According to the Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni, Billecart-Salmon makes Champagnes that are all about “timeless elegance,” “crystalline purity” and “supreme balance.”
“Finesse, balance and elegance” is in fact the tag line of Billecart-Salmon, an independent medium-sized Champagne house based in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ that is still run by the descendents of the original 1818 founders Nicolas Francois Billecart and his wife Elisabeth Salmon.
Champagne Billecarte-Salmon produces around 1.7 million bottles annually from fruit sourced from approximately 200 hectares of vineyards in Champagne. More than half the vineyards are in the hands of independent growers, with whom Billecart-Salmon has worked for several generations.
Their top cuvee, the vintage Blanc de Noirs Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is from a family-owned one hectare vineyard of pinot noir that was planted in 1964. Typically, the fruit is fermented at relatively low temperatures to preserve freshness and fruit identity – primary fermentation can take up to six weeks! The wine may or may not undergo a malolactic fermentation depending on vintage, and in some years no dosage is added to the wine in order to preserve its acidity. Admired for the freshness of its fruit and its delicate, complex aromas, each bottle is numbered and usually no more than 7,000 are made in only top years.
The Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart, a blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay, is a more exuberant wine than the Le Clos Saint-Hilaire. Depending on vintage a small percentage of the wine, typically around 20 percent, is aged in French oak barrels. In 1999, the Cuvée Nicolas-Francois Billecart 1959 was voted Champagne of the Millennium at a blind tasting of 150 of the finest 20th century champagnes.
The House’s non-vintage Champagnes, which make up about 60 percent of production, are also very highly regarded. British wine critic Jancis Robinson raved about the Billecart-Salmon Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV and Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV, noting that at a blind tasting of 18 current non vintage cuvées from the most famous champagne houses, the Billecart Salmon Brut Réserve NV was, in her opinion, the most impressive. (Billecart Salmon Brut Réserve NV champagne by Jancis Robinson, JancisRobinson.com, 18 October 2005).
A selection of Billecart-Salmon Champagnes are available on the Cellarit Wine Market