Visiting The House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Jun 07, 13 Visiting The House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Posted by in Champagne, Travel

  Billecart-Salmon was one of the first quality champagnes I tried when I moved to England so when they invited me to visit the house and meet one of the family, Francois-Roland Billecart, I was happy to take them up on the trip. We stopped off in Paris first for lunch at Guy Savoy, where they feature Billecart-Salmon as their house champagne. Guy Savoy is a 3 Michelin starred restaurant and the meal was, understandably fantastic. A fresh, seasonal menu, paired with Billecart-Salmon was a great way to start off the trip. We started with the Blanc de Blancs Grande Cuvee non vintage, followed by the Vintage 2004 and we  finished with the Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart 1999 from carafe and not from carafe. Billecart-Salmon have designed their very own carafe, reflecting the shape of their bottles from the past. There is a difference when tasting the champagne from carafe. I find that the more wine-like qualities of the champagne come forward and although the bubbles are there, they are subdued. After a short 2 hour lunch, we hopped on the TGV and headed to Mareuil-sur-Ay and the house of Billecart-Salmon. The house was founded in 1818 and is still one of the few family owned houses in Champagne. Francois-Roland and his wife, Edith, now live in a half of the family house, the  other half used as accommodation for special guests. An elegant building, built from the tan coloured stones that are common in the region, the two story edifice is very welcoming and comfy, having the feel of old money, beautifully decorated, not ostentatious but tasteful. Over dinner we talked about their latest cuvee, the Sous Bois. This champagne is different in that it is vinified in oak barrels which gives it a very distinctive style. Francois -Roland believes that “in Champagne, they have reached a point where there is not a big difference in quality, it’s very important to find a new field” to appeal to consumers. However, he still wants to...

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Europe’s iconic wine families, Primum Familiae Vini comes to London

Feb 15, 12 Europe’s iconic wine families, Primum Familiae Vini comes to London

Posted by in Food and Wine

2012 sure is shaping up to be the year to be in London. So, we’ve got the Olympics, the Para-Olympics, the Queen’s Jubilee etc.  But what made it even more special, for me, was this was the year that the Primum Familiae Vini came to town. The PFV picks an international capital city once a year to play host to them. Now this may not sound like a big deal but the PFV also bring their wines with them. And now it gets interesting. What is the PFV you may be asking? They are a group of the leading wine families in the world. By world, I mean Europe and by leading, I mean, the creme de la creme. Marchese Antinori, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Joseph Drouhin, Egon Muller Scharzhof, Hugel & Fils, Champagne Pol Roger, Perrin & Fils, the Symington Family Estates, Tenuta San Guido, Miguel Torres and Vega Sicilia. Their charter states that they can have a maximum of  12 members but currently there are only 11 members of the group. PFV was established in 1992 and is by invitation only. While PVF might seem to be a bunch of old houses clubbing together, the real goal of the group is “a passion for the pursuit of excellence”. Started by Robert Drouhin and Miguel Torres when they were chatting and walking around a vineyard, they realized they had many of the same goals both in traditional winemaking values and business concerns.  It has since grown into a collective where they can share their knowledge and expertise as well as help each other out in the marketplace. While they are here to show their wines to the press and public, they also hold several tastings as well as a gala dinner and auction to raise funds for various local charities. Another major goal of the partnership is to pass on their knowledge to the next generation and many had brought along their progeny to lunch. Etienne Hugel joked that they were hoping for a...

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A visit and dining at The Lancaster, Paris

I was invited to discover a great little luxury hotel in Paris by PRCo recently. It’s called The Lancaster and although it might not be as well known as the Ritz or George V, it’s worth considering when you’re looking for a more intimate lux experience. The hotel is part of the Spanish group, Hospes Infinite Places which is known for it’s outstanding yet personal and intimate hotels. The Lancaster fits into that category nicely, having once been a private mansion located just off the Champs Elysee. It’s but a stones throw from the Arc d’Triomphe and the shops of the Champs Elysee. The hotel has played host to many famous folks and Marlene Dietrich lived here for 3 years. She even had a favourite piano in the hotel which is still there and can be found in the Dietrich suite. The decor of the hotel is rich but at the same time, minimally appointed and when I entered, I immediately knew I was in a  fine Parisian hotel with it’s unique collection of antique, paintings and carefully restored  18th century furniture mixed in with Art Deco touches. That’s not to say they have abandoned the modern world. Each room has an iphone docking station, hi def TV and all the modern amenities. The Lancaster also has a one Michelin starred restaurant, Le Table du Lancaster, headed by Chef Michel Troigras. I dined in the restaurant and the menu was an intriguing blend of classic French cuisine with some surprising twists. Celery Cannelloni with caviar and smoked ells, scallop melba flavoured with bergamot, lobster plins with black truffle, pan fried foie gras and preserved grapefruit, turbot poached in pineau broth, saddle of venison with caper and grape, these were part of the 7 course tasting menu I enjoyed.  Each dish was a delighful culinary mouthful. The sommelier had also paired each course with wine and the selections were just as interesting as the cuisine. The following are my gastronomic highlights of the evening… We...

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Nye-TIIIIMMMMMBER!! or do Londoners ever venture to Kent to eat?

“Denise, might it transpire that you could accompany me to a dinner on Friday in the deepest, darkest hinterlands of Kent for a repast of succulent British cooking paired with the ever so delightful English Sparkling wine, Nyetimber. We will be dining at the Michelin starred restaurant, Chapter One, on the outskirts of Bromley.” Ok, that’s not exactly how my friend Douglas (Intoxicating Prose) worded it but you get the idea. He is so eloquent and he actually does speak like that! I deeply admire someone who can use words like transpire and succulent in everyday speech. He had me at ‘Michelin starred’, but Bromley?!? This I had to see to believe. Pulling out of London Bridge with a half bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse to sustain us on our train journey to Bromley or therebouts we were off to the wilds of Kent. Chapter One is actually between Bromley and Orpington in a place called Locksbottom Common, anyway you look at it, it’s not London, which is a bit of a shame because it is excellent. They are one of the few restaurants in England that currently hold a Michelin star and we were there to review a spring menu that Executive Head Chef Andrew McLeish had paired with each vintage of the award winning English sparkling wine, Nyetimber. Finding it was a bit of a chore. Once off the train and onto a local bus we were directed to get off the bus “when it passes the big Sainsbury’s,” which is a fine marker if the big Sainsbury’s was on the main road instead of tucked about 200 metres off the street behind an even bigger building. Luckily, the locals are very friendly to “foreigners” and helpfully shouted to us and the bus driver when we were supposed to disembark.  A short walk up the hill, negotiate a very busy 4 lane  road and we were there! I’m beginning to see why Londoners don’t venture out. Happily, we were greeted with big smiles and...

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