Saturday, 11 July 2015

Day trip to Billecart-Salmon

Champagne was recently awarded World Heritage status by the United Nations- as seems befitting of this most fabulous  and refined of tipples. Which brought back wonderful memories of a day trip we took to Champagne in October last year to take a tour of the marvellous Billecart-Salmon.

So off we went early one morning to Gare de l'Est to take the train.

Which was delayed by an hour for a reason I still don't 
understand. There were announcements which were mildly
perplexing, and many people got off no doubt to find a quicker
transfer. We sat and waited.
The joys of travel.


After we got going though we were soon whisked away
to the lovely countryside of the 
Champagne region. 

Epernay - where everything celebrates Champagne

 Of course we had local Epernay
Champagne with lunch
Thankfully we didn't use the
advice of my phone

A quick taxi ride and there we are



Naturally the gardens are beautifully
manicured
Billecart-Salmon was founded in 1818 by Nicholas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon on the current site. It is still family run, by the 6th generation to make their famous product. We were shown around by the stylish and knowledgeable Jerome.

I was surprised to find that the vineyard and production facilities are really right in the town of Maureuil-sur-Aÿ, behind the original house. The town was occupied during the war, but thankfully not bombed- I guess the Nazis liked champagne too and wanted to preserve it.

The famous Clos St Hilaire vineyard




Bacchus watching our progress
Billecart-Salmon have 3.5 km of cellars under the roads and buildings!





The cellars are somewhat spooky, but fascinating


Thousands of these bottles explode per year!


Jerome showing us the lees.


Riddling racks

Riddling is done to collect the sediment in the neck of the bottle, this is then frozen and removed leaving a beautiful, clear champagne. Riddling is now largely performed by machine. Understandble as machine riddling takes a mere 4 days, whilst riddling by hand takes 4-6 weeks. Hand riddling is still done for large bottles or special vintages. Jerome told us about the production of champagne in great detail- it's a fascinating process to make those delightful bubbles- a superb blend of chemistry and art. 

Billecart-Salmon age their wines in barrels that have been used to make burgundy blanc for at least 5 years. 


How better to end our tour than with a tasting? I don't mind if I do. 


Fabulous. 

The Brut Rose is Billecart-Salmon's most famous and popular variety. Jerome told us it was always fresh, blended with pinot noir and is lovely with any pink food- salmon, tuna, red fruits, desserts like strawberry soup (strawberry soup is a thing in France- it's very delicious). The rose is in an older style of bottle, a foundation shape. It was amazing to learn that all their bottles are made in the village- less than 5 km away. 

I'd love to spend more time in Champagne. Until I can get back though I'll just have to be content to do my best and drink some as often as I can. 

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10 comments:

Vicki said...

I don't understand most delays either. And I agree that the cellar seems a bit scary. What an awesome trip though!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Thank you so much for taking here today. What a lovely day. Hopefully that restaurant rec app is not usually as unreliable!

Sean @ His And Her Hobbies said...

The callar looks fun to wander around. Im sure the exploding bottles make a huge noise as it echos through the cellars. I also love the photo of the red leaves.

Sean at His and Her Hobbies

Nadia A said...

The cellar and exploding bottles - sounds scary, but fun. What a great day trip! I loved the photos and learning about champagne :)

Ginx Craft said...

What a great day out. Not sure I would have coped, as I always get a bit silly after champagne.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

You really took some interesting pics - nice variety - just lovely.

Sarah E. Albom said...

looks like fun. Didn't know old champagne had a habit of exploding!

- Linking over from Saturday Snapshots

vicki (skiourophile) said...

I have Champagne on my list for 'next time' -- I hadn't realised how easy it was (er, without delays...) to get to. Good news!

Lisbeth Ekelof said...

Looks like a lovely trip, in spite of the delay! The cellars are awesome and a little bit spooky.
It is not very far from Brussels, but the only time we were there the whole area was mostly closed. It was around All Saints in November, so not the best time to go. Have to try again.

Jeanie said...

Well, between a passion for France and a passion for champagne, I think I must visit this region next time. I had no idea it would be so easy to get there -- and the tour s is fascinating! Thanks, Louise!