcoming me at their house, not once but twice. I hope it is not the last time I visit… I still have more to taste with you yet!
Have you been to Billecart-Salmon? Tell me about your visit and if you go in the future, make sure you post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute #bubbleandflute #happychamper #champagnefan
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