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Food & Wine
October 2019

‘Madame Wine’ shares the story behind each sip

Breaking the mold in a traditional field, Sophia Zaïme helps her clients enjoy fine Champagne and wine as an experience that goes beyond the glass.

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Madame Wine

Sophia Zaïme — petite with hazel skin and mid-length dark hair, and wearing a stylish fur vest — puts a large bottle of champagne down on the table. The design of the bottle is simple, elegant. K21 is written on the front in calligraphic letters.

The champagne is her baby, in a sense. Sophia, the founder of Madame Wine, a boutique wine shop in Paris, developed it with a champagne-producing family near Epernay that she’s known for 10 years. Together, they tested over 140 blends in order to come up with the perfect varietal. The title, as well, has personal meaning for Sophia: on June 21, she survived a serious accident and, instead of fearing the number 21, she wanted to memorialize it in a positive way with a new line of bubbly. The “K” stands for Karma.

“From [the time of the accident], I really wanted to celebrate every day and when you want to celebrate, you drink champagne,” Sophia says.

Like K21, Sophia’s very presence in the wine industry — overwhelmingly French, overwhelmingly male and highly steeped in tradition — is in itself a bit of a miracle. And it’s revolutionizing the way her clients think about the bottles they drink.

Sophia, originally from Morocco, fell in love with wine, and by extension champagne, as a child. She said that her parents — often strict and austere — would relax, it seemed, when they drank wine, and Sophia said she felt that in those moments she was most free. As a teen, she wanted to study oenology in Bordeaux, but was instead steered in the direction of finance by a high school guidance counselor. As she grew into a successful businesswoman, however, wine never left her mind.

She launched Madame Wine in 2014 as a new kind of venture where wine was not just a commodity to buy, but an experience. In the five years since, her boutique company has carved out a niche in the market — and an office space in the center of Paris near the Palaces George V and Prince de Galles, to boot.

“Today, more than ever, everyone wants to live an experience more than just buy a product,” she says. “The champagne Secret Journey we have designed is all about creating emotions and memories between the winemakers and guests.”

For this exclusive day in Champagne, Sophia will introduce guests to the inner workings and personalities behind the top Champagne houses, play host during a Michelin 3-star lunch, and of course be the guide to tasting some of the finest bubbly in the world.

Sophia has studied the ins and outs of the business, not just from a perspective on the product itself, but all of the people involved in creating it. She knows the producers she works with and visits them at every harvest.

She takes her clients to the vineyards, where they can interact with the vintners and learn more about the complex process that goes into every glass of wine and flute of champagne. She also brings the producers to Paris, where she hosts dinners for wine enthusiasts and makers alike.

Through it all, she has kept her eyes on the same mission: opening up a space for new voices in the wine industry.

“I'm here to stay. I'm going to break some rules and innovate and create new things in this industry,” she says. “It was not easy. But it’s like now I’ve opened the doors for [a new generation.]” 

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