Although American by nationality, I live in the Champagne region, in the small and charmingly named village of Dizy, just behind the Gaston Chiquet estate and down the road from Jacquesson. I am one of only a few professional wine writers to actually live in Champagne, and among these, the only one to write in the English language. This proximity gives me an unusual perspective on the region, its people and its wines, especially as a foreigner. It also allows me to taste more widely than I could ever do otherwise, putting me in an ideal position to write about the wines of Champagne.
My relationship with champagne began in the mid-1990s, when I was working as a wine retailer at one of San Francisco's most prominent wine stores. I was a specialist in Burgundy, and the large portion of my days would be spent amidst the store's assortment of hundreds of Burgundian wines. Conveniently, the champagnes were stocked directly adjacent to the Burgundy section, and at that time, we were still selling wines such as the 1979 Krug, 1979 and 1982 Salon and 1985 Cristal at very reasonable prices. I began making annual trips to Champagne in 1998, and developed relationships with people across the region, at both large négociant houses and small grower estates alike. By the end of 2006, I decided that my long-distance relationship with champagne wasn't working out, as a friend of mine puts it, and since then I have made my home here in the Champagne region, quite literally next to the vines.
It wasn't always my intention to become a wine writer, as my wine background is firmly based in the trade, from retail to restaurants to importing and distribution. However, I did write an online magazine called the Riesling Report with my friend Kirk Wille, from 2000 to 2002. Devoted to riesling and riesling producers around the world, it was a trailblazer of sorts in the wine press, both in terms of its specific focus and its internet-driven format. In 2004 I joined Wine & Spirits, an American wine magazine with a circulation of 80,000, and was previously a senior editor for the magazine, as well as its tasting director. Now based in France, I continue to write for Wine & Spirits as a senior correspondent and wine critic, largely focused on European wines from north of the 45th parallel.
When not here in Champagne, I can usually be found eating and drinking in New York City, tasting sake in Japan, watching Arsenal matches anywhere there's satellite TV, and making a general nuisance of myself in the cellars of Burgundy, the Loire Valley, the Jura, Austria, Germany, Alsace and Jerez.
Photo: Me, as envisioned by six-year old Guillaume Hébrart (Champagne Marc Hébrart)