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Billecart Salmon: Two Centuries

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YVES TESSON Champagne Billecart Salmon Two Centuries of Adventure

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ditions Tallandier 2018 48 rue du Faubourg Montmartre 75009 Paris France www tallandier com

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It could scarcely be described as a long quiet river Two hundred years riven by revolutions wars enemy invasions epidemics turbulence and drama including extreme weather events unpredictable and indomitable Through it all Maison Billecart Salmon has withstood the bad times and preserved the best Two hundred years ago who would have imagined that the meeting of two young people from Mareuil sur A and their subsequent marriage would lead to the creation of a firm of such longevity And here we are today heirs to a legacy that has been created slowly and patiently yet that is in no way set in stone Proud and mindful of this heritage slightly amazed and always full of questions about the future that it now falls to us to write every day Like hikers who have made it to a spectacular viewpoint we felt we wanted to gaze back over the path we had taken to reach this point to consider it And then to tell the story of that path as it unfolded as though leafing through a family photograph album through eighteen tales of adventure scattered over those two centuries Just like each of the vintages they have produced successive Directors of the Maison have all had their different and highly individual characters Following the founders there have been successful entrepreneurs talented winemakers dedicated epicureans wise mentors and inspired builders Invariably the differences between them have been overridden by the obsession that has been the common thread running from generation to generation the quality of their wines pursued with a passion first foremost and always Rigorously demanding though it may have been this commitment to excellence has proved to be an asset of essential importance when it has come to withstanding the tests of time Every generation has succeeded in adapting it to its best advantage to suit the challenges of their era Similarly today it imposes a choice that we are only too happy to accept that of limiting production to a level that is commensurate with traditional artisanal methods and techniques What are our hopes for the future leaders at Billecart Salmon invested with all the trust and benevolence of their forebears That this spirit should endure that this common thread should never be broken And that in this way the fine old vessel should sail on sails billowing in the trade winds towards its three hundredth anniversary At the start of the twenty first century we can expect more crises of course and there will be no lack of tempestuous times These are the storms that our planet must face But we can be sure that those who make up Maison Billecart Salmon who have always been such sturdy characters will know how to face them head on We have every confidence in the future of the House and we wish good luck and a fine future to all those who come after us Fran ois Roland Billecart

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Eighteen tales of adventure in the life of a Champagne House Each of these eighteen tales filled with adventure and drama tells the story of a crucial moment in the history of the House of Billecart Salmon Faithful to history they recount the dreams passions and inspirations of men and women guided by a single desire to create champagnes of exception

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1 Le Vin d honneur 29 2 Sparkling Times 33 3 The American Dream 39 4 Tisane de Champagne 43 5 Wager of a Dandy 47 6 N gociant and High Flier 51 7 The Sheltering Hill 57 8 A Drop in Temperature 63 9 Checkmate 67 10 Meeting in the Car Park 71 11 La vie en rose 75 12 Precious Lands 79 13 The Legendary Hectare 85 14 Great Oaks from Little Acorns 89 15 Good Wine needs no Advertisement 93 16 Broderie Parterres 97 17 Sak Champagne 101 18 Gastronomic Pairings 105

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1 Le Vin d honneur 1545 1818 Every story needs a beginning a date of birth a setting The story of Maison as Romanticism driven by a coterie of impassioned young writers and poets Billecart Salmon and its champagne with its beginnings set among the but also of its own industrial revolution coupled with a revolution in forms of landed gentry in the early nineteenth century might have come straight transport The economy was still restricted but was poised to blossom and from the pages of a Jane Austen novel In 1818 Elisabeth Salmon and for people of vision these were propitious times They included the Billecart Nicolas Fran ois Billecart exchanged wedding vows in the tranquil village of family a long line of entrepreneurs deeply rooted in the Champagne region Mareuil sur A set on the banks of the River Marne and among vineyards with the first recorded references to their vineyards at Mareuil sur A dating that included the slopes of La Montagne de Reims in a France in which back as far as 1545 the monarchy had been restored and Louis XVIII occupied the throne The The River Marne the tributary of the Seine that lapped the slopes of Mareuil newlyweds emerged from the village church to a peal of bells and we can sur A was the essential factor in the forging of the Billecart family fortune only hope the sunshine of a glorious spring day They were lightermen hiring their boats out to local merchants to transport The young couple doubtless hoped that their marriage would be blessed with their goods and especially their wines When Pierre Joseph Billecart king s a large and healthy family They could hardly have imagined however that counsellor to the presidial court at Ch lons was ennobled in the seventeenth their union would also give birth to a prestigious Champagne House Or that century one of the duties he assumed in return was the upkeep of the river their conjoined names would soon denote a wine of distinction celebrated To underline this connection the family annotated the Billecart coat of arms throughout the world and for centuries to come The serendipitous nature of adding a sable band to symbolize the river beneath its three bunches of love and of the alliances of terroirs c pages and talents that accompanied grapes The first recorded reference to their transport activities came in 1769 it were to create a combination of factors of which the most professional when barges owned by one Pierre Billecart of Mareuil sur A transported of cellar masters could only dream and that bore the unmistakable stamp twenty nine barrels of wine belonging to the Mo t family already established of a happy union With such fortunate circumstances attending its birth it at Epernay to Paris comes as no surprise that this irresistible wine with all its elegance subtlety The Billecart family business was part of a long established trade that had and harmony should have endured and prospered Many marriages are grown up to supply the capital with wine to wet its gullet The edict of launched with champagne the Billecart Salmon marriage was to launch its twenty leagues passed by Parliament in 1577 first sealed the fortunes of own champagnes the wines of Champagne The capital was growing fast and the population By 1818 the tumult of the French Revolution and the upheavals of the wanted wine to drink The winemakers who were closest to the capital Napoleonic campaigns were starting to fade into the past France was on the tended to favour quantity over quality Alarmed by this Parliament ordered brink not only of the literary and artistic movement that was to be known the innkeepers of Paris to buy their wine only from vineyards that were at least 29

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ninety kilometres the famous twenty leagues from the capital The decree the region while their prices might be as much as ten times higher Under gave an immediate boost to the Champagne region and particularly to the the influence of the great monasteries and wealthy vineyard owners of vineyards that lined the banks of the Marne who were able to transport their the region the winemaking practices of the area were rigorous with short wines to the capital with ease Once established this trade was to continue pruning and sparing use of manure For the carefully selected c pages up to the late nineteenth century when the railway revolution made it varieties of the highest quality were favoured such as the Morillon ancestor possible to flood the market with cheaper wines from the south of France so of the Pinot Noir dealing the Champagne region s trade a fatal blow Then came the French Revolution By 1789 Fran ois Alexandre Billecart The family also in all likelihood used its boats for its own business In 1768 a was a well established local dignitary a privileged bourgeois As a member wine broker by the name of Billecart Joffrin was operating in Mareuil sur A of the municipal council of Mareuil sur A he was a close observer of the And Fran ois Alexandre Billecart 1751 1808 father of Nicolas Fran ois political upheavals that were about to transform France In 1794 with the was variously described as a wine merchant grower owner and dealer from support of a justice of the peace named Billecart Herpin doubtless a relation which we may deduce that he not only owned his own vines but also bought Fran ois Alexandre attempted to impose Robespierre s cult of the Supreme and sold wines Being In this he had not reckoned with the fierce opposition of the female The winemaking economy at the time was very different from today members of the population however who remained firmly attached to the According to his grandson Charles 1823 1888 Fran ois Alexandre made only Catholic mass He was also a member of the Comit de surveillance or watch red wines at this period still wines that he exported as far as Flanders and committee whose job was to root out counter revolutionaries His brother the Netherlands It was a prestigious business however as even before the Jean Charles Billecart meanwhile was a captain in the Garde Nationale At region started producing sparkling wines the wines of Champagne enjoyed the local level the Billecarts were taking part in the making of history an enviable reputation While the more modest wines went to slake the thirst It was against the background of these upheavals that Nicolas Fran ois was of the population of Paris the finest of them were prized at court and even born in 1794 amid the last convulsions of the Terror and barely two years graced the tables of the royal coronation banquets held at Reims They vied after the decisive battle fought on the nearby hill of Valmy when a French in reputation with the wines of Burgundy giving rise to a famous argument army made up partly of barefoot citizen soldiers claimed a jubilant victory between Louis XIV s physicians as to their respective virtues Because of their over foreign royalist forces By the age of thirteen Nicolas Fran ois had lost pretty ros colour the coolness of the Champagne climate limiting maceration both his parents and his grandparents It is not known who brought him and therefore producing wines of a paler colour these wines were described up but the difficulties of his childhood must surely have helped to forge his as clairet or light red or more poetically oeil de perdrix or partridge eye fighting spirit The wines of Mareuil sur A were held in particular esteem and were ranked Meanwhile the Salmon family had also been settled in Mareuil for several highly by the agronomist Nicolas Bidet in 1759 alongside illustrious names generations According to the historian Beno t Musset from 1702 to 1729 such as Pierry and A From the early seventeenth century the denomination the Salmons like the Billecarts were lightermen on the Marne with sole Vignoble de Champagne which first appeared only at the beginning of that control over 43 per cent of the wine barrels transported on the river far century was applied to a winemaking area that was much more limited than more than the Ponsin family in Epernay or Pierre Guyart in Bisseuil it is today consisting only of vins de la Rivi re and vins de la Montagne Elisabeth and her husband thus shared a passion for vines and business wines from either the river banks or the hills The village of Mareuil sur A handed down through the generations Nicolas Fran ois always consulted lay at the heart of this region of distinguished vintages a far cry from those her in all his business dealings and he respected her education her noble destined for local consumption A simple comparison of yields and prices paid bearing and her unfailing solicitude for those around her A woman of great is enough to identify the crus that now occupied the highest ranks among character she displayed an independence that was ahead of her time and champagnes as their yields were only half of those of lesser vineyards in was far from daunted by her husband s spirit of enterprise 30

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Their marriage was to provide Nicolas Fran ois with the means he needed to in charge of the cellars where he relished the solitude and the patient realize his ambitions At the same time he also went into partnership with his application involved in every stage of vinification and the mysterious alchemy brother in law Louis Salmon The two of them combined their vineyards to that accompanied it He enjoyed being in contact with the winegrowers and make a total of fourteen hectares in Mareuil sur A Chouilly and Chigny la felt an affinity with them Like him these were men of few words who lived Montagne Each invested the modest sum of twenty thousand francs which in harmony with nature and according to the rhythms of the passing seasons for Nicolas Fran ois represented all the savings he had to his name on his Thus it was that the Billecart Salmon label came into being as the marriage His wife brought to the marriage a share in the buildings that are straightforward product of a happy marriage and nothing to do with any today the head offices of Maison Billecart Salmon which even at this early business strategy Many people who have worked for the House over the years stage offered all the facilities necessary for a Champagne House including a have protested that the name is too long and complicated for customers to large dwelling house vendangeoir storerooms cellar courtyard and garden remember suggesting it should be shortened to just Billecart But this was a This was where Nicolas Fran ois and Elisabeth set up home while Louis divorce that was never to happen Billecart would never cast off Salmon and remained in the Salmon family house on the other side of the road Salmon was never be swallowed up by Billecart Instead Maison Billecart The two men lost no time in sharing the work out between them Nicolas Salmon preserves that slightly old fashioned charm of the venerable names Fran ois was in charge of the business side while Louis who was deeply in champagne of Houses that first and foremost embody family histories private in character but had a passion for wine and winemaking was and of the harmonious partnerships they have formed down the centuries Chantillon and Renart Le Bourg de Mareuil c 1600 31

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2 Sparkling Times 1818 1865 Sitting opposite each other by the fireside in the large Empire style study one to members of the aristocracy As shrewd businessmen they were also chilly evening in 1819 Nicolas Fran ois Billecart and his travelling salesman wary of investing all their funds in a product that was so vulnerable to Monsieur Graff were deep in conversation on a serious matter The young the whims and caprices of fortune Nicolas Fran ois was explaining his plans to start making and selling sparkling In spite of all these obstacles Nicolas Fran ois was secretly convinced that wines a radical new direction for his firm Graff was cautious this was an the future of the Champagne region lay in sparkling wines Five years area fraught with risks The process of champagnisation to produce wines earlier he had watched Cossack troops in the streets of Reims celebrating that were described as mousseux was still an empirical process that was victory over Napoleon by slashing the necks of champagne bottles with largely hit and miss Not until 1837 when the pharmacist Jean Baptiste their sabres a startling and unforgettable vision that had given him ideas Fran ois from Ch lons published his treatise on the matter would it be Since the glorious reign of Catherine the Great the Russian empire now possible to calculate with any accuracy at the moment of bottling the ruled over by Tsar Alexander I had developed as the major new market amounts of sugar required for the second fermentation Too little liqueur for champagne fought over by the most prestigious labels including and there were not enough bubbles too much and the results could be Delamotte Chanoine Jacob and Jacquesson Towering above them all was catastrophic it was not unknown for entire stocks of wine to explode during Veuve Clicquot which had positioned itself advantageously as soon as the this delicate process With losses on this scale to be taken into account Continental Blockade had been lifted and now dominated the market the production costs and the sale price had to be set very high Unable to resist a challenge Nicolas Fran ois sent Monsieur Graff to Champagne was therefore a luxury product par excellence a highly Russia and contacted two agents on the ground Witt in Moscow and desirable consumer item on which speculative investors could build Bonenblurt in St Petersburg In the first instance eighteen cases were dazzling fortunes but also an industry fraught with danger in which dispatched on consignment with orders that the bottles should be sold technical disaster could lead to financial ruin Only a handful of wine for no less than six roubles each a price that positioned Billecart Salmon merchants had so far launched themselves in this high risk area and among the grandes marques with the champagnes of lesser Houses they were based in the great capitals of champagne Reims and Epernay selling for around four roubles a bottle which were bona fide trading centres Mareuil sur A on the other Things did not get off to a good start Graff invited some twenty wine hand was just another pretty little village in the Montagne de Reims connoisseurs to tastings None of them bought a thing and it was only region These wine dealers were industrial barons with access to the because the owner was a friend of his that he managed to place six cases international networks and outlets that were essential for a wine that with the House of Labassi re in St Petersburg When Labassi re informed sold at such a prohibitive price that its potential clientele was limited him that they were unable to sell this stock a violent argument broke out 33

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which ended with them demanding that the House of Billecart Salmon of its international expertise and prominent merchants now began to should take its bottles back take an interest in its wines Notable among these was a highly respected The reason for this setback as every agent and client concurred was n gociant from Metz by the name of M yer who also wanted to sell perfectly simple the Billecart Salmon champagnes were not to the taste champagne to Russia In August 1822 he placed his first large order for of the Russians who liked their champagnes much sweeter than would two thousand bottles of the House wines have been countenanced in France A dosage of up to 300 grams of sugar Nicolas Fran ois was keen not to disappoint this client who had already per litre was not unusual with the syrupy liquid that resulted being drunk suffered a bad experience with a grower from Le Mesnil Accordingly he ice cold which was scarcely likely to do justice to the subtlety of the forwarded some sample bottles to him on the Epernay stagecoach carefully Billecart Salmon bouquet How you must regret that your wine is not like swaddling them in straw and choosing three bottles from the 1819 vintage those of the other Houses which may be lower in alcohol than your own blancs and of premi re qualit Together they demonstrated Nicolas but which are sweet and that is all the Russians require Graff wrote back Fran ois s mastery of the champagne process and his ability to produce to the House The major Champagne Houses invariably demanded that wines with rich and well developed aromas M yer was convinced I found their representatives abroad should make a close study of the tastes of the the wine rather good the bouquet quite clean and very sparkling holding different countries where they prospected for custom It was a tactic that its bubbles well If he was surprised by its sweetness which he described Billecart Salmon was yet to master as oily this was because Nicolas Fran ois had learned from experience and They had also arrived too late on the scene as the new market was already adapted the dosage of his wines to suit the Russian market saturated Graff estimated that there were already around half a million One observation threw a clear light on the genuine technical difficulties bottles of champagne waiting to be sold in Russia a huge number given to which champagne was still subject in 1822 M yer drew attention to that annual sales of champagne in France and worldwide amounted to greasy marks on the sides of two of the bottles which were in fact three million at this time and the figure included the most distinguished the sediments caused by the second fermentation These residues which labels The market was soon to collapse however and the major Houses affected the clarity of the wine were normally concentrated around the would not be spared neck of the bottle by remuage or riddling then removed by disgorgement The economic prosperity that Russia had enjoyed in the wake of the The Champagne House confessed that it was unable to eliminate them Napoleonic Wars was steadily running out of steam In the reactionary altogether if however you insist that among the two thousand bottles in backlash that ensued Alexander I imposed a raft of conservative policies your cases there should be not a single one with these marks we cannot In 1818 he called a halt to the issuing of assignats and a lack of currency promise to deliver the full amount since it is quite impossible for us to in circulation only deepened the economic downturn Merchants cast remove them Indeed remuage racks which first appeared in the region around urgently for subterfuges Graff tentatively enquired of Nicolas around 1820 did not come into general use until the 1830s Fran ois if he would be prepared to accept some form of barter system If Three decades later the Maison had earned a solid reputation dispatching I should find the opportunity to exchange your wines for local products some hundred thousand bottles annually at a time when the Champagne such as furs or tea should I venture to barter It is not unusual to encounter region as a whole sold between six and seven million bottles every year this type of deal especially nowadays when money is so scarce With a Nicolas Fran ois exported his wines throughout Europe and beyond with dearth of buyers the House was forced to sell its champagne for next to agencies in Zurich and Geneva Hamburg and Bavaria where he was nothing for fear that the bottles would spoil supplier to Prince Charles of Bavaria Turin and Milan Constantinople Every cloud has a silver lining however and the operation was far from Valparaiso in Chile and Algeria being a complete failure The venture might not have made a profit but Nicolas Fran ois was now a man of wealth and status who became the reputation of Maison Billecart Salmon had reaped rewards in terms deputy mayor of Mareuil sur A in the 1840s During an epidemic of 34

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cholera that swept through the village when most of the population pressure if the bottom of the bottle drops out like a bell this indicates barricaded themselves inside their houses for fear of catching the dread that the glass was not strong enough He stressed the importance of disease he distinguished himself by keeping open house for the sick at his having good cellars that were cool enough so as not to rush the second residence and dispensing care to all On 25 January 1863 as recorded in fermentation and in the same practical spirit he supplied them with the a volume entitled Hommage aux anciens maires de Mareuil sur A in Jean details of trustworthy glass manufacturers such as Loivre in the Marne Roland Billecart s archive public tribute was paid to his generosity and and Vaugerot et Quiquengrogne in the Aisne discretion He gave for the sake of the Gospel and not for that vainglory From Charles s correspondence with winemakers in different regions that belittles charity the virtues of the heart with which he was so richly of France we can see the emergence of the broad principles of what endowed have marked his resting place eternally with a distinction as high would become the m thode champenoise For the time being during as many an aristocratic coat of arms In 1848 in the midst of revolution the first winter after the harvest he recommended drawing the wines into he became mayor of Mareuil sur A an office in which he was noted for new barrels several times in order to clarify them For the fining which his financial rigour which left the town with a healthy bank balance and consisted of introducing a protein based substance that would coagulate a level of prosperity that it had not enjoyed for many years In precarious on contact with tannins so as to eliminate the particles in suspension health he presided over his last council meeting in 1858 He died a few he used isinglass He also knew that adding alcohol strengthened the days later like a soldier at his post according to family tradition wines and prevented the white wines from turning yellow In his liqueurs Nicolas Fran ois was succeeded at the head of the firm by his son Charles de dosage he used cognac and spirits of cognac But when it came to 1823 1888 who had probably been acting head since the beginning the second fermentation Charles along with his contemporaries was of the decade Under his leadership champagne was to enter the age of not yet aware of the existence of yeasts Not until the work of Louis science Soon the years of empiricism would be just a memory and the Pasteur 1822 1895 would the essential role of yeasts in the production colourful early beginnings of champagne would be consigned to history of carbonic acid be understood From 1837 thanks to the work of Jean Baptiste Fran ois the pharmacist Charles kept a vigilant eye on his rivals ever on the look out for any from Ch lons and the chemist Antoine Alexis Cadet de Vaux s gluco invention however insignificant that might bring about an improvement oenometer it became possible to measure the level of sugar in the wine after In 1865 for example Monsieur Modesto his agent in Milan alerted him first fermentation and therefore to calculate how much had to be added to the fact that bottles of champagne had appeared on the market with to ensure the success of the second fermentation As a result there was a new type of seal Charles immediately asked the name of the marque a dramatic decline in the numbers of exploding bottles Among Charles s almost certainly Th ophile Roederer in order to find out whether the friends was the Reims chemist Edme Jules Maumen whose research and system had been patented yet and whether it was effective publications in the field of oenology had gained an eager international Maison Billecart Salmon could now pride itself on offering a well following Charles was thus able to position the House of Billecart Salmon constructed range of wines in a well developed style the finest of which at the cutting edge of these innovations and was himself to become an were its cr mants an appellation no longer used in the Champagne expert whose advice was regularly sought by wine professionals region and which used to indicate the oldest bottles Thanks to prolonged In correspondence with the n gociants of Saumur who produced a ageing in bottles sur lattes on their sides their bouquet acquired an sparkling vin brut on the subject of how to reduce their breakages he infinite range of subtleties Charles laid down a set of criteria that could described the signs that would enable them to work out whether this be used to judge their quality a fine mousse finesse delicacy vivacity type of accident was due to the bottle or the wine when the bottle lightness and bouquet qualities that set this wine apart shatters into a thousand pieces and splits from top to bottom this means While they still dreamed of foreign markets the Billecart family never that the glass is robust and has only given way because of excessive forgot that its main market lay within France By 1860 the House had 35

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established a relationship with two hundred wholesalers In 1865 it recruited a travelling salesman whose brief was to travel the highways and byways of France in order to inspect all the agencies who distributed the House champagnes while also prospecting for new clients Indispensable attributes for this post included patience and dignity in a world in which the hierarchy of the class system was a palpable reality any ambassador for Maison Billecart Salmon had constantly to bear in mind that he represented the image of a House that perennially cultivated its wines for their soul Louis Nicolas de Lespinasse View of the Quays of the Neva between the Winter Palace and the Academy of Sciences eighteenth century Private Collection

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3 The American Dream From 1852 Business can be about more than money Highly successful businessman set off for America armed with a cargo of several thousand bottles of that he was Charles Billecart also possessed a spirit of adventure and his champagne and boundless confidence On his arrival however he soon daily diet of orders from caf owners bored him profoundly Endorsements discovered the sad truth about both the tastes of New Yorkers and the from innkeepers were all very well but Maison Billecart Salmon deserved ruthless competition he faced there The pioneers of the New World liked better Geography was one of his great loves and he was an avid reader to slake their unsophisticated thirst on beer and bourbon and were blithely of traveller s tales He dreamed of wide horizons and new continents of immune to the culture of wine which they viewed as an affectation much the lands where the future of humanity lay How could he resist the siren like using a bathtub And such a market as was already there had been solidly call of the new world that was rising on the other side of the Atlantic dominated by Charles Heidsieck who had pre empted the arrival of Maison What did life amount to without a frisson of danger Billecart Salmon The land of possibilities America was also the land of the In 1852 he made his decision he would conquer America But the New most spectacular failures Following a series of unfortunate contacts and bad World was a long way away and the ocean crossing took three weeks deals this was the fate that lay in store for Brouwer Ancher In 1859 Charles which begged the question of how he could make the journey himself discovered that the young man had embarked on his American adventure while still running the firm s affairs He would need to delegate to without any financial backing and that he had borrowed funds to set up in someone and that person had to be trustworthy The search for that business against the stocks of champagne with which he had been entrusted special person would prove long and difficult Soon he was bankrupt and went to ground breaking off all communication At first glance his initial choice seemed providential The son of his Swiss Charles had no choice but to instruct a Dutch merchant living in New York agent M yer wanted to move to New York Like father like son Charles Walter Herckenrath to wind up his American affairs assumed But his hasty decision was to prove disastrous Young M yer Distraught and embittered Charles put matters on hold But Herckenrath vanished from sight along with a stock of eighteen thousand bottles of who had wide experience of the American market persuaded him that champagne sent on consignment to New York and New Orleans The final all was not lost In the face of your insistence and the candour of your losses to the firm amounted to the equivalent of a tenth of its capital explanations Charles finally wrote to him I confess I feel slightly swayed But Charles remained intrepid and it would never have entered his mind in my resolve firm though it was to abandon the business in America to let this setback deter him In 1858 he tried again this time throwing in completely And so the assault on the New World was launched again his lot with Brouwer Archer who came from a highly reputable family of Having had his fingers burned once already Charles was determined to be Amsterdam merchants Ancher s enthusiasm was beguiling and Charles prudent however since an agent in America however loyal active and was persuaded to place his American dream in his hands The new agent intelligent he may be may sometimes be deceived in this land that is perilous for 39

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business The contract drawn up between the two parties was unambiguous jumped a hippy in ripped jeans and faded tee shirt If Jean Roland Billecart once the champagne had been delivered to Le Havre the agent was responsible Director of the House at the time was secretly a bit taken aback by his for all costs and for any future defaults on payments Herckenrath possessed visitor s appearance he did not let this show in the smallest flicker of surprise one major advantage he fully understood the passion for showiness cherished and instead greeted him warmly and offered him a tasting To his immense among nouveau riche circles in America and as a result he urged Charles surprise he discovered that beneath this alternative exterior lay a true wine to adopt a showier type of packaging Henceforth every bottle destined for connoisseur from California Kermit Lynch was soon to become the first the American market bore a label declaring it a Grand vin Imp rial and was person to import Billecart Salmon champagnes to the American West Coast embellished with a tin frill Herckenrath also knew how to make use of the A skilled salesman Lynch gradually extended his conquests as far as the press and embarked on an ostentatious advertising campaign encouraged by Mississippi the legendary frontier between the western and eastern Charles Leave no stone unturned to ensure success since where champagne states of America For the eastern states the firm recruited a second is concerned it is all or nothing you have to apply yourself seriously and actively importer who was firmly established in New York Robert Chadderdon In or not bother at all Half measures will achieve nothing the commercial battle that rapidly ensued Chadderdon proved victorious Back at Mareuil sur A Charles selected his finest vintages 1857 and 1858 winning virtually the whole of the North American territory for his agency to send to America Furthermore to combat the prejudice that was inevitably in 1993 The decisive weapon in his armoury was the Billecart Salmon faced by a marque that was unfamiliar he agreed to lower his prices The Ros champagne which was highly coveted in America Chadderdon was essential thing was to get the House name known I am happy with a modest to do an impressive job in placing Billecart Salmon Champagnes with the profit and I know that you have to make a few sacrifices in the beginning most distinguished wine merchants and restaurants so enhancing the Maison Billecart Salmon champagnes were starting to be appreciated as marque s reputation for maintaining the highest standards evidenced by the fact that a wine merchant by the name of Nicholas Purdy In 2010 the Maison set up its own American subsidiary appointing as its who had bought champagnes of the Herckenrath marque for his own business director Geoffrey Loisel who had considerable experience of champagne was enthusiastic enough to want to buy direct from the House in the American market aided by Antoine Roland Billecart Deputy There was a long way to go yet however and the events of history were General Director in charge of exports and Alexandre Bader General to stand in the way of the growing relationship between America and Director Setting out to continue and expand the groundwork that Robert Billecart Salmon champagnes The Revolutionary War was now raging Chadderdon had laid within a few years Geoffrey Loisel made sure that and to finance its army the American government imposed swingeing every state had its own bespoke distributor import taxes at its borders Luxury products were a particular target with In fact American tastes had undergone a considerable evolution The customs duties rising to as much as 75 per cent Troubled times favour development of the great Californian vineyards had given America its fraudulent activities and one of Herckenrath s associates now swindled the own winemaking identity accompanied by a genuine culture of wine firm by fiddling the rate of exchange Charles was forced to acknowledge The rigour of the Billecart Salmon vinification methods and the variety of that if business in general was ruled by the law of the jungle America was its cuv es coupled with its talent for innovation all attracted a discerning still the Wild West Wearily he wrote to Walter Herckenrath Whatever American public especially among the younger generation In 2015 the case you have to agree that up to now my American affairs have 160 years after the marque s first fruitless attempts America became never been favourable to me which is enough to put me off for good the world s biggest importer of Billecart Salmon champagnes Billecart For good Not quite But it was not until the late twentieth century that Salmon topped the list of sparkling wines in Wine and Spirits magazine Maison Billecart Salmon gained an American foothold once more It was and no fewer than 350 restaurants and 120 wine merchants included all down to a remarkable episode that unfolded in Mareuil sur A One them on their wine lists At the dawn of the twenty first century Charles day in the early 1980s a camper van drew up outside the House and out Billecart s stubbornly held dream had at last become a reality 40

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Charles R Parsons Birds eye View of New York City c 1856 Label from the late 1850s bearing the name of Maison Billecart Salmon s American distributor Brouwer Ancher The arms are those of the Bavarian court 41

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4 Tisane de Champagne From 1860 The narrow strip of the English Channel might be all that separates quality of his wines It was all a matter of form and of commercial the British Isles from France but the two countries were worlds apart diplomacy There could be no entr e into Victorian England corseted or so Charles Billecart must have reflected one day in 1860 as his in its colonial success like a great girdle of self satisfaction without an hand trembling in his disbelief as all his Cartesian certainties were introduction If Britannia ruled the waves Charles reflected he would rudely challenged he put down a letter he had just received about outflank her Instead of aiming directly at the heart of the empire he his champagne from a Mr Whythers an important client of his English would set his sights on the vast market offered by the British colonies It agency Mr Whythers did not beat about the bush I cannot drink it was a stroke of genius He would make Billecart Salmon the champagne Charles was not a foolish man He was quite prepared to accept that a of the Antipodes carrying it to the farthest flung corners of the world wine might please to varying degrees and be more or less suited to the Liverpool was at this time the beating heart of the new global network the specific tastes of a country and that we should sometimes expect to hear hub of emerging markets The city port and docks teemed with activity like a observations that derive from the variety as well as the eccentricity of modern day Tower of Babel Happily Charles Billecart had a personal guide tastes The searing recollection of his Russian experience was etched in in the person of the English merchant Samuel Sandbach who had built his memory But to describe his champagne as undrinkable It left you up a remarkable international trade network In 1854 he had succeeded speechless and made you just want to give up the whole thing in selling Billecart Salmon champagnes in Demerara in what had become He had no choice though It was time to enter the fray again to tread British Guyana in 1831 on the north coast of South America Contrary to the uncertain line between forwardness and restraint For if the conquest all expectations the affair proved highly lucrative For Sandbach the next of America was a utopian ambition the conquest of the British market step was Australia Charles had no hesitation in following him was a necessity The British did not make their own wine but they were The first cases of Billecart Salmon were unloaded in Australia in 1860 at shrewd judges of it and drank it in quantities It was the British who had the port of Geelong on the magnificent Corio Bay in the state of Victoria launched the fashion for sparkling wines from the Champagne region It was less than a hundred kilometres south west of Melbourne but it in the seventeenth century and who had also encouraged a longer might just as well have been on the surface of the moon So new was fermentation in the cask for the wines of Bordeaux which they preferred the settlement Europeans had first arrived there in 1800 and within a dark and tannic To put it plainly Charles could not do without his British few decades had driven out the local Aborigine population that Charles clientele or their approval could not even locate it on a map The intrepid explorer slumbering within Perfidious Albion was about to meet its equal in Gallic cunning Charles him was delighted his wine would play an instrumental part in bringing was convinced that this snub had nothing whatsoever to do with the civilization to this uncharted region Nor was he entirely wrong in this 43

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Geelong today has some of the most highly reputed vineyards in Australia the challenge the English were conservative by nature wary on principle Fortune was to favour these pioneers in the distribution of champagne of anything new and attached to the marques that they knew Luring When Charles s son and heir Pol 1854 1916 married Jeanne Gosset them away would be a tall order The only way to persuade them to try his in 1901 he brought a new dimension to the business building on the wines would be by offering them at a tempting price but certainly not at a foundations laid by his father In the Billecart family affairs of the heart often discount which far from being attractive was simply not the way business overlapped with business matters Reims capital of the French worsted was done in London The only solution was therefore to start prices low industry imported merino wool from Australia and by a happy coincidence and not to raise them until the marque had achieved recognition Charles the Gosset family had made their fortune from textile manufacture Rather was also well aware of the difficulty of the task that faced his agent He than letting their ships sail with empty holds the Gosset family loaded therefore went out of his way to offer him reassurance in the form of an them with Billecart Salmon champagnes so renewing the bonds between exceptional ten year contract made even more attractive by the addition wool and champagne that had helped to create the first international of an exclusivity clause champagne network in the eighteenth century For true connoisseurs such as the British first impressions were naturally of Charles s excursions to the British colonies were by no means fruitless crucial importance Knowing that he would be given no second chances as they introduced him to the tastes eccentricities and sometimes Charles selected his vintages with particular care and with the help of a contradictory expectations of the British On Gibraltar Colonel Laffan was British expert Caution was the order of the day I have just tasted the imperious in his demands for champagnes that were at once less sweet 1874s again I still find them very young The British like mature wines and less bitter Since acidity was often associated with dryer wines to and I believe we would be wise to leave the production of these new which less sugar had been added the colonel was advised to allow his types until next spring bottles to age for longer Another customer complained that after his Finally Charles very quickly understood the attraction to the British of the champagne had been opened for twenty four hours it was no longer fact that his was a family firm As dyed in the wool royalists the British drinkable Another made a song and dance about supplies of tisane de were impressed by the House pedigree that stretched back to Nicolas champagne a light variety of champagne that is sweeter less alcoholic Fran ois Charles had no hesitation in rapidly following up this advantage and has fewer bubbles produced by unsuccessful second fermentations with his young son Pol now a worthy ambassador for the marque In France it was considered of inferior quality yet British demand for it I believe like you that these visits by the agent in the company of the was so high that Billecart Salmon had run out of stock son of the House will bring good results he wrote This tangible pedigree Far from making fun of these demands Charles invariably took them endowed Maison Billecart Salmon with all the aura of a venerable marque seriously Young British aristocrats had first launched the fashion for Despite all these determined efforts the drive to distribute Billecart champagne in the seventeenth century after all when the presence of Salmon champagnes in Britain fizzled out and it was not until the 1990s bubbles was viewed as a flaw by the winemakers of the Champagne that Fran ois Roland Billecart born in 1947 who with his brother formed region and the idea of creating them deliberately as a ridiculous the sixth generation decided to breathe new life into the market In the eccentricity Charles was therefore disinclined to underestimate his British 1980s Jean Roland Billecart had managed to establish the beginnings clients Instead he listened to them in the full knowledge that this was a of an operation with the aid of Mark Savage a Master of Wine who market made up of connoisseurs who were deserving of respect lived in a village in the Cotswolds and who ensured that Billecart Salmon On their return to Britain clients from the colonies formed an exclusive champagnes were f ted at all the most exclusive garden parties of the circle of keen aficionados of the Billecart Salmon marque In 1874 season But only one London restaurant had Billecart Salmon champagnes emboldened by this knowledge and armed with the valuable advice of a on its wine list a state of affairs that Fran ois was determined to change new agent Charles set out to conquer England He did not under estimate As a new Director of the House he decided in 1993 to set up a subsidiary 44

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headed by Colin Palmer Mark Savage s former Commercial Director Now regular blind tastings that soon persuaded even the most reticent clients Fran ois would have a permanent contact in a market that he visited to embrace these new developments Among his notable triumphs he several times every year and he and Colin became close friends particularly remembers a tasting organized over twenty years ago by Berry Thanks to Jean Roland Billecart and Mark Savage Billecart Salmon had Bros and Rudd who have been selling fine wines from their St James s become a champagne for connoisseurs sought out by a coterie of premises since 1698 when a Billecart Salmon Ros emerged among the celebrated wine writers such as Tom Stevenson who were enchanted by finest of the grandes marques Billecart Salmon champagnes have been its quality But the fact remained that after a century and a half the British a feature of the venerable wine merchant s list ever since When Palmer had not changed very much and they remained diehard conservatives in heard about the Ros s success he was driving with Fran ois Roland their tastes Colin Palmer knew that it would be pointless to try his luck Billecart beside him He greeted the news with complete sang froid before with the traditional grand restaurants of London Shrewdly he set his winding all the windows down and leaning on the horn yelling at the top sights on new establishments that seemed to him to be both promising of his voice like a triumphant football fan The friendship between the two and seeking out that subtle combination of tradition and innovation that men has now extended quite naturally into a friendship between Palmer had forged the success of the marque a good match for the Billecart and Fran ois s son Nicolas Roland Billecart the seventh generation of the Salmon image He set up a partnership with Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray s Billecart family and its latest ambassador to Britain River Caf the famous Italian restaurant in a picturesque Thames side Meanwhile the former colonies have not forgotten Billecart Salmon setting where a succession of great London chefs were to work and either The Australian adventure gained its second wind from the late through Matthew Jukes at Terence Conran and Paul Hamlyn s Bibendum 1970s thanks to Gary Steel an airline pilot with Ansett who set up named after the Michelin man and housed in the iconic Art Deco Domaine Wine Shippers which became known as the Australian importer Michelin House in South Kensington Colin Palmer had demonstrated of Billecart Salmon champagnes and other fine wines a masterly flair within a few years both restaurants were among the Antoine Roland Billecart Fran ois s brother who runs the House export trendiest eating spots in London For Maison Billecart Salmon this was a department still remembers the day when this giant of a man a former tremendous step forwards as it now had a place on some of the most commando in the jungles of Burma arrived at Mareuil An understanding prestigious tables in London soon developed between the two men even though Gary s only words One of the features of conservatism especially in matters of taste is loyalty of French were J ai soif I m thirsty and Antoine introduced the for a quarter of a century now both the River Caf and Bibendum have Australian to his winegrower friends For three summers in a row they continued to serve Billecart Salmon champagne But an agent s work is set off together on unforgettable tours of Burgundy Alsace and C tes du never done and it is their job to keep clients up to date with the latest Rh ne Gary fell in love with France and bought a house outside Beaune innovations of the House such as Le Clos Saint Hilaire 2003 and the Brut And Australia now buys over a hundred thousand bottles of Champagne Sous Bois 2011 With the deftness of a diplomat Colin Palmer organized Billecart Salmon every year 45

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5 Wager of a Dandy 1886 1921 The year was 1900 and since April and the opening of the Exposition and roofed with curvaceous vaulting that seemed to fizz and bubble like Universelle by President Emile Loubet the eyes of the world had been fixed its wines In the great hall the name of Billecart Salmon was engraved in on Paris With the magnificent illumination by seventy thousand gas jets of flowing script among those of its peers The House could scarcely have the place du Trocad ro and its palace a curious amalgam of the Moorish hoped for better publicity In the space of barely eight months the Palais and neo Byzantine styles left over from the great exhibition of 1878 the du Champagne was to receive no fewer than two million visitors from French capital was truly the city of light For Pol Billecart and his fellow throughout France and the world Whether they came from Brittany or citizens the twentieth century that was just beginning was also filled with Alsace Argentina or Hungary visitors to the Exposition would not soon light and with the promise brought by advances in science and technology forget the early talkies by the Lumi re brothers they saw projected there War was a thing of the past they believed and poverty was on the way to the first moving pavement they were able to ride on dubbed the rue being eradicated Admittedly beneath the jovial exterior of this prosperous de l Avenir Road of the Future or the taste of the Billecart Salmon middle class republic there lay smouldering conflicts Politics and newspaper champagnes they sampled there columns were filled with arguments between free thinkers and supporters The Palais du Champagne combined the pleasures of tasting with the of clericalism but champagne was at hand to soothe troubled spirits and virtues of education In its cellars the n gociants re created a complete this was its golden age What other wine was served in both bishops shipping department from riddling to labelling and sealing Like the palaces and ritzy brothels Was this not what mattered after all other Houses involved Billecart Salmon contributed to the rota of In character Pol embodied the image of his times cheerful carefree staff sending its cellar men to Paris for the first time in their lives in hedonistic and generous Plump and mustachioed his sober suits many cases for a few days at a time At the heart of this display lay a enlivened by colourful waistcoats he sported that discreetly raffish air fundamental change in approach henceforth the world of champagne that is the charm of the true dandy He too believed in the future and wanted to present itself not as a traditional craft but rather as an industry especially in the future of Maison Billecart Salmon and for this reason he Mechanization it demonstrated guaranteed precision and accuracy and had chosen to take an active part in the organization of the Exposition hence quality There was therefore no question of showcasing the gesture Universelle as a patron of the famous Palais du Champagne Glasses of of d gorgement la vol e however glamorous it might be instead the his champagnes would therefore be served alongside those of the thirty public was encouraged to marvel at a new technique of disgorgement one other Champagne Houses that took part in this immense project involving ice and machines for sealing bottles The building was a sublime confection decorated with foliage fronds in Billecart Salmon viewed itself as being in the avant garde of champagne the Art Nouveau style that evoked the vines of the Champagne region and was an early adopter of every technical innovation of the period In 47

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Lyon in 1902 it was selected as the champagne of choice of the exclusive never alone on the C te d Azur In the winter the whole of society from clubs of bicycling enthusiasts known as cyclophiles At this time cycling Russian aristocrats to American millionaires thronged the casinos on was still a sport reserved for a wealthy elite with the first Tour de France the Croisettes in Cannes and Nice Why bother to cross the ocean when in 1903 attracting barely sixty riders The bicycle itself was in a state of potential customers flocked to France of their own volition there to taste constant evolution with improvements such as the free wheel and ball Billecart Salmon champagnes Monsieur Portal the firm s local agent bearings arriving only at the end of the decade Claude Alabrune the local secured healthy sales while Pol was only too happy to mix business with agent for Billecart Salmon was thus jubilant when this exclusive coterie pleasure in such an agreeable fashion chose his champagne On Saturday evening the Cyclophiles gave their At Mareuil sur A Pol kept a steam barge Le Djinn on which he loved to ball a very popular occasion and Billecart was a great success Which organize cruises up and down the Marne in a style that would not have means that with the medical cycling fraternity we surely have some fine been out of place in a Maupassant short story Visitors would be charmed days ahead of us as he lured them away from the gloomy depths of the cellars to picnics Alcohol and sport do not mix as we now know but at this time on board amid a picturesque flurry of starched white tablecloths boaters champagne was viewed as an energy drink From Pasteur on people had and lace parasols Some were even moved to express themselves in verse been convinced of the health giving properties of wine and champagne Pilot should I be saved by your hand producers had exploited this with some flair Unlike the many sparkling From sandbanks waves and wind wines that were available champagne s fizz was natural and invigorating I shall bow my bare head Taking this to its logical conclusion champagne was credited with Before your sextant and tiller fostering a long and healthy life and Claude Alabrune encouraged Saved Above my glass appears numerous doctors to prescribe doses of Billecart Salmon champagne The golden neck of a bottle specially presented in quarter bottles for the purpose to their patients Of Billecart carte blanche The idea caught on No French First World War medicine chest was Gaily shooting its stopper to the skies complete without its quarter bottle of champagne and in the 1930s My hungry lips caress numerous treatises were published on the therapeutic uses of champagne Your foam white goddess A paper by a certain Dr Gu nard on The Use of Champagne in the As ecstasy rises sweetly Operating Suite was a particular success It was easy to cast doubt on From Mareuil and its song the scientific foundations of these theories but this did not trouble the But there was one cloud on the horizon Pol and Jeanne had no children champagne producers who went out of their way to offer a few cases to Rather than allow disappointment to sink into despair Pol turned his the senior members of the Soci te des M decins Amis du Vin Doctors affections to his nephew Charles Roland eldest son of his sister Juliette Wine Appreciation Society in order to encourage them in their beliefs a fine young man who had had a difficult childhood His father Lucien At Mareuil sur A meanwhile Pol led a quiet life peacefully developing Roland a banker at Rethel had gone bankrupt in 1886 a victim of the the firm building new storerooms and enlarging the existing cellars and depression that swept Europe at this time Since he had lost his reputation feeling no urge whatsoever to follow in his father s footsteps by travelling in France he set sail for Argentina where a building boom of new towns the world in search of fresh adventures and new markets On the rare was under way The company he set up to import building materials was occasions when he set off on a round of visits to his agents he would a success but Lucien missed his family so much that that he sold up and invariably manage a week at most before declaring himself exhausted returned to Mareuil to work with his brother in law Pol His son Charles and seeking refuge on the Riviera there to recline on a sun lounger and who had been born in 1886 had by this time completed his studies in contemplate the Mediterranean glass of champagne in hand He was business and German and in 1907 went to work for an import export 48

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business in Hamburg It was at this point that Pol called him back to He was also a man of conviction France at this time was going through Mareuil Pol had made his decision he would make Charles his successor a major political crisis In 1905 the separation of church and state had In 1921 Charles obtained legal permission to add his mother s maiden given rise to both passionate support and violent opposition As a fervent name to his own and so the Roland Billecart dynasty was born monarchist Charles was convinced that only the return of the king could An adventurous young man Charles travelled far and wide for the House get the country back on track He could scarcely have imagined then that while his ageing uncle travelled even less than he had before In his spare during his tenure the firm would suffer the darkest times in its history He time Charles also raced Terrot motorcycles and on one occasion won a would need all his strength of character and his considerable energies in championship by virtue of being the only competitor once bad roads order to steer it through the deluge of crises that was to rain down upon and unreliable engines had taken their toll to cross the finishing line it between 1914 and 1945 A Belle Epoque picnic on the banks of the Marne The hatless figure in the centre is Pol Billecart 49

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6 N gociant and High Flier 1914 1918 In the sultry heat of the summer of 1914 the dramatic news dropped At Maison Billecart Salmon a different and no less glorious battle like a thunderbolt France was at war Only three years before Charles was being waged The Germans had lost no time in invading the Roland Billecart had completed two years of military service and now Champagne region and from there they menaced Paris In the space of he was mobilized along with his motorcycle with orders to act as liaison a few days Mareuil sur A was occupied Fortunately however on 7 and between command posts For a young man who dreamed of adventure 8 September a counter offensive was launched with reinforcements these duties rapidly paled into monotony so in 1916 he gained his supplied with the aid of the legendary fleet of the taxis of the Marne pilot s licence and enlisted with the air force Before the Germans had time to loot the cellars the front line was The war that he discovered in the air was altogether different from the pushed back some twenty kilometres in what was to become known mud and carnage of the trenches Among pilots there was a certain as the Miracle of the Marne and there it remained virtually stationary spirit of chivalry that chimed with his monarchist ideals This was a war throughout the rest of the war But for the vineyard workers of fought with passion on both sides with its own code of honour It was Champagne who worked daily to the sound of artillery fire it was like also a less anonymous conflict in which you knew your enemies On a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads the eve of the outbreak of war indeed French and German pilots had Mareuil sur A was now a fallback position and troops were a new mingled together in the Champagne region at one of the very first feature of daily life while Maison Billecart Salmon was requisitioned as international air shows a barracks as a member of staff wrote to Monsieur Eug ne Couronne in Charles s principal mission was to shoot down zeppelins the dirigible Clermont Ferrand on 17 April 1915 At Mareuil we are well protected airships used by the Germans to spot Allied positions He rapidly our garrison which consisted of 400 men with 160 trucks has just been distinguished himself earning the Croix de Guerre promotion to the reinforced with 1000 cavalry dragoons hussars and chasseurs who rank of Pilot Officer and a mention in the Fifth Army s dispatches A have returned from the front to rest until the push forward comes but very dynamic young pilot On 7 May 1917 while on patrol with two when will that be other crewmen he engaged two enemy aircraft in combat one of which Inevitably the impact on international trade was huge and the dangers crashed in flames over our lines Doubtless he and his fellow crewmen and disorganization caused by the conflict held surprises in store for celebrated their victory that day with a bottle of Billecart Salmon His some of the House champagnes One cargo of sixty cases had been superior officers had been happy to grant him a day s leave to go back to dispatched to Australia in the summer of 1914 via a German navigation Mareuil sur A and keep an eye on the running of the firm on condition company As the ship steamed out of Antwerp the captain was that he brought back stocks of champagne for the officers mess in return surprised by the declaration of war He sought refuge at Rio de Janeiro 51

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a major port in neutral Brazil in order not to fall into the clutches of could scarcely get hold of 3000 So I took advantage of this to push our Germany s new enemy Australia which was naturally an ally of Britain fine marque Billecart Salmon champagne even appeared on the table Amid the general chaos the cargo of champagne vanished After the of Jules M line the Minister for Agriculture war questions began to be asked Had the captain sold the champagne Keeping production going was no easy task however Billecart Salmon locally Had the crew drunk it Had the Brazilian government seized had to cope with shortages of every kind First and foremost among it All the parties involved passed the buck while the local authorities these was the lack of manpower In addition to the war a wave of turned a deaf ear despite the interventions of the French ambassador unrelated deaths cut a swathe through the management In 1916 Pol There was every reason to suppose that the local customs officers were Billecart died suddenly from a heart attack Two years later his sister aficionados of Billecart Salmon Not until 1927 thirteen long years later Juliette Roland was carried off by the Spanish flu as she tended to her did Charles win his case before a Franco German court son Louis Charles s brother who was also ill And finally the whole Convinced at first that the war would soon be over Pol Billecart then aged of the senior management team succumbed with the deaths in quick sixty slowed the pace of his purchases from the winegrowers who supplied succession of Eug ne Couronne the travelling salesman Louis Salmon him thinking he could put the firm on hold until the end of hostilities Cellar Manager and L on Cordier Office Manager These veterans who But as the front line remained immovable after Christmas 1914 he was had given the House over forty years of loyal service had continued to forced to acknowledge that the war would drag on Pol therefore decided work despite suffering from fatigue and illness refusing to abandon to work with the situation and start the business up again especially ship as the storm raged around them as the internal market had now revived and so provided him with the Meanwhile the workforce had been decimated by mobilization although means to do so Soldiers on leave behind the lines wanted to forget the many of these conscripts willingly sacrificed their precious days of leave horrors of the front Faced with the manifest fragility of life everyone was to help out their former employer Conversely having troops billeted on gripped by a furious desire to party Champagne meanwhile became them had one bonus for the firm as off duty conscripts would lend a the symbol of resistance to Germany The Champagne Houses on the hand albeit in a fairly random fashion as they were the first to admit front line which continued to work under artillery fire seemed to be an in the cellars The management issued an appeal for help to its retired irritant to the German troops After the fire that gutted its cathedral on cellar men and fathers took the place of their sons who had gone to 19 September 1914 Reims was raised to the level of national martyrdom fight Some posts proved more difficult to fill than others however such Who would have thought that drinking champagne would come to be as maintaining the few acres of vineyards that the Maison had retained viewed as a truly patriotic gesture Could they reasonably ask anyone to leave the safety of the cellars in order In this new state of affairs Billecart Salmon found itself occupying an to brave the shelling In some circumstances it appeared that indeed they advantageous position Its buildings were still intact whereas the working could as Paulin Chauffour wrote to Charles Roland on 13 March 1918 buildings of the Reims Houses less than two kilometres from the enemy We have just informed Jacquemin that he will have to go and work in the lines had all been destroyed by shells The civilian population had vineyards if he does not want to be recalled to his army corps meanwhile taken refuge in their overcrowded cellars Their production On top of the lack of manpower the Maison soon faced shortages had collapsed and champagne had become a rare commodity in supplies of essential materials and equipment The glassworks that So it was that from 1916 orders flowed into Billecart Salmon Its normally supplied their bottles had either been destroyed by shelling overworked agents were delighted to prise markets away from rival like the Charbonneaux factory in Reims or were now behind enemy Houses that had run out of stock Louis Mazaud the agent in Saint lines Finding new supplies took considerable ingenuity Through his Etienne could scarcely contain his delight The Casino told me that they agents Charles launched a major recycling operation to recover used all by themselves bought 6000 bottles each month and that they bottles and corks an ad hoc solution that brought with it its own 52

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complications The bottles had to be washed using steel wool which Paulin s ability to turn his hand to anything was to be the salvation of scratched the glass thus increasing the risk of the bottles becoming the Maison In 1918 when Louis Salmon s fragile health meant he could gerbeuses meaning that when they were opened the champagne no longer be hands on in the cellars it was Paulin who made up for his sprayed out in a great fountain The corks meanwhile were soaked in lack of experience by being an exceedingly quick learner who oversaw oxalic acid in order to bleach them before being dried in the attics This the whole of the bottling operation This baptism of fire took place in treatment hardened them which meant they had a tendency to split the the worst possible conditions moreover Tirage began in March which bottles during corking and disgorgement so putting the safety of the that year was exceptionally cold The cellars were too cold for a good already depleted workforce at risk prise de mousse There was only one solution to bring the wines up The sugar and alcohol needed for the liqueur de tirage and the liqueur from the cellars to the main storeroom and to heat the space But how d exp dition were now rationed Alcohol in particular was of strategic were they to find the coal they needed always a rare commodity in time importance as it was used in the production of the Poudre B that was of war It was almost impossible to buy Paulin went to the gasworks used as a propellant in shells Monsieur Salmon who was in charge of at Epernay where he exchanged 1200 kilos of anthracite for the same the cellars therefore reserved it for his finest cuv es weight of ordinary coal a bad deal but the champagne had to be And last but not least the price of grapes after collapsing in 1914 saved come what may had recovered and there was now a shortage as L on Cordier the Office The month that followed would be of crucial importance for the cuv e Manager noted with disquiet On top of the frankly poor grape harvest levels of anxiety rose as all scrutinized the progress of the second of 1916 we are now experiencing more serious shortages A lack of fermentation Paulin took some samples to a chemist in Epernay for manpower in the wine industry has meant that the vines in many parts tests The results were reassuring examination under a microscope of of the vineyards have been abandoned this decline in production will be the wine bottled a fortnight ago will demonstrate that fermentation felt for a long time to come The vines required constant attention For is good and active and there is every reason to hope that the prise de lack of it phylloxera had spread more widely in three years than it had in mousse will take place in the normal way The addition of the liqueur the previous three decades The Maison was therefore eager to buy any de tirage to begin the second fermentation was a particularly delicate wines that were offered and took full advantage of the more abundant process Allowance had to be made for the poor quality and weakness grape harvest of 1917 placing orders for forty thousand kilos from its of some of the recycled bottles and as a precaution a dosage that was agents in Champillon Hautvillers and Cumi res alone It also acquired lower in sugar was used to create a lower pressure and temper the stocks of wines from the outstanding vintage of 1914 a wise decision degree of effervescence as the harvest of 1918 was to prove disastrous providing a mere tenth On 4 April the second fermentation was successfully completed with of the average yield only minor collateral damage Two or three of the first bottles shattered Faced with so many challenges Charles who had taken over the running with a small explosion Everyone could breathe a sigh of relief of the firm after his uncle s death recruited the ideal man to help him Now the war posed further threats to the vintage In March 1918 Paulin Chauffour was a man of maturity and long experience in the liberated from the Russian front by the separate peace of Brest Litovsk business from an old Mareuil sur A family that had produced several the Germans launched a massive spring offensive known afterwards generations of n gociants who had recently returned from America He as the Ludendorff Offensive which shattered the Allied lines Those was to be Charles s eyes and ears at the heart of the business writing to at Billecart Salmon feared the worst any advance however small or him virtually daily with any problems he encountered and even sending short lived it might be would bring looting As a safety precaution sample bottles to him at the front so that he could taste the wines or all the champagne was taken down into the cellars even if this meant give his opinion on a new type of cork interrupting the tirage and disgorgement Everyone put their faith in 53

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the long awaited arrival of the Americans who had recently joined the properly Fortunately the German army s retreat at the beginning of August Allied cause and who would it was hoped rid the region of these came just in time to avert the need for this complicated feat of gymnastics murderous hordes for good Paulin Chauffour s son Henri had himself What was the outcome of these dark days The experience of the horrors been sent to New Orleans where he was in charge of training American of war tended to bring people together and it is touching to note how troops Among the workforce in spite of the danger no one lost their the business correspondence in the archives invariably contains news of head and no one thought of leaving young men who were at the front Claude Alabrune s son Samuel who Yet as summer arrived the front line crept menacingly closer On 18 July was the same age as Charles had been sent to Alsace where the troops Paulin expressed his concerns to Claude Alabrune the agent in Lyon lived like moles and he was storing up all kinds of rheumatism for his Shells are falling around Mareuil as I write The military authorities are old age The elderly L on Cordier meanwhile recounted the exploits of inviting local people to evacuate We are at the mercy of orders that his young employer as though he were his own son will force us to leave the region abandoning everything to looters While Maison Billecart Salmon teetered on the brink of destruction Epernay is subject to relentless shelling with not a single business open Cordier and Alabrune fell to musing on the future of the House once Supplies of any kind however minor are impossible to find There is no peace was restored They had no doubt that Samuel and Charles like form of transportation any more our means of production are becoming their parents before them would continue to work hand in hand and increasingly scarce We no longer know what lies in store for us Aircraft that they would restore the Lyon region to the dominant position it flew overhead constantly dropping their bombs over the surrounding occupied historically a belief that was to prove prophetic as the Lyon area At night the workforce had to seek shelter in the cellars The market was to become one of the marque s most important outlets bombing did little damage however and claimed no lives in the 1920s On the declaration of the armistice of 11 November Charles asked his salesmen to stop taking orders and the French army 1918 Charles could thus count on a team united by the experience of recommended transferring the champagne to M con sur Sa ne in bloodshed and the trenches and ready to embark on the adventure of Burgundy It was a herculean task that would take months to organize post war reconstruction 54

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Charles Roland Billecart in the cockpit of his aeroplane during the First World War 55

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7 The Sheltering Hill 1919 1945 It was April 1919 and Charles Roland Billecart was on his motorbike just Charles s forethought was to put him in a strong position when his rivals a few kilometres now from his family home The morning air was cool his were forced to borrow funds in order to replenish their stocks leather jacket billowed in the wind and a wonderful feeling of freedom In the face of the meagre grape harvests yielded by vineyards that washed over him It felt as though new horizons were opening up as had been a battlefield for so long what strategy should he adopt though he was casting off the burden of four years of the horrors and Charles took stock analysed his position and made a bold decision bloodshed of war All around him stretched scenes of desolation Reims the He chose to diversify launching the sparkling Emile Billecart marque capital of Champagne was reduced to rubble the Montagne de Reims the and compensating for the lack of local grapes by using wines from the great forest fringed with vineyards that stretched from Reims to Epernay Loire And it was all perfectly legal as the word champagne appeared looked like some sinister city of the dead But life was reasserting itself nowhere on the label all the same People were busily patching up walls building houses or at In this way Charles succeeded in giving the Maison a much needed least cobbling together makeshift dwellings As Charles drove round the boost The only snag lay in his determination typically to maintain the last bend in Mareuil sur A and through the old gateway Paulin Chauffour highest standards forgetting that where sparkling wines were concerned the Office Manager hurried out to welcome him the most important factor was keeping prices affordable The buyers of Taking Paulin with him Charles went off straight away to greet the all the major department stores from Les Docks R mois to Goulet Turpin workers and their families sharing a few words with them all paying responded in chorus There can be no doubt that your wine is of higher tribute to those they had lost Then he sprinted down the endless steps quality than our current supplier s and we are very familiar with Maison leading to the cellars taking them four at a time There he found an Billecart Salmon but your price is too high But rather than reduce their alarming state of affairs with stocks depleted to barely 75 000 bottles prices and their quality Billecart Salmon chose to return to what they did There were no two ways about it building up stocks again was an urgent best making champagne priority Given the level of destruction in the vineyards Charles was well Now it was a question of squaring the circle again how could they loosen aware that there would soon be a shortage of grapes and prices would the stranglehold that the price of grapes exerted on the price of a bottle rise Through the early years of the next decade he took advantage of of champagne There was only one way to add value to their product prices that were still relatively affordable to build up his stocks again and raise it to a new level In this they had a lot of room for manoeuvre a strategy that would prove fully justified in the years that followed In Billecart Salmon relied largely on wholesale wine merchants and liqueur 1928 when Maison Billecart Salmon was selling its champagne for barely sellers who supplied bulk sales to small caf s hotels and inns But now sixteen francs a bottle the price of a kilogram of grapes rose to ten francs the liqueur sellers were themselves on the decline 57

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The challenge was clear Billecart Salmon needed to target a more who are highly respectable and who are members as far as possible of the prestigious clientele who would restore the firm s former lustre But society circles that they intend to visit With this in mind we recommend where could they find this clientele at a time when the post war lost retired military officers among others as potential employees A number generation wanted nothing more than to drown their sorrows and the of different social backgrounds was scoured including doctors aristocrats memory of their dead The answer lay in the grand hotels fashionable and engineers in order to penetrate as many elite social circles as possible restaurants and dance halls where bright young things shimmied and Though new and untested the strategy was to bear fruit In the late whirled to the beat of the jazz age where champagne flowed freely and 1920s Billecart Salmon was one of the very few Champagne Houses to flapper girls drank it through straws careless of the uncertainties the next succeed in pulling off the tour de force of simultaneously raising their day would bring prices and increasing their sales The gap between Billecart Salmon and Wholesalers had not yet realized the promise that this market represented the grandes marques was narrowing Up to this time it had been House so exploiting it would mean setting up a new sales network Alongside policy to supply champagne of an equivalent quality to those of their rivals his traditional agents Charles recruited a team of a new breed of sales at a lower price Their champagnes were therefore a more affordable representative professionals who specialized in luxury goods and who alternative to marques of the highest prestige and it was only when the already had an entr e into the most exclusive circles This new position grandes marques raised their prices that they ventured to follow suit would have to enjoy a generous commission as these individuals needed Now by closing the gap between their prices and those of the grandes to give the impression of being independently wealthy in circles where marques Billecart Salmon was starting to throw off its subservient status generous tips to sommeliers were de rigueur The Billecart Salmon and assert its autonomous position representatives were initiated into the arcane mysteries of selling The 1930s sounded the death knell for these easy times The Great champagne in such exclusive premises and they quickly learned that often Depression hit the luxury industries with full force and struck the the best way to gain an owner s favour was via their lowlier employees Champagne region like a thunderbolt The grape shortage that had who were always worthy of their attention Getting their champagnes on afflicted the second half of the 1920s was followed by a glut that brought to the wine list was not enough in itself when it came to recommending about a collapse in prices Billecart Salmon was not as badly hit as some a particular marque of champagne and pouring it at table it was the other Houses at a time when Houses with extensive vineyards were waiting staff who counted suffering from high production costs it reaped the benefits of not owning Soon it became clear that there was another market that was eluding the much land It had also been wise enough to avoid borrowing in order to Maison the prosperous middle classes comprising notably industrialists replenish its stocks in the late 1920s and eventually managed to fill its bankers brokers and the like who frequently give dinners receptions cellars once more when the price of grapes had fallen to under a franc a and soir es Maintaining a position in high society came at a price and kilogram Charles bought widely taking over the networks of winegrowers these elite circles included many members of the impoverished upper who supplied his rivals in Vertus Louvois Bouzy and Cramant in the C te middle classes who were struggling to keep up appearances Why not des Blancs The Maison moved upmarket and increased the proportion of give them the opportunity to do a little discreet business beneath the premiers crus and grands crus in its blends polished veneer of society life Charles also knew that he had another advantage that other Houses It was from these fashionable circles that the Maison recruited its new did not share Since the late nineteenth century under the direction sales team paid on commission By networking in their existing social of Pol Billecart Billecart Salmon had abandoned international markets circles they would be able to access a clientele of individuals who bought and focused instead on sales within France At a time when a wave of champagne for private functions at home They were chosen with care protectionism made exporting virtually impossible they found themselves A well known marque such as ours should be represented by individuals in an enviable position And that was not all the domestic market 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left a lot of room for manoeuvre for champagnes that offered good value meal was interrupted by the boom of artillery Looking out of a first floor on which the regular clientele of the grandes marques now fell back No window Charles saw a German tank rounding a bend in the lane making social class was immune from the drop in purchasing power a terrible din on its caterpillar tracks The war had arrived in Champagne A surprising consequence of this was an explosion in sales In 1936 the Charles and Ren e found themselves trapped in Romilly and Ren e s year when the Popular Front swept to power and was greeted by a general Juvaquatre convertible the latest Renault was requisitioned Since the strike sales hit a historic high That summer as French workers crowded bridge over the Marne had been destroyed their return to Mareuil was French beaches in celebration of their newly won right to annual paid delayed until there was a means of crossing the river Here more bad news holidays some among them doubtless toasted this progress with a glass awaited them as they arrived at the House they were horrified to see a of Billecart Salmon champagne Pol s widow Jeanne was amazed by the German army truck parked outside the packing building The storeroom talents of her nephew in ensuring that in the depths of the Great Depression doors had been forced open and German soldiers were emptying the Billecart Salmon was one of the few Houses to pay out dividends cellars In the space of a few days they had already helped themselves Success like this can only have been made possible by the fact that the to 25 000 bottles or 10 per cent of the entire stock Rushing into the House was virtually unscathed by upheavals in wider society and Charles house Charles demanded to speak to the officer in charge Fortunately was always an employer with a social conscience He had never forgotten for him Leutnant Judike was a reservist who was possibly more sensitive an incident in the village in 1910 when a cellar worker with ten children to the problems of civilians than a career officer might have been and he who earned barely three francs a day the equivalent of a dozen euros ordered the looting to stop today asked his employer for a pay rise Treating the desperate man In the dark years that followed Mareuil suffered from food shortages with contempt the n gociant retorted that his labour was not worth any along with most of the rest of France Alarmed Charles organized food more while dismissively tossing him a sovereign out of charity Charles supplies for the village and the cellars were filled with tottering heaps wanted staff and management to be one big family who would stick of rounds of Gruy re and baskets of sausage distributed under Ren e s together through thick and thin To celebrate his thirty year anniversary supervision Charles s concerns extended beyond the village to encompass at Billlecart Salmon in 1937 he organized a great banquet in the packing the whole of the Champagne region In 1941 alongside Robert Jean de hall to which he invited all the workers office staff and agents Vog one of the owners of Mo t et Chandon he helped to set up the The blithe prosperity of the late 1930s was to be cut short however In Comit Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne CIVC an organization 1939 war was declared once more and for the third time in the history of intended to deal with the detail of supplying champagne to the Wehrmacht Maison Billecart Salmon the Champagne region lay wide open to enemy while spreading the burden of the Occupation between the different invasion from the east Charles still an officer in the reserve was called Champagne Houses His perfect mastery of German undoubtedly proved up but was soon sent home in recognition of his family responsibilities He a great advantage When another shortage of grapes threatened to now took over the duties of the mayor Monsieur Philipponnat who had unleash speculative buying that would favour the most powerful Houses gone to the front and in this capacity was responsible for organizing the he also organized the sharing out of stocks evacuation of the village during the implacable German advance in 1940 The committee s formidable German adversary was Weinf hrer Otto After taking refuge in Romilly sur Seine in the Aube the villagers were Klaebisch the officer with responsibility for requisitioning champagne taken by train to Bergerac in the Dordogne Charles insisted on staying for the Wehrmacht His name was not unfamiliar in the Champagne in Romilly with his wife Ren e until the last of his administrative staff had region as before the war he had been an agent for the House of Lanson left before setting off to drive to Brittany to join their children Once the Given his expert insider knowledge of the wine business it was going last train had left Ren e unimpressed by the threat of imminent invasion to be exceedingly difficult to pull the wool over his eyes He also ran decided that they would sit down for lunch before they departed The Matheus M ller one of the most important sparkling wine Sekt Houses 59

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in Germany and had no scruples about using this position to undermine Jean It was a sacrifice that looked to the future for Charles could not the competition that champagne posed to his own wines The Germans allow the man who would one day succeed him as head of the House to therefore siphoned off some of the champagne they requisitioned in be tarred with the brush of favouritism or accused of being a shirker Jean order to send supplies to their own Sekt Houses was to work for a year in the Deutscher Verlag print works outside Berlin Relations between Charles and Klaebisch known as the champagne narrowly escaping the bombing of Charlottenburg f hrer rapidly became strained The Germans were bleeding the At the end of August 1944 Epernay and Mareuil sur A were liberated by Champagne Houses dry Paris had become the playground of the the American Third Army under General Patton followed by the Forces Wehrmacht and the cabarets and brothels where German troops went Fran aises de l Int rieur FFI Throughout France scores were about to to forget the horrors of the Eastern front had to be kept lubricated with be settled and collaborators brought to rough justice Mareuil was no champagne In 1944 following some rather violent altercations as exception and Charles endeavoured to maintain the rule of law arguing attested by a Note des Renseignements g n raux du 9 Mars 1944 in in the face of the comit s d puration that were springing up some of the departmental archives of the Marne Charles Roland Billecart was them like kangaroo courts with members who had only recently joined sacked from the CIVC Doubtless his political convictions which he never the Resistance that only the courts of the Republic could legitimately troubled to hide counted against him his conspicuous lack of support for dispense justice Anyone in the village who was suspected of collaboration the occupying forces had been noted in the files of the security services should be handed over to the authorities in Epernay In this way Mareuil of the Marne police avoided any summary executions In these difficult times Charles never shirked his moral duty even if it meant Now that peace had returned Abb Favr aux the village priest was able exposing his own family to danger When the German authorities imposed to fulfil the promise he had made to his parishioners if all the village s the forced enlistment of French workers Service de Travail Obligatoire STO prisoners of war and STO conscripts returned safely he would raise funds they demanded two workers from Maison Billecart Salmon to go and work to erect a statue of the Virgin and Child as a mark of gratitude for her in the Reich After a good deal of thought Charles chose the two youngest protection Thus the statue of Notre Dame du Gruguet was erected members of the workforce One of these was his nineteen year old son dominating the village and the River Marne 60

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Charles Roland Billecart centre on his motorcycle at the beginning of the First World War when he served as a courier between different military command posts 61

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8 A Drop in Temperature From 1940 It was October 1952 The vineyards on the slopes of Mareuil sur A were about it Monsieur Simon went on In the brewing industry fermentation clothed in their autumn colours of red and gold the harvest was over the always takes place in tanks which are refrigerated If your fermentations grapes had been brought in and life was returning to a more leisurely were controlled rather than uncontrolled I m sure you would benefit pace Everyone could take a moment to relax Jean Roland Billecart from improvements in both hygiene and quality But you need to inform known as Monsieur Jean and his wife Bernadette had a guest for lunch yourself Find out what other Houses are doing Bernadette s father Monsieur Simon a brewer from the Douai area near Monsieur Jean s father Charles had exploited his unusual flair for business the Belgian border Naturally it should never be forgotten that beer was the to the full Monsieur Jean was above all a wine man with a connoisseur s drink of barbarians while wine was the drink of civilization but allowances understanding of the raw materials he worked with His apprenticeship could occasionally be made the world of champagne was not so very far had started during the war in October 1940 when he returned to Mareuil removed from that of beer and the two men shared a love of fizz sur A after the great movement of war refugees that became known as Monsieur Jean enjoyed his father in law s company and their conversations the exodus He was only just seventeen when he began his full three year were always fruitful The table in the spacious dining room with its fine training programme in the cellars where he carried out all the routine panelling was elegantly laid in his honour and lunch of hare in champagne tasks carried out by the cellarmen including bottling dosage sealing and and several good bottles had contributed to the convivial atmosphere disgorgement The only job that defeated him was remuage or riddling After coffee Monsieur Simon got to his feet So Jean when are you where he spent only a few days After two days my hands had swelled going to give me that tour of your storerooms and cellars I always knew up to twice their normal size and I couldn t do a thing It was not until you champagne people guarded your secrets jealously but we re all family 1944 on his return from STO in Germany that he started to work in now Stung into action Monsieur Jean led his father in law off to the chai the office where he learned book keeping and the art of the n gociant To understand champagne you had to start with the vins clairs tasting He completed correspondence courses with the highly respected ESSEC them and appreciating the potential for orchestrating complementary Business School but he always maintained that it was his father who blends offered by the astonishing palette of the crus taught him everything he knew He was my teacher Hardly had they entered the chai when Monsieur Simon exclaimed With his astute intelligence Monsieur Jean was not going to let his father But how on earth can you still work in these conditions The musts in law s remarks pass without consideration In due course this was to that had only just been pressed were already in full fermentation The bring about a revolution within the firm If Monsieur Simon advised him foaming wine had spilled out of some of the casks and here and there to broaden his technical knowledge and to look beyond the constant large puddles of wine were spreading over the floor You should think repetition of the old ways then this was what he would do He consulted 63

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Eric Petitjean of the Institut Oenologique de Champagne and Pierre Charles Then came Monsieur Caron former Cellar Master at Georges Geoffroy Technical Director of the CIVC All three were enthusiastic about Goulet who was recommended to Monsieur Jean by Ren Chayoux this new challenge and the vistas it opened up They decided to go to the owner of Ayala He was succeeded by Monsieur Prudhomme who had Trois Lacs region of Switzerland where they would visit a maker of fine worked for the famous Epernay n gociant Gaston Burtin and who was wines who was a champion of what was known as cool fermentation remembered especially for his courage in continuing to work to the very Convinced by what he saw there Monsieur Jean initially bought three last day of his life even when serious illness meant that the cellar men brauthite tanks lined with resin stainless steel tanks did not yet exist from had to carry him down in his chair to inspect the cellars Germany He launched his first experiment by placing a small refrigeration On Monsieur Prudhomme s demise his place was taken by James unit in the room to keep the temperature of fermentation below 13 C Coffinet a young graduate in oenology who shockingly came from a Then he observed the results following a second fermentation in the sparkling wine House outside the appellation where they practised closed bottle Monsieur Jean asked his father to do a comparative tasting fermentation But after his time at Maison Billecart Salmon his work was between these bottles and bottles from the same year produced in the so highly respected that he was recruited by Pol Roger And most recently normal way Charles was delighted Do a complete study for me and in 1985 Monsieur Jean employed Fran ois Domi we ll talk further Monsieur Jean asked for an estimate for installing a The son of a family of Champagne wine growers like James Coffinet Fran ois complete system of tanks The sum was not small but Charles agreed was won over from the outset by the style of the house wines and surprised What matters is what is in the glass by the level of precision demanded by Monsieur Jean When he was still Nowadays all Billecart Salmon wines are made by this method and it new to Billecart Salmon he was particularly puzzled by the work involved in has become an intrinsic feature of the marque s identity The yeasts break adding the liqueur d exp dition which determines the degree of sweetness down the sugar into alcohol slowly over a period of three weeks to a of the finished champagne Initially sceptical about comparisons between month on average whereas a classic fermentation takes only four to six the different dosages which were measured to the nearest millimetre days The conditions in which the yeasts develop are difficult as the cold he discovered from tasting the wines just how real the effect was slows down exchanges between them and the nutrients in the surrounding Fran ois Domi relishes the importance given to the part played by intuition environment The wine that emerges after alcoholic fermentation is fuller in the making of Billecart Salmon wines It is this sensibility that fascinates The wines obtained are less expressive to begin with but their aromas him in oenology and he enjoys the opportunity to escape the world of and flavours possess great precision subtlety and delicacy Cartesian logic and to give expression to his more artistic spirit The subtle Now that such strides were being made one innovation led to another transformations through which the same champagne can run the gamut Monsieur Jean introduced a second technique that would endow his from Extra Brut to Brut are a source of wonder to him If no liqueur is wines with a clarity and purity envied by many After pressing Champagne added champagnes that are balanced when they are blended develop Houses generally operate a simple decanting process in the vat before into perfect Extra Bruts But if liqueur is added in order to produce a Brut racking the wine Monsieur Jean observed that when a cold settling at paradoxically the wine seems at first to become increasingly bitter Only controlled temperature was carried out the cold produced a flocculant when the tipping point of eight grams is reached is a reverse process set effect and this flocculant settled at the bottom of the tank taking any in motion by which the wine becomes balanced once more and loses solid matter with it and clarifying the must naturally its bitterness a sequence of events that is enough to dismay those of a Monsieur Jean shared this expertise the fruit of years of work and day strictly logical turn of mind There are no fixed formulae in the creation to day research with his skilled cellar masters who further refined it of champagne and the final tasting will always be the moment of truth with their own experiences First of these was Ren Lamarle formerly a At Maison Billecart Salmon tastings have always been family occasions cellarman at the House of Venoge who had been recruited by his father Every member of the family contributes their views at the blending stage 64

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Antoine Roland Billecart the youngest of Jean and Bernadette s children For Fran ois Domi part of the joy of working at Maison Billecart Salmon tends to prefer Chardonnay while his elder brother Fran ois and their father unquestionably lies in the freedom that he is given There have been favour Pinot Noir Fran ois Domi meanwhile strikes a balance between the countless occasions when he has gone to find Monsieur Jean to ask his three of them It is striking to note incidentally the degree to which these permission to adopt a bold strategy that while offering the potential for preferences correspond to differences in character Chardonnay is a c page making real gains in terms of quality also carries risks that are equally real imbued with freshness and freedom rather like Antoine while Pinot Noir is Monsieur Jean and later Fran ois Roland Billecart have always given him more cerebral and only finds its full expression after a long period of ageing the same response You have our trust After thirty years in post Fran ois Generally speaking the members of the tasting committee accustomed as Domi is now preparing Florent Nys to take over from him Discreet they are to working together agree on 97 per cent of the blend But the enthusiastic committed and creative he too displays all the qualities of debate that ensues around the remaining 3 per cent is always intense Once a Billecart Salmon Cellar Master Take your time is their motto On a again it revolves around quantities that might be considered negligible day to day basis this means longer fermentations From year to year and and inconsequential but which the perfectionism that is integral to the decade to decade it means handing down their knowledge and expertise Billecart Salmon approach views as crucial It is this 3 per cent that makes After all it has taken two hundred years and six generations for Maison the difference that opens up the way to perfection Billecart Salmon to reach full maturity 65

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9 Checkmate From 1987 Late one night in 1993 Fran ois Roland Billecart was leaning over a working processes Not only was he an assiduous presence in the offices chessboard in the small sitting room motionless Sitting opposite him storerooms and cellars but he also went out to meet the winegrowers his opponent began to wonder Were Fran ois s thoughts elsewhere who shared with him the passion that imbues their lives and work From For the last quarter of an hour his mind seemed to have wandered from then on he like them would live in fear of a late frost and would wake the game Still waters run deep however Three lightning moves and up at night to check the outside thermometer Like them he would keep a it was checkmate Often lost in his thoughts fascinated by the life of wary eye on the weather and scrutinize the vines for the tiniest sign of rot butterflies in the daytime and by chess by night Fran ois son of Jean Discussions with his younger brother Antoine who was export director was also a formidable strategist It was a different question of strategy were intense Antoine shared with him his international experience that was preoccupying him that night the strategy that he would present explained the strength and quality of the marque s image abroad to the board of directors of Maison Billecart Salmon the following day and agreed the importance of championing the family values that set which would have implications for the future of the marque This was them apart As an astute observer of the world around him Fran ois a calculation on a different scale altogether with moves that would be had a perfect grasp of the major changes that were at taking place in infinitely harder to predict in their consequences His thoughts turned to the Champagne region It was clear that the profession was suffering a his wife Edith who had left her life in Paris and a promising career to major identity crisis In the twentieth century champagne had undergone follow him to this little village deep in champagne country and raise their a major transformation and at a feverish pace It had become a drink children Delphine and Nicolas and to her pragmatic approach to life for celebrations and the focus of intensive advertising campaigns which he found so invaluable Champagne was no longer a wine in short but had turned into what Billecart Salmon was still one of the best kept secrets of the Champagne exactly An image An icon of economic growth In some ways it had terroir Jean Roland Billecart s achievements had earned the House a been damaging for both the terroir and the wine and it had inevitably considerable reputation in professional circles but among the public it had an effect on standards Perhaps it was a consequence of the decades was still virtually unknown Now it was time for his son to hone the image of post war prosperity that France had enjoyed which had seen luxury of the marque to define its strategy and consider its position goods become available to a far wider public Whatever the reason in In true Billecart fashion Fran ois had taken his time in developing his plan Britain where standards were still rigorously upheld critical views were When he had joined the firm in 1987 he had chosen to work alongside starting to be voiced loud and clear his father for five years before taking charge of the running of the House Fran ois was not afraid to buck the trend Perhaps he thought back to the During this time he immersed himself in the business observing its unique challenges faced by his grandfather Charles in the 1920s as he strove to 67

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free the House from the shackles imposed by the soaring price of grapes proved useful when it came to buying back stocks from the big supermarkets Fran ois decided to make a grand gesture defying the major retailers Good morning no I haven t come to sell you anything I ve come to take and buying back all his stocks from the supermarket chains most notably our stocks back he would recall saying There were some sticky moments from Monoprix and Casino He had decided instead to focus his attention It was to take two years to retrieve all the stocks And as was only to be on gourmet restaurants and wine merchants expected in the early days the backlash was severe This was not exactly the ideal moment to decide to go upmarket The Nonetheless what had seemed like an impossible feat became a reality as Gulf War had triggered a period of global instability in late 1990 and the Alexandre met the challenge that Fran ois had laid down for him During economic context was perilous in the extreme As always in times such his year of military service he not only outsold the firm s distributor in Paris as this customers concerned about their buying power fell back on but he also targeted clients who enhanced the marque s prestige In 1993 medium priced champagnes While Fran ois was confident in his analysis Maison Billecart Salmon gained its first Michelin starred restaurant and of the situation and felt it placed him three steps ahead of his rivals he G rard Besson served its champagne to accompany his famed Li vre la was nevertheless to endure a few sleepless nights that year Royale That same year Fran ois honoured his word and offered Alexandre a He also had yet to find the person he could trust with putting his strategy post as a salesman In November 2010 he became Managing Director into action in the field Someone who would be both subtle and bold The star of the House now more than ever was its champagne Fran ois enough to meet the challenge of the new spirit that Fran ois wanted to embarked on a campaign aimed at achieving the highest quality investing breathe into the House It was at this point that he had an encounter that in new vats carrying out a methodical reinvestigation into ageing was to prove providential In Reims at that time there was a luxury clothes in oak setting up a network of associate winegrowers in the heart of shop run by G rard Bader and his wife Madame Bader had a great talent the finest crus and creating Le Clos Saint Hilaire To support his vision for fostering diplomatic relations Members of the major champagne he encouraged media coverage to focus on technical innovations dynasties would bump into each other chat and exchange news and Out in the field meanwhile Alexandre was forging relationships with sometimes agree reconciliations or rapprochements in the informal chefs of renown impeccable connoisseurs whom the Maison was to ambience of the shop Business deals might be sealed downstairs in the make its ambassadors It was a timely initiative as the most illustrious basement beside the fitting rooms champagne glass in hand chefs were looking to discover hidden gems not just the famous In 1992 Fran ois spotted a young man who helped out on the till at champagnes and the family concern of Billecart Salmon appealed to weekends and who dealt with the shop s exclusive clientele with aplomb them as being more authentic and original Alexandre organized tastings For the Baders son Alexandre a student in Paris the shop made a perfect and the champagnes worked their magic Distinguished chefs created vantage point for observing the world of champagne which intrigued him outstanding pairings with their dishes and the Billecart Salmon marque Alexandre was about to do his military service and Fran ois offered him a became an established feature of French gastronomy challenge If you can sell as much of our champagne during your military Abandoning the major supermarkets automatically worked in the favour service as our Paris distributor I ll give you a job The distributor in question of wine merchants which also lent Billecart Salmon champagnes a special worked with five or six agents and sold 25 000 bottles a year It was to be the distinction The Maison gained a reputation for excellence and a certain start of a remarkable double act Alexandre was raring to go while Francois s sophistication and if this recognition triggered an increase in demand steady temperament was able to channel his wild enthusiasm there was certainly no question of sacrificing quality as a result Appointed as driver to General de la Gaffeli re Alexandre took full advantage On the contrary Fran ois decided to impose a quota system on sales of the general s car complete with flashing light and motorcycle escort to Recently he even decided to extend the time in the cellars for non vintage visit his Paris clients and make deliveries Soon the House agents viewed him champagnes to a minimum of a year and ageing sur lattes to four years as having a special relationship with Fran ois Alexandre s extraordinary drive The image of Billecart Salmon champagnes was now of a rare wine that 68

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appealed to the cognoscenti or in marketing terms a niche champagne over the world as they had always done Rather than accommodating New markets had emerged that called for investment These included them in a guesthouse as was the general rule they would invite clients notably direct sales to businesses a growth area that led the marque to to stay with them in the family home Fran ois would put on his apron foster close relations with a number of carefully selected luxury Houses and some jazz and cook magnificent fish dishes following his instincts Thus clients buying a watch from Audemars Piguet or an outfit from Yves rather than any recipe and using the herbs he fancied from the garden Saint Laurent would be served a glass of Billecart Salmon champagne on Soon it would be time to pass the Maison that he had inherited from his a silver tray In the exclusive retail premises that lined place Vend me in forefathers and to which he had devoted thirty years of his life to the Paris Billecart Salmon was the champagne of choice next generation in the person of Mathieu Roland Billecart But for now In Mareuil sur A meanwhile Fran ois remained as unaffected as ever his friends and clients from Australia Britain and America would make despite this success For him the world of champagne was still one big themselves at home and enjoy the garden happy in the knowledge that family of aficionados He and Edith continued to welcome clients from all later on Fran ois would generously open one of his best bottles Fran ois Roland Billecart among the vines in the early 2000s with the village of Mareuil sur A at the foot of the slope 69

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10 Meeting in the Car Park 1999 It was 12 June 1999 Seagulls flew high in the Swedish summer sky some champagne since the early nineteenth century was able to enjoy this peeling off occasionally in the direction of the old town others suddenly triumph Like his brother Fran ois Antoine had been born in the heart swooping into the waters of the fjord at the foot of the Villa Pauli Built in of the vineyards of Champagne to a family that was passionately the early twentieth century by Anna Pauli daughter of a Swedish business committed to perpetuating and deepening their expert understanding of magnate who was an associate of Alfred Nobel this opulent country their terroir Both brothers were to share this passion that had motivated house turned country club was hosting seven of the world s foremost past generations of their family It was a passion that needed applications wine experts Including the sommelier Josephine Nordlind Serena however And along the way the road might be as stony and rutted steep Sutcliffe head of Sotheby s international wine department and Robert and meandering as the Coteaux d Epernay Antoine had been educated Joseph founder of Wine Magazine they had all been invited here for a at a Jesuit school in Reims where perceptive teachers described him as tasting and they were about to pick the champagne of the millennium more of an adventurer than an intellectual who yearned for the freedom Cloistered for three days as though for a papal conclave the seven experts of broad horizons His father Jean Roland Billecart understood this and were immersed in a blind tasting of 150 bottles provided by the most realized that he needed to spread his wings beyond the vineyards And prestigious Champagne Houses Some of the vintages went back as far why not after all Maison Billecart Salmon s sales strategy could certainly as 1911 and all evoked unforgettable memories of outstanding harvests do with the boost that new ideas might provide So he sent Antoine off and miracles of alchemy With their aromas of honey or vanilla citrus or to study in Spain and America giving him the chance to live his dream wild strawberries these were marvels of the art of winemaking But one travelling the world and experiencing different cultures and customs After of them the experts were to agree almost unanimously stood out above this he returned to work as an ordinary cellarman at Billecart Salmon the rest With its smoky honey smooth extremely long taste of walnut under the kindly and watchful eye of the Cellar Master Fran ois Domi orange blossom and chocolate as Richard Juhlin described it it garnered Then he was off again going to work at other Champagne Houses where an outstanding 98 5 points out of 100 The remarkable bottle was revealed he was not the heir apparent while the old family House waited patiently to the great surprise of all present to be a 1959 Billecart Salmon NF Then at the beginning of the 1980s Jean Roland Billecart decided that Vinoth que Brut A few minutes later second place was awarded to their it was time for this indulgence to come to an end and for Antoine to even greater surprise to another Billecart Salmon vintage the 1961 The return to the bosom of the family and to his inheritance The time had world of champagne was left speechless come for him to knuckle down and at a time when barely 30 per cent It was only through the boldness and acute instincts of Antoine Roland of the 400 000 bottles it sold annually went for export for the Maison Billecourt that Maison Billecart Salmon which had been making to benefit from his sales experience 71

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Travel was to prove the key to building up sales which took patience question There were two great vintages in the 1950s 1955 and 1959 intelligence and relentless effort Antoine started out by travelling the But the 59 is possibly fresher The die was cast Antoine went down to length and breadth of France visiting every fair however remote and the small family cellar and reverently picked up the bottle that held all plying highways and byways for month after month in a small and rather his hopes And on the spur of the moment prompted by a moment of elderly van Soon he graduated to air travel and provincial hotels gave inspiration or prey to a sudden twinge of superstition he also took a way to international travel and changing time zones with trips to Britain 1961 the year of his birth Sometimes you had to take a gamble America and Australia As he gazed out over Sydney Opera House the A few months had elapsed since Antoine had quietly slipped the vineyards of Champagne and the flinty aromas of the paths through the precious bottles to Richard Juhlin in the unlikely setting of a station car vines on a hot July day the reason why he was living out of a suitcase park It had not been constantly in his thoughts the fateful date might must have seemed more than half a world away By the late 1990s the even have slipped his mind He was a long way from Stockholm on the House was producing a million bottles annually yet the marque was still Maison Billecart Salmon stand at the Vinexpo wine fair in Bordeaux largely known only to connoisseurs Fame and fortune would be forged when a journalist called to tell him that a Billecart Salmon vintage had slowly and gradually by dint of tenacity and hard work But fortune also been selected as the Champagne of the Millennium Within a few favours the brave hours Fran ois who had been playing golf was giving press and We deserve all our encounters as Fran ois Mauriac wrote But we television interviews in France and abroad Orders started to flood in need to understand them too to unlock the opportunities they offer from around the world A small wine grower in Champagne has won understand the doors they open discern the future they trace In Reims the title of vintage of the millennium was the headline of the Agence one day Antoine Roland Billecart bumped into a colleague Hubert de France Presse press release The small wine grower would admittedly Billy who introduced him to a visitor who was extremely well known have preferred something more along the lines of A great Champagne in the wine world Richard Juhlin a Swedish journalist and Master of House emerges from obscurity for this was precisely what the world Wine was planning a tasting to select the Champagne of the Millennium was witnessing so unexpectedly He suggested to Antoine that he might include a few Billecart Salmon The praise was unanimous First and foremost tribute was paid to the vintages of his own choice persuading him that this would be an unconventional direction that Billecart Salmon had taken in the 1950s opportunity for them to go head to head with the most celebrated of The 1959 vintage was the first to be made after a cold settling and low the grandes marques and to demonstrate that this was the prestigious temperature fermentation The elegance and lightness that this produced company in which they belonged Antoine grasped immediately how were to become the distinguishing features of the Billecart Salmon significant for the marque this event could be His father and brother marque As the wine critic Michel Dovaz put it writing in the Revue du agreed with him Sadly however they also felt that Billecart Salmon vin de France The jury s choice fell on a champagne of great elegance might get lost among so many of illustrious rivals It was too risky a move rather than a champagne that was powerful and therefore in a way more it was wiser to maintain their reserve seductive The decision to adopt the groundbreaking approach that had Undeterred Antoine agreed to take part but kept his decision a secret He brought about this fundamental change in the style of Billecart Salmon asked his father which vintage in his opinion was his finest Completely champagnes had been taken by Jean Roland Billecart It turns out that the unaware of what lay at stake Jean Roland Billecart considered the courage to make brave decisions runs in families 72

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Above Members of the tasting panel at work in one of the salons of the Villa Pauli Right A glimpse of the score sheet from the tasting 73

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11 La vie en rose From 1840 There was a time when caviar truffles and lobster were all considered as Billecart Salmon developed its own cuv es with evocative names such cheap foods for poor people Their place among the most highly prized of as il de perdrix partridge eye In a technique that was unique to gastronomic delicacies today is largely due to a handful of nonconformist Champagne Houses of the time it was far from unknown for cellar masters spirits who had the audacity to vaunt their special qualities This is not unlike to add cochineal or Lestaudin dye a decoction of elderberries to the the story of Billecart Salmon ros champagnes When Jean Roland Billecart liqueur d exp dition in order to give the wine a stronger colour Prejudices first mentioned that he wanted to work on this range which was viewed die hard and expert opinion continued to regard these wines as second as being only of minor importance his father Charles instantly rebuffed class In his History and Description of Modern Wines published in1833 the idea dismissing the wine as crude and unsophisticated Little did he the wine historian Cyrus Redding declared that in the arrondissement of know how it would be transformed by great artists in their field with their Rheims the rose coloured wines are only wines of the second quality remarkable gift for extracting beauty from the most ordinary of ingredients Only very light ros champagnes enjoyed a good reputation their subtly In the eighteenth century the discovery of a light pressing method to make nuanced shades being viewed as a sign of superior quality because they were white wines out of black grapes had brought about a major revolution obtained when the grapes were picked at their most mature In A History of in champagne What was a virtuoso technical achievement for the time Champagne with Notes on the Other Sparkling Wines published in London helped to make champagne the luxury wine it was to become Indeed in 1882 another historian Henry Vizetelly described how slightly pink the Maison s sales ledgers from the 1840s show that the price fetched for wine was very much in fashion in England especially after the remarkable white wine made from black grapes blanc de noirs was twice as high as vintage of 1874 It was precisely at this time that Billecart Salmon s ros for white wine made from white grapes blanc de blancs champagnes came into vogue as may be judged from a letter received by So ros wine established itself as the direct heir to clairet or straw wine the Maison in 1871 I beg you to send me a basket of twenty five bottles in the Champagne region For many years local people had viewed it as of ros champagne at the usual price of twenty one francs unless the price the outcome of clumsy winemaking techniques as a sort of failure The that I should pay is increased by the colour careless winemaker would have either been too slow in taking his grapes A hundred years later when Jean Roland Billecart decided to produce ros to be pressed or else harvested them in the heat of the day Either way champagnes once more in the 1970s he followed the same approach the result would be the same the grapes would have macerated and the although he had recourse to a blended ros He wanted to produce a very wine would be tach or stained pale coloured champagne that apart from its freshness and some subtle In the nineteenth century these champagnes regularly came back into notes of red fruit would be hardly distinguishable on the palate from the fashion but their success was always short lived From the 1840s Brut He used Chardonnays to lighten the colour a risky strategy as light 75

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colours can rapidly degrade as well as red wines held in reserve that such as Alain Passard who started by pairing his red meats with the Brut were already stabilized Ros and who now brings out harmonies between the wine and the This painstaking work began to gain recognition in the mid 1970s when vegetable dishes on his menus His celebrated Jubil d oignon rouge au in a comparative tasting of ros champagnes published in the Gault et raisin et oseille red onion with grapes and sorrel created to accompany Millau guide Maison Billecart Salmon was ranked first Its commercial the Cuv e Elisabeth Salmon 2002 is particularly appreciated by guests success was largely down to the efforts of Alexandre Bader now Managing who dine at his restaurant L Arp ge The salmon pink colour of this wine Director however In the early 1990s he sent consignments of a few with its notes of small red fruits and wild strawberries inspired me to bottles of Billecart Salmon Brut Ros to luxury hotels it would be up to create a harmony of colours both for the dish and for its presentation the sommeliers to sell them by the glass There was general astonishment Alain Passard explained in 2013 in an interview in the October November when they immediately sold out The H tel de Paris in Monaco was the edition of Revue 3 toiles I like the idea of families of families of seasons first to ask for another consignment to be followed by the H tel Bristol and families of colours This blended ros is elegant powerful but not too until Billecart Salmon Ros was f ted in every luxury establishment It was vinous The sweetness of the onion and sharpness of the sorrel with a particular success with female guests the roasted and lightly candied grapes bring out the generosity of its Encouraged by these early successes the Maison launched a vintage version character and the subtle blend of its spices Which says it all of the ros Cuv e Elisabeth Salmon The Cellar Masters immediately had to grapple with a major issue arising from the status of the notion of a vintage In the Champagne region wines from different years were generally blended to produce a Brut Non Vintage but in an exceptional year a Champagne House could choose to produce a vintage by using only wines from that year to make a special cuv e The Cellar Masters could not therefore use red reserve wines but had to confine himself to wines from a single year Good extraction was of fundamental importance if the colour was not to fade So he chose the vineyards for the red wines with particular care They included Valofroy which lay just below the statue of Notre Dame du Gruguet in the former vineyards of Maison Montebello at Mareuil sur A and was planted with vines that were nearly eighty years old and yielded wines of great finesse while its southerly exposure produced a strong colour Nowadays Billecart Salmon Ros champagne is not just one of the Maison s most iconic wines but it has also earned the house a place on all the new international markets In the United States Pink Bill as it is known has become a veritable institution And in Japan where fashions tend to be passed on by women it has become a major asset for the Maison Last but not least in the world of haute gastronomy the most distinguished chefs have been delighted to discover the charms of these ros s using their creative talents to devise dishes that will display both Label from the 1840s bearing the term il de perdrix used at the time to describe certain types of ros champagne their colour and their bouquet to best advantage They include chefs 76

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I beg you to send me a basket of twenty five bottles of ros champagne at the usual price of twenty one francs unless the price that I should pay is increased by the colour Letter from Monsieur Pudet Croix d Ar nes 4 September 1871 77

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12 Precious Lands From 1818 When Denis Bl e Vineyard Master for Maison Billecart Salmon allows From the outset Nicolas Fran ois Billecart took the opposite view The himself a moment of relaxation he likes to go and stand at the foot of Maison had been one of the first to reduce its dosages at the risk of the statue of Notre Dame du Gruguet From the top of the hill there is a putting off its clients Indeed this had already happened in 1820 agents view over the valley like no other Gazing out to the distant horizon he of the marque in Russia had told them that in a land where clients recites to himself the poetry of Andr Ch nier 1762 1794 who stayed demanded champagnes containing up to three hundred grams of sugar with his friends the de Panges in the ch teau at Mareuil and wrote of their champagnes were too dry and winy this landscape in which the Marne winds slowly from isle to isle shading By using more moderate dosages Billecart Salmon was already enhancing groves fields and lush meadows After this moment of contemplation the expression of the terroir This desire not to stamp out the natural aromas he turns his attention to his vineyards He knows every corner of them was doubtless influenced by the position the Maison occupied as both their character the composition of their soil the direction in which they winemakers and n gociants Unlike many Champagne Houses at the time face and in each of them he detects their very own unique timbre and which merely brokered wines and turned them into champagne Billecart tone Gathered together and skilfully harmonized under the baton of Salmon owned extensive lands as the marriage of Elisabeth and Nicolas Cellar Master Fran ois Domi year after year they create new symphonies Fran ois had created a combined estate of fourteen hectares of vineyards that are at once the work of people and of nature Their son Charles s marriage to Fanny Gadiot enlarged the estate yet further The first relationship that those who worked at Maison Billecart Salmon For the family cultivating their vineyards alongside the business was a set out to harmonize was the one that exists between winemaking and guarantee of their complete mastery of every step in the making of their oenology a lengthy quest that would continue down the generations wines and one in which they took great pride In 1860 the catalogue to In the early nineteenth century grapes in the Champagne region were a major exhibition testified to the recognition that this unique status had used primarily as a raw material Little was made of the importance of earned the house A major vineyard owner M Billecart is confident in his terroir or the specific flavours it gave to grapes grown on it Given that yields he is master of his blends for he has vines in Mareuil Bouzy Verzenay champagnes had something in the region of two hundred grams of sugar Chigny la Montagne and elsewhere in the Champagne region Being in added per litre and that cognac was added to the liqueur d exp dition control of his wine from the vine to the bottle is not merely an advantage it is hardly surprising that the influence of terroir on the wines of the it is also a virtue as his customers are well aware So we should not be Champagne region was considered negligible On top of this some surprised if the owners vaunt their wine s quality as they would a title people viewed champagne as a manufactured wine in which the Admittedly in addition to its own grapes the Maison also bought them specific features of a cru only played an incidental part in from other wine growers in the surrounding villages including A 79

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Mutigny Verzenay Bouzy Cuis Villedommange and Tours sur Marne consider buying grapes from outside the region For Billecart Salmon In 1840 the House had some fifty suppliers many of them the ancestors owning extensive vineyards became an asset in calming the anxieties of of those whose still supply Billecart Salmon today Lying in the centre of confused customers through which it was able to offer its large clientele the golden triangle of Champagne at the crossroads between the C te wines of known character and origins des Blancs Vall e de la Marne and Montagne de Reims the Maison was The Billecarts rejected the new practices The identity of champagne ideally positioned for creating blends they were convinced depended not only on local expertise but also Whether Nicolas Fran ois grew his grapes or bought them in he always on the highly specific characteristics of the terroir In 1897 when a paid careful attention to the quality of the terroir and the way in which it winemaker from Saint Etienne came to suggest he should use his wines was worked by the winegrowers Though the official classification system samples at the ready Pol Billecart refused categorically Pol was also one chelle des Crus did not yet exist Nicolas Fran ois was already adapting of the first members of the prestigious Syndicat du commerce des vins his prices according to the reputation of different villages So a cheval e de Champagne a highly exclusive club founded in 1882 which was or horse load of grapes from Mutigny was worth eight francs less than open only to the grandes marques who had to respect the regulations one from A and the price of a barrel of Bouzy was lower than for one governing production with scrupulous fidelity of Tours sur Marne During the Champagne Riots of 1911 while Pol Billecart a man of As a sign of this recognition of the importance of terroir Billecart Salmon imposing stature stood guard with his rifle outside the house in Mareuil had no hesitation in naming its champagnes after the crus used in their sur A the crowd of angry local winegrowers whose vineyards had been elaboration such as Fleur de Bouzy and Sillery Premi re Qualit Letters damaged walked straight past his door without posing any threat They written by Charles Billecart bear witness to this constant attention to were in no doubt that he was one of them They also remembered the the quality of the grapes As a true Champagne wine grower he lived help that Ren Billecart Pol s brother had given them in the battle against according to the rhythm of the seasons Being a very northerly region the phylloxera louse which had arrived from America and had been Champagne was frequently at the mercy of its inclement climate In ravaging the Champagne vineyards since the 1890s As an active member 1860 Charles wrote to his agent in Zurich The temperature is still of the Association viticole de Mareuil sur A Ren coordinated the teams unfavourable and the cold nights we are experiencing have seriously who were responsible for surveying the vineyards in order to spot any affected this year s harvest the grapes are not ripening the leaves are contaminated vines This was no easy task as the winegrowers did not falling and conditions in the vineyards are as bad as they could be We always take kindly to inspectors coming onto their lands often with bad shall be making verjuice and what a verjuice As for drinkable wine we news Many of them suspected that phylloxera had been invented by the can t count on it any more To cope with such vicissitudes and balance n gociants to reduce the value of their lands and make it easier to take the quality of its vintages according to the year the Maison lost no time them over subsequently in establishing stocks of reserve wines In 1850 it bought a hundred and In the face of this scourge the only solution was to replant on American twenty barrels of the wines of 1846 and 1847 so bringing into existence rootstock The association launched large scale research projects in order the Brut Non Vintage to regain the characteristics of the vines that grew there before and so In another letter this time from 1875 when the harvest was abundant preserve the identity of champagne In this labour of Hercules the soil but sadly many of the grapes rotted Charles decided that care taken by composition of every plot had to be analysed to select the rootstocks the winegrowers in picking off the rotten grapes was just as important as most suited to the region s very calcareous crus without altering the anything done by the winemaker traditional taste of the champagnes By the end of the nineteenth century more and more Champagne In 1911 the careful balance that had slowly been built up between vineyard n gociants were taking advantage of the growth of the railways to and cellar ended forever as the family separated from its vineyards 80

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Charles had made Pol heir to the Maison and left him the cellars The have to be afraid of bold decisions and Fran ois certainly was not In marque went to Pol s sister Juliette the land to his brother Ren In early 1993 when France was in the middle of a recession and n gociants twentieth century Champagne this represented a deeply unequal division alarmed by the depressed state of the international market were cutting of wealth If champagne brought gold grapes barely brought enough back on orders he launched his campaign to win back the vineyards In to live on Finding himself in financial difficulties Ren chose to sell the 1996 he recruited Denis Bl e as the Maison s first Vineyard Master At this vineyards and the press rooms which were quickly snapped up by two point Billecart Salmon had barely 4 5 hectares of vineyards at Cumi res other Champagne Houses G H Mumm and Lanson Today the House cultivates 17 hectares of its own and benefits from a Without its vineyards the Maison needed to reinvent itself from the 28 hectare vineyard of very high quality belonging to the Frey family an 1920s onwards it would concentrate its efforts on qualitative oenological important shareholder in Maison Billecart Salmon research In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War on the What does Denis Bl e s job consist of For many years the role of Vineyard initiative of Jean Roland Billecart the Maison introduced the process of Master in the Champagne region was limited to delivering grapes to the low temperature fermentation that was to become its trademark press room during harvest the only moment in the year when there was It was a change that the whole of the Champagne region was soon contact between the world of the cellars and the world of vineyards At to adopt This was the time of the new industrial revolution of the Billecart Salmon the Vineyard Master would now be involved in the tasting three decades of postwar expansion known as the Trente glorieuses of the blends This was a highly symbolic move which would bring about improvements in quality started with progress in oenology with advances major changes in the way the vineyards were approached Aware of the including stainless steel vats and the mastery of malolactic fermentation importance of preserving the variety in the blender s palette Bl e devoted The vineyards also needed to be able to keep up with the considerable all his skills to cultivating the specific qualities of the crus for which he had increase in demand Technical innovations were aimed at increasing yields responsibility For this new cultivation methods had to be devised and it was up to the Cellar Master to pick up any defects in the grapes It was a change that was also and if truth be told perhaps primarily a This was the accepted view until the early 1990s Then Maison Billecart matter of philosophical approach In the past those who worked the Salmon made a complete volte face as summed up by Fran ois Domi land represented humankind s domination of nature using almost god For the first time we started to think of the oenologist not as the wine s like powers to force nature to bend to their needs The methods they used physician but merely as its tutor The quality of the grapes became the ensured success in the short term but as Denis Bl e observes We know factor of central importance once more while the role of the Cellar from experience that nature always wins in the end Master was simply to enable them to express their full potential Now Billecart Salmon has therefore returned to a modest view in which people that the heights of oenological progress had been reached and the are themselves an integral part of nature and it may be more beneficial processes involved had been truly mastered it suddenly became apparent to work with nature rather than to set out to dominate it at any cost The that winegrowing methods were lagging behind As a result of this new Maison accordingly adopted a high precision approach to winemaking conception of winemaking the Maison now reinvested in its vineyards based first and foremost on day to day observations of the growth cycle It was Fran ois Roland Billecart now head of the company who put of the vines this revolution into effect Pulling on his boots he went to meet the If they needed to be sprayed for example this should be done at the best winegrowers He wanted to cut out the middleman when it came to possible moment so as to be as effective as possible and avoid the need buying the grapes He wanted to select the best crus and the finest to repeat the operation The best approach moreover is to start by using winegrowers to offer them a true partnership with the Maison and a all the means that nature itself employs to protect the vines It is for this whole range of benefits and in this way to exercise tight control over reason that the Maison now favours the practice of grassing whereby the quality of the marque s supplies If he was to succeed he would not winegrowers sowed selected varieties of grass seed to form a blanket 81

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of vegetation that suppresses weeds over the use of herbicides and complexity in wines The Maison also tries to preserve old vines for as long natural fertilizers over chemical ones as possible They may give smaller yields but in return they offer greater Billecart Salmon had noticed that the use of chemical fertilizers tended concentration and fruitiness The Vineyard Master thus never replants a to diminish the flavour of the terroir Vineyards now became like market parcel in one go but instead practises the technique of entre plantage gardens with the roots of the vines finding all the nutrients they needed replacing the vines individually as they start to decline in the soil to feed the plant above the ground Denis Bl e revived the The fermenting rooms have themselves been designed to showcase this technique of charrutage which had died out with the use of herbicides extraordinary palette of nuances that Denis Bl e has obtained from the various cutting off the fine roots at the surface in order to force the roots to crus Billecart Salmon uses small vats to make its wines each corresponding penetrate deeper down towards the chalk The classification system for to a single parcel of vines This makes it possible to track closely the methods crus and the diversity of the terroirs now regained all their significance to of cultivation used by the winegrowers and hence to compare and observe the point where Denis Bl e is able to correctly identify the origins of each the consequences of the different choices made by individual winegrowers vin clair in a blind tasting over the years For the winegrowers who work in partnership with the This drive for diversity is best seen however in the way the Maison Maison it is naturally a source of huge satisfaction to be able to taste the vins manages replanting It gives priority to plants produced by massal clairs made from their own grapes and it gives them an opportunity to grasp selection in which a cutting is taken from one of the best vines over the full import of their work and to see the fruits of their labours those produced by clonal selection in which a graft is selected for its This return to the soil and the immensely detailed and subtle work on genetic qualities in order to produce an identical plant Taken individually individual parcels have had a strong impact on the image of Maison clonally selected vines are admittedly more resistant to disease but Billecart Salmon For many clients indeed Billecart Salmon is not reducing diversity also reduces the resistance of the group and the parcel a Champagne House but a winemaker Fran ois Domi views this as a Miraculously winemaking has teamed up with philosophy As Denis Bl e compliment A winemaker is someone who has done something else concludes Over time I have learned that vines are a bit like people and The crowning moment for this lengthy research into the improvement of by mixing populations we become much more resistant cultivation methods came in 2017 when Billecart Salmon s winemaking Clonal selection opened up the way for a standardization of tastes philosophy and practice were rewarded with certification as a sustainable Choosing to adopt a different approach meant opting for differences and wine producer in the Champagne region 82

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Photograph of a grape harvest in the 1900s Overseeing the weighing of the grapes at the entrance to the press room is Ren Billecart brother of Pol 83

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13 The Legendary Hectare From 1930 A love of the soil can be expressed in many different ways including and produced musts of a quality that had only become better over the the pleasure of cultivating one s garden Beside the family house in the years The unusual characteristics of the terroir played a large part in this grounds of Maison Billecart Salmon there used to be a garden that was The silty clay limestone soil laid down in this position at the foot of a hill entirely given over to the children for them to do as they pleased There went down to a depth of up to three metres before reaching the chalk Jean Roland Billecart and his brothers played at being farmers and dug as compared with eighty centimetres on other parcels of the cru their own beds in the spring planting pumpkins and sweet peppers Fran ois also wanted to make best use of those wines that he felt deserved tomatoes and Jerusalem artichokes and trying out all sorts of experiments a chance to express themselves on their own The idea occurred to him both culinary and aesthetic It was a tranquil spot with a little orchard a of making a walled vineyard an idea that revived an old tradition in big walnut tree and mixed borders There the future director of Maison the Champagne region In former centuries monastic communities like Billecart Salmon learned about the fragility and the generosity of nature some wealthy owners today used to build walls around their vineyards and came to understand the patience that you need to work the land and orchards Thus sheltered from prying eyes they were able to cultivate In 1939 war broke out Charles Roland Billecart who had lived through their parcels which became proper kitchen gardens with special care The the previous war immediately sensed that this one would be just as long walls offered many benefits they protected the vines from the grazing and bring just as many privations He had all the trees in the garden felled animals that roamed free in the villages conserved the heat and offered a in order to plant a large kitchen garden and planted a plot beside the degree of protection against treacherous spring frosts storerooms with fruit trees The produce from this garden was to feed Fran ois gave the name Saint Hilaire to his walled vineyard or clos in the whole family and the Maison s entire workforce for the next four honour of the patron saint of the village He made it a model of its kind years After France was liberated Charles s wife Ren e was passionately and it was one of the few to meet all the requirements laid down by law attached to keeping the fruit garden for their grandchildren even though including notably having a wine press within a distance of 500 metres This it took up land that was suitable for growing vines Only in 1964 did Jean was a major asset for the making of white wines from black grapes as the then manager of the company finally manage to persuade his mother to grapes did not have time to macerate before being placed in the press let him plant the parcel with vines The land lay next to the house so Fran ois had only to stroll a few steps The variety he chose was Pinot Noir With its fine exposure to the south from his office to keep an eye on the vines By a curious combination of west the vineyard would produce the red wines needed to create ros circumstances this coveted spot thus returned to the use to which it had been champagne In the early 1990s it was Fran ois Roland Billecart s turn to put when Jean Roland Billecart was a child a space for creative expression devote his attention to the parcel The vines were now thirty years old where any experiments could be carried out no matter how bold 85

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In this walled parcel the vineyard master Denis Bl e devotes himself the vineyards passed down from generation to generation It brings to a viticulture of great precision based on daily observations of the working on the land back to the relationship between a farmer and his development of the vines and their environment A weather station horse And it may even enrich the continuing dialogue between those transmits data in real time on factors including air and soil temperature two living beings people and vines rainfall and levels of humidity in the leaves All this information is fed In Le Clos Saint Hilaire work in the vineyard can be compared in into a highly detailed database specific to each parcel so making some ways with the world of haute couture with a similarly rigorous it possible to draw meaningful comparisons between the growing attention to detail and perfection as the ultimate aim No sacrifice is conditions in different years and the results obtained a sophisticated too great for the sake of quality from investing in a larger workforce technical equivalent to the little notebooks in which every traditional to concerns affecting the yield It was in this spirit that the Maison winegrower in the Champagne region used to make notes began to pick the grapes en vert before they reach full ripeness in In this way Denis Bl e has transformed cultivation methods moving order to ensure that there are never more than eight bunches to a vine from classical cordon de Royat pruning to the much more restrictive and to keep a good air flow between them permanent cordon method aimed at increasing the growth of the Every aspect of management and cultivation in the Clos is now trunk so that it attains a larger diameter every year This stores starch organic Since no herbicides are used the vines are protected using inside so that a little like an old fruit tree the vine bears less fruit but traditional methods that are tried and tested including copper and the grapes it does bear have more flavour and substance since it is the sulphur against mildew and decoctions of horsetail trunk that brings these qualities In the end the yield from this parcel of atypical terroir rarely exceeds The Clos thus became the setting for a number of innovations 6 000 kilos 4 500 bottles against 12 000 for a standard parcel an many of which would later be rolled out to the rest of the estate indication of the Maison s determination to bring out the full extent of It was here that Denis Bl e first carried out experiments in grassing the expressive power of this unusual terroir a fascinating endeavour that was to create a virtuous circle in the This selective approach is not limited to cultivation of the vineyard vineyard By stabilizing the soil grass prevented erosion The roots but is also carried on into the cellars The Maison does not put every helped to break up the soil and to oxygenate it The natural life cycle vintage on sale Only the finest years will reach the marketplace after of the soil returned and with it that of the micro organisms that act being put through multiple stages of selection The first is a simple on the roots of the vines Maintenance meanwhile was taken care visual inspection of the grapes at harvest time In 2001 for instance it of by ecological mowing immediately after the harvest each year was decided that the grapes were not ripe enough The second stage four sheep are brought into the vineyard there to stay until the first takes place during tasting of the wines before and after vinification major cold snaps There they happily set about grazing the grass and in casks The aim at this stage is to detect in the early months any fertilizing the soil stimulating its microbial life with their droppings potential flaws in either the wines or the casks At the tasting of the The parcel was also one of the first to be put to the plough This 2016 vintage as a typical example Denis Bl e noticed that the wine ancient practice which could hardly be more natural had been made had developed an excessively woody taste the result of heavy rainfall redundant by the use of herbicides and had been abandoned for that had prevented the musts from becoming concentrated enough many years So this was a true return to first principles The process to give a satisfactory result The final stage comes at the tasting after of ploughing which forces the roots to penetrate deep down into the ageing sur lattes for twelve or so years It was at this stage that the chalk in search of nutriments is done using a horse drawn plough in 2000 vintage was ruled out order to avoid packing down the soil And it is far more than just a This highly rigorous process of selection a mere four vintages have means of improving quality It marks a revival of traditional methods in been put on the market since the Clos was founded is vindicated by 86

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the fact that there is no blending and the wine is made only from the essence of the wine Denis Bl e stresses with no fining filtering or vines from a single parcel dosage Having followed Le Clos Saint Hilaire since its first vintage in The complexity of the aroma of Le Clos Saint Hilaire makes it an 1995 wine professionals were generous again with their praise with atypical powerful full wine with extremely good ageing potential the Revue du vin de France ranking Le Clos Saint Hilaire 1996 as a Vin It is a champagne to be savoured and lingered over It truly is the mythique or legendary wine Aerial view of the future Clos Saint Hilaire in the late 1960s showing the first rows of Pinot Noir vines planted in 1964 the old glasshouse at the foot of the vineyard and serried ranks of casks in the inner courtyard 87

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14 Great Oaks from Little Acorns From 1995 It was a watershed moment On 3 July 2017 Fran ois Roland Billecart container it now played a full part in its own right in the making of the presided over the ceremonial installation of eight brand new foudres wine To lead this adventure Fran ois was able to put his trust in Denis very large casks with a capacity at Maison Billecart Salmon of 80 Bl e the new Vineyard Master His experience in champagne had started hectolitres the first in a newly delivered set of twenty four Seeking a with Gratien specialists in vinification in oak whose expertise in this field special setting to do justice to these great instruments the marque had was deeply rooted in their long history decided to house them in a veritable cathedral The architect Vincent From his arrival in Mareuil in 1996 Denis had taken care of the vines of Fierfort and interior designer Bernard Muller had worked wonders the new Clos Saint Hilaire This great vin de garde appeared to be an designing an undulating wooden ceiling that looked as though it was ideal subject for the first trials in oak The micro oxygenation process that floating in the air Its organic form evoked the living world of plants as if took place in the casks would allow the wine to breathe better by helping to remind visitors that here natural materials occupied the most important to limit the phenomenon of reduction during ageing in the bottle place in the winemaking process The terrazzo floor a composite of Vinification in oak would endow the wine with a certain richness and add fragments of marble from throughout Italy also made subtle reference to suppleness to the distinctive character of the cuv e the art of blending vintages that is the beating heart of the champagne This first experiment was a success persuading Fran ois to include some Finally walls sheathed in smooth porcelain stoneware added an agreeably of the wines vinified in oak in some of the vintage cuv es In 2006 finally tactile touch The product of cutting edge technical processes this surface after ten years of trials he embarked on the creation of the Brut Sous added an essentially contemporary note Simplicity serenity and the finest Bois In order to carry out these ambitious projects however more space materials these were the messages conveyed by this new chai was needed to house the casks so in 2010 a large chai was built Today It was an adventure that had begun in 1995 when Fran ois Roland it houses over four hundred casks and two foudres Billecart unveiled to his father a plan that was at the very least surprising The design of this new building was guided by three essential critera the that they should return to vinification in oak Jean Roland Billecart was use of exclusively natural materials the creation of an environment of the astonished In the 1950s the Maison had been one of the first to move to highest standards of hygiene and the provision of the equipment needed brauthite tanks and then to stainless steel a revolution that had enabled to control vinification in conditions as close as possible to a traditional cellar it to master its fermentation processes more completely and thus had In order to meet these specifications the walls were lined with chamotte established the reputation of the marque clay a mixture of lime and crushed brick The oak beams were left In fact Fran ois s plan was far from being a step backwards If oak was untreated The cellar was air conditioned throughout and the air purified making a comeback it was being used quite differently No longer just a The atmosphere was humidified using chlorine free water And to add 89

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the finishing touch to the look of the space the casks are given a regular resistant than Pinot Noir Oak takes up room and does not like empty clean and polish on the outside so that they gleam as brightly as the day space hence the parcels to be vinified in oak are selected with care they were made at harvest time giving preference to well ripened grapes from old and A cellar of such distinction deserved casks that were no less perfect Denis completely healthy vines Oak has zero tolerance for mediocrity tending Bl e embarked on a quest that was to take him all over the length and to accentuate flaws and enhance virtues breadth of France meeting the finest coopers in the country His aim was to Denis Bl e was fascinated and captivated by what lay at stake in this identify the cask that was best suited to each grape variety then to refine this new and demanding challenge Inevitably it meant turning his back on down further until he had found the best cask for each individual cru a method that could be reproduced at an industrial level in order to It was a massive task the world of barrel making offers a degree of reintroduce something of the intuitive approach The making of the wines variety that is often unexpected depending on geographical location and was now enriched by an element of uncertainty that gave it something the level of rainfall in the region factors that can greatly affect the way in common with artistic endeavours It may be possible to make general the wood ages and the aromas it produces deductions about types of oak and the effect of different barrel makers Denis Bl e realized that he needed more information Fortunately the techniques on the behaviour of the wines but every cask nevertheless world of wine is one large family all of whose members share the same remains an individual entity with its own unique and distinctive way of passion In Burgundy Fran ois Roland Billecart s brother Antoine took being When Denis Bl e oversees the vinification he has to taste the Denis to see a selection of the finest wine buildings There he compared contents of every cask one after another Surprising as it may seem when the results produced on the wines of Burgundy by the casks from different vinified in two casks made by the same barrel maker the same wine may workshops and from this he drew up his own list evolve in two quite different ways Now the long work of experimentation could begin The methodology Delighted by the finesse of Denis Bl e s work and the results he had was strict After initially buying second hand casks Denis decided that he obtained Fran ois Roland Billecart decided that the Brut R serve cuv e would work only with new ones This would make the results easier to would now also be partly vinified in oak Oak was not to be the new compare as there would be no memory of any other wine in these casks essence of the marque s identity however Low temperature fermentation that were all destined to hold champagne remains the DNA common to all the cuv es whether in oak or stainless The aromas the Maison seeks to achieve are very light toasted brioch steel It was more a matter of broadening the palette of wines available or with a hint of vanilla Whenever Denis visited a barrel maker he would to the Cellar Master in the selection of his blends always find out which were their favourite forests Many of them bought It was at this point that Fran ois embarked upon the construction of a chai their oak from the forests of Tron ais in the Allier or C teaux in Burgundy for the foudres While the capacity of a standard cask is 2 28 hectolitres Denis was looking for forests of tall trees closely planted so that they a foudre will hold 80 hectolitres Here Denis Bl e applied the same policy were forced to stretch up to the light which would produce fine grained as for the casks aimed at limiting the effect of the oak as far as possible timber for his casks As he liked to explain Big tannins are all well and In this respect the foudre offered a considerable advantage as its large good for the powerful red wines of C tes du Rh ne and Bordeaux But at capacity meant that contact between the wine and the wood was reduced Billecart Salmon our work is more delicate and painstaking Only a limited number of makers of foudres had large enough stocks of After every vinification it is essential to pick precisely the right moment timber of sufficient age Of these Denis Bl e commissioned four Fran ois for racking the wine Powerful wines are more resistant and can stay in Fr res and Seguin Moreau who had supplied the Maison with casks for the cellar for longer The very dry summer of 2015 for example produced many years Taransaud a firm that had built up an excellent reputation in very full wines that could be kept in the casks for a few months longer the Cognac region and the Austrian firm of Stockinger one of the few There are variations between grape varieties too Often Meunier is less great cooperages outside France 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It was Eric Calzolari Sales Director for Billecart Salmon in Central Europe smallest detail including even the spacers between the tiles was certified who suggested Stockinger to Denis Bl e When he went to visit the by the independent laboratory Vect oeur firm he discovered them in an eighteenth century family house at the When Denis Bl e talks about the brand new chai foudres a twinkle foot of the Austrian Alps There Franz Stockinger and his son Mathias comes into his eye He can hardly wait to get to know each and every work in a very traditional way assisted by a small staff of eighteen They foudre As he says it s an incredible story as though there was a have acquired a tremendous reputation for the quality of their toasting sudden alignment of the planets to make it possible the stability and or firing which endows the oak with a very slightly aromatic quality confidence of a long established family business the right economic Although their marketing remains modest they supply casks to some of conditions a recent boost to our reputation So when things are the world s most prestigious wine domaines going so well why stop there why not go on to explore yet more When it came to the cellar itself the Maison went even further down worlds Denis has his dreams About amphorae for example with the road of bespoke precision Each foudre is autonomous with its own their terracotta walls and their elliptical shape offering a degree of temperature control As in the chai the atmosphere is air conditioned porosity and resonance that are beneficial to wines and a different filtered and purified and humidity levels are controlled No unforeseen type of convection movement And here too there is a great deal of events are permittted to interfere with the smooth unfolding of the scope for intuition for wood and earth are both living materials that vinification process To this end no effort was spared in ensuring that all we cannot grasp or understand solely through rational thought but materials used were completely safe and neutral Everything down to the that must be felt too 91

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15 Good Wine needs no Advertisement From 1818 It was 2 May 1860 Charles Billecart reading a letter from his agent in always find it easy to acknowledge this German heritage Sometimes they Brussels was exasperated People are all the same he thought You talk even denied it notably after the Franco Prussian War of 1870 It was at to them about wine crus vintages blends and all they want to know this point that Charles removed the coat of arms from his labels while about is packaging It was a field in which Champagne Houses were retaining the Billecart family crest The labels have remained restrained now vying with each other Bottles might be decorated in any number of ever since But this simplicity has never excluded a certain creative flair ways up to and including the sort of medals and braids normally reserved When Charles Roland Billecart drove the marque upmarket in the early for military heroes They were not so much bottles as Christmas trees 1930s it was this flair that drove the new advertising campaign But Charles would not give in to this new fad His own design vision was The firm turned to the Havas agency founded in 1835 who produced quickly summed up Good wine needs no advertisement our finest a series of elegant sketches in black and white In a previous campaign wines have the plainest labels our most famous grandes maisons have for the Syndicat des Grandes Marques Havas had put their finger on none at all or just their name In response to your observation on the the reasons underlying the crisis that Champagne Houses were facing subject of the Imperial label I would point out that the eagle has already at the time Their analysis was alarming the Roaring Twenties had been put to every conceivable use and also by all the petites maisons and tarnished the reputation of champagne which had increasingly become I deemed it only fitting to refrain from copying them associated with dissipation and decadence In nightclubs and brothels In 1852 admittedly his father Nicolas Fran ois had added the Bavarian champagne flowed like water The challenge was to reposition its image royal coat of arms to the labels of his Fleur de Bouzy cuv e But there as the drink for more sophisticated social occasions or family gatherings had been a good reason for this A privilege granted by Prince Charles of Times were also changing and a certain way of life was disappearing Bavaria the coat of arms was also a reminder of the historical connections this was the beginning of the fast food era when men and women between this north eastern region of France and Germany about town might just grab a quick sandwich for lunch and they no And the emblem was significant for another reason Germans had played longer lived in spacious houses but rather in apartments without cellars an important part in the early success of champagne Many n gociants And there was serious competition cocktails were all the rage eclipsing in the Champagne region had German roots The Germans had brought champagne in popularity The advertising campaign for Billecart Salmon with them an industrial approach to mechanized winemaking that was designed to address all these factors Its champagne had to be meshed with the French philosophy of terroir But the Champagne region marketed as a drink for every occasion The demi sec Premi re qualit was not just a crossroads and a place that melded different approaches would be perfect for family gatherings the more sophisticated Extra it was also Europe s biggest battlefield The French would therefore not dry would accompany elegant dinner parties The message was clear 93

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and compelling the visual design inspired by the pared back geometric to the Billecart Salmon tradition A mere two days later at a dinner at forms of Art Deco Posters offered sage advice to potential customers Maison Rostang in Paris Alexandre Bader met Christophe Cousin the Choose a single glass of good wine over two glasses of mediocre wine head of a cutting edge Paris based creative brand and design agency The Choose Billecart Salmon champagne two of them bonded immediately and soon they were discussing plans After the Second World War the house continued to refine its style When for building a strong visual identity for the marque without compromising Jean Roland Billecart became president in 1964 the Brut vintage was its authenticity They entrusted the task of creating the perfect blend to given the name Nicolas Fran ois Billecart In 1988 it was followed by its the agency s astute and experienced Art Director Paul Partenet who female counterpart the vintage cuv e ros Elisabeth Salmon A vintage instantly grasped the nature of the challenge to highlight what was so wine deserved a vintage bottle and Jean Roland Billecart set out to find special about this Maison that combined tradition with modernity while a bottle that would evoke the charm of the champagnes of his forebears focusing first and foremost on the unique character of its champagne By a stroke of luck in the museum at Epernay he came across a bottle A key concern was the design of the logo Paul Partenet was aware that designed in 1818 the year when the house was founded Its shape was the champagne world tended to be rather old fashioned favouring labels magnificent with a long slender neck rising from broad shoulders It was overloaded with a plethora of decorative detail The Billecart Salmon ordained by fate as far as he was concerned and he asked the curator for labels were no exception Like Coco Chanel with her first suits he decided permission to copy it The first bottles of Nicolas Fran ois Billecart went he had to be ruthless in eliminating anything that was not essential Fussy on sale to mark the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the house embellishments and flourishes coats of arms and a heavy handed use of This iconic bottle is now used for all vintage wines created by the marque colour all this had to go Excessive ornamentation would be abolished as well as the Brut Ros the Brut Sous Bois and most recently the Blanc in favour of clean lines and simplicity Partenet designed a minimalist de Blancs Grand Cru logo entwining the B and S of Billecart Salmon calling it Entrelacs Jean Roland Billecart s son Fran ois was to launch the latest stage in The B with its modern curves recalls the bubbles of champagne which this process In January 2002 Alexandre Bader Managing Director of can never be square The serif of the S by contrast evokes a world of Billecart Salmon received a phone call from Hugues Forget director of tradition Together they convey the dual image of a bunch of grapes or a the Grande picerie de Paris wine cellar in the Bon March department vine depending on the angle of view a visual ambiguity that echoes the store Alexandre I have some good news and some bad news the playful character of champagne good news is that we have sold all your Ros the bad news is that Avant garde as it may appear the logo also marks a return to the firm s no one has bought the Brut R serve Having to take the entire stock origins to the earliest days of Billecart Salmon when there were no labels back brought them down to earth with a bump after the end of year on the bottles just a mark branded on the inner face of the cork To make festivities How could it be that a champagne of such excellent quality it stand out more strongly Partenet chose black as the background for should have failed to attract any customers three of the seven house cuv es a colour rarely used by other champagne The minute Alexandre arrived in the Grande picerie s wine cellar the houses and that rapidly stood out on the shelves The same restraint answer was obvious It was staring him in the face The bottles of Billecart governed the design of the cap in a colour that evoked the tin used as Salmon simply vanished into the great mass of champagnes on display the raw material Only the champagne itself was golden There was nothing in their design or packaging to make them stand out This secret makeover was kept under wraps until the new bottle was from all the others Nor was there any style or colour coding to link the unveiled at Vinexpo 2003 Only Fran ois Roland Billecart and Alexandre different cuv es of the marque to underline their shared identity Fran ois Bader had followed every step of the transformation and not everyone was agreed with him What they needed now was a talented designer who convinced 90 per cent of people approved 10 per cent gave me a terribly could create a new graphic identity for the bottles while remaining faithful hard time recalled Alexandre especially the British and the Australians 94

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Jean Roland Billecart hastily set aside a few bottles with the old labels Paul At Billecart Salmon there could be no room for such doubts as their Partenet was reassured if perplexed by the reaction of one longstanding bottles were unlike those used by any other Champagne House customer The label But it s always looked like that hasn t it The Billecart So has the design now found a perfect balance Sitting at his drawing Salmon style seemed to be held in such high esteem that the new design board Paul Partenet thinks there is still room for improvement As Creative was simply taken for granted by the marque s most loyal clientele Director since 2017 he has been closely involved with every aspect of Changes never come singly and in the same year a second revolution design and packaging and continues to make changes on a constant shook the foundations of House traditions All its bottles would now basis A good example of his interventions may be seen in the decorative be made from darker glass This was partly to protect the champagne frieze on the label of the vintage cuv es To the informed observer its from being damaged by exposure to light but also to pre empt any design tells the story of a bottle of champagne from first vine shoot accusations of buying in wines sur lattes the dubious practice by which to final tasting entwined by a fine white line that runs through them some champagne houses used to buy wines that had already been like a thread Like the thread of a couturier it recalls the meticulous and champagnis and merely attached their own labels The subject of much perfectionist spirit of haute couture in which Maison Billecart Salmon has controversy in professional circles it had made customers suspicious always crafted its champagnes Advertising poster from the late 1950s designed by the celebrated illustrator Herv Morvan 1917 1980 95

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16 Broderie Parterres From 1818 When they were children Nicolas and Delphine used to run around maintenance of Le Clos Saint Hilaire and his skill and dedication have in the spacious garden of their house at Mareuil sur A playing hide ensured a continuity between the garden and the vineyards and seek Now and then their father Fran ois Roland Billecart would It thus contains some of the soul of Maison Billecart Salmon And like the glance out of his office window to see what they were up to and Maison it has experienced great storms as in 1926 and 1999 Each time smile The children s laughter the peaceful rustling of the leaves and it has risen again like a phoenix from the ashes It has had to reinvent the dappled light and shade created a happy atmosphere conducive itself Nicolas Fran ois s nineteenth century English style garden with to inspiration The years have passed and the children have grown up its meandering paths was inspired by the Romantic movement Then but the garden is still the same and the old chestnut tree patiently in the early twentieth century Charles Roland Billecart laid out a strictly awaits the arrival of generations to come Beneath its benevolent shade geometric French formal garden Seventy years later his granddaughter they too will share their deepest secrets their troubles at school and V ronique a landscape architect brought back a touch of playfulness by their dreams of adventure planting box hedges clipped into arabesques Dotted around were flower A low wall covered with a grapevine encloses the garden Does it mark beds overflowing with a joyous profusion of perennials such as irises a boundary between Fran ois s house and that of his father Jean or euphorbias lavender and nepeta does it symbolize the spirit of continuity between the generations In his Makeovers and transformations can sometimes foment rebellion Delphine beautiful home of stone and brick the patriarch gazes down over the still remembers how her younger brother climbed to the very top of the garden and the offices Maison Billecart Salmon looks towards the future great yew clinging desperately to its boughs to save his beloved tree without forgetting its past Its roots firmly anchored in the chalk soils of from being felled If they were going to cut it down he would go down the Champagne region are like the trees in the garden drawing life from with it The vandals were defeated the tree and the little boy the latter the soil to a depth equal to that of the cellars having eventually climbed down from the former continued to grow and Sometimes those family roots have needed protecting In the summer of thrive Today Nicolas travels the world as an enthusiastic ambassador for 1918 when a new German offensive threatened Mareuil sur A the family the marque frantically buried the archives of the Maison in the garden It might not Gazing at the garden it is tempting to see in it a reflection of the have been gold or jewels that they were entrusting to the earth but to champagnes of the House simple and understated with the refinement them these documents were more precious still their memory of the past and economy of a Mozart sonata Like Mozart s music it possesses an The garden is intricately linked to the history of the Maison It was the elegance that belies the immense effort skill and expertise that have gone gardener here who in the 1950s was responsible for the planting and into its creation To help gain an appreciation of all the nuances of flavour 97

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of Maison Billecart Salmon champagne and to understand the story that it tells us we could do no better than to stroll through the garden to inhale the intoxicating fragrance of its roses and to meet this charming family who have watched over it for two centuries And perhaps to reflect with Baudelaire that nature is a living temple in which man walks through forests of symbols that observe him with familiar glances The garden beside the house in the 1930s redesigned la fran aise by Charles Roland Billecart 98

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17 Sak Champagne From 1990 Kyoto Japan April 2017 Gazing out from the open gallery of the Taizo in that is very similar to that of Billecart Salmon champagnes Such shared temple Reverend Daiko Matsuyama was spellbound by what he saw In tastes had to be celebrated Daiko Matsuyama suggested a very special the still silvery night white petals had fallen like snowflakes on to the event a dinner to mark the sakura hanami the famous viewing of the pond in the Yoko en garden spreading a delicate veil over the water cherry blossom which is particularly spectacular in Kyoto The sakura zensen the cherry blossom front had returned Every spring This unique occasion deserved a commemorative presentation box and people follow its advance from the island of Okinawa in the south of Billecart Salmon commissioned the Japanese artist Noboru Tsubaki to the Japanese archipelago to Hokkaido in the far north Throughout this create the artwork Tsubaki was captivated by the firm s logo seeing in magical season the Japanese interrupt their daily routines to visit parks its interlacing initials a dragon ascending to paradise Extending the and temples with their friends and families and devote themselves to analogy of two serpentine elements he played with a stylized inkwash practising hanami contemplation of the cherry trees The fragility of the technique known in Japanese as haboku broken ink With its tonal blossoms is a reminder of the transience of life And strange though it may contrasts of grey and black splashes of ink and the freedom of its soaring seem on this particular evening the blossoms pale petals might well have brushwork the dragon s swirling dance recalls the explosive vitality of reminded Daiko Matsuyama of the ros champagnes of Maison Billecart champagne its mysterious energy and simple elegance Daiko added an Salmon The Buddhist monk had just had a remarkable encounter with old Chinese poem to accompany his artwork the champagnes of this marque Kindly accept this joyous drink Antoine Roland Billecart the present Commandeur of the Ordre des And let me fill your cup Coteaux de Champagne first met Daiko Matsuyama in Kyoto at one of For after the blossoms have fallen the rainy season follows the gatherings of the order known as chapitres chapters Matsuyama Life is full of farewells invited him to lunch at the temple restaurant proud of the fact that it had For Antoine the evening event marked a successful conclusion to been awarded a Michelin star and suggested he bring along a few bottles many years of patient work Maison Billecart Salmon had first started of his champagne Antoine Roland Billecart was introduced to shojin to establish a presence in Japan in the early 1990s But the Japanese ryori a devotion cuisine served in monasteries and offered to visitors market was far from conquered it presented challenges that were Root vegetables which can only be harvested by killing the plant as well very similar to those of the British one genuine connoisseurs and as spices garlic and herbs with pungent odours are usually prohibited an extremely loyal customer base concerned less with marque or Based on vegetables and flowers the dishes are simple with flavours so appellation than with d gustation and the relationship between quality subtle that they sometimes verge on the imperceptible a refinement and price Japan was the second largest consumer of sparkling wines 101

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at this time but champagne sales were negligible France was viewed two hundred years is sure to elicit esteem respect and trust Traditional primarily as a supplier of cognac values ancestor worship and close family ties all play an important role The eventual success of Billecart Salmon in the Japanese archipelago in Japanese society and are intricately linked to the Japanese view of life can be ascribed to a number of factors The fact that great French chefs Similar values are also reflected subtly but undeniably in the history of such as Thierry Marx and Pierre Gagnaire had opened restaurants in the Billecart family Japan or worked with luxury hotel chains was a tremendous asset Many Another hallmark that the Japanese recognize immediately is quality good relationships were established But in order to launch a successful A scrupulous attention to excellence and a tireless pursuit of perfection campaign the House needed someone who was fully immersed in are no cause for amazement to the Japanese Antoine Roland Billecart Japanese culture S bastien Papin Billecart Salmon s Director for Asia recalled a visit he made to a sak bar for instance that offered blends and the Pacific since 2009 was the perfect choice He has been applying from almost five thousand different varieties of rice Many different kinds his talents to the conquest of the Japanese market since 2013 ensuring of maceration cooling and rehydration not to mention rice cultivars and that Billecart Salmon champagnes feature on the menus of the greatest degrees of polishing created an almost infinite range of nuances in taste Japanese restaurants those tiny and discreet establishments that offer The land of the rising sun understands all the complexities involved in the the ultimate fine dining experience One such restaurant is Kawamura in blending of champagnes Tokyo Open for dinner only it has very few tables and reservations have Japan will not be the last stop in the Billecart Salmon conquest of the to be made months in advance The exclusive menu costs over a thousand Asian market A tireless traveller and keen explorer of culinary traditions euros And what do they serve as a welcoming drink A glass of Billecart that are less familiar to western tastes S bastien Papin has set off in Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru search of new horizons From the most fashionable restaurants of Hong A number of other more elusive factors have helped Billecart Salmon Kong where customers can bring their own wine to the cloudless blue champagnes gain recognition among Japanese customers In a society skies of Bora Bora Billecart Salmon champagnes may be seen in some whose imperial family is said to have first come to the throne in 660 BC surprising places bringing with them a little of the perfume of the distant a family firm run by the sixth and seventh generation and stretching back vineyards of Champagne 102

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Antoine Roland Billecart and Daiko Matsuyama at the Taizo in Temple in Kyoto April 2017 103

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18 Gastronomic Pairings From 1991 Champagne and gastronomy seem to be made for each other But what just any vegetables He planted his own kitchen gardens cultivating the seems so obvious today has not always been so Alexandre Bader became vegetables that flourished best on each different type of soil Sometimes aware of this in the early 1990s when he took over as Sales Director for he uses a horse drawn plough to till the soil All his produce is organic the marque and for him it was a matter of regret A man of strongly held and the restaurant is strictly seasonal diners will find no tomatoes on his convictions he firmly believed that although champagne was naturally menus in the winter months Like vineyard workers at harvest time Alain the perfect drink for festive occasions for toasts and celebrations it Passard s gardeners are ever vigilant for that moment of peak ripeness should be seen first and foremost as a great wine In order to restore of a perfection that may sometimes last for only a few hours Vegetables champagne to its rightful status accordingly he set out to win over the picked in the morning will be served that same evening The arrival of the great chefs of French haute cuisine offering them inspiration for their van bringing the day s delivery is eagerly awaited by the whole team in culinary creations so that they could bring subtle pairings of their dishes the knowledge that menus for the day will be composed around that day s and his champagne to their tables vegetables Nature calls the tune and plays the opening bars for each of Alexandre set up numerous meetings and dinners with chefs and these compositions and after that it us up to the chef to orchestrate the restaurateurs at critically acclaimed restaurants He wanted to gain an symphony of flavours understanding of their vision and he put his trust in their creative flair In the spirit of Maison Billecart Salmon Alain Passard puts his faith in And then he would suggest which cuv es from the extensive Billecart nature confident that it will reveal its underlying harmonies Colours Salmon palette would harmonize most fruitfully with the style of each of have emerged as an intriguing guide and compositions in which the these Michelin starred maestros ingredients complement each other visually also more often than not The first chef he met was Alain Passard Alexandre still cherishes the yield delicious harmonies of flavour And Jean Roland Billecart too was memory of the lobster with vin jaune that they enjoyed together in his inspired by colour perfecting the paleness of his ros champagne in order restaurant L Arp ge They became friends In Stockholm in 1999 it was to reinvent this forgotten genre Alan Passard shapes his dishes like a Alain Passard who announced that a Billecart Salmon champagne had sculptor always simplifying and paring back in his quest for a purer style been voted Champagne of the Millennium in which the hand of the chef can no longer be discerned an aesthetic Clearly there were many affinities between the worlds of Maison Billecart that also informs working methods in the Mansion at Mareuil sur A Salmon and this ground breaking chef Alain Passard had undergone a When he gave up red meat in 2001 Alain Passard was faced with the genuine conversion Having forged his reputation with classic meat dishes challenge of finding wines that would not overpower the delicate flavours he decided to make vegetables the centrepiece of his cuisine But not of his vegetable dishes The finesse of Billecart Salmon champagnes and 105

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their saline notes offered some delightful pairings with different vintages allowing the subtle flavours of the other ingredients to come into their own enhancing the changing seasons For his autumn menus the Brut Sous How could such a chef remain unmoved by a Billecart Salmon Extra Brut Bois inspired a dish of grilled leeks with ceps the toasted aroma of the For Michel Rostang affinities with the Champagne House are founded champagne harmonizing with the earthiness of the ceps One of the in the values they share as family businesses with skills and expertise qualities that Alain Passard voted the world s best chef by Le Chef in handed down through the generations Trained at Lasserre and Lucas 2017 admires particularly in this marque is its consistency so vital for Carton Rostang was born into the world of haute cuisine as his father a chef who works in a more fickle unstable world where products are was the distinguished chef patron at La Bonne Auberge in Antibes at constantly changing the height of its fame His wife Marie Claude who works alongside him There was a similar affinity between Billecart Salmon and Jean Pierre is the daughter and granddaughter of distinguished restaurateurs and Vigato the celebrated former chef at Apicius in Paris Vigato s genius lies in their two daughters Caroline and Sophie now also fulfil important roles simplicity rather than striving for elaborate sophistication he endeavours in the family business A Champagne House where three generations of to treat all his ingredients with respect with the aim of bringing out their the same family work side by side every day to perpetuate the art of full natural flavours It is an approach that is shared to a degree by the winemaking and the love of wine was therefore an establishment with Cellar Master at Billecart Salmon in his constant pursuit of an alchemy which he could feel a close rapport that will enable the grapes to express their full potential But it is perhaps Another kindred spirit particularly in his passion for travel proved in the way he puts his dishes together that the spirit of Vigato s cuisine to be the chef Jean Georges Vongerichten It was in his famous New aligns most closely with that of the Maison as he trusts to improvisation York restaurant JoJo that Billecart Salmon Ros champagne first gained rather than recipes Nothing is laid down in writing in advance for there recognition in the United States From his native Alsace Jean Georges must always be enough space and freedom to allow for inspiration and like Alexandre Bader had set out to conquer the world in his case by intuition Every dish is thus a unique creation like a jazz riff Vigato is embracing other cultures and opening up his art to fusion cuisine While particularly fond of the Cuv e Elisabeth Salmon which he serves with his never forgetting his origins or the traditions of French haute cuisine he ris de veau cuit au sautoir saut ed sweetbreads and his poulardes de was able to win the hearts of American diners by also drawing inspiration Bresse Bresse chicken from the culinary cultures of the Far East Other chefs have delighted the Maison with their sense of innovation The great Paris based chef Pierre Gagnaire meanwhile voted best chef their talent for reinterpreting the great classic dishes in order to reveal in the world by Le Chef in 2016 has set about reinventing the arts of them in a new and unexpected light Among them is Yannik All no The the table and rediscovering history In his view the intensity and precise greatness of French cuisine once lay in its rich sauces in the twentieth vinification that he admires in the Billecart Salmon Extra Brut make it century their supremacy began to be questioned however and in some ideally suited to being served in a decanter Together with Maison Billecart kitchens they were even banished Now they are back but in a new form Salmon he resolved to bring back this forgotten practice that had held Yannik All no has brought them back to the heart of his cuisine but has sway at the time of Napoleon III In reducing the fizz and opening the re created them in a lighter subtler form His method involving cooking wine decanting brings out the full aromas of the champagne which in each sauce sous vide at a low temperature then reducing it through a this way becomes the ideal accompaniment to every stage of the meal process of frozen extraction bears some similarity in principle to the low Maison Billecart Salmon has created its own decanter as the ideal way of temperature fermentation used at Billecart Salmon serving its vintage and Nicolas Fran ois cuv es In 2016 the House also When it comes to desserts and pastries Yannick All no s approach chimes introduced a larger decanter designed to hold a magnum once again with the philosophy of Billecart Salmon He has revolutionized With its enviable reputation history and experience Maison Billecart patisserie with his method of reducing added sugar to a minimum so Salmon keeps its vision firmly fixed on the future and all the promise that it 106

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Alain Passard and Alexandre Bader enjoying a glass of Nicolas Fran ois 2006 together in the gallery of Alain Passard s restaurant L Arp ge holds For some years the House has been the sponsor of the Prix du Grand d Andr a took the prize for his restaurant Mensae in 2017 it was the turn Chef de Demain a key event in the professional calendar held annually of Toshitaka Omiya chef at Alliance United in their pursuit of excellence in Paris under the auspices of Yannick All no The prize recognizes the and inspiration and their rigorous commitment to quality the champagnes most promising chefs working in French haute cuisine and most of the of Maison Billecart Salmon and the great names of French gastronomy winners have subsequently gone on to gain Michelin stars In 2016 Kevin together form a partnership that promises an auspicious future 107

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The Champagnes Billecart Salmon To enter the world of Billecart Salmon champagnes is to be delighted by the different characters of these distinguished vintages to appreciate the harmonies of their notes and to savour their aromas textures and flavours 108

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Collection This selection bears witness to the exceptional expertise devoted by Maison Billecart Salmon to its champagnes Their range of subtle fruity and floral aromas is the embodiment of a rigorous exercise in style in the purest spirit of champagne The blending of different years creates champagnes of great distinction and affirms the continuity of the House style underlined by its signature low temperature fermentation Slow ageing in the cellars for three to seven years meanwhile ensures the full maturity of these champagnes

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Mill sime A vintage is the reflection of a unique grape harvest holding within it the memory of a special moment At Maison Billecart Salmon only the finest years selected from the most outstanding vats and casks are granted this accolade To achieve this level of prestige the Maison draws on all its long experience of tastings and its memories of historic vintages and endeavours to anticipate the potential of the future wine so that it may achieve its fullest expression The Mill sime range thus offers champagnes of fine character rich and complex that may be cellar aged for between five and fifteen years or even longer in order to gain full enjoyment of their concentrated aromas Exquisitely delicate they may be enjoyed with the most exceptional cuisine

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A Blanc de Noirs cuv e named after the patron saint of Mareuilsur A The Clos which covers a hectare conforms to all the rigorous standards required of its appellation it consists of a single parcel formed by one walled plot with the complete equipment necessary for vinification on site Planted in 1964 the vineyard has always belonged to the family and is developing all the features of the finest of grands crus Made exclusively from Pinot Noir and vinified in oak this champagne with a fine golden colour and coppery reflections is quite simply outstanding The nose is powerful earthy and saline with aromas of candied fruits citrus and orange peel The palate is rich intense fresh and infinite in its length It has to be tasted in order to convey all the intensity and emotion that a champagne of such distinction can evoke Each vintage comprises no more than between 3500 and 7500 bottles to be kept for the most special of occasions 114

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Champagne of the Millennium In 1999 Maison Billecart Salmon took part in a wine tasting organized in expect of a luxury champagne but in a seldom seen concentration and Stockholm by Richard Juhlin to select the Champagne of the Millennium simultaneously with harmonious balance A totally perfect champagne in Among the 150 champagnes in competition were two Billecart Salmon its category with a smoky honey smooth extremely long taste of walnut vintages the Brut 1959 and the Brut 1961 When the results were orange blossom and chocolate All who ever get to drink this fabulous announced these two vintages scooped first and second place In wine just have to love the pleasure it grants When you study the end his book The Great Tasting Richard Juhlin wrote of the winner The results it is striking to see how obvious the victory was perfect champagne 1959 Billecart Salmon had everything one would It was awarded a final mark of 98 5 out of 100 116

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A Family Story Passion courage intuition with every new chapter in the family history a member of the rising generation has taken up the challenge All of them different in their own ways but all motivated by the same shared love of wine 118

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1818 B S

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The Impassioned Founders The emotional bond between the Billecarts and the Salmons was consolidated by an economic alliance when Nicolas Fran ois went into partnership NICOLAS FRAN OIS BILLECART ELISABETH SALMON 1st GENERATION with his wife s brother Louis Salmon 1793 1841 The two men merged Nicolas Fran ois and Elisabeth shared the same roots in the Champagne gies into this promising business venture Nicolas Fran ois in charge of region History was not kind to Nicolas Fran ois 1794 1858 Born to sales decided to conquer the Russian market After difficult beginnings Fran ois Alexandre Billecart during the tumult of the French Revolution this was to bear fruit as it enhanced the firm s reputation in the French he was orphaned in his early teens After training in viniculture in 1818 he market which until the early nineteenth century regarded champagne as married Elisabeth Salmon 1797 1860 also from a family of winegrowers a frothy extravagance Nicolas Fran ois was the fearless pioneer who foun in Mareuil sur A They founded the Champagne House in the same year ded the Champagne House and who gave it the name Billecart Salmon their vineyards to make a total of fourteen hectares and threw their ener 120

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The Intrepid Adventurer CHARLES BILLECART 2nd GENERATION Charles Billecart 1823 1888 son of Nicolas Fran ois started working with his father in 1840 and took over as Director in 1858 An enthusiastic seeker of new horizons and enterprising businessman he shipped his wines to the Antipodes and notably across the Atlantic to New York the heart of what was potentially a new Eldorado Securing a foothold there proved harder than he had imagined but Charles refused to give up on his dream He turned his sights on the British market which proved difficult to break into so he bypassed it by going direct to the British colonies Soon eager customers in the tropics India and the coasts of Australia still largely unknown territory to Europeans were buying champagnes from Maison Billecart Salmon and Charles felt emboldened to attempt once more to win over the wary British capital In Europe meanwhile the French and German markets fulfilled his ambitions Charles then married Fanny Gadiot from a family of winegrowers and brokers in Rilly laMontagne so enlarging the vineyards of the Maison to some 40 hectares The business was now growing fast helped by the close attention paid to every new technical advance by Charles who was keen to improve his scientific methods of vinification His efforts were to bear fruit now clients all over Europe from Berlin to Biarritz wanted to buy BillecartSalmon champagne 121

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The Dandy and Aesthete POL BILLECART 3rd GENERATION A true dandy Pol Billecart 1854 1916 was a lighthearted hedonist who cultivated elegance and the pleasures of life Perfectly in tune as he was with the spirit of the Belle Epoque he was convinced that Maison BillecartSalmon would find new opportunities in the giddy atmosphere of these years of peace and economic growth While his father Charles had never been convinced of its value Pol believed in the power of publicity and made sure that Maison Billecart Salmon took part in the Paris Universal Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900 where it was one of the sponsors of the flamboyant Palais du Champagne In Mareuil sur A Pol launched the fashion for hosting prestigious receptions to which a chic clientele eagerly flocked His steam barge called Le Djinn gently cruised the waters of the Marne while contented guests lounged on deck sipping glasses of champagne But Pol was not just an attentive host He applied himself to the task of modernizing the tools of production and it was under his leadership that Billecart Salmon began to become an industrial enterprise But then two events changed the course of his life In 1911 his brother Ren who had inherited the Maison s vineyards decided to sell them Then Pol and his wife Jeanne Gosset who had no children had to make plans for the next generation and choose an heir This was to be the son of his sister Juliette Roland Charles Roland Billecart 122

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The Courageous Pilot CHARLES ROLAND BILLECART 4th GENERATION Pol s nephew Charles 1886 1963 was the son of his sister Juliette and a banker from Rethel Lucien Roland Two years older than his brother Louis Charles was born in Paris in the same year that Lucien went bankrupt a casualty of the financial crisis in Europe Lucien left for Argentina where he set up a business importing building materials but soon returned to Mareuil sur A to work with his brother in law Pol Meanwhile Charles had completed his business studies and started working for an import export firm in Hamburg in 1907 Conscripted in 1914 Charles a motorcycle racing champion and fearless lover of speed signed up for the air force where his bravery in combat earned him the Croix de Guerre When Pol died in 1916 Charles was able to take over the running of the firm during periods of leave from the air force and in 1921 he was granted the legal right to add his mother s family name to his own so becoming Charles Roland Billecart In the period between the wars exports declined and Maison BillecartSalmon focused on domestic sales Charles now redirected the firm s sales strategy towards a middle class clientele who enjoyed champagne either at home or in exclusive bars and restaurants He spent most of the Second World War in Mareuil sur A where he took over the duties of the mayor and helped to set up the Comit Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne CIVC While he had to deal with the German occupying forces at home his son Jean was forcibly enlisted into the Service du travail obligatoire STO and sent to work in Germany 123

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The Meticulous Perfectionist JEAN ROLAND BILLECART 5th GENERATION In 1940 aged seventeen Charles Roland Billecart s son Jean born 1923 joined the family firm for a three year apprenticeship designed to give him a good grounding in every aspect of the m tier His father a gifted teacher supervised his training and followed his progress closely After his return from STO in Germany Jean became sales manager for the Lyon region for a while and was also put in charge of exports which he steadily increased A passionate oenologist he carried out studies in the field of fermentation that would transform vinification methods at Billecart Salmon In the late 1950s he introduced low temperature fermentation and cold settling which soon proved to be hugely successful as demonstrated by the vintages of 1959 voted Champagne of the Millennium in Stockholm in 1999 and 1961 In 1964 he named the vintage Brut Cuv e Nicolas Fran ois Billecart in honour of the founder and in the 1970s he introduced a Brut Ros to which he added the elegant vintage Ros Cuv e Elisabeth Salmon in 1988 Greatly loved and respected Monsieur Jean as he is universally known has lost none of his enthusiasm for the adventure of making champagne and still enjoys taking part in tastings for new blends with his sons Fran ois and Antoine 124

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The Visionary Poet and the Charming Ambassador FRAN OIS ROLAND BILLECART ANTOINE ROLAND BILLECART 6th GENERATION and instead of selling through the major supermarkets decided instead Fran ois Roland Billecart and Antoine Roland Billecart together represent Antoine Roland Billecart born in 1961 started working for Maison the sixth generation of the Billecart Salmon family Fran ois the elder bro Billecart Salmon in 1984 His experiences as a student in Spain and the ther born in 1947 joined the firm in 1987 initially working alongside his United States fostered his love of travel and developed his knowledge father to perfect his knowledge before taking over the running of the of foreign markets As Deputy General Director in charge of exports he House in 1993 Convinced that the garden beside the family house had works tirelessly to ensure that Billecart Salmon champagnes are found the potential to become the vineyard for an exceptional champagne he on all the best tables and in all the finest restaurants from London to created Le Clos Saint Hilaire in the early 1990s and in 1995 produced Sydney In 2015 he became Commandeur of the Ordre des Coteaux de its first vintage He was responsible for a return to vinification in oak Champagne with four thousand members around the world to focus on independent wine merchants and high quality restaurants 125

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Family spirit since 1818 Monsieur Jean seated at the table ready to share a gateau with three generations of his family all with their own passions

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Expert Hands Precise intuitive simple and a pleasure to watch the techniques that go into making these remarkable champagnes are informed with skills and expertise that have been handed down within the family for two hundred years 128

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Shaping a vineyard is a passion handed down understanding Touch sight hearing smell taste from one generation to the next down the cen every sense plays a part in the day to day work turies The many skills and expert knowledge involved in creating a great wine from the terroir learned at colleges of viticulture and nology are of Champagne gradually enriched and deepened by an instinctive 130

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Treading softly through the vines Never the same from one cru to the next each horse drawn ploughing as the lighter tread of the terroir has its own individual song its unique horses hooves between the vines compacts the exposure and soil composition of clay silt and soil less The principles of sustainability and respect chalk to which the winegrower must pay heed for the environment are contributing to ensuring a in order to help it to find the nutrients it needs and lasting future for this example of unspoilt nature to express its character more fully The soil can only In Le Clos Saint Hilaire a handful of sheep graze live and thrive if its biodiversity is respected For between the rows of vines quietly and diligently this reason the Maison has returned to traditional mowing the strips of grasses and wild flowers 131

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The art of pruning Of all the winegrower s tasks expert pruning of the vines is the most quintessential It requires not only great skill and precision but also sound judgement as the wood to be pruned varies from one vine to the next After gaining the necessary qualifications in pruning it takes the winegrowers of the Champagne region an average of five years practical experience in order to perfect this delicate technique Pruning starts after the leaves have fallen in November and ends before bud break in March In creating the best structure for the vines pruning ensures their long life and productivity Pliers and paper string perform a complex ballet as the vineyard worker ties in the vine trunks and cordons This painstaking and highly choreographed process trains the pruned wood on a vertical plane using over 50 000 ties per hectare Delicate adjustments 132

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Trembling new shoots Only the strongest shoots are kept As the vineyard workers assess them by eye their hands prune out the surplus wood and young shoots that will not bear fruit Their work is guided by two words spacing and selection Sitting on a wheeled trolley thirty centimetres above the ground each vineyard worker works efficiently and ruthlessly de budding trimming and opening up the vines in the gentle spring air The fruits of their labours Only harvesting by hand is permitted in Champagne This enables the harvesters to select the ripest and healthiest clusters so ensuring the grapes are whole and intact before they are pressed These undamaged grapes are transported in small boxes making it possible to select the crus throughout the process from the parcel to the vat or cask 133

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Nimble fingers Angels breath For Billecart Salmon Ros Champagnes only harvested then again when they are spread out Inside the chai surrounding the rows of casks the finest parcels of Pinot Noir vines are selec on the selection table They are vinified with meti the air is filled with the delicious floral and woody ted containing the oldest vines in the terroirs culous care in order to obtain a fine red colour scents of wine in the making Intangible yet of Mareuil sur A and the Montagne de Reims and delicate fruity and floral aromas omnipresent this fragrance is the angels share The grapes are selected initially when they are the alcohol that evaporates through the oak like the spiritual essence of the wine Here and there an angel may be glimpsed perched on one of the roof beams First tasting Fingertip temperature control At last the long awaited moment arrives the Cold settling of the musts followed by low tem in the selection of the most outstanding first pressing perature fermentation brings out the superlative juice which will create the most perfect blends character of the grapes from each terroir Low After the alcoholic fermentation processes the temperature fermentation is the hallmark of every broad outlines of the wine s personality are already Billecart Salmon cuv e emerging in their purest form Ageing on the lees tasting in the cellars of the musts of the different crus Experience memory and intuition all play a part will bring out the finest characteristics of the crus that are most valued by the Maison allowing their unique character to flourish and bloom 134

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The hands of time turn A quick gesture but one that brings with it the experience of generations it needs an infinitesimally precise twist of the wrist to ensure the sediment falls to the neck of the bottle Twisting the bottle to right and left the cellar worker in charge of remuage or riddling ensures that the bottle gradually assumes a more upright position until finally it is held vertically in the wooden rack Riddling is carried out after a long period of ageing in the cellar Sleeping Beauty awakes After riddling comes disgorgement to remove the sediment in the neck of the bottle The spectacular gesture of d gorgement la vol e manual disgorging is reserved for the finest vintages The cellar workers now prepare the wines for tests with liqueurs de dosage after which the Cellar Master assesses the wines brilliance aromas and structure

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A family affair As they develop the wines are constantly tasted of the family takes part in the blending of the observed and analysed in order to bring out their cuv es taking careful note of which aspects of its character to the full As the final step in this history the wine s colour aromas structure and lengthy process the Maison Billecart Salmon freshness will reveal and transmit tasting committee meets and every member 136

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Shimmering aromas Decanting is done to open up wines and it adds an extra dimension to vintage or very vinous champagnes The art lies in the delicate pouring of the champagne into the carafe so as to fully reveal its aromas the brilliance of its colour and the finesse of its bubbles Gastronomic pairings The remarkably diverse characters of BillecartSalmon champagnes means that they are perfect for accompanying dishes of every kind in pairings that produce resonances and harmonies of every description from the most classic to the most unexpected For this reason they are a source of delight to great chefs such as Alain Passard 137

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Two Centuries of Champagne 1818 1914 Marriage of Nicolas Fran ois Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon Following At the outbreak of the First World War Pol Billecart s nephew Charles their union Nicolas Fran ois goes into partnership with his wife s brother son of Juliette Billecart and Lucien Roland is called up Having gained his Louis Salmon Nicolas Fran ois is in charge of sales and marketing while pilot s licence he joins the air force He was already working for Billecart his brother in law focuses on winemaking Salmon before the war now Pol who has no heir appoints him as his successor 1858 1919 Charles succeeds his father Nicolas Fran ois Billecart as Director of the Charles is demobilized at the end of the war and returns to Mareuil firm for which he has worked since the 1840s His expertise in winemaking sur A to find the Maison empty with stocks in the cellar reduced to ushers Billecart Salmon into a new era of scientific excellence barely 75 000 bottles After many years he succeeds in turning the firm 1888 around in 1936 sales rise to a record breaking 217 000 bottles 1958 Pol elder son of Charles Billecart becomes Director of the Maison He inherits the buildings while his younger brother Ren receives the vine Jean Charles Roland Billecart s elder son transforms the winemaking yards and his sister Juliette the marque process by introducing low temperature fermentation and cold settling 1900 He began his training in the Champagne House in 1940 starting out as The Maison takes part in the Universal Exhibition in Paris It is one of the from his father sponsors of the celebrated Palais de Champagne erected by the Syndicat du Commerce des Vins de Champagne in which glasses of Billecart 1963 Salmon champagnes are served alongside the grandes marques Jean Roland Billecart takes over as Director of the House a cellarman before learning about the commercial side of the business 138

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1964 2000 The first Pinot Noir vines for the future Clos Saint Hilaire are planted This Creation of a new cuverie year also sees the creation of the Cuv e Nicolas Fran ois Billecart 2003 1983 Creation of the Entrelacs logo In June the Maison presents its new Antoine younger son of Jean Roland Billecart begins his career at the visual identity and packaging at the Vinexpo trade fair House by expanding the international market so becoming global ambas 2010 sador for the marque 1988 The Maison expands with the construction of a new chai housing Creation of the Cuv e lisabeth Salmon 2018 400 casks and 2 foudres 1993 The Maison celebrates its bicentenary Fran ois Jean Roland Billecart s elder son takes over as Director and A new chai housing 24 foudres is added makes radical changes to the firm s distribution policy buying back all Mathieu Roland Billecart begins his apprenticeship with Fran ois Roland stock from supermarkets and focusing exclusively on specialist wine mer Billecart to become the next heir to Maison Billecart Salmon and the story chants and high quality restaurants continues 1995 Creation of Le Clos Saint Hilaire vintage which has so far produced four vintages 1995 1996 1998 and 1999 1999 At the Great Tasting a major champagne tasting organized by Richard Juhlin in Stockhom the 1959 Brut is selected as Champagne of the Millennium Second place goes to another Billecart Salmon champagne the 1961 139

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Acknowledgments The author and publisher would like to thank all those who in many different ways have contributed to this book by sharing their knowledge and memories and granting access to their archives Jean Roland Billecart and the members of his family The staff and directors of Billecart Salmon including Fran ois Roland Billecart Antoine Roland Billecart Nicolas Roland Billecart Alexandre Bader Denis Bl e Fran ois Domi Florent Nys Colin Palmer Geoffrey Loisel and S bastien Papin Former employees of the Champagne House Pascale Petit Andr e Raucourt Monique Bardin and Jacques Roger St phane Gilles who allowed us to view the historic archives on the commune of Mareuil sur A amassed by his greatly missed father Bernard Gilles another former employee and a keen historian Alain Passard Time honoured wine growing partners of Billecart Salmon Martine Jacquemain Jean Marie Croix Philippe Chardonnet Alain Gavroy and Olivier Paulet The Union des Maisons de Champagne the departmental archives of the Marne and the Carnegie Library in Reims We would also like to express our gratitude to all those who have provided invaluable help during the preparation of this book Val rie Bougault Leif Carlsson Astrid Tesson the WIN WIN Agency and especially Delphine Roland Billecart St phane Charrier Paul Partenet Rose Bitterlin and Ang lina St phan Anna Wolstenholme and Pascaline Bachut Thouron at Billecart Salmon 142

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Photographic Acknowledgments Leif Carlsson 1 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 38 50 56 70 96 107 109 117 126 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 l Leif Carlsson Vigneron Magazine 20 l Studio Zebulon 28 32 42 46 62 66 74 78 84 88 92 100 104 110 112 l Kenryou Gu 103 l Studio Palast 115 140 Nathan Besse 130 132 l Thomas Deyron 142 l Marc Deville agence Gamma 69 l Fr d ric Ducout 125 l Archives Billecart Salmon 41 49 55 61 76 77 83 87 95 98 99 103 120 121 122 123 124 l All rights reserved 36 37 41 l Collection of the Biblioth que Georges Pompidou Ch lons en Champagne 31

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Editorial Director Alain de Gourcuff Design and layout Papier and Co Editorial coordination Ma va Duclos Production Luc Martin Translation from the French Barbara Mellor Martina Dervis Malcolm Imrie Nat Paterson March 2018 All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means electronic photocopy information retrieval system or otherwise without the written permission of the copyright holder Legal deposit May 2018 ISBN 979 10 210 3349 8 Editorial number 4077 Printed in Italy in March 2018 for Editions Tallandier