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.
 

The Home of Billecart-Salmon Champagne
Stunning gardens complement the 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.
 
Gardens at Billecart-Salmon near Epernay, France
Shaded corner of the gardens at Billecart-Salmon

 
Gardens at Billecart-Salmon near Epernay, France
Another view of the parterre garden

 
Gardens at Billecart-Salmon near Epernay, France
Spring flowers in the garden at Billecart-Salmon

 
Flowering cherry tree at Billecart-Salmon
Flowering cherry tree at Billecart-Salmon

 
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.
 
Grape vines at Billecart-Salmon near Eperney, France
Grape vines at Billecart-Salmon

 
Grape vines at Billecart-Salmon near Eperney, France
New seasons shoots on the vines

 
In another building nearby, production and storage facilities are found.
A street in the village of Mareuil-sur-Ay
Buildings belonging to Billecart-Salmon line this street in Mareuil-sur-Ay

 
Buildings belonging to Billecart-Salmon line the street of the village of Mareuil-sur-Ay
The beautiful old building where the oak barrels are stored

 
Even though modern techniques are used in production, they have one of the last traditional presses still in use in the area.
Traditional grape press at Billecart-Salmon
Traditional grape press still in use

 
Champagne barrels at Billecart-Salmon
Champagne barrels at Billecart-Salmon

 
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.
The cellars at Billecart-Salmon
The cellars at Billecart-Salmon

 
Bottles stored on the riddling rack at Billecart-Salmon
Bottles stored for riddling- a process where the fermentation residue settles in the neck of the bottle

 
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!!
Champagne tasting at Billecart-Salmon
Champagne tasting at Billecart-Salmon

 
A great day and one that I can highly recommend………Cheers!!
 
Information:
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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