Henri Billiot

Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France

Ambonnay, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France Ambonnay, a quaint town with medieval architecture, is one of the oldest Grand Cru villages in Champagne. The vines are situated on the southerly slopes of the Montagne de Reims. Champagne Billiot has existed since 1937. Eugène Billiot, a miller, decided to purchase a plot of vines, for the benefit of his descendants. This parcel was initially shared with his brother, Louis Billiot, who divided his parcel among his children in 1960. This was when Serge Billiot, the current director of this small house, received his 5 hectares of vines and he has been a content Récoltant-Manipulant, or Grower-Producer, ever since. Serge’s 5 hectares are scattered over 18 different mid-slope locations of the best hillsides in Ambonnay. His parcels are 75% Pinot Noir and 25 % Chardonnay growing in predominantly limestone soils. The family works as they always have, managing vine maintenance and harvesting by hand. They practice “lutte raisonée,” or “the reasoned approach,” where wine treatments are only used if necessary. Serge crafts his Champagne mostly in stainless steel and will always avoid malolactic fermentation, preferring precise, mineral aromas on the resulting wines. Serge claims that the high degree of maturity on his grapes at harvest means they never need to undergo malo lactic fermentation - a process by which tart, Granny Smith apple acids convert naturally to softer, more friendly lactic acids, such as one finds in milk. Most Champagne growers will pick too early to preserve acidity in their wines, a necessary element in sparkling wine. Serge has always cultivated a certain mystery around his work, but is now handing over his estate to his daughter Laetitia and her husband. He is now looking to retirement and currently shares co-directorship with his daughter Laetitia, but it is difficult to leave; he is happiest amongst his old vines.

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