Respected as one of the top houses in the Cote des Blancs region of Avize, Erick De Sousa makes his predominantly Chardonnay cuvees from biodynamically farmed Grand Cru vineyards. Utilising a combination of traditional and innovative techniques, these voluptuous wines are ideal to pair with food and enjoy throughout a meal.
12 Place Leon-Bourgeois, Avize +33 3 26 57 53 29
The champagnes of De Sousa are very rich in style. The batonnage and poignetage give the wines a toasty complexity, with no loss of elegance. These wines are wonderfully suited to pairing with food and it’s no surprise they are to be found in many of France’s finest restaurants.
De Sousa Tradition
50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 10% Meunier. Fermentation occurs at 18 degrees centigrade. This cuvee is typically a blend of several vintages.
De Sousa Brut Reserve Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru villages of Avize and Oger. Contains at least 25% of reserve wines. The dosage is 6g/L.
De Sousa Brut Rose
90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay grapes come from Grauves, and the Pinot Noir from Ay. This assemblage rose is unusual as it has a base made entirely from Chardonnay. The 10% of Pinot Noir is a still wine that has been aged in oak for a year before being added to the blend.
De Sousa Cuvee de Caudalies NV
100% Chardonnay from extremely old vines – all are over 50 years of age. The base wine is vinified in oak barrels. Around 50% of reserve wine is added, which comes from a solera-type blend that is topped up with new wine each year. This ‘perpetual cuvee’ was started in 1995, and contains traces of every vintage since then. The dosage is usually around 3.5g/L.
De Sousa Cuvee de Caudalies Rose
90% Chardonnay, with the addition of 10% still Pinot Noir from Ay and Ambonnay. The Chardonnay is vinified in small oak barrels for six months and the Pinot Noir has spent one year in barriques.
De Sousa Cuvee de Caudalies Extra Brut
100% Chardonnay mainly from the vineyards in Avize and Oger, all of which are older than 50 years of age. The wine is vinified in small oak barriques, 15% new, and the base wine is blended with 50% of reserve wines from the perpetual cuvee.
De Sousa Cuvee de Caudalies Vintage
This vintage version of the cuvee is usually a blanc de blancs, but depending on the vintage, Erick may add a small portion of Pinot Noir to the blend. The wine is vinified in small oak barriques, around 15% of which are new.
De Sousa 3A Extra Brut
A Grand Cru blend of 50% Chardonnay from Avize, 25% Pinot Noir from Ay, and 25% Pinot Noir from Ambonnay. The name of the wine comes from the first initial of each village, which are the only Grand Cru villages in Champagne that start with the letter ‘A’. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are pressed and vinified together.
As a young soldier in the Allied army, Erick De Sousa’s grandfather, Manuel, came to France from Portugal during the First World War. On his return to his home country after the war, he found a difficult economic climate, so he moved back to France with his young wife and baby son and settled in Avize. The De Sousa house was later formed by a marriage between Manuel’s son, Antoine, and Zoemie Bonville, whose family were established winegrowers in the area. Erick took the reins in 1986, and since then has developed the De Sousa house into one of the best in Avize.
In 2004 De Sousa launched Zoemie De Sousa, a negociant venture that produces six cuvees. The wines are made with grapes from 3 hectares of vines worked, but not owned, by the family, and using the same winemaking methods and techniques of the main label.
Most of the 40 parcels of De Sousa vineyards are planted with Chardonnay. They are located in the Grand Cru villages of Avize, Cramant, Oger, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Chouilly, with a small amount in the Premier Cru village of Grauves. The Pinot Noir is found in the Aube village of Essoyes, along with minuscule holdings in Ay and Ambonnay. They also have half a hectare of Meunier in the Vallee de la Marne village of Mardeuil. The most notable fact about all of their vineyards is their age. Seventy percent of the vines are over 25 years old, and the average age is over 45 years!
The oldest of the Chardonnay vines were the first to be converted to biodynamic farming, starting in 1999. Today, all of their Cotes des Blancs vineyards are farmed this way. The other parcels are too small for biodynamics to be successful. Since 2009, sections of vineyard have been ploughed by horse to prevent excessive compaction of the vine roots and to help the vines extract the highest levels of nutrients from the soil.
In the cellar, Erick ferments in enamel tanks and oak barriques, which he reserves for the grapes from the oldest vines. Wild yeasts initiate fermentation and all the wines go through malolactic fermentation. Batonnage, or lees stirring, is carried out while the wines are in barrel. De Sousa practices manual riddling, along with an interesting and time-consuming technique to further enhance the autolytic characters in the wine, one that is rarely used today – poignetage – whereby each bottle is shaken to redistribute the lees throughout the bottle. This process is done once for the non-vintage champagnes and twice for the Grand Cru cuvees.