First stop in Champagne -- Bonnevie-Bocart, an independent wine grower in Billy-le-Grand

Wine maker Mathilde Bonnevie-Bocart and a glass of one of the champagnes that we sampled.

With approximately 16,000 winegrowers and 320 Champagne houses, deciding which winegrowers to visit in the Champagne region of France is a daunting task. To make my job a bit easier, I invited people to post the name of their favorite grower champagne, on "Out and About's" Facebook page. Evidently, champagne is a subject that's near and dear to everyone's heart because the response was overwhelming. A couple of people even left comments asking if there was a limit to the number they could name.

Disappointed that Jon's and my short two-day trip wouldn't allow us enough time to sample all of the recommended champagnes, we followed Paris by the Glass's advice:

Contact Mathilde, wine maker and cellar master of the family run 3rd generation estate in Billy-le-Grand: Bonnevie-Bocart. She is a charming and enthusiastic young lady and proud (for good reason) of her work. You can sample their lovely champagnes and visit the winery. Tell her Preston sent you!

At precisely 11:00 am., the pre-arranged time for our visit, Jon and I pulled into the parking lot in front of Bonnevie-Bocart's modern facility in Billy-le-Grand. After explaining that it was Jon's first time in the Champagne region, Mathilde invited us to tour the winery. Pausing in front of a horizontal champagne press, Mathilde explained each step of the process and told us about the strict regulations governing the production of the world's most famous bubbly beverage.

A family affair. Collage of photos at Bonnevie-Bocart showing the 2013 grape harvest.

Unlike Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, two of the champagne giants that dominate the US market, Bonnevie-Bocart's grower champagnes are produced exclusively from grapes cultivated on their 4.90 Ha (12 acre) familial estate. Like the big houses, Bonnevie-Bocart makes a selection of nonvintage champagnes from grapes grown in different years, single vintages (millésimé) and prestige cuvées or special blends.

Not surprisingly, listening to Mathilde's explanations of the production process had created quite a thirst. When she asked if Jon and I were ready to taste some of their champagne, we replied with a resounding, "Yes!" Mindful of all the labor that goes into each one of the 50-55,000 bottles of champagne produced by Bonnevie-Bocart annually, Jon and I paused to admire the pale golden color and sparkling effervescence before taking a sip of his favorite: the Blanc de Blancs blended exclusively from white Chardonnay grapes.

My favorite was the Cuvée Prestige Premier Cru, a blend of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir. This exceptional champagne was awarded the Féminalise 2013 Gold Medal and the Decanter 2013 Bronze Medal. In an industry long dominated by men, the annual Féminalise Competition focuses on the economically important female sector of the wine market. Since all of the Féminalise wine tasters are women, I guess it's not too surprising that the Cuvée Prestige also won my stamp of approval.

The next time that you're in a wine store, ask for a bottle of grower's champagne. Without the substantial marketing budgets of brands owned by huge conglomerates, like LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), they're usually good value for the money and a pleasure to drink.

As Mathilde sealed the carton of Cuvée Prestige and Blanc de Blancs that I was taking home, I asked the name of her favorite champagne, aside from Bonnevie-Bocart, of course! I knew that we were in for a treat when she replied, "Billecart-Salmon" because that was the next house on our itinerary. (Click here to read Jon's post about our visit.)

Bonnevie-Bocart (Please send an email to reserve your visit in advance)
10 Rue du Midi
GPS [49.107689,4.231192]

Mathilde explaining the awards won by Bonnevie-Bocart's Cuvée Prestige Premier Cru.  


  1. And I like the stemware used here for champagne tasting--not the flute nor the coupe but something closer to a white wine glass.


    1. You're such a trendspotter, Joseph! When we visited Veuve-Clicquot, our guide told us that they'll soon be changing all of their tulip shaped glasses (like the one in the photo) to one that's even more similar to a white wine glass. Current thought is that that's the best way to appreciate champagne. Flutes, she said, don't allow you to appreciate all the aromas and coupes impact the effervescence of the bubbles.

  2. I really will have to get back to the region and visit some actual vineyards! Thanks for the tip :)

    1. While researching champagne houses for our trip, I noticed that there are a couple of winemakers' festivals during the year. Now that would be a fun time to visit the vineyards!

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