New Generation Winemaker #4 : Maxime Mansard

Mar 4, 2021 • 5 mins
Digital & Sales Manager

Champagne is being rejuvenated! For a few years now, we have been seeing a transition to the next generation: now young adults, the kids are becoming more and more involved in the management of the family wine domaines. Eco-conscious and possessing greater marketing and social media savvy... Make way for the new generation!

For this fourth episode of "New Generation Winemaker", we headed to the Vallée de la Marne to meet Maxime Mansard, an innovative and ingenious wine producer, now at the helm of the family vineyards.

Back to the roots

The Mansard family's winemaking history goes back more than a century. The domaine, located in Cerseuil and Épernay in the heart of the Vallée de la Marne, extends over 24 hectares. Committed to preserving his family’s heritage, Maxime retains only the best of these for his wines. And this strategy is bearing fruit.

To better understand Maxime’s motivations, we have to go back a few years to the time when his father Gilles, then a négociant in Épernay, had built the champagne sales to 1.8 million bottles per year, 70% of which were exported.

After working with his father for two years, Maxime flew down to South Africa seeking new horizons before returning to Cerseuil and to start work on the revitalisation of the Champagne House. Maxime took over the family domaine and rebuild the brand. This was the start of a new chapter in the Mansard story. Gone were the millions of bottles, he decided to reduce the volume of champagne sold and to select only the best vineyard plots for the crafting of his wines.

When I returned from South Africa, I wanted to breathe new life into the domaine. My brother and I rebuilt the Champagne Mansard brand and created our second brand, Champagne Achille Princier. We started completely from scratch and dropped the négociant side of the business. All the production now comes from our own domaine. We want to add value to our winegrowing and winemaking work, by focusing more on the quality of the wines and producing smaller quantities.
Maxime Mansard

The catalyst for « Sabrage »

To differentiate his champagne and reach a different target of champagne lovers, Maxime decided to embark on a mammoth project that would ultimately give birth to the "Sabrage" champagne.

Sabrage is first and foremost a tribute to my great-grandfather, Arsène Baillet, taken prisoner in Dunkirk during the Second World War. When he returned to Cerseuil in 1944, he made a deep impression on the family and the village. He was so happy to have been freed, he used his cavalry sword - which I still keep to this day - to slice off the top of one of his finest bottles of champagne: a 1929 vintage, which is one of the greatest vintages of the last century. So, I wanted to honour him by creating something based on "sabrage". But the catalyst, the one that inspired me to turn the project into a reality, was actually Rafael Nadal...
Maxime Mansard

Maxime is an avid tennis fan. In 2015, he attended the preliminaries for Wimbledon in London and sabre-opened a bottle of champagne for Rafael Nadal's warm-up match. The first time ever on a tennis court. "You should open as many bottles with a sabre as I’ve hit tennis balls" the legendary champion told him at the time.

The wheels were set in motion. On his return, Maxime wanted to recreate the excitement he had generated in London. He set about creating his "Sabrage" champagne and, after several years of careful thought and work, the box set finally saw the light of day.

Experience Champagne differently

Maxime would like his drinkers to "experience Champagne differently", a translation of the slogan he has chosen for "Sabrage". The box set he has come up with consists of a bottle, a sabre and a safety strap. In short, all the equipment you need to perfectly master the art of "sabrage"!

Today, in the winemaking profession, we have to continually reinvent ourselves and innovate. This is what I wanted to do with "Sabrage", by offering my customers a real experience. The aim is to make sabrage accessible to everyone.
Maxime Mansard

To facilitate and modernise the technique of sabrage, two innovations were required. The first of these is the hidden line on the side of the bottle. It is located along the seam of the glass and is the exact line that must be aimed at to perform the sabrage correctly. You will even find a little personal note from Maxime to this effect: "this hidden line will serve as a guide for your sabre to ensure a perfect sabrage".

The second is an interactive video-conference lasting around 20 minutes included with the purchase of the box set which is booked online. During these 20 minutes, Maxime coaches his customers, prepares them for the sabrage or shows them how to perform a sabrage live: "I'm there to coach them, answer their questions and create a real relationship with them" he says.

Once the bottle has been slashed open with the sabre, all that remains is to enjoy the Champagne! A careful selection of 4 plots of old vines, "Sabrage" is a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 25% Meunier. Perfect as an aperitif, we love its freshness, lightness and finesse.

The box set costs 138 € incl. VAT, delivery included. But a little tip if you are driving through the Champagne region: the box is available for 120€ (including VAT) directly at the Champagne House. So, if you dream of “sabering” a champagne with panache, if you want to impress your guests or treat a friend to an original gift, then this box set is for you!

An Epicurean at heart

Maxime, our innovative and ambitious wine producer, granted us a quick interview, in which he told us about his interests and shared a quick anecdote with us.

What type of Champagne Lover are you?

I'm both an Epicurean and an Explorer. I like to spend time with my friends enjoying a good bottle or some great food and wine pairings. I also like travelling, exploring, and introducing people to new things.

Do you have any "Sabrage" anecdotes you could share with us?

Some time ago, I helped former tennis star Greg Rusedski, finalist of the US Open in 1997, to perform a sabrage. He enjoyed it so much that he offered to knock around a few balls with me. It’s a great memory!

Who is the next person you would like to coach to perform a sabrage?

I’d like to have a golfer, Tiger Woods, for example, perform a sabrage. We are involved in many sporting events, including the British Open. So maybe one day...!

What do you like doing when not making champagne?

I love cooking and gastronomy. When I was younger, I would have liked to have made a career out of it, but Champagne got me first.

Your favourite Champagne Mansard and food pairing?

Fish... A fillet of sea bass in a hollandaise sauce with Mansard Ancestral Brut for a perfect match.

Where are we likely to bump into you?

There are a few places I really like in Reims. In the summer, I like to enjoy a drink on the terrace at Le Clos or the Bar La Paix for a good cocktail. And if I fancy a glass of wine, I head to Le Wine Bar!

The new generation of winegrowers is certainly bringing a breath of fresh air to the Champagne region. It is a generation full of ideas and resources, always ready to innovate and challenge itself. A generation worth following...