Elise Losfelt confirmed as new Charles Heidsieck cellar master
The rumours, widely circulating in Champagne since January that Cyril Brun, Charles Heidsieck’s head winemaker was to leave, have now been confirmed by the owners of the house Entreprise Patrimoniale d’Investissements (EPI).
It’s a major surprise to see Cyril Brun depart after fewer than eight years in the role – he joined Charles Heidsieck from Veuve Clicquot, where he worked alongside Dominique Demarville, in May 2015 – arguably at the height of his powers and having overseen significant changes at the house, including the re-introduction last year of a new style, multi-vintage, Champagne Charlie cuvée that he created.
Director of the house Stephen Leroux says that the move was instigated by Brun and hasn’t come as a result of any falling out between the parties, with the transition planned several months ago.
Leroux adds that Brun will continue working with the new chef de cave Elise Losfelt until the end of March, to ensure a smooth transition.
Exactly what Brun is planning to do next remains a mystery for now, but it seems unlikely that he will join another house in Champagne, given that he described the role at Charles as his ‘dream job’ in the past.
In the official press release Brun says: “The period of Covid and lockdown were an opportunity for reflection and soul-searching on my past and future career. And after 30 years of working for groups in distribution and leading Champagne Houses, I decided it was time to strike out on a new adventure.”
Working closely with Leroux, Brun has overseen a quiet revolution at Charles. In line with EPI’s ambition for growth from their investment, he has managed to considerably increase the volume of Brut Réserve made, while keeping the wines at their previous exactingly high levels of quality.
The second of Brun’s blends for Brut Réserve, based on the 2016 harvest, was the first he had given a substantial tweak to in his second year in charge of the cellars. He introduced some oak ageing and increased the proportion of reserve wine, while at the same time using, younger, fresher, reserve wine. It was very well received and arguably improved on the blend in which the component parts were reduced in number by his predecessor.
Making good use of his experience working with Demarville at Clicquot, where his particular role was to look after red wine production used for Clicquot’s rosé wines, he has also played around with the rosé blend of Charles Brut Réserve to great effect, as can be seen with the current blend based on the sumptuous ripe 2018 harvest.
Losfelt, previously part of Moët & Chandon’s chef de cave Benoit Gouez’s team, swells the ranks of women head winemakers in Champagne. They are not the rarity they were in the appellation even only a decade ago, with women now in charge of the cellars at Krug, Henriot and Perrier-Jouët; Julie Cavil replacing Eric Lebel at Krug, Alice Tétienne taking over at Henriot from Laurent Fresnet who moved to Mumm and Séverine Frerson replacing Hervé Deschamps, all in the past four years. Before those changes, Elisabeth Sarcelet at Castelnau (now replaced by Carine Bailleul) and Sandrine Logette-Jardin at Duval-Leroy were the only women chef de caves in place at larger houses.
Aged 36, Losfelt is only a little older than Tétienne who was just 30 when she joined Henriot in 2020, but she brings ten years’ experience from Moët, where she originally had a wine communication role, also working with the cellarmasters at Ruinart and Dom Pérignon.
She comes from a family winemaking tradition going back six generations at the Château de L’Engarran in the Languedoc region and her own winemaking experience includes harvests at Domaine Mortitx in Majorca, Château Beychevelle in Saint-Julien and in Australia at Domaine Dominique Portet.