Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Based on the 2016 vintage, the new NV Brut Rosé from Billarcart-Salmon has turned out nicely, mingling notes of red berries and plums with notions of peach, dried flowers and orange rind. Medium to full-bodied, pillowy and elegant, it's bright and charming, with a generous core of fruit, racy acids and a pinpoint mousse. Giving and demonstrative, it's already drinking well.
The Billecart family has been living in Mareuil-sur-Ay since the 16th century. When Nicolas Francois Billecart married Elisabeth Salmon in the early 1800s the two families' long held vineyards were married as well. This led to Nicolas' decision to leave his law practice and take over the family wine estate. In 1818 he founded the house of Billecart-Salmon which now stands as the oldest continuously family owned and operated house in Champagne. It is currently managed by the seventh generation, brothers Francois and Antoine Roland-Billecart. The cellars are in the hands of renowned "chef de cave" Francois Domi.
Billecart-Salmon owns a total of 15 hectares of vineyards. Eleven of these are in the Vallee de la Marne split between 4ha of Grand Cru in Ay and Premier Cru in Mareuil-sur-Ay and 7ha in the village of Damery. In the Cote des Blancs the family owns 4ha of Grand Cru vineyards in the villages of Chouilly, Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. With respect to harvest one of the most distinctive aspects of Billecart-Salmon is their philosophy that an early harvest yields more elegant and delicate champagnes. They look for a strong acid structure rather than alcohol as a preservative and therefore, never harvest at higher than 10 degrees of potential alcohol.
Another defining characteristic of Billecart-Salmon is their practice of double cold settling which they began in 1952. This involves a primary cold settling of the pressed juice for a period of 12 hours whereby the heaviest of the must solids fall to the bottom. The juice is then racked into clean tanks where it is chilled down to 2C for another 48 hours. This second and much colder settling eliminates any wild yeasts and additional heavy elements without the use of enzymes, filtering or a centrifuge. After the second racking, fermentation is initiated by adding dried yeasts and maintained at a long slow pace for up to 5 weeks in order to preserve as many delicate fruit aromas as possible. One varietal that benefits greatly from this is Pinot Meunier which the Billecarts believe is a vital component in world class champagnes. Many producers shy away from Meunier because it is easy to burn off its delicate aromas during fermentation. Malolactic fermentation is allowed to occur but may be blocked in certain years if the vintage conditions warrant it. Since 1987 the family has been making a certain percentage of the wines for their vintage cuvee champagnes in barrel. In these instances malolactic fermentation is always blocked.
As of 2001, Billecart-Salmon moved their winemaking into a brand new facility that they believe to be the most technically advanced in Champagne. The intricate and precise nature of Francois Domi's winemaking demanded that the family use every available resource to create the perfect environment for the production of these truly stellar champagnes. The ability to perform as many as 75 micro-fermentations simultaneously allows M. Domi the luxury of keeping many of his parcels separate until the blending phase. Overall, production levels are modest and many of Billecart-Salmon's prestige cuvees are highly allocated.
Associated with luxury, celebration, and romance, the region, Champagne, is home to the world’s most prized sparkling wine. In order to bear the label, ‘Champagne’, a sparkling wine must originate from this northeastern region of France—called Champagne—and adhere to strict quality standards. Made up of the three towns Reims, Épernay, and Aÿ, it was here that the traditional method of sparkling wine production was both invented and perfected, birthing a winemaking technique as well as a flavor profile that is now emulated worldwide.
Well-drained, limestone and chalky soil defines much of the region, which lend a mineral component to its wines. Champagne’s cold, continental climate promotes ample acidity in its grapes but weather differences from year to year can create significant variation between vintages. While vintage Champagnes are produced in exceptional years, non-vintage cuvées are produced annually from a blend of several years in order to produce Champagnes that maintain a consistent house style.
With nearly negligible exceptions, . These can be blended together or bottled as individual varietal Champagnes, depending on the final style of wine desired. Chardonnay, the only white variety, contributes freshness, elegance, lively acidity and notes of citrus, orchard fruit and white flowers. Pinot Noir and its relative Pinot Meunier, provide the backbone to many blends, adding structure, body and supple red fruit flavors. Wines with a large proportion of Pinot Meunier will be ready to drink earlier, while Pinot Noir contributes to longevity. Whether it is white or rosé, most Champagne is made from a blend of red and white grapes—and uniquely, rosé is often produce by blending together red and white wine. A Champagne made exclusively from Chardonnay will be labeled as ‘blanc de blancs,’ while ones comprised of only red grapes are called ‘blanc de noirs.’
What are the different types of Champagne and sparkling wine?
Beloved for its lively bubbles, sparkling wine is the ultimate beverage for any festivity, whether it's a major celebration or a mere merrymaking of nothing much! Sparkling wine is made throughout the winemaking world, but only can be called “Champagne” if it comes from the Champagne region of France and is made using what is referred to as the "traditional method." Other regions have their own specialties—Crémant in other parts of France, Cava in Spain and Prosecco in Italy, to name a few. New World regions like California, Australia and New Zealand enjoy the freedom to make many styles, with production methods and traditions defined locally. In a dry style, Champagne and sparkling wine goes with just about any type of food. Sweet styles are not uncommon and among both dry and sweet, you'll find white, rosé—or even red!—examples.
How is Champagne and sparkling wine made?
Champagne, Crémant, Cava and many other sparkling wines of the world are made using the traditional method, in which the second fermentation (the one that makes the bubbles) takes place inside the bottle. With this method, spent yeast cells remain in contact with the wine during bottle aging, giving it a creamy mouthful, toasted bread or brioche qualities and in many cases, the capacity to age. For Prosecco, the carbonation process usually occurs in a stainless steel tank (before bottling) to preserve the fresh fruity and floral aromas imminent in this style.
What gives Champagne and sparkling wine its bubbles?
The bubbles in sparkling wine are formed when the base wine undergoes a secondary fermentation, which traps carbon dioxide inside the bottle or fermentation vessel.
How do you serve Champagne and sparkling wine?
Ideally for storing Champagne and sparkling wine in any long-term sense, they should be at cellar temperature, about 55F. For serving, cool Champagne and sparkling wine down to about 40F to 50F. (Most refrigerators are colder than this.) As for drinking Champagne and sparkling wine, the best glasses have a stem and flute or tulip shape to allow the bead (bubbles) to show.
How long does Champagne and sparkling wine last?
Most sparkling wines like Prosecco, Cava or others around the “$20 and under” price point are intended for early consumption. Wines made using the traditional method with extended cellar time before release can typically improve with age. If you are unsure, definitely consult a wine professional for guidance.