Founded in 1818, Billecart-Salmon might not be the oldest champagne house in the region, but it’s certainly one of the most respected. What’s more, it still belongs to the same family, with the seventh generation currently at the helm (the Frey group, which also owns domain Paul Jaboulet Ainé in the Rhône, owns shares in the house).
Maison Billecart Salmon was born from the union of two great family owners of vineyards in Champagne, when Nicolas-François Billecart married Elisabeth Salmon in 1818. Very prosperous at the end of the 19th century (the wines were then known and appreciated as far as the United States and Russia), the maison, located in Mareuil sur Aÿ, would experience major setbacks of fortune at the beginning of the 20th century. They have now resolved these issues and the house remains the property of the Billecart family.
Today it is François and Antoine Roland-Billecart who run it and their father, Jean Roland-Billecart, still keeps an eye on the heritage. Located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, it cultivates a dozen hectares of vines and sources grapes around Epernay from the best terroirs (almost exclusively grand and premier cru). Interestingly, Billecart-Salmon is one of the champagne houses that uses barrels to vinify part of its harvest. Their top cuvée Clos Saint-Hilaire, for instance, is vinified entirely in barrels. From a stylistic point of view, Billecart-Salmon embodies finesse and precision. The wines are excellent and can be enjoyed both at aperitif and with food.
The house has ‘High Environmental Value’ certification, meaning that it farms its vineyards sustainably. In fact, some of the parcels are tilled by horse and sheep graze on the vineyards, improving the porosity and biodiversity of the soils. The roots thus dig deeper into the soils, extracting minerals and producing small, concentrated grapes which best express the terroir.
This Billecart-Salmon house is renowned all over the world. The Cuvée Nicolas-Francois Billecart 1959 in fact won first place in the Champagne of the Millennium 1999 award, out of 150 of the finest 20th century Champagnes. This cuvée, created in homage to the house’s founder, is a blend of the Grands Crus of the Côte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims.