Godefroy Baijot : the sweet music of Besserat de Bellefon
A discreet Sparnacian house, Besserat de Bellefon has achieved a spectacular renaissance, producing new champagnes with a fierce desire to set itself apart. Godefroy Baijot, ambassador and head of the export department, explains the genesis behind this singular champagne house, its cornerstones and its vision. Go
It is a discreet house which sensibly vacillates between the shine of a great brand and the craftsmanship of a winemaker. Besserat de Bellefon cultivates this delicious divide with perfect balance, drawing the most fertile resources from both of these two worlds. Founded in Aÿ in 1843, today established at Epernay and part of the BCC group(1) since 2006, Besserat de Bellefon is developing calmly and determinedly.
Its singularity comes from its history and the original composition of its wines. The only house to use the “demi-mousse” process for its entire range, meaning a lighter pressure (4.5 bar instead of 6(2)), it creates a more aerated bubble which is no longer the wine’s primary element but instead a framework for it, melting in a creamier, more quilted palate. A consequence of this approach dating back to 1930: there is no malolactic fermentation and the tangy vibration and chalky mineral edge are reinforced.
This radical decision was made by Victor Besserat, grandson to the house’s founder. One of his customers, the Samaritaine de Luxe department store, asked him to make a champagne that would go with any meal and he created the Cuvée des Moines, a crémant (available as a rosé in 1972). The technique used at the time is however badly managed. Though Besserat de Bellefon will make this Cuvée des Moines (a tribute to the Benedictine monks who mastered fermentation in Champagne) his pivotal identity, with an entire range based on this low-pressure wine.
Furthermore, the house is proud to claim bubbles that were “on average 30% finer than a classic champagne”. A point of reference on which it could rely scientifically as the size of the bubble was examined and measured by physicist Gérard Liger-Belair in 2012.
A wine for fine gourmets
Godefroy Baijot has always been involved with the company(3) ; he joined it in 2012 as Export Director(4). “We have great ambitions towards international market. Besserat de Bellefon is a very French house with a solid identity and for a few years now we have had a real sense of dynamic energy.” Only distributed by professionals (wine merchants, restaurants), the champagnes have conquered America and today are winning over Asia alongside its colourful cuisine and its multiple inspirations.
The combination of the two is essential.”
From 1935, the entire range was converted into demi-mousse, confirming this decision to set itself apart. “Today, we can be found in over 200 Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. We have also signed a partnership with Jean-François Rouquette, Head Chef at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, who has designed a special Besserat de Bellefon set menu. “
This close tie with fine food represents the connection between the brand and its identity. “It is more important than ever,” explains the Export Director. “It explains our strong growth on the Asian market and the passion for our wines in countries with a strong culinary tradition like Japan, South Korea and also Vietnam and Taiwan”. With its solid foundations and a culture of difference which invests every creation, Besserat de Bellefon has a calm eye on the future. Innovations, investments and projects have been multiplying for the last years. “The Group first focused on Lanson, which captured every attention. Now, it’s Besserat de Bellefon’s turn. The image was good but a little neglected, the house was more important in the 1970s and 80s when it produced up to three million bottles(5). It’s no longer our ambition today. We would like to remain in the inner circle of “small major houses” that control their supply and enjoy a great reputation“.
This transformation began in the 2000s. New wines appeared, taking their time during racking - at least three years for bruts and nearly ten years for vintage champagnes. In 2013, to celebrate Besserat’s 170th anniversary, Cuvée B de B was born, the first prestige champagne created from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Grand Crus, aged in Argonne oak barrels and racked for five years in special bottles. In 2016, it was the turn of the Cuvée des Moines Blanc de Noirs, then an extra-dry champagne, a challenge bucking the trend as sugar is the new public enemy number one. “We were initially sceptical but there was a demand from our West Africa and Asia markets. You have to be creative!”
Growing without losing your soul, growing up rather than growing big... Promoting these suave and approachable champagnes exclusively made from the “cuvée”(6) and with a high Meunier content. This is the sweet music of Besserat de Bellefon.
(1) Boizel Chanoine Champagne. The Lanson-BBC Group is the world’s 3rd largest champagne group behind LVMH and Vranken-Pommery. It includes the brands Lanson, Boizel, Philipponnat, Besserat de Bellefon (Marie Burtin), Chanoine Frères, de Venoge and Alexandre Bonnet.
(2) The liqueur de tirage leads to the final push: 4 grammes of sugar for 1 bar of pressure. For a champagne at 6 bar, 24 grammes are added, for a demi-mousse champagne at 4.5 bar, only 19 grammes are added.
(3) He is the son of Philippe Baijot, Executive Director and Administrator at Lanson-BCC.
(4) Sales breakdown: 60% France and 40% export.
(5) The house currently sells around 800,000 bottles a year.
(6) The best of the pressed grapes, the purest of juices.