A visit to the prestigious House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Elisabeth Salmon and Nicolas François Billecart founded Billecart-Salmon Champagne house in 1818 when they just got married. The family estate is in Mareuil-Sur-Aÿ, a small village near Épernay, France. Last week I was fortunate enough to take a quick visit.

House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne
The House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

A short history of the House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

This House is renowned for its distinctive vintages and iconic Rosé. Billecart-Salmon is one of the few remaining independent, family-owned Champagne Houses.

The excellence of champagnes of Maison Billecart-Salmon comes from the extensive knowledge and attention to the cultivation of their 100-hectare estate. In addition to that, they obtain more grapes from 300 hectares across 40 crus of the Champagne region.

Majority of the grapes used for vinification at Billecart-Salmon come from a radius of 20km around Épernay, in the beautiful vineyards of the Côte des Blancs, the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne.

The House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Experiencing Billecart-Salmon

Mathieu Roland-Billecart, Chief Executive Officer
Mathieu Roland-Billecart, Chief Executive Officer, House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Mr Mathieu Roland-Billecart, Chief Executive Officer, is the 7th generation of the family. Mr Matthieu Roland-Billecart assumed the role in January 2019 from his cousin François Roland-Billecart, who headed the House since 1992.The flawless transition between family members to the next generation has been one of the keys to Champagne Billecart-Salmon’s long-term success.

The family has always strived to deliver the best and most elegant wines since its inception. Their motto: “Give priority to quality, strive for excellence”.

This House is considered a small to medium-sized champagne house in Champagne. But as a family-run and family-owned Champagne House, Billecart-Salmon can release new vintages as and when it sees fit and ready.

Tasting Billecart-Salmon

I enjoyed an excellent dinner tasting a few bottles of the finest champagnes from Billecart-Salmon’s cellar, with food created by chef Benjamin Gilles.

chef Benjamin Gilles at Billecart-Salmon

Cuvée Louis Salmon

Cuvée Louis Salmon champagne
Cuvée Louis Salmon matched with Scottish salmon served with citrus cream, celeriac and Avruga caviar.

This Champagne was matched with Scottish salmon served with citrus cream, celeriac and Avruga caviar.

Louis Salmon, Elisabeth’s brother, who was a specialist in winemaking, helped the family business from the very beginning. He dedicated himself to the development of the wines.

In his honour, The Blanc de Blancs prestige cuvée grand cru (100% Chardonnay) is known as the Cuvée Louis, marking Louis Salmon’s role in the history of this excellent House.

It joins the Nicolas François and Elisabeth vintage cuvées, to honour the three founding members of Billecart-Salmon.

Nicolas François Billecart Brut 1988

Nicolas François Billecart Brut 1988
Nicolas François Billecart Brut 1988

The next course was chicken stuffed with peanuts, corn and haricot purée and sauce. This dish was matched with the super special bottle of Cuvee Nicolas François Billecart Brut 1988 (Chardonnay and Pinot noir). It was such a treat! This Champagne is intense and aromatic with aromas of citrus fruit and red berries. The palate is compelling and balanced, with a good length. A wine to be savoured slowly to be fully appreciated.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV

decanted Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV
Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV

For the cheese course, Comté and Mirabelle were paired with medium-bodied Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV, which was decanted into a bespoke Billecart-Salmon carafe.

Made of equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, it is an intense, structured and well-balanced wine, with aromas of brioche, apple, cassia, and cinnamon. On the palate, it is yeasty, with fudge/toffee notes.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV new label

Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Rosé 2007

Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Rosé 2007
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Rosé 2007
food paring Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Rosé 2007

Dessert was a fig and raspberry sablée tart with timut pepper cream matched with Cuvée Elisabeth.

The 2007 vintage of this distinguished Brut Rosé was released in France in 2018 and arrived in the UK in early 2019. This vintage exists as a homage to Elisabeth Salmon; this cuvée distinguishes itself through its sparkle, harmonious flavours, unique finesse and character.

It consists of 50% Pinot noir from the Montagne de Reims and the Grande Vallée de la Marne, and 50% Chardonnay from the Côtes des Blancs. It has a low sugar dosage of 6g per litre.

This Champagne is exquisitely rich and complex, with a hint of citrus and red berry sweetness. On the nose, it’s aromatic and softly spiced, with a note of wild strawberries.

A visit to the Clos Saint-Hilaire Vineyard

Clos Saint-Hilaire Vineyard
Clos Saint-Hilaire Vineyard

Next to the House is the Clos Saint-Hilaire, a fenced vineyard: to be called a Clos (‘enclosure’ in French) it needs to be walled or closed on at least three sides, be a one-piece plot and situated near the vinification facilities.

The Clos Saint-Hilaire is a single vineyard where the vines one hectare of Pinot noir), soil and subsoil are carefully tended with respect for the environment.

Several years ago, Billecart-Salmon decided to return to ancestral champagne-making methods in the Clos Saint-Hilaire by using workhorses and sheep to clear this plot.

The Clos Saint-Hilaire produces exceptional Champagne: the Prestige Cuvée Clos St Hilaire, which is named after the patron saint of Mareuil-Sur-Aÿ, made of 100% Pinot noir, it’s vinified in oak casks, and develops an outstanding purity, with white peaches, dates and fig on the nose, and a buttery flavour on the palate. It’s aged on the lees for 15 years, with a dosage of 0g per litre.

It’s a fantastic aperitif wine that pairs well with salmon and caviar, as well as with meals featuring white fish and white meats.

For each vintage, there is a limited release of between 3,500 to 5,500 individually numbered bottles. These wines are only released when the family sees fit and ready.

Billercart-Salmon’s Winery

Billercart-Salmon's Winery
Billercart-Salmon’s Winery

The House shapes its most exceptional champagnes by mixing ancestral traditions with the most up-to-date modern techniques.

These champagnes are aged in the chalk cellars dating from the 17th and 19th centuries, with the aim to produce discerning and balanced flavours to make these bottles ones to celebrate precious moments.

Back in the ’70s, Billecart-Salmon set up the technique of cold fermentation compounded with the use of stainless-steel tanks that provide for a longer fermentation at a lower temperature (13°C), delivering a level of finesse that set Billecart-Salmon apart from the competition.

Billercart-Salmon's Winery Billecart-Salmon Clos Saint-Hilaire room
Billercart-Salmon’s Winery – Clos Saint-Hilaire

This method takes longer (about four weeks), it’s more expensive than the conventional vinification (4 days), but it encourages delicate and pure aromas, which are the signature of the Billecart-Salmon style of Champagne.

The vats of the winery concentrate primarily on small thermo regulated tanks, which allow the House to trace the grape varieties and the individual bottles.

This vinification is carried out throughout the process, cru by cru and grape variety by grape variety, allowing the conservation of the subtle distinction of expression of the terroir.

Billecart-Salmon wines on lees
Billecart-Salmon wines on lees

Mr Mathieu Roland-Billecart strongly believes that for his family-run business to have managed to remain independent and successful, despite its medium-size trade, is because “‘We put the best juice in the bottle”.

I don’t think I will ever forget this incredible experience of learning about and sipping fine Champagne at the House of Billecart-Salmon.

For some more Billecart-Salmon and food pairings head to:

Billecart-Salmon Rose

Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2006

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs

Billecart-Salmon extra brut
Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve
Splendid picnic for lunch accompanied by Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2008


Disclosure: I was on a press trip to an exclusive tour of the Billecart-Salmon House. Everything you are reading here are my words, my opinions and, unless otherwise stated, my pictures. Please ask permission to reproduce/use any images.