Sara Underdown: “Champagne is the most exciting wine region to visit right now”

Sara Underdown is Star Wine List's new Champagne ambassador.
Andreas Grube
Published 02-November-2023

Sara Underdown is an Australian-based educator, presenter and wine writer specialising in Champagne. Now she also takes on the role of Star Wine List’s ambassador in Champagne.

“It is a tremendous pleasure and privilege to represent the Champagne region, an area I am most passionate about,” she says.

“I guess I’ve always seen myself as an ambassador for the Champagne region. Being appointed to the Star Wine List role is really an extension of how I already feel. I am unwaveringly passionate about supporting the region through my role as a communicator, so I am looking forward to having a ‘bigger voice’ through the Star Wine List platform to make this message heard.”

Sara Underdown says that she never had much of an appetite for wine until she moved to Adelaide in 2009. Then, the beauty of being so close to South Australia’s dazzling wine regions lured her into a life of food and wine that would eventually lead to Champagne – both the region and the wine.

“My nascent palate craved more each time I tasted, not only for the sensory but for knowledge of provenance and people. Each bottle represented a window into time and place, which is what makes wine so magic!”

“My sliding doors moment came during a trip to Europe in 2011. A three-day adjunct from Paris to Champagne and things snapped into focus for me. Champagne was much more diverse and complex than I had ever imagined… and there was nothing like it. The coolest of wine producing climates and chalkiest of lands was unique to the region of Champagne, contributing unparalleled concentration, freshness, salinity and finesse.”

After that she began her professional pathway into wine, commencing with the WSET program. For more than a decade she has now been one of Australia’s recognised voices for Champagne through the prestigious Vin de Champagne Awards, the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards and the Born Digital Wine Awards.

“In addition to writing for my own publication, VINE & BUBBLE, I write regularly for numerous drinks publications, magazines and newspapers. My passion for storytelling and education extends to a national program of events that I regularly host across Australia for both consumers and trade,” she says.

Today, VINE & BUBBLE has grown into a network of Australian journalists, sommeliers, educators and industry representatives as regular contributors and colleagues.

“I love the collaboration aspect of VINE & BUBBLE because it sets our hearts on fire even more so for the wine we love the most. “

It’s all about the people, the region, the history and - of course - the wine

Earlier this year, Sara commenced the VINE & BUBBLE Podcast which has been getting great feedback.

“It’s all about the people, the region, the history and - of course - the wine. I travel to Champagne and all over Australia, talking with the Cellar Masters, industry representatives and everyone in between to connect wine lovers with the story behind the finest bubbles of all. You can listen anytime on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Describe the wine scene in Champagne?
“World class. Champagne emerged from COVID with a new-found enthusiasm for oenotourism which has inspired the opening of fantastic bars and restaurants but also encouraged existing venues to step up in quality. There are more discovery opportunities, vibrant dining options and Michelin-starred restaurants springing up all over the place. Even Maisons, which once stood imposingly behind firmly shut gates, are beginning to open publicly and offer immersive food and wine experiences.”

“I honestly believe that Champagne is the most exciting wine region to visit right now because of these initiatives.”

Any specific trends when it comes to wine venues in Champagne right now?
"I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘trend’ but growers make a significant claim on many wine lists now in Champagne. One of my personal pleasures is to discover something new each time I go to Champagne and, often, these wine lists provide the only way to access some tiny and in-demand producers. I’ve also noticed more representation of Coteaux Champenois and Ratafia which offers insight into a different and lesser-known side of the Champagne region."

"Venues and Executive Chefs are also doing some pretty exciting collaborations with Maisons, putting together limited time degustations and exclusive experiences."

"When it comes to wines from outside of Champagne, there’s an impressive offering. I have noticed venues gravitating to discovery experiences for guests, featuring younger producers and especially those demonstrating innovation in the vineyard or cellar."

What makes a great wine list, in your opinion?
"Diversity! Thumbing my way through pages of wonderful wines gets me excited. I especially love seeing wine being listed by smaller (and maybe lesser-known) terroir, rather than by style. As a wine-lover, it takes me on a journey of discovery and enhances my appreciation. Also, rare gems, that have been tucked away in perfectly cellared conditions waiting for that special someone to choose them."

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