Billecart-Salmon is slightly different!
You check into the hotel, open the door to your room, put your suitcase down in the hallway and hang up your coat. You have a look at the bathroom to make sure it’s nice and fresh and bounce on the bed to make sure it’s comfy, while taking in the room in its entirety. Then, once you’ve gone through your usual checklist, comes the final test of the hotel’s quality. You open the minibar.
When you open the minibar at the Lydmar hotel you are met by a range of Swedish candy and select chocolate from Eataly, international wine producers, beer brands and French lemonade. Most importantly, it’s the Champagne that catches your eye. There’s namely both a whole and half bottle of Champagne from the Billecart-Salmon Champagne house. This is a conscious choice. While this Champagne house may not be as well-known as some of its neighbours in the area that doesn’t mean that it is less exclusive or of lesser quality – quite the opposite! Billecart-Salmon was founded in Maruéuil-sur-Ay in Champagne almost two hundred years ago, in 1818, when Nicolas Francois Billecart married Elisabeth Salmon. It is still a family company today, run by Antoine Roland-Billecart and his brother Francois. And Antoine’s answer about who he sees as the target group for their Champagne basically sums up the Lydmar’s reason for choosing Billecart-Salmon as its house champagne.
“Happy people! Our target group is 30 to 40-year-olds, we lost some of the older consumers when we revamped our label and logo a few years ago. Change comes with risk, but in hindsight we know the changes we made gave the positive result we hoped for,” explains Antoine.
Maria Maruska, CEO at the Lydmar thinks that the Billecart-Salmon brand and approach is a perfect fit with Lydmar. “It’s a brand with a bit of an attitude that sticks its neck out and one that many regard as one of the best Champagne houses there is. Made with style and elegance, Billecart-Salmon is a little family-owned Champagne producer which makes Champagne in a style and quality that I think is a perfect match with our guests. I’m proud to be able to present a smaller house of great quality rather than just another overexposed brand,” says Maria.
But naturally, style and attitude are not the only reasons that Maria chose Billecart-Salmon for the Lydmar. The main reason is that it is an amazing wine!
“Our style is elegant and fruity with a lovely freshness. But most of all it is a wine. It’s important to remember that even if it is a Champagne, it’s still fundamentally a wine,” explains Antoine. Indeed, Maria isn’t the only one who sees the greatness of this relatively small Champagne house. Roger Dagorn, master sommelier and hotel beverage manager in New York, has been a big fan of Billecart-Salmon for more than 20 years now. “Billecart-Salmon is a relatively small Champagne house, and pretty much under the radar,” he says. “Their rosé has a cult following among many aficionados as well as most sommeliers. Its appeal is its dryness and elegance. The vibrant, bright salmon colour also adds to its appeal. I would rate the producer as one of my favourites.”
Rosé Champagne, or Champagne rosé as Antoine likes to present the wine is without a doubt Billecart-Salmon’s pride and joy. “We consider our rosé to be a Champagne rosé and not a rosé Champagne. Because if you were blind tasting it, you wouldn’t guess it was a rosé,” explains Antoine. The wine has a lovely red and black fruit flavours with notes of strawberries and cherry tomatoes. The finish lingers on the palate, with distinct pink grapefruit and elegant fresh bread notes integrated with the fine mousse. Contrary to what those with little knowledge of the world of wine might imagine, Billecart-Salmon’s Champagne rosé is made of 50 % Chardonnay, which is a green-skinned grape commonly used to make white wines. In a rosé, it’s unusual to find such a large amount of Chardonnay. Antoine explains, “It’s not a wine completely manufactured for Champagne. And there’s a reason. Just because it’s a rosé doesn’t mean there has to be more Pinot Noir in the wine, which is exactly what people seem to think. No, not for us, we’re different!” says Antoine Billecart-Salmon proudly.
In the minibars at the Lydmar, it’s not the Billecart-Salmon Rosé that you’ll find but their Brut Reserve, Billecart-Salmon’s house-style champagne. A common denominator for all Billecart-Salmon wines is their elegance, which is also prominent in this wine. This is also mainly due to a generous dose of high quality Chardonnay, along with Pinot Meunier and a good measure of Pinot Noir, yielding a crisp, taut and elegant wine, with remarkable fruitiness that makes it very accessible and suitable for all occasions. In other words, a great choice of Champagne for the minibar!
That Antoine would work for the family company was a given – but that’s not all he has on his CV. “As soon as a had a day off from school, I was over at the vineyard, on the other side of the street, learning about wine making and bottling.”
Nonetheless, at the age of 16 he left France for the USA for two years, followed by another year in Spain, before returning to his homeland and settling down in Paris. There he ran a PR agency with a few friends. He finally moved back home to Champagne and started working for the family company, where he was initially responsible for marketing the wines. “This was 25 years ago, and my father asked me to re-organise the company. So, I started learning the craft of winemaking myself. Visiting different wine districts to learn harvesting, vinification, etc.”
A lot has happened in the 25 years that Antoine has been active in the company. Today, Billecart-Salmon exports wine to more than 70 countries, with Asia being one of their largest markets and where the Champagne rosé is very popular. Antoine travels extensively, about four months of the year, and visits Sweden at least twice a year. And he often stays at Lydmar. “It’s a fantastic hotel with an unbeatable location right in the city centre. What’s more, it’s really laid back, without a bunch of people hanging around trying to show off. I also commend their choice of Champagne…”
Antoine is on his way again. He’s a man with a tight schedule and his final message as he puts his coat on is: “Our 200-year anniversary next year will be something else! And like Martin Luther King said, we have a dream. We want to be the best winemaker in the world, and while we’ve come a long way, we are fully aware we have a bit to go – but that’s our plan.”
Guests will find other products from Billecart-Salmon at the Lydmar. Right now, in addition to Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, there’s also Vintage and Rosé Champagne by the glass, which, whatever the occasion, we can highly recommend.