21 Jun Interview with Yvonne Seier Christensen – BSc (Hons)Viticulture & Oenology
Yvonne has a Bachelor of Science (Hons) Viticulture and Oenology degree from the University of London’s Plumpton campus in the UK, and the official designation of Négociant Manipulant, from The Comité Champagne. Yvonne is also an entrepreneur, restaurauteur, photographer, philanthropist. She has founded a European ‘super car’ club, a women’s mentoring app and a professional cycling training centre.
Yvonne is committed to biodiversity, organic cultivation and her heritage winery on the Côte des Blancs is being restored with guiding principles of sustainable carbon-neutral production.
Yvonne has launched a range of Champagne cuvées over the past six years, including her celebrated Les Cinq Filles brand. Yvonne’s zero dosage Blanc de Blancs and biodynamic Brut Rosé cuvées, are served in high-end fine-dining restaurants in Europe, Monaco, Dubai, Singapore and Scandinavia. Maison Les Cinq Filles has also released a Northern Lights champagne range and a suite of ‘Skagen’ champagne cuvées.
Force of Nature
When you meet Yvonne Seier Christensen, there is no doubt that you are dealing with ‘a force to be reckoned with.’ She is educated, elegant, smart, energetic, funny -and brings an individualistic and determined approach to her business ventures. When it comes to biodiversity, sustainability and her beloved ‘terroir’ there is no doubt that her connection with the earth is both strong and tenacious.
Over many years in business and in the champagne industry, Yvonne Seier Christensen has attracted the sort of attention only given to the talented, determined and unorthodox. She has attracted dedicated and highly skilled chefs, sommeliers and colleagues to work with her on her various interests, due to her innovative and flexible approach, friendly and personable manner, and no-nonsense attitude to getting things done. When you sit down with Yvonne for an interview – usually over a glass or two of her Les Cinq Filles champagne – you are immediately aware that she treats everyone, even journalists, with the utmost respect. Respect for people from all walks of life, is one of the trademarks of Yvonne’s ethos.
Born in the United Kingdom and of Nigerian heritage, Yvonne is from relatively humble beginnings, having grown up in North London, one of twin children cared for by a single mother.
Overcoming the biases prevalent at the time, Yvonne took part-time factory jobs whilst she educated herself with a marketing course. She worked with a global bank for 15 years, where she managed an IT division that shared the bank’s content globally. It was a time when she might order sparkling apple juice in a champagne flute at the bar, as she could only afford to ‘pretend’ to drink champagne.
Evolution of a Champagne Dynasty
Yvonne has a ready smile and seems to make friends easily. Her education in the art of wine-making started with hands-on experience in the vineyards of friends in Champagne – pruning, tying, harvesting and helping as the precious juice was pressed from fruit bursting with the flavours of the earth – the terroir. As a little girl, Yvonne had never been happier than when her hands were in the dirt – and that, she says, will never change.
‘I agree with those who believe that terroir is the very soul of Champagne. Ancient seas nourished the soils of the Côte des Blancs, creating the unique and complex minerality, expressed in the fruit of the vine.
Out of respect for terroir, for biodiversity and organic viticulture, we turn the soil in our vineyard with horse-drawn ploughs, harvest by hand and nurture our limited release cuvées with patience, so that the full potential of the fruit shines through.’
Having given birth to five very individual daughters, Yvonne decided to turn her passion into a champagne dynasty. She undertook six years of part-time study at the University of London’s specialist Plumpton campus, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Viticulture and Oenology, but by then, she had already created her first premium limited-release Les Cinq Filles zero dosage champagne in 2017 – a cuvée that had spent 8 years sur lees and is today served in Europe’s leading Michelin Star restaurants.
Whilst others have publicly claimed the title of ‘the first female champagne winemaker of African descent’, Yvonne’s achievements pre-date them all. In July 2021, she was inaugurated as Champagne’s ‘Ambassador for Blanc de Blancs.’ The accolade recognises Yvonne’s skill in creating outstanding blanc de blancs champagne cuvées, her commitment to protecting Champagne heritage, sustainability and biodiversity, and her support in promoting and sponsoring community resources in her Champagne village, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.
Yvonne is restoring an 1879 stone house in Le Mesnil where she will utilise traditional gravity-driven methods of production, at the same time incorporating the highest possible standards of sustainability and carbon-neutral operation.
But the interview is nearing an end – even though, there seem to be so many more stories of Yvonne’s life to tell. You can tell from her energy, that this is a woman who is always ‘super busy’ building her brand in a mature and challenging champagne market. You can also tell that Yvonne puts heart and soul into everything she does.
Now, if you live in Denmark, you will have seen the ‘Yellow Jersey’ worn by Team Rynkeby cyclists. Each year they take on a gruelling endurance ride, to raise money for children with cancer. And that’s where Yvonne is heading, to train with the Danish team she rode with in 2022. She signed up Champagne Les Cinq Filles as a Platinum Sponsor and reorganised her schedule.
In the words of this unorthodox and very determined winemaker:
‘There is a point in one’s life when you have to say, ‘hey, there is something I can do to help someone else and this is the moment to do it. For ten days I am going to ride that bike. F**k It, I’ll drop everything!’
I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from Maison Les Cinq Filles and its firebrand of a founder and winemaker.
Basket Press – Contributing Writer, Jo Pearson