Our Michelin star chef, and contributing editor, Roger Jones, gets all the short straws – imagine how long his face got when we packed him off to the London leg of Billecart-Salmon’s global gastronomic celebrations of their 200-year anniversary, presided over by two of the world’s top chefs, Alain Passard and Anne-Sophie Pic.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Billecart-Salmon Champagne house by Elisabeth Salmon and Nicolas François Billecart. To celebrate this great milestone they have organised a gastronomic world tour, visiting Singapore, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and London.
Renowned for its distinctive vintages, and iconic Rosé, Billecart-Salmon is one of the few remaining independent, family-owned Champagne Houses. Bicentenary celebrations have been taking place throughout 2018, with the aim of honouring Billecart-Salmon’s champagne-making traditions, to highlight 200 years of high standards and perseverance, and to enhance the House’s heritage and history.
Three-star Michelin chef Alain Passard, of the famed L’Arpège restaurant in Paris, has collaborated with the house to create a calendar of gastronomic events across the globe. In partnership with acclaimed chefs and restaurants each event has featured an exceptional menu specially crafted to match Billecart-Salmon’s exquisite champagnes.
Here are some notes on the champagnes tasted both prior to the dinner in an exclusive masterclass and with dinner where they were matched to a special menu prepared by Alain Passard and Anne-Sophie Pic, with 6 Michelin Stars between them, hosted at La Dame de Pic, Ten Trinity Square, London.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV (Magnum)
Subtle aroma with an elegant, delicate bouquet of red fruits and zesty citrus fruits. Fresh and retrained with a delicate bright raspberry finish.
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Vintage 2007
This has a beautiful nose, seductive and enticing, orchard fruit, hints of almonds with a fresh citrus acidity to balance the wine. Drinking well now but will evolve.
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Brut Sous Bois NV
Now that this oak-aged wine has been firmly integrated into the family the label has changed to tie in more with the house style. Rich and expressive on the nose, this benefits from 7-8 years on its lees, gentle flavours of toasted sweet brioche, luscious and lingering on the palate – one of my favourites from this house.
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth 2006
Quite outstanding: bright aromas of fine berries, rich and complex on the nose, dried luscious peaches, figs and sweet macaroons, evolving on the palate with nectarines, mandarin and a hint of cardamom. This is a fabulous, luscious wine, precise, and distinguished, made in memory of the house’s co-founder Elisabeth.
Billecart- Salmon Le Clos St Hilaire 1999
This was drinking perfectly: zero dosage, aged for 15 years, gingerbread, orange, roses on the nose, full rich and toasty, candid fruit, honeyed, truffled, had hints of a great aged Riesling such as Clos St Hune, evolves on the palate with fresh Jaffa cakes, spiced lingering finish, a wonderful, exceptional wine.
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis Blanc de Blancs 2006
Creamy and floral on the nose, hints of melted Guernsey butter, white flowers, a touch of Meursault, doughnuts, white peaches gently arise in the background. This is evolving well and was perfectly matched to a dish of Wild Cornish Turbot with Razor Clams and pickled white turnip, presented by Anne-Sophie Pic, the length and depth of the champagne highlighting the freshness of this dish.
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas Francois 2006
Rich and honeyed aromas, forest floor, hints of truffle, plums and cherries, on the palate: textured peaches, crumble, vanilla, sweet figs. Beautifully balanced and would go well with Sea Bass with Langoustines, or English Partridge although on the night it was matched oddly to Lamb Cutlet, Langoustine and a Shellfish Bouillabaisse sauce. This is drinking well now but will age
Billecart-Salmon Bicentenary Cuvée NV (Magnum)
‘This unique wine celebrates 200 years of independence and family savoir-faire.’ With 92% Pinot Noir, 4% Chardonnay and 4% Pinot Meunier and 50% of the wine vinified in oak barrels. This blend of eight Grands Crus from the Côte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims is made from a selection of exceptional wines originating from four harvests (2000, 2003, 2008, 2012). Dosage is 4.5g/l.
A powerful statement from the Billecart- Salmon house moving away from their tradition of releasing wines that have been perfectly matured and ready to drink, this special bicentenary Cuvée will benefit from ageing, especially after a decade. 1818 magnums have been released with a retail price of £1,400.00
And so how was this wine?
Golden colour, shimmering in the glass, delicate bubbles shooting upwards, gentle aromatics on the nose, pear William, peeled cobnuts, there is a hint of cocoa, then the freshness of caviar limes, touch of yuzu and gentle cardamon, this is a profound wine that will showcase its complexity, depth and quality over many years to come.
Matched to a dish called Les Petit Pois, an exceptional masterpiece by Alain Passard, this was so brilliantly fresh and vibrant with a hint of acidity and perfume from the addition of strawberries that it elevated the champagne into a dreamy perfect match.
The world tour
I SINGAPORE I At Odette restaurant, with Chef Julien Royer
I TOKYO I At Les Saisons restaurant, with Chef Thierry Voisin
I NEW YORK I At Jean-Georges restaurant, with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
I LOS ANGELES I At Jean-Georges Beverly Hills restaurant, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
I LONDON I At La Dame De Pic London restaurant, Chef Anne-Sophie Pic
The world tour concludes where the story began in 1818, with a celebration in June at the family estate in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The family will host the people who have championed their values, and their wines and contributed to the success of the House throughout the years. A new immersive tour of the estate will be unveiled to guests for the first time and has been created to highlight and honour the love of the land, the passion for the vines, and the respect of tradition that is Billecart- Salmon
The Blanc de Blancs prestige cuvée will now be known as the Cuvée Louis, named after Elisabeth’s winemaker brother, marking his role in the history of this great House. This joins the Nicolas François and Elisabeth vintage cuvées, to honour the three founding members of Billecart-Salmon.
A family story
Billecart-Salmon was first and foremost the result of a union. A union between Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon who, in 1818 and just married, founded their own Champagne House in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, a small village near Epernay.
At their side was Louis Salmon, Elisabeth’s brother and a passionate oenologist who, from the very beginning, dedicated himself to the development of the wines.
From then on, their heirs have never stopped aiming for excellence in winemaking. And now Matthieu Roland-Billecart steps up to take over as the 7th generation with chief winemaker, Florent Nys, an oenologist by training, who joined the House in 2005. After 10 years working alongside François Domi, who was chief winemaker of the House for 30 years, He has acquired the knowhow and mastery of the Billecart-Salmon style, to ensure this traditional family house continues to excel.