A story, Encounters
In order to understand the story of champagne Alfred Baulant, it is necessary to tell the story of the Limongi family, made of encounters and unions.
The tale of each of these family lines truly witnesses an era, the work of time and life.
From Maratea to Reims
Descended from an old noble family, native to Basilicante in the south of Italy’s boot, Antonio Limongi left his native town of Maratea and arrived in France in 1902.
He left his sun-drenched village nestled in the heart of the mountains, by the crystal clear water of the Tyrrhenian sea, to reach Champagne, its hillsides and its legendary Reims Cathedral. For this reason, the young Italian became a craftsman.
Birth of a family vocation
His son, Joseph, born in 1898 in Maratea was to follow his father’s steps. But he finally found another path in life: trained in Namur in Belgium, he chose a career of jeweller. He came back to Epernay, settled there, got married and opened his own shop in 1920, the first Limongi jewellery.
He was also a skilled watchmaker and he passed down to his only son his vocation for both professions. This is how he started the very long tradition of a rare and noble know-how of arts and crafts and goldsmithery.
Pierre Limongi, son of Joseph and grandson of Antonio, was born in 1929 in Reims. He was trained in watchmaking by his father, in the true spirit of oral and empirical transmission, and he possessed all the qualities needed for this profession : precision, patience, thoroughness, a keen attention to details and great rigour. He put his skills into practice when he took over the jewellery shop alongside his father. Amongst his customers, there was a great family from Champagne, living in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ castle : Mr and Mrs René Chayoux.
Every week, Pierre went to their house to wind up or repair the castle’s numerous clocks.
René Chayoux, son of Joseph Chayoux is a man who had a role in Champagne’s history. After taking over the family business, he purchased the brand Alfred de Montebello which included the castle of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and around a hundred hectares of vines.
This investor was highly respected by the champenois, he is one of the creators of the CIVC (Champagne Committee), still today the authority defending the Champagne appellation throughout the world. At the end of the 1950s, as with his wife Yvonne they were looking for a lady companion, they quite naturally welcomed a young orphan named Baïa.
Baïa was born in Algeria in 1929, when it was still a French department. She lost her parents when she was 4 years old, and was taken in by the deputy prefect of Constantine in Algeria. He came back to Aix-en-Provence with his family in the 1950s, bringing along Baïa who was then 21 years old.
The deputy prefect De Morand entrusted her to Mr and Mrs René Chayoux, on the recommendation of a mutual friend, to be a lady companion. As they had no children, they very rapidly regarded Baïa as their own daughter and ensured her education.
As she had been passionate about the culinary arts since her childhood, they enrolled her at the famous school “Ecole du Cordon Bleu” in Paris for cooking lessons. She learnt gastronomy and developed a real gift, which enabled her to prepare meals for very prestigious guests including the Queen Mother of England, Elisabeth I.
Heart and soul at work
Trained as a watchmaker, Jean-Marie Limongi met Nelly Nyfeler at the prestigious watchmaking school of Morteau, in the Jura region, in the east of France. Also from a family of jewellers and watchmakers, she became his wife in 1981. In Nelly’s native Haute-Marne the couple opened their first jewellery, when they were only 22 years old, in Joinville. The excellent management of their flourishing business could quickly be seen and was awarded with the Mercure d’or prize. A distinction which was bestowed by the Minister of Trade himself. They were the youngest shopkeepers and the first jewellers to receive this award. No doubt the values passed on by both their families contributed to their success. They had 3 children, Matthieu (1983), Thomas (1986) and Elise (1990). While the husband and wife hope to return to the town of Epernay, cradle of the Limongi family, an opportunity occurred and they did not hesitate one second ; they bought the town’s leading jewellery shop. The 100 year-old Alfred Baulant jewellery shop, created in 1902 had a solid reputation in the region. It was managed by a descendant of the founder. As there were no successors, he looked for a buyer, and reckoned his state of the art jewellery required the best managers, who could claim the values of excellence and innovation that the Baulant family had always stood up for.
Jean-Marie and nelly were the perfect candidates for the take-over in 2002. They set to work for the development of the Baulant jewellery business, which will soon celebrate its 120th anniversary, with the same studiousness as for their shop in Joinville.
The Alfred baulant jewellery shop, now being part of their family history, was seen as a precious legacy rather than just a business purchase. Today they are proud to protect this heritage with the same determination as if they were the direct successors to the Baulant family.
Shaping the Future
Élise inherited all these intertwined destinies and all the values of this combination of family lines. The sense of aesthetic and presicion that craftsmen have are in her genes, as well as the humility and abnegation of a determined orphan girl, and the taste for excellence and rigour from a great family of champagne businessmen. She also inherited her parents and grandparents character traits, the same driving force which made the family destiny.
Following the example of each generaion before her, Élise thew herself into her own challenge : vinifying for the first time the production inherited from her grand-mother Baïa. Thus taking after her family and proudly devoting herself to this heritage.
The name was obvious : Champagne Alfred Baulant, as a symbol of this jewellery shop combining a history of oppotunities and a jeweller’s noble and precious know-how. By finding a way to succeed, the Limongi family thereby hope to bring to their wines what they love in their job : bring pleasure, emotion, and defend the art of «savoir faire beau ».
They invested in new premises, symbol of a new chapter to be written. Faithful to the Epernay region, Champagne Alfred Baulant settles in Dizy, in the heart of the village, in one of the oldest houses built in 1790. In these new walls, the family opens a guest house to revive the tradition and greeting skills Baïa initiated a few kilometers away…
So the family story goes on with a new generation who follows its elders. They embark on this adventure with a keen sense of challenge and visual skills, which will craft the next part of their destiny’s tale.