How can anyone not love a drink invented for celebration?
Champagne is probably the only alcoholic beverage that you can drink in the morning and not be considered an alcoholic. Champagne goes hand-in-hand with life’s most important moments. People say that Marilyn Monroe, at least once, took a bath in Champagne. There is no Hollywood movie in which at least one actor doesn't drink champagne. There is the Hollywood cliché, handsome man in a tuxedo, surrounded by women drinking champagne... Champagne was the favorite drink of Winston Churchill and it conjures up feelings of good living, elegance, sociability... Champagne is the best choice if you want to add a sophisticated and fun flair to any event. Once upon a time, Mark Twain said “Too much of everything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right“. Is it true or not that Champagne is better than a lie detector?
In order to find out what magic and mysteries are hidden inside the bottle of this fizzy drink, we talked to Martin A. Konorza, President and the owner of Champagne De Watère.
1. Since when do you offer champagne De Watère and could you tell us more about your brand and its history?
Well, it all started when I was in my early 20’s and studying Economics at university. There, and during my internship, I found that I wanted to do something more with my life than pushing papers or adding numbers. I wanted to do something that - I know it sounds cheesy - would make people happy while, at the same time, do something for my family. Since our family is originally French, about a thousand years ago, I started looking at French products and found champagne! Champagne was ideal for the aspect of making people happy (have you ever seen a sad person drink champagne?) and for the aspect of the origin of the family. When I started looking for a partner, I found the perfect match, a friend, who makes champagne and agrees that a common sense approach is best when it comes to modern machines and their emissions. This has been very important to me since I wanted to make something worthy of the old family name and our tradition. For five years now, we have been offering our champagnes to the public and it has been a great journey so far. I have learned a lot, met great people and hopefully made some people’s lives a bit happier. From the very start I thought that the best approach is to grow organically, meaning that satisfied customers would be the best way of attracting customers. Also, because I was new to the world of champagne, I needed time to learn the trade. Here, I very much appreciated the feedback from early customers. As it was a very small number in the beginning, I could take time to talk to everyone personally. I try to maintain this as this is what sets us apart in a way.
News spread, a little quicker than anticipated and here we are today, celebrating five years and being part of Monaco Yacht Show in September with great partners. This is a bit overwhelming sometimes; in a good way that is.
2. Your fifth anniversary is coming up soon. Are you planning anything special?
Oh yes, we have already abandoned all delivery charges as a thank you to our customers because they make our journey possible. We also added new glasses and new labels to celebrate internally. To have some real celebration of the way we have come, we have partnered with superyachts.com during Monaco Yacht Show in September for a super yacht on which we will entertain invited guests, existing and potential customers (I like to call them friends) of Champagne De Watère.
3. From which vineyard area is champagne De Watère and what's special about it?
Champagne De Watère comes from a single 93% Premier Cru vineyard in the Vallée de la Marne, the heartland of champagne. It is just beautiful there! The soft hills, the vineyards you can see to the horizon, the smells.
This isn't really an easy or short one to answer. There are so many aspects which I consider to be setting us apart. There is our symbology, for example, which is incorporated in our corporate design. The family colours are white and black and you will find them everywhere on our labels, packaging and communication. We added a little bit of gold to denote constancy, and the gryphons - taken from the family seal - to remind us of the responsibility we have.
Most important, in my opinion, however, is our production methods and the taste resulting thereof. We produce as close to manual labour as possible, with as little machines as possible. This results in us being, to my knowledge, the only champagne that employs horses in the vineyard for plowing and transportation instead of tractors. Our champagnes are aged for quite a long time for non-vintages. We always combine 50/50 of two consecutive years, giving us a red line to be recognizable while also incorporating great years. Anyway, the aging process. Normal for non-vintages is at least 15 months, or almost one and a half years. We leave our champagnes to age for at least three years - that’s our rule. In reality, we leave them much longer. Our current Cuvée Brut Blanc was aged for four years, while the current Cuvée Brut Rosé Saignée was aged for almost seven years.
The combination of our traditional methods and the long aging process gives our champagnes an unmistakable taste, strength and composition which is very rarely found today or in young champagnes. We take a stand against the fast paced life of today and remind ourselves that good things need time. Our champagnes are the expression of this. It is better to take longer and have something perfect rather than being quick and somehow not really done. One of our customers said it best: our champagnes taste like champagne might have tasted long ago, before the industrial production.
4. Can you tell us what the difference between sparkling wine and champagne is?
Entire libraries could be filled with the differences. *Smile* For me, the main two differences are
a. Champagne is a protected term and can only be applied to wines coming from this special region of Champagne in France, from grape to finished bottle with the labels. This is important because the celebratory aspect of champagnes has a lot to do with the history of the region being the sight for many fierce battles and overcoming their consequences. Moreover, the central organs in Champagne make sure that certain standards are being kept when making champagne, ensuring quality over mere quantity.
b. The production method itself. Champagnes are always fermented twice where the second fermentation happens in the bottle in combination with yeast to convert the sugar of the grapes into alcohol and CO2. CO2 is responsible for the perlage (bubbly). In ordinary sparkling wines, it is allowed to ferment them like normal wines once and then add carbonation, like for table water. Of course, there are great sparkling wines in the world, some even apply the Méthode Traditionelle, but it is not required for them. In general, the double-fermentation demands a lot of attention and gives a very fine perlage.
5. How should champagne be served and at what temperature?
Champagne should be served when you are happy, with a smile. It should be served chilled to little lower than your preferred drinking temperature because the champagne will slightly warm up in your glass. I personally, prefer my champagne to enter my glass at around 10 degrees. When it slowly warms up, especially in summer, I can taste all the different stages of the aromas unfolding. But there is no real ideal temperature for all champagnes. I would recommend asking your favourite champagne’s producer.
6. Does ice harm the delicate aroma of champagne?
It doesn’t so much harm than hide the aromas of the champagne. As a rule of thumb: the colder you serve a wine, the less aromas will you initially make out. So, serving champagne ice cold is great on a hot summer’s day, but I would then keep it in the glass for a little while to let it breathe and warm up a few degrees.
7. Older may be better when it comes to wine, but what about champagne?
This depends on the champagne’s composition. Very much like any other wine, one can say that red grape based wines can be stored longer than white ones. Our Champagnes are heavily based on red grapes. The Brut Blanc has 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay while the Brut Rosé de Saignée consists only of Pinot Noir. Therefore, our champagnes can be stored quite long. We leave them to mature for at least three years. Once they are finished for the customer (degorgement), there is normally no further aging process happening and they could be kept for quite a long time.
8. What is your favorite champagne?
My favourite champagne depends on the mood I am in, really.
For conversations with friends I normally choose our Brut Blanc. It is discreet yet fruity and has a very long lasting perlage which is great when sitting on a terrace and talking about life; because sometimes you even forget to take a sip. But it has the body to take the wait and warm up a little.
The Rosé I would normally serve in situations where one wants to talk about chmapagne. It is so unusual for a rosé champagne to have so much fruit and flavour that we discuss the champagne more than the initial reason to come together. So if you really want to wow your guests, choose the rosé.
But really, it depends on what I feel like. Even though our two varieties are quite different at first glance, they both are unmistakably Champagne De Watère Cuvées. They have the same red line of complex aromas with different focusses.
9.Which Champagne do you recommend for deserts and which for savory foods? Should we avoid drinking Champagne with some food?
In general, it is agreed that champagne should be consumed with light food. I believe champagne, or some at least, can be challenged and everyone should try it out for themselves. I for example also had great experiences serving our Brut Blanc with steaks. Apparently, our white champagne carries enough flavour to cope with this., too. On the other hand, I had great experiences serving them with the classic champagne dish oysters as well.
10. What are some of your favorite facts about Champagne De Watère?
Favourite facts… difficult, there are so many. What I think overall is great that we have proven that an understated appearance conveys self-confidence in a champagne label. And that we achieve this perception by having two very strong champagnes. I believe this comes from the fact that we give our champagnes time and care to develop; all part of the eco-sensitive production methods which is very important to me.
Another favourite fact is that we have grown into recognition mostly via word of mouth of our customers who recommended our champagnes to others.
11. Which services do you provide for your clients?
We not only provide an extraordinary champagne. We provide our customers with the knowledge that everything that can be done is done to produce in a clean and sustainable way.
Also, we deliver free of charge to Europe and the United States of America.
We are always there for our customers. Being a boutique champagne, we can take the time to really reply to each customer’s contact request. This sense of family and being treated as a person is something I hear often to be appreciated.
12. What would be your ideal customer?
That is someone who enjoys the moment, appreciates the finer things in life in a sense that needs calm and curiosity. Somewhere along the lines of what I have been taught about beauty when growing up. True beauty isn't beautiful because it needs to be. It is beautiful because it doesn't try too hard, just because it can make itself beautiful.Those people who understand what I mean by this, and are willing to step away from the rush and the noise, those are the ideal De Watèrians.
In regard to the typical segmentation, as I learned it at university, I would say it doesn't work for us. We have customers from college students, via nurses to bankers and privatiers. What links all of our customers is a sense of passion for going beyond and challenging the status quo. That might be the reason why many of our customers are / plan to be entrepreneurs.
I found out some crucial facts about champagne from Mr Martin… And now, I will open my bottle of De Watère Champagne, and savor in its bubble magic...
Author: Mina SRECO