Introducing Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Billecart-Salmon featured photo

Above Image Credit: Billecart-Salmon

Location: Aÿ-Champagne, Marne

When was Billecart-Salmon founded? 1818

Who founded Billecart-Salmon?

Maison Billecart-Salmon was founded by Nicolas François Billecart and wife Elisabeth Salmon in their family’s home town, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.

Winemaking Designation: Négociant-Manipulant

Billecart-Salmon Vineyards

How many vineyards does Billecart-Salmon have?

Billecart-Salmon has its own vineyards in some of the best locations in the Aÿ-Champagne region. The House’s unique champagnes are made from the finest-quality grapes cultivated in a 247-acre estate, in addition to grapes harvested from other growers for a total of 741 acres spread among 40 crus of the Champagne region.

Where are the vineyards?

Most of the grapes they use for vinification are from a 20-kilometer radius around Epernay in the vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne, and the Côte des Blancs. Several grapes are grown in these vineyards including Grand Crus of Pinot Noir, Meunier, and Chardonnay.

Growing Practices at Billecart-Salmon

Are they organic or biodynamic?

As the House’s philosophy goes: respect the terroir in order to produce great wines.

It was certified High Environmental Value and Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne in 2017. But Maison Billecart-Salmon has a long history of dedication to running its vineyards with the best environmental practices and sensitivity.

A staunch advocate of a sustainable approach to viticulture, Maison Billecart-Salmon educates partner winegrowers about the value of certification. In fact, 75% of its supplies are now VDC-certified.

But Billecart-Salmon goes beyond VDC certification. It combats vine diseases using natural remedies including:

  • Natural treatments with sulfur or horsetail prevent powdery mildew.
  • Natural products from plants or microorganisms serve as bug-eaters.
  • Natural alternative medicine derived from organic sources and copper to keep mildew at bay.
  • Early removal of leaves on the sunrise side to prevent rust.

In terms of product packaging, Billecart-Salmon only uses paper from FSC-certified plantations. They also use kraft cardboard with water-based inks.

Any special growing techniques used?

Billecart-Salmon is dedicated to a sustainable winemaking culture. It favors cultivation methods with the intent to protect the environment and enhance biodiversity.

The Champagne House is committed to preserving the winemaker-nature cycle. And they have always been believed that taking such a route is important in maintaining environmental sustainability.

Billecart-Salmon has beehives in their vineyards to encourage biodiversity. The House’s blossom honey is sourced from the Clos Saint-Hilaire apiary. It’s a 2-acre flower-filled plot, which is an ideal location for three beehives. One of them was made out of a barrel that was originally used for storing the House’s wines.

The bees in the apiary pollinate the plants, ensuring a diversified and sustainable ecosystem.

And since winemaking requires a lot of water, Billecart-Salmon found a way to limit water consumption by installing a water meter. This allows the House’s employees to keep track of water usage. They also collect water and clean their barrels and tanks with steam.

Winemaking at Billecart-Salmon

Who is the winemaker?

Chef de Caves (winemaker) Florent Nys took over the winemaking department after François Domi’s 33-year reign ended in 2018. Florent has been an apprentice under François’ careful supervision since 2005.

What types of wine-making techniques do they use?

Bottle of Billecart-Salmon Champagne Meunier Extra Brut

Their approach to winemaking starts with selecting the highest-quality grapes for vinification. The House experiments with terroirs and innovative tools to create exquisite and well-balanced wines.

Grapes are fermented at a low temperature to preserve the fruit’s freshness. The fermentation style is not oxidative, except for those from Le Clos Saint-Hilaire, which are 100% vinified in oak barrels.

Billecart-Salmon uses oak barrels and stainless steel vats. However, those two materials are used for different purposes and for different grapes.

The House uses barrels to put the richness of the grapes into the right blend with wood. Their casks are about 15 years old on average. This means that they release less tannins than younger ones, yet there is still an external influence.

When it comes to purity, they use stainless steel vasts. To create delicate wines from these vessels, they use grapes with floral notes like Chardonnays. These grapes go through cold fermentation in thermoregulated vats at 13 degrees.

So the two vinifications are highly diverse and unique. But are also extremely balanced.

Their approach to malolactic fermentation is also simple. The House decides whether to do it or not after each harvest’s fermentations, tank after tank, based on the flavor of the wines at blind tasting. So, some of their wines will complete malolactic fermentation, while others don’t.

Billecart-Salmon currently has 400 small and large oak barrels in their cellars.

The Wines at Billecart Salmon

Billecart-Salmon makes vintage and non-vintage brut and cuveés. These wines are aged in different lengths on the lees. Most of their wines are made from thoughtfully balanced blends of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Brut Réserve – 50% Premier and Grands Crus; 40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. It’s aged between 2 to 3 years on the lees with varying dosages for each release.

Brut Rose’ – 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, and 30% Pinot Meunier with about 8% still red wine from the Pinots. The dosage is usually around 9% or less.

Blanc de Noirs – 100% Premier Cru; 100% Pinot Noir. The wine is vinified in oak with no dosage.

Blanc de Blancs – 100% Chardonnay all from grand crus. This champagne is aged for a minimum of 3 to 4 years before disgorgement. It goes through partial malolactic fermentation, keeping around 2% malic acid. The typical dosage is 8 grams per liter.

Blanc de Blancs 1999 – 100% Grand Cru; 100% Chardonnay. A considerable amount of the grand cru is fermented in old oak barrels and aged on lees for 8 to 10 years. The dosage is 5.5 grams per liter.

Brut Sous Bois – “Sous Bois” means “under wood”. This champagne is made up of about equal parts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, as well as a little amount of reserve wine. It’s aged in oak barrels for 6 months before being stored on the lees in the barrels with batonnage. The dosage is approximately 7 grams per liter.

Demi-Sec – 40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. It has the same base as the Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, but with a larger dose of around 40 grams per liter.

Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon Rose’ 2002 – 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir. It’s aged 8 to 10 years on lees prior to disgorgement. Typical dosage is 8 grams per liter.

Extra Brut – 40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay; no sugar is added. This champagne is aged on the lees for an additional year (roughly 4 years) than most of Billecart-other Salmon’s non-vintage champagnes.

Nicolas Francois Billecart 2002 – 100% Grand Cru; 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. A portion of the fruit was fermented in old oak barrels with no malolactic fermentation. It’s aged on lees for 8 to 10 years prior to disgorgement, with a dose of 4 to 5 grams per liter.

Visit Billecart Salmon

Billecart Salmon offers winery tours and tastings Monday to Friday with a prepaid reservation.