French Wine Tutor

How These Beautiful Champagnes Changed My Life

Otherwise known as: a love letter to grower champagne.

I’ll be the first to admit Champagne and I haven’t historically gotten along. Growing up, my mother was a bit of a health nut (for which I am super thankful!), so that meant there was nothing sparkling or carbonated of any sort in our fridge – no soda, no Perrier, and certainly no Champagne. While it made me prefer healthier drinks overall, it also meant that I never developed a taste for anything remotely fizzy or sparkling. My stomach doesn’t love most Champagnes either for the exact same reason.

The longer I’ve worked in the wine industry, the more confused people get when I say I don’t love all things bubbly. To combat that, I’ve been on the hunt this last year to truly find Champagnes I love and enjoy, both out of respect for the incredible people who make it and to satisfy my own curiosity. I’m still a bit of a Champagne novice, but there are now a handful of Champagnes I love to keep on hand for special occasions (including one that my fiancé and I hope to feature at our wedding). Read on for four exceptional Champagnes I can’t wait to taste more of.

Champagne De Sousa Grand Cru Avize, Cuvée des Caudalies, $80 –

This Champagne is the one that changed my mind about the entire category. To this day, I am obsessed with it (and have a saved Google search to check and see if it’s in stock anywhere, as it is unfortunately tricky to find stateside). De Sousa is a family-run, organic and biodynamic grower Champagne house that is known in the region for making some of the best récoltant-manipulant champagnes there are. The family is as kind as they are passionate and committed to sustainability, plus, they are the only Champagne house that is also actively dedicated to accessibility – they offer tours in sign language as well as in French, English, and German.

The wine itself is absolutely stunning. I loved its bright, beautiful citrus notes, hints of nuttiness, and stone minerality. This is a wine with a long, beautiful finish that is perfect for a long evening of conversation or a beautiful holiday meal.

Vilmart & Cie Grande Réserve Premier Cru Brut, $50 – Empire Wine

I first tasted the wines of Vilmart & Cie a few years ago when I unexpectedly won tickets to go to the famous Fête du Champagne in New York City. I tasted all kinds of Champagnes that day, but the ones from this house really stood out to me. I loved the fresh, lively approach and the way it balanced with elegance on the palate. This is another fantastic grower Champagne that’s known for its family approach and biodynamic winemaking. How did this one change my life, you might ask? It was the first champagne my fiancé and I opened after we closed on the purchase of our first home together. Definitely a wine worth remembering.

Hubert Soreau Le Clos de l’Abbé, $114 – Astor Wines

On a chilly November evening, I stepped into one of my favorite NYC wine bars, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels to meet up with a friend I’d only ever known through Instagram – Vivian from @vinfatuation. Based in Canada, Vivian and I had been corresponding through our pages for years but never had the opportunity to meet up. Our friendship grew over a few hours of drinks and conversation. Vivian is a huge fan of grower Champagne, so she and her husband picked the first delicious bottle we drank that evening: Hubert Soreau’s Le Clos de l’Abbé. It was an absolutely beautiful, complex, and delicious bottle (think green apple, chalky minerality, and mouthwatering acidity) that reminded me the best thing about wine is actually the community that goes along with it.

Champagne Henriot, Brut Souverain, $40 – EmpireWine

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce: the wedding Champagne. A few months ago, my fiancé and I were invited to a unique and intimate gathering in SoHo that featured the entire Champagne Henriot lineup in honor of the newest release of esteemed cuvée, L’Inattendue. And while Henriot’s latest edition of L’Inattendue is as beautiful as one might expect, the one that Matt and I fell head over heels in love with was the Brut Souverain non-vintage. We loved this Champagne for its silken effervescence, drinkability, and ability to pair with just about everything on the table. After we each took a first sip, we looked at each other, smiling, and I said, “Wedding Champagne?” He gave me a thumbs’ up and took another sip. At that moment, we hadn’t even started planning the rest of the wedding, but knew that this wine simply had to be a part of the toast. I’m not yet sure who I’ll have to bribe at my venue to get this one in the door, but there’s no question – it’ll be the one I want to cheers with to start the next chapter in my life.

Many of the big Champagne houses have warned that they’re running out of stock for the holiday season, and while that might sound alarming, it gives grower champagne – like the ones I’ve fallen in love with as above – an opportunity to succeed in an otherwise crowded marketplace. If you can set aside a bit of budget and space for one of these special bottles, you certainly won’t regret it.

Looking for more wine recommendations? Check out this blog’s Wine Category for some of my favorites. From Cru Beaujolais to French Grenache and beyond, there’s a great wine roundup for everyone there!


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