In 1818, Nicolas François Billecart and his wife Elisabeth Salmon, a couple in love with the same terroir. At their side was Louis Salmon, Elisabeth’s brother and a passionate oenologist who, from the very beginning, dedicated himself to the development of the wines. In the village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, near Epernay, they decided to establish their own Champagne House. Since then, the Billecart family has remained faithful to Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and today, the seventh generation of the family is in charge of the House. 

The family has carried on the passion and the myth over the generations. Today, Mathieu Roland-Billecart, the 7th generation of the family, head the House with Antoine, Deputy General Manager in charge of export, with the support of Jean and François Roland-Billecart. Alexandre Bader, managing director, has been working with the Family for more than 25 years. Together, they uphold the House’s values and its philosophy throughout the world.

Denis Blée, director of the vineyard and wines, for the last twenty years responsible for the Clos Saint-Hilaire and the oak Chai. From the pruning to the harvest, he rigorously surveys each parcel of the vineyard and ensures the maturing of the wines in the oak casks. After 33 years working at Billecart-Salmon, François Domi has this year handed over the baton to Florent Nys as Chief Winemaker for Champagne Billecart-Salmon. Florent, who has been working as an apprentice under the watchful eye of François since 2005, is now ready to take over the reins.

“In Champagne it is not always easy to distinguish marketing hype from genuine commitment...But I sense the commitment of these varied heirs is genuine, and it is surely no coincidence that some of the best Champagnes are made by houses dominated by single families….the Billecarts own Billecart-Salmon, some of Champagne’s most delectable wines.” - Stephen Brook, MW

REGION Champagne
APPELLATION(S) Aÿ, Côte des Blancs, Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne
PROPRIETORS François and Antoine Roland-Billecart

The excellence of Billecart-Salmon champagnes rests, above all, on the knowledge of those who rigorously select from vineyards of more than 300 hectares, of which about 100 hectares belong to the House and its shareholders, divided between over 40 different Champagne crus. Most grapes used for winemaking come from a radius of 20km around Epernay, where the great wines of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier from the Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne are to be found. In its constant quest for excellence, Billecart-Salmon favors cultivation methods that aim to protect the environment and promote biodiversity. Long before being certified High Environmental Value and Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne in 2017, Maison Billecart-Salmon was already focused on managing its vineyards with the utmost respect for the environment. Beyond a simple approach, it’s a long-term state of mind that calls for constant self-assessment and continuous progress. 

The house operates on the philosophy that an early harvest yields more elegant, delicate Champagnes. They look for strong acid structure rather than alcohol as a preservative, and therefore, never harvest at higher than 10° potential alcohol. They strive to carry out their harvest with minimal grape handling and transit time by utilizing four press houses on the property.  

The Clos Saint-Hilaire is a single parcel where the vines, 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 work horses and sheep. This method of maintaining the soil and tending the vines increases porosity and biodiversity: the roots grow deep and the minerals they draw from the soil foster the growth of smaller, more concentrated grapes, revealing the terroir's typical flavor.

The Billecart House vinifies each parcel separately and then blends them together to maintain precision based on acidity, maturity and potential. Borrowing an idea from François and Antoine’s maternal grandmother, a brewer in the North of France, the house uses a natural technique of double-cold settling to avoid oxidation while retaining freshness. The unique process involves a primary cold settling of the pressed juice for a period of 12 hours when the heaviest of the must solids fall to the bottom. The juice is then racked into clean tanks where it is chilled down to 36°F for another 48 hours. This second, much colder settling eliminates any wild yeasts and additional heavy elements without the use of enzymes, filtering or centrifuge. After the second racking, fermentation is initiated by adding dried yeast and then maintained at a long, slow pace for up to five weeks in order to preserve as many delicate fruit aromas as possible. 

Malolactic fermentation is legally allowed but may be blocked in certain years if vintage conditions warrant it. Since 1987, the family has reserved a certain percentage of their wines for vintage cuvée Champagnes in barrel. In these instances, malolactic fermentation is always prevented. Antoine Roland-Billecart believes that dosage should be minimal, saying, “Dosage is almost like makeup. If you have to use a lot of makeup, then you have something to hide, right?”

The Cellars

The 2 km of underground silent tunnels date back from the 17th and 19th centuries and stand guard over the House’s precious cargo. Over time, the wines assert themselves and the aromas develop, imprinted with all the finesse, balance and elegance which are characteristic of the personality of the House’s champagnes. Over three to four years in cellars the non-vintage champagnes really blossom, staying around twice as long as the fixed regulations of the appellation. The vintage cuvées patiently wait ten years before they begin to reveal their maturity.

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