Champagne anyone……. yes please!!
While in Paris, we were fortunate that friends had arranged a visit to the famous champagne house of Billecart-Salmon. Only forty five minutes from central Paris, it is an easy day trip with time to visit one of the famous champagne houses and explore either Epernay or Reims, the major towns of the area.
In 1818 Nicolas Francoise Billecart married Elisabeth Salmon and the House of Billecart-Salmon was born. Little did they know that this would be the start of a family tradition of champagne production that is now led by the seventh generation.
The small town of Mareuil-Sur-Ay, just outside Epernay, is home to this famous champagne house.
Our visit started with a tour of the beautiful gardens. Designed by Charles Roland Billecart in the late 1920’s, the parterre garden features conical-shaped shrubs, box hedged designs, beautiful trees and spring flowers.
The vineyard covers 50 hectares but grapes are sourced from a further 120 hectares of vineyards within a 20 km radius of Eperney. The rich chalky soils of this area are perfect for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. One hundred days after the flowers appear on the vines, harvest starts with the hand picking of the grapes – an incredibly labour intensive job.
In another building nearby, production and storage facilities are found.
Even though modern techniques are used in production, they have one of the last traditional presses still in use in the area.
Once the fermentation process is complete, the champagne is the left to age either in barrels or bottles in the chalk cellars which date from the 17th and 19th centuries. It was fascinating to wander parts of this maze and see the bottles covered in mould.
It was then back to the house for the best part of the tour- the tasting!!!
We sipped Billecart-Salmon’s Grand Cuvee, Brut Rose, Brut reserve and Vintage champagnes which all feature amongst the country’s top champagnes. Bottles were bought in anticipation of the celebration of our runners completing the Paris Marathon!!
A great day and one that I can highly recommend………Cheers!!
We hired a car and driver to take us to the Champagne area but there are many day tours available.
Private tour guides will also pick you up from the train station and arrange visits to the champagne houses for you.
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