Every Friday The no1 Champagne expert in the world will taste new & old Champagne s to give You a tip or two for the weekend. On a fresh spring day in Paris TheChampagneSommelier blind tasted @ Champagne from Champagne BIllecart-Salmon.
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PRODUCER PROIFILE – Billecart-Salmon
It’s a real pleasure for any wine enthusiast to visit this small, well-run domain in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. This company, which is very much in fashion at the moment, makes elegant, sporty wines that suit “nouvelle cuisine” perfectly. The company was established in 1818 and it has always concentrated on quality Champagne in quite a light style.
Billecart has a very innovative attitude towards winemaking. They are pioneers of cold stabilization, which entails sinking the temperature of the must to 5°C for two days and then adding dried yeast to the fermentation, which takes place in stainless steel vats for as long as three weeks. The slow fermentation is made possible by keeping the vat’s temperature at around 12°C. The wine then has to be heated up to 18°C so that the malolactic fermentation can take place. François Domi who was the winemaker has performed several successful experiments with oak barrels from Louis Jadot in Burgundy since 1998. Clos Saint Hilaire – a grand Blanc de Noirs made from fifty-year-old vines in Mareüil-sur-Aÿ is a very interesting champagne indeed.
Today the winemaker is Florent Nys and the philosophy of the domain is to avoid oxidation at all costs. The flavour is expected to come from the grape itself as far as possible, and not from secondary aromas from the vinification process. Billecart purchase 95 per cent of their grapes from twenty-three top-rated vineyards, and their own grapes are Pinot Noir from the village. They have contracts with many respected growers from Grand cru villages of Avize, Cramant and Le Mesnil. The domain’s refreshing, fruity, and elegant style led me for many years to believe that Billecart’s Champagnes should be consumed young.
However, their greatness lies in the fact that, despite their early and direct charm, they develop in an incomparably beautiful way in the cellar. That this little domain is supposed to have made the two foremost Champagnes in the entire world up until now is something I cannot completely agree with, but I am convinced that the ’59 would have won the Millennium Tasting even with a different jury than ours. Simply a fantastic Champagne with no difficult aromas. The amusing thing is that the domain has produced several other wines that maintain more or less the same high standard. Make sure that you buy wines from Billecart-Salmon before they become as expensive as Krug! Fame has unfortunately influenced them to produce the non-vintage wines in too great quantities and to release them too early. This has cost them a valuable star despite the fact that the vintage wines are just as good as ever.