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Kristina Sazama joins TEW as Director of Billecart-Salmon

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Kristina Sazama of T. Edward Wines

We are thrilled to welcome Kristina Sazama to our family at T. Edward Wines. Starting this month, Kristina will manage our book of Billecart-Salmon, while supporting our French Portfolio in the market. Welcome Kristina!

“Billecart-Salmon farms a large chunk of the vineyards that make up their wines,” said Kristina Sazama, our new Billecart-Salmon Director at T. Edward Wines.  “And even as a marques house, they are family owned, not owned by a giant luxury goods company or the like.  The Billecart family is involved – I’ve spoken to Antoine Billecart and he knows the wines, he knows the technical details.  He doesn’t just happen to have his last name on the label,” she added.

“If you look at the amount of hectares they have,” said Kristina, “they have the potential to make three times more wine than what they actually harvest. They only use the first pressing of the wine. Everything else is either traded or sold off. It’s also important,” she added, “that all of the vineyards that they manage are within a 20-minute drive to the winery. The presses are in the vineyard, and that speaks to the quality of the wine, especially since they’re a house that’s so focused on elegance, delicacy and finesse.”

Currently studying for the Master of Wine exam, after earning her WSET Diploma in 2009, Kristina was working in finance when she first experienced a wine that moved her. It was a glass of Opus One that wowed her palate, and when she came to comprehend wine as an agricultural product with vintage variations, her interest was piqued.

T. Edward Wines, New York organic wine importer/distributor, Kristina Sazama pruning

Winter pruning in Virginia

“In wine, everything comes together,” she said. “There’s science, romance, the land, the people, poetry and music. It touches on religion. It touches on a little bit of everything. And the most wonderful thing about wine is if you ask five different winemakers about a glass, they’ll have ten different answers for you and they’re all correct.”

Leaving behind her career in finance to spend a year in Paris in 2008, Kristina visited Alsace, Rhone, Cognac, Burgundy and the Loire. And when she returned to the States, she spent a couple of months completing the wine program at the CIA in Napa Valley, before emailing Cory Lane, the General Manager at Momofuku, whom she had met while in Napa. Hired as a cellar rat, Kristina worked for a while at Momofuku Ssam Wine Bar and in a couple of months became the Co-Beverage Director with Christina Turley, who was running Ko. That’s when she finally realized that she’d made a career change.

“I love that the New York market is such a playground for Champagne,” she said. “You have such a diverse crowd of consumers, from the tourists who want their orange label Cliquot to the more engaged customers who are just discovering that there is life beyond the Moet and Henessey brands. And then you have the gatekeepers, the sommeliers who treat Champagne as wine.”

And while Champagne is certainly a luxury item, you won’t find Billecart-Salmon sponsoring polo teams in the Hamptons, just as you won’t find its media budgets financed by handbag sales. “It’s still a small family making the best wines,” said Kristina. “They use the first press only. The Rosé is balanced and delicious. The Brut Reserve is fantastic. The Sous Bois offers a lot of delicacy but because it’s in neutral barrels, it’s got more roundness that’s a really unique style for Billecart-Salmon. But, I think more people need to discover the Blanc de Blanc. It’s so good. And like I said,” she added, “my New Year’s resolution was to drink more Blanc de Blanc, and here I am!”

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