Isabelle Tellier

Isabelle Tellier

Champagne Tsarine (chef de cave)

Isabelle Tellier is the chef de cave of Tsarine, the prestige cuvée from Champagne Chanoine Frères in Reims; it is France’s second oldest champagne house. Isabelle joined Tsarine in 2001 and was later appointed its chef de cave.

We had a most enjoyable conversation with Isabelle, mostly in French, with the aid of Google translate on our respective phones! She grew up in an agricultural family and studied oenology in Reims, graduating in 1992. She then held various positions at Champagne Boizel for the next nine years, working with Evelyne Boizel, yet another member of La Transmission. She moved on to work with the Tsarine brand in 2001.

When we asked what led her to a career in wine, she responded, “J’adore les bons plats ce qui m’a conduit à étudier le Champagne.” Isabelle was working a summer restaurant job in Reims when she met Jacque Peters, then the cellar master of Veuve Clicquot. He observed her epicurean side and encouraged her to study oenology at the University in Reims. Isabelle is delighted that she followed his advice!

Isabelle embraces the complexity and difficulty of her work. She sees the characteristics of her success as “rigeur,” pleasure in my work, a lot of work, and beaucoup de responsabilité.” Champagne is a festive drink. A lot of people drink our champagne and that brings me great pleasure and joy.”

The Wines. Isabelle’s eyes sparkled as we tasted and discussed three champagnes from the Tsarine Collection. Her philosophy is to achieve balance: “Le Pinot Noir construit notre assemblage, le Meunier l’arrondit en arômes fruités et le Chardonnay lui apporte finesse et élégance. L’équilibre parfait… Tel est l’esprit des assemblages Tsarine.”

We started with the Cuvée Premium Brut, whose freshness and elegance were confirmed on our palates. (Isabelle kept asking us what we tasted and smelled!) We correctly identified the dominant citrus and aromas of white peach. This was followed by the 2012 Millésimé Brut, a champagne having a deep golden color, honey in the nose, ripe fruit, vanilla, and cinnamon on the palate, and great richness and structure, “wonderful paired with sweet bread and parmesan cheese.” Our last champagne was the Brut Rosé, which presented aromas of strawberry and black currents, and tastes of red berries and cream on the palate. Its flavors filled our mouths with pleasure, and the finish lingered on and on. Isabelle said it would be delicious with a fruit tart or as a red aperitif. A perfect way to end our two weeks in the Champagne region!