Athanase, Paul and Joseph: the founding
of Champagne Bollinger
In the beginning, there was Athanase
Athanase-Louis-Emmanuel Hennequin, Count of Villermont, was born in Champagne in 1763. The son of a family so respected as to be spared by the “sans-culottes” during the French Revolution, he went on to have a brilliant naval career.
After being showered with honours and feted as a great soldier, Athanase conquered the hearts of the people of Aÿ, the town where he finally settled, by protecting them from the rampaging Prussian army, which sacked the region in 1815. When he finally laid down his arms, he bought his sister’s lands, adding them to his own inheritance to create a vast agricultural estate near Aÿ.
As an aristocrat, however, he was barred from commercial transactions, and needed help to sell his wine…
The encounter with Paul Renaudin and Joseph Bollinger
In order to sell his wine, Athanase was introduced to Paul Renaudin, a born-and-bred "Champenois" and wine enthusiast employed by Müller Ruinart, and his fried Joseph Bollinger, the son of German nobility whose love of travel and trade had taken him to France, where he specialised as a Champagne wine merchant.
The birth of a Champagne house
On 6 February 1829, Paul Renaudin and Joseph-Jacob-Placide Bollinger, known as Jacques, went into business with Athanase-Louis-Emmanuel de Villermont to form “a champagne trading firm engaging in the purchase and sale of Champagne wines”.
It was agreed that the company would be based at 16 rue de l’Huilerie in Aÿ, in the Villermont family house, for a period of 18 years.