Meet the woman bringing a Caribbean twist to French Champagne

(CNN) – A region in northern France roughly twice the size of San Francisco is the birthplace of a revered sparkling wine that symbolizes wealth, luxury and exclusivity.

Champagne – the name of the region and the drink – sells around 300 million bottles annually, with the industry being valued at over $ 5 billion. And no bottle of sparkling wine produced outside of this unique region may or may not be called champagne.

But a woman brings a taste of the French Caribbean to this world of elites.

Marie-Ines Romelle, 42 years old, with her label Marie Césaire connects the culture of her homeland Guadalupe as the first black woman to join the exclusive world of champagne producers.

The special ingredient in Marie Césaire’s champagne is sugar cane, a crop that is widespread in the Caribbean.

Rather than opting for the beet sugar traditionally used in making champagne, Romelle adds sugar cane extract to create flavors that appeal to the African diaspora.

Aromas of lychee and rose

According to Stanley Baptista, sommelier at the Parisian restaurant La Petite Régalade, Romelle differs from other brands because of its decision to use sugar cane in proportions above the current market average.

“Her rosé lines the taste buds with a bouquet of red fruits with aromas of lychee and rose. Her white is very fresh, with notes of ripe white fruits and exotic fruit extract. Her wines create a contrast between freshness and a sweet taste that inspires Senses, “says Baptista.

Romelle was born in Guadalupe and left the Caribbean island with her parents for France at the age of three. She grew up in the suburbs of Paris where she says she gained her strength.

“I was placed in a difficult environment because of poverty. But it helped me learn to drive. It taught me to be ambitious and to strive to improve my situation,” she told CNN.

Marie Cesaire champagne

Phil Art Studio

The brand is named after Romelle’s parents and a nod to their Caribbean heritage. The logo bears the image of a hummingbird and the names Marie and Césaire, some of the most popular in the French Caribbean.

Romelle’s love for champagne began when she started her career in grocery retail.

“When I turned 18, I got a job in a shop that specialized in selling French delicacies. I wasn’t exposed to French culture as much. But the time I spent there was where I was fell in love with champagne and France understood its meaning. “

Marcia Jones, founder of Urban Connoisseurs – an organization that connects black winemakers in the United States – says Romelle created an addressable wine that can appeal to everyone.

“The residual sugar from the cane makes a difference to your wines. Your wines are soft and not overly sweet,” Jones told CNN.

“But I think it appeals so much to blacks because they are one of the few makers of black champagne. There are others who have a brand but they are directly involved in the grape-to-glass experience.”

Simply a champagne producer

Romelle’s main goal with her champagne brand is to provide a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to make their dreams come true. “I want to prove to people that regardless of your background or where you come from, you can achieve something. If you focus on what you are doing.” You can do whatever you set out to do, “Romelle told CNN.

After years climbing the ladder to manager of five grocery stores and 66 employees, she moved to Champagne, France to launch her brand.

And Romelle is determined not to be the only woman of color in the champagne world.

“I’ll know when I’ve made it, if I’m not noticed, if I’m not seen as the woman of color who makes champagne, but simply as a champagne producer.”

“I work as hard as possible to make sure that everyone who wants to work in this industry has opportunities. The main reason I work so hard is so that others can achieve something like me.”

However, restauranteur Maxime Chenet believes that brands like Marie Césaire need to deviate from the traditional approach to winemaking in order to become more environmentally friendly.

“For many years we’ve used chemicals to grow more grapes and make more bottles of wine. Using these products has polluted the soil we grow our grapes on,” he told CNN.

“The champagne house where Marie-Césaire is made is traditional in the sense that chemicals are used in the winemaking process. For me, this gets rid of the notion of terroir – protection of the entire natural environment in which a particular wine is made – which is in this process is lost. “

For Stanley Baptista, the chatter about Marie Césaire is a sign that the brand will have a bright future.

“Our profession is constantly evolving. We are always looking for innovation, new flavors and deeper knowledge,” he told CNN.

“Inevitably, Marie Césaire – a young brand – watched the world of champagne because it forced us to discover beautiful but different flavors.”

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