Every bottle tells a story. What’s Yours? Every week we interview people in the world of Champagne on their iconic bottles. Now & then TheChampagneSommelier will interview some of the true people of Champagne. He will ask a few questions about their company, their profession, current trends, etc.
We had a bubbly chat with Alice Tétienne, Cellar Master from Champagne Henriot in Reims. Merci Alice !
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
the cellar master
Born in the Champagne region and from a viticultural background, she very quickly found her vinous feet and a desire to acquire a global understanding of the vineyard. She holds a Degree in Vine Sciences and a Master in Vine and Terroir. During her studies, she integrated different wine-growing estates and research centres, in order to adopt a vision that is both field-based but also scientific.
In order to be able to enhance the value and develop the image of Champagne, Alice Tétienne then explored the communication sector by obtaining a Master in Wines and Champagne and immersed herself in the Marketing department of the Laurent Perrier Champagne.
She then concentrated on oenology, obtaining the National Diploma of Oenologist, being awarded with the prize for oenological innovation and the prize for the dissertation.
She joined Centre Vinicole Nicolas Feuillatte in 2014 as an oenologist, supporting members on grape pressing and winemaking, then Maison Krug in November 2015. An oenologist, she was responsible for vineyard relations and is part of the tasting committee. Alice Tétienne thus acquired a global and transverse knowledge of the elaboration of Champagne wines, starting from the raw material, its selection and its understanding, up to the elaboration of the blends. She has also developed a strong sense of interpersonal skills and a solid knowledge of the Champagne vineyards.
In February 2020 Alice Tétienne becomes Maison Henriot Chef de Caves / Cellar Master.
Describe yourself in a few sentences!
‘I am a woman from Champagne. Indeed, I was born and raised here. Passionate about viticulture and oenology, I dedicated all my studies to the (wine) industry. After discovering some French vineyards, I came back to my origins: Champagne. I live in Mailly-Champagne, one of the villages of the Montagne de Reims, where nature expresses itself, between forest and vineyard. My dream is to contribute to the perpetuation of this beautiful nature and the symbol that is Champagne.’
‘The mission entrusted to me is to perpetuate the soul of Maison Henriot through its Champagnes and their signature. Today, the world is on the move, both socially and environmentally. It is my duty to integrate this dimension while respecting the primary objective.’
How did you get into the champagne profession ?
‘A large number of people live thanks to the Champagne industry. Coming from this region, I have always been immersed in its culture. So it was natural for me to be part of it.’
Since Your Champagne company started, how many chef de caves have Your company had ?
‘I was preceded by two Cellar Masters, whom I came to meet from time to time thanks to the collective dimension of Champagne, including the one who passed on to me the keys to the universe of Maison Henriot. The Cellar Masters of Champagne are historically an integral part of a house for many years, even decades. Indeed, their role in perpetuating the heritage and Savoir-Faire is fundamental. If we consider one winemaker per generation, then I could be the 8th !’
How would You describe Your ’house/producer style’ and how do You achieve it ?
‘Generosity, distinction and sincerity are pillars for every step of our craftsmanship and represent the different dimensions of the House. Indeed, we always try to offer Champagne with stories, expressions, and complexity. We always aim a certain classicism and elegance. And through the sincerity pillar, we focus on the revelation of the natural terroirs of Champagne and its wonderful diversity that make it unique.’
What role do grape varieties play in creating Your style ?
‘Grape varieties reflect the story of Terroirs. Indeed, historically were adapted to weather conditions, soil, exposition etc. In the House of Henriot, two sectors are majors: Montagne de Reims & Côtes des Blancs. Therefore, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most represented in the House of Henriot’s vineyard (45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir) and we find a small proportion of Meunier (15% since the 80’s).’
What do You think of the current trend of ’terroir champagnes’ made of single parcels ?
‘I think it is a beautiful expression of the Savoir-Faire of Champagne. Indeed, blending is the its first principle, and to achieve it, we need diversity of Terroirs that is exactly the particularity of the Champagne vineyard, and diversity of wine for selections in the blend. Therefore, parcels approach in winemaking process is necessary. It is a wonderful way to tell part of story of Champagne.’
2020 has been a very special year. What’s Your idea of the near future for Champagne in general ?
‘With climate change, we see an evolution of vineyard conditions. The weather is completely different from a year to another, with many extremes that make the culture always challenging. It is fundamental to consider differently the vineyard, to be event more present into it, in order to observe a lot and to take precise decisions for every patch of vine. Doing it, we will reduce our impact and be able to survive climate change, and preserve our identity.’
What else do You drink apart from Your own Champagnes ?
‘I love to taste very often, various creations of Champagne area, from growers to Houses and cooperatives. Magic of Champagne area is its diversity. I am too much curious to select one, and it is always a very long moment to choose a bottle in my own cellar. I like to take time to play with it and to imagine the emotion it will give me.’
Which Champagne would You treat a dream guest, and why ?
‘Henriot ‘Mémoire Cuvée des Enchanteleurs’ 1959 in magnum ! Among all my personal tastings, this cuvée is by far my best surprise. I am wondering how this rare creation could unveil this eternal youth and still offer this incredible ageing potential.’
63 years ago
1959 Henriot ’Cuvée des Echanteleurs Vinothèque’
by the magnum
limited edition – 48 magnums
TASTING NOTE by Björnstierne Antonsson ’One of the most magnificent wine experiences I have been through and probably the most delicious wine I had drunk in the last ten years. Very reminiscent of Veuve Clicquot surreal 1955 vintage magnum. It has a spring-chirping sensual appropriation embedded in silk and caresses the soul as the sweetest love. While the wine is monumental and rich as a meal in itself. Another soulmate is actually the 1959 vintage from Billecart-Salmon who won the Millennium tasting. As the champagne evolved in the glass my mind came back to the same question; Is this my desert island champagne ? I’m so grateful to have experienced this true legend!’
THE WORDS OF THE CELLAR MASTER “Cuvée des Enchanteleurs 1959 is endowed with eternal youth, characterized by charisma and elegance. On the nose, notes of fresh citrus and yellow fruits intertwined with subtle oaky and smoky nuances. The aromatic is very intense, sublime, and in perpetual motion.On the palate, it astonishes with its incredible freshness. The structural uniqueness of the terroirs reveals itself. This smooth, generous, and full champagne sublimize the tasting experience as unique, memorable and extraordinary.”
Alice Tétienne, Cellar Master of the Maison Henriot
PS2 [ what piece of music would you listen to drinking Champagne with Your dream guest ? ]
‘I love music and its diversity. That permits to switch the mood at every moment during a tasting. Nevertheless, sometimes, I rather keep the magic of the moment and of its natural sounds, listening to the nature. For instance, in front of the sea or in the middle of a wild forest.’