Portraits Vignerons - La famille De Sousa, une lignée de vignerons - Les Grappes

The De Sousa family, a line of winemakers

Behind this Portuguese name is a champagne house created 50 years ago. Three generations of De Sousa have succeeded one another in the Avize region, to make their fine bubbles the new passion of the great Parisian pastry chefs. Pierre Hermé is a fan, and we explain why!

Champagne De Sousa, a family story

The champagne house De Sousa & Fils was founded in the 1950s, when Antoine De Sousa, the son of a Portuguese emigrant, married Zoémie Bonville, from a family of winegrowers established in Avize for several generations. Since 1986, it is Erick, their son, who is at the head of the domain. When you have a Portuguese name and you want to make champagne, you quickly come up against a lot of prejudices. "It's not champagne that he makes, it's sparkling wine!", "He doesn't know how to make wine...". But far from dismantling himself in front of these negative remarks, Erick and his family are motivated to show that their champagnes are worth as much as the others. They prove themselves, fight against prejudices and, through hard work, gain a very good reputation. A beautiful revenge on those who didn't believe in them. Erick does things well: he transmits the virus to his three children. The eldest, Charlotte, now works with him on the estate. When we ask her if she has always dreamed of being a winemaker, she answers that it is a passion that came little by little. "When we're children, we all dream of jobs we'll never do. As we grow up, we realize the treasure we have in our hands and under our feet" Julie and Valentin, the last two, are still studying but are full of ideas. "At the end of her studies, Julie would like to work part of the vineyard with our own horses. It's a beautiful project!"

Champagne De Sousa: the Cuvée des Caudalies

Today, De Sousa's House stands out for its perfectionism.

Perfectionism above all illustrated by its approach towards organic in the 2000s, and biodynamics in the 2010s. "This brings out the true taste of champagne. The chardonnay that grows on a chalky soil gives a real minerality to our wines" Typical of the terroir of Avize, this small village on the Côte des Blancs where the estate is located.

But De Sousa champagnes have other added values: old vines between 30 and 50 years old which give a lot of roundness, a more or less long ageing plan compared to other houses, and wines aged in oak barrels.

Their star cuvée, the Cuvée des Caudalies, which has helped them become known. 100% Chardonnay, a typical grape variety of Avize, aged in oak barrels. Its typicity is its blend: we find 50% base wine and 50% blend wine in solera (i.e. a mixture of wines from different years, a "Perpetual Reserve"). A method that gives a lot of strength in the mouth, and a lot of success in general.

Champagne De Sousa: a success in Japan

Perfectionism is also marked by another cuvée that pays homage to Japan: the Umami cuvée.

There is sweet, salty, sour and bitter, and there is umami, a Japanese word meaning "tasty", and one of the five basic flavours. This cuvée has resonated in the world of gastronomy, notably with Pierre Hermé and the Japanese Sadaharu Aoki who immediately adopted it.

"We'd been working with Japan for many years, and traveled there frequently. We were therefore very sensitive to the notion of Umami, a flavour found in hundreds of vintages. We wanted to make a champagne that was a credit to him. It required special winemaking work: old vines that give more concentration, vinification in oak barrels, stirring of the wines, a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, a long ageing process... in short, a complex and opulent wine!"

And their work is bearing fruit. In addition to making a real place for themselves among the beautiful Champagne houses, partnerships are being formed: "The Burgundian Olivier Leflaive turned to us to expand his range. So we make their champagne: Valentin Leflaive. They manage their brand and distribution, but we play the role of oenologists and advisors."

Today, their ambition is to enlarge the estate, and to produce new vintages in the image of their perfectionism and their love for this profession.

Tiphaine (Les Grappes)

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