The Billecart family has been living in Mareuil-sur-Ay since the 16th century. In 1818, Nicolas Francois Billecart founded the house of Billecart-Salmon which now stands as the oldest continuously family owned and operated house in Champagne. It is currently managed by the seventh generation, brothers Francois and Antoine Roland-Billecart. The cellars are in the hands of renowned chef de cave Francois Domi. Billecart-Salmon owns a total of 15 hectares of vineyards. Eleven of these are in the Vallee de la Marne split between 4 hectares of Grand Cru in Ay and Premier Cru in Mareuil-sur-Ay and 7 ha in the village of Damery. In the Cote des Blancs the family owns 4 ha of Grand Cru vineyards in the villages of Chouilly, Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. In order to best carry out their harvest with minimal grape handling and transit time, the family owns four press houses. One of the most highly distinguishing features of Billecart-Salmon's operation is their philosophy that an early harvest yields more elegant and delicate champagnes. They look for strong acid structure rather than alcohol as a preservative, and therefore, never harvest at higher than 10 degrees potential alcohol. Another defining characteristic of Billecart-Salmon is their practice of double-cold settling, which they began in 1952. This involves a primary cold settling of the pressed juice for a period of 12 hours, whereby the heaviest of the must solids fall to the bottom. The juice is then racked into clean tanks where it is chilled down to 36 degrees Fahrenheit for another 48 hours. This second and much colder settling eliminates any wild yeasts and additional heavy elements without the use of enzymes, filtering, or a centrifuge. As of 2001, Billecart-Salmon moved their winemaking operation into a new facility that they believe to be the most technically advanced in Champagne. Overall, production levels are modest and many of Billecart-Salmons prestige cuvees are highly allocated.