Sara Underdown, publisher and presenter of VINE & BUBBLE, takes you on a journey to discover the real story of champagne - the people, the region, the history and - of course - the wine. We travel to Champagne and all over Australia, talking with the Cellar Masters, industry representatives and everyone in between to connect wine lovers with the story behind the finest bubbles of all. Make sure you follow and subscribe to get the latest podcast uploads.
#9 Marcell Kustos PhD, Fine Wine Consultant, Sommelier, Lecturer
40:16Today we’re going to look at typicity. Typicity can be seen as what is ‘typical’ for a wine’s origins - geography, terroir, varietal type, even viticulture and winemaking. But what does it mean when applied to champagne? I cannot think of anyone more qualified to talk about this concept of typicity than my guest today, Marcell Kustos PhD, who has built an impressive career as a fine wine and hospitality consultant, working with some of Australia’s best restaurants including the multi award-winning Restaurant Botanic. After obtaining a qualification in food engineering and winemaking operations, Marcell started his career as a food product developer before turning his hand to wine. Working as a sommelier while undertaking a Master's degree in gastronomy, he went on to complete a PhD in food, wine and emotional pairing at the University of Adelaide in collaboration with Wine Australia and UC Davis. He is the recipient of the ASVO Advanced Wine Assessment Course Scholarship, Wine Communicators Australia Wine Industry Mentor Program, Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Ambassador Scholarship, Sommeliers Australia Education Scholarship and Wine Australia Research Scholarship. He has also been a contributing author in several academic and industry journals and continues to evolve as a wine judge. It was my privilege to interview him for this podcast.
#8 Stephen Leroux, Executive Director, Charles Heidsieck
24:58I first met Stephen Leroux in 2018 during a visit to Charles Heidsieck in Reims. He greeted me with a warm smile and a friendly handshake, before getting down to tasting business. Unusually we started with Charles’ Rosé Reserve. He told me, “we like to start with a non-vintage rosé as the amount of reserve wine is twice less – at 20% with just five to six years’ of age. In our Brut Reserve, it’s the opposite with 40% reserve wine at an average of 10 years of age.” It was a pivotal moment that re-framed my mind to appreciate the significance of the reserve wine system in creating Charles’ unequivocal style. Their proportion and age has a massive effect on the body of the wine. Indeed, the non-vintage rose was far fresher than the non-vintage brut. Charles’ characterful sourcing of fruit – notably the inclusion from Montgueux – and generous and masterful inclusion of reserve wines in their NVs sets the scaffolding for the Maison’s cathedral-like structure, richness and complexity. In this interview I talk to Stephen about Charles’ defining style but also how it’s evolving as well as the rise and rise of Charles’ under his leadership and through the incredible work of former and current chefs de caves.
#7 Tom Hewson, Author at Decanter, Tim Atkin MW and Six Atmospheres
33:49Tom Hewson is a writer and self-confessed ‘bubblehead’ specialising in a subject he is most passionate about – champagne. Tom joined Decanter’s team of expert writers earlier in 2023, where he provides incredibly detailed coverage on champagne and other sparkling wines, as well as special reports for Tim Atkin MW and as a judge for the 2023 Decanter World Wine Awards. His love of words and wine came together in an unconventional way, during COVID, when he gave up his life on the road as a jazz musician and became inspired to start his now acclaimed blog – Six Atmospheres – along with a number of educational and rather entertaining videos on social media. Tom’s highly-regarded publication ‘English Sparkling Wine 2020’, was released during this time and remains one of the widest independent wine-by-wine surveys for this kind of wine. Today, Tom continues his career as a musician whilst pursuing his love of the world’s finest bubbles. This year I spent some time with Tom in Champagne. It was my privilege to sit down with him during harvest 2023 for this interview.
#6 Peter Liem, Award-Winning Champagne Author, Presenter & Communicator
48:02Peter Liem is one of Champagne’s most recognised and celebrated ambassadors. Known for his almost surgical approach to dissecting and interpreting Champagne’s unique terroir, he has been one of the region’s greatest pioneers in bringing our awareness back to Champagne’s sense of place. As a young wine professional in the 1990s, he got his first thirst for champagne with a bottle of 1979 Salon. That bottle of Salon, he says, from a single village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger was no less complete than the massively blended champagnes that he and the world was used to. It tasted different, but why was it this way? That moment in time has inspired a life-long pursuit of curiosity and questioning the expression of Champagne’s vineyard origins and the concept of terroir. The ensuing decades has seen Peter become a local citizen, initially travelling a few times a year to owning a home in Epernay. During this time, he has forged an impressive career for his authorship of the multi-award-winning ‘Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region’, the online resource ChampagneGuide.net, as a lecturer for the Wine Scholar's Guild and as co-founder of the annual La Fête du Champagne event program in New York, amongst many other things. Over the past year Peter and I have spent some incredible moments together bonding over our mutually shared passion for champagne, which has been a deep personal privilege for me. It was my honour to sit down with him, during harvest 2023, for this special interview.
#5 Annette Lacey MW, Group Beverage Director, Solotel
28:11Today it’s my great pleasure to introduce one of Australia’s leading and most respected wine professionals. Annette Lacey is Group Beverage Manager for Solotel, overseeing a large and diverse range of hospitality venues in Sydney, which includes Matt Moran’s multi award-winning restaurants. She completed the rigorous Master of Wine program in 2020 and is a certified WSET educator focusing on developing the next generation of wine professionals. Annette was also selected for the highly prized Len Evans tutorial and was winner of the prestigious 2014 Vin de Champagne Award (professional category) which is where I got know first know her. She has been an associate wine judge at numerous wine shows around Australia and participates in trade and educational tastings, presentations and masterclasses. Over the years, I have gotten to know Annette as co-presenter at one of my events in Sydney but also as a contributor to VINE & BUBBLE where her knowledge and passion for champagne has clearly shined through.
#4 Amanda Yallop, Wine Director at the FINK Group
32:31There are few people in Australia’s hospitality scene who command the level of respect, amongst peers, that our next guest does. Amanda Yallop is the group wine director at FINK, overseeing an extensive and demanding program of leading restaurants and bars: Quay, Bennelong, OTTO Sydney, OTTO Brisbane, Firedoor (Surry Hills), Gildas and Beach Byron Bay. In 2013, Amanda became a Scholar of Len Evans Tutorial. She’s an alumni of the Advanced Wine Assessment Course through The Australian Wine Research Institute, a wine judge in Australia and also at the Decanter UK Wine Awards, as well as the annual Ruinart Challenge in Australia. Amanda was awarded Gault & Millau's Sommelier of the Year 2016, and is a Dame Chevalier, L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne - amongst many other things. I had the pleasure of spending a week in Champagne with Amanda during harvest 2022 where it’s fair to say that we bonded over some great wines and very good times.
#3 Denis Bunner, Chef de Caves of Champagne Bollinger, and the art of blending Special Cuvée, climate change and crafting outstanding blanc de noirs
26:18Since 1829 Champagne Bollinger has been making great wines with a powerful and aromatically rich fruit profile. The Maison has forged a clear identity with its rich pinot noir driven style earning a legion of fans from James Bond to the British Royal Family. While many Maisons chose long ago to undertake stainless steel vinification, the Maison decided overwhelmingly to use oak. This combined with the chalky typicity of Bollinger’s terroir – namely in Aӱ, Verzenay and Cuis - produces a unique and recognisable style. Today, I’m talking to Bollinger’s chef de caves, Denis Bunner. He talks to us about the complexity of their flagship, Special Cuvée, what they are doing to manage the effects of climate change, and what it takes to craft an outstanding blanc de noirs.
VINE & BUBBLE Podcast Trailer
0:59Sara Underdown, publisher and presenter of VINE & BUBBLE, takes you on a journey to discover the real story of champagne - the people, the region, the history and - of course - the wine. We travel to Champagne and all over Australia, talking with the Cellar Masters, industry representatives and everyone in between to connect wine lovers with the story behind the finest bubbles of all. Make sure you follow and subscribe to get the latest podcast uploads.
#2 Essi Avellan, Master of Wine and Champagne Specialist
24:35Today I am in Champagne chatting with Essi Avellan about her remarkable personal and professional journey with champagne. Essi is Finland’s first Master of Wine, a renowned champagne and sparkling wine specialist, author of several wine books and has revised and extended the 3rd and 4th edition of Tom Stevenson’s award-winning Christie’s World Encyclopaedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine. But not only! She is an organiser of the annual Grand Champagne Helsinki event, a reputed wine judge – notably for the Sparkling Wine World Championships - tasting panellist and writes for numerous publications. Essi has also knighted as a Chevalier by the Minister for Agriculture of France, amongst many other accolades. Hers is a path less travelled. Enjoy listening and santé!
#1 Émilien Boutillat, Chef de Caves of Piper Heidsieck, the new Essentiel Blanc de Noirs Cuvée and the future of sustainability at the Maison
21:52Today, I am in Champagne as part of a two-day special event with a Maison we’re probably all familiar with, Piper-Heidsieck. We’re going to meet the man behind Piper’s winemaking and viticultural team, and creator of a brand new champagne that goes deep into the DNA of Piper-Heidsieck’s black-fruit driven vibrant and fresh style - the new Essentiel Blanc de Noirs Cuvée. His name is Émilien Boutillat, who just happens to be Champagne’s youngest chef de caves at just 36. Among other things, we discuss how sustainability across the Maison's business has led to the creation of their first 100% sustainably farmed Cuvée.