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Champagne Piper-Heidsieck and Champagne Charles Heidsieck Two Houses, two styles, one winemaker: Regis Camus. Bubbles, from fine to crisp, from abundant to staid, Heidsieck has all the different styles to match the many ways we celebrate the Holidays
by Simone Zarmati Diament
There is more than one champagne house bearing the "Heidsieck" name. Florens-Louis Heidsieck ,the son of a Lutheran minister from Westphalia, had moved to Reims and there discovered winemaking in 1780…. How it became Piper-Heidsieck is a long story fraught with family alliances, feuds and negotiations, a voyage to America 200 years ago with kidnappers, jail, and even worse: no Champagne – but ended well; back in France; in the sweet Champagne region of Reims.
The Remy Cointreau group acquired Champagne Charles Heidsieck in 1985, and in 1988, Piper-Heidsieck was purchased, thus reuniting the two Champagne Houses which had split over a century and a half earlier.
Ever since 1988, Champagne Charles Heidsieck and Champagne Piper-Heidsieck have benefited from the expertise of master winemaker Régis Camus and his team who select the grapes and blend the wines for the specific Piper Heidsieck style and for Charles Heidsieck masterful blending of older wines into non vintage cuvees (NV).
The 'Piper' style plays on a register of freshness, vivacity and fruitiness. Piper-Heidsieck wines are joyful, youthful champagnes, with aromas of citrus and pip fruits contributing to their sense of liveliness. Consumers are pleasantly surprised when they taste these wines for the first time. If they were to be defined as a fragrance, they would be described as belonging to the Floral-Fruity-Fresh perfume family.
These are wines that ring true, with great appeal yet good, clear-cut structure. Although Piper-Heidsieck wines have a strong personality, their harmony is all in subtlety. Cuvée Brut and other more complex champagnes such as Brut Divin, Cuvée Sublime and Cuvée Rare reveal Piper-Heidsieck's different shades of style.
Piper-Heidsieck cuvée Brut. A sparkling clarity, pale gold in color, it is a well-balanced champagne – fresh and lively, with light aromas of citrus fruits and spring flowers with hints of summer apple and pear, and warm toastiness. The Cuvée Brut blend is made of around fifty crus, with not one jarring note allowed. Tthe Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes that give cuvée Brut its structure and elegance. Reserve wines from earlier years are used to create a more rounded blend and ensure the originality of the Piper-Heidsieck style.
Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage. A charming wine with delicate and enchanting accents. Based on a blend of about fifty crus; the same approach to blending as that of the Brut Cuvée, with the addition of a proportion of red Champagne wine, which gives this wine not only a style typical of Piper-Heidsieck but also a distinctive color and fruity taste. The harmony of the blend develops during a long maturing process lasting at least thirty months in the Piper-Heidsieck chalk cellars. It can be drunk as an aperitif and served at a cocktail party,but it is also ideal for a sophisticated dinner party with fish and chicken, and desserts based on red fruit.
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime This delightful, ample and generous champagne reveals a subtle, gentle combination of freshness and liveliness. The winemaker chose Piper Heidsieck's emblematic cuvée as a base and has accentuated softer aromas to endow this wine with a personality all of its own. This is a sumptuous champagne with deeper, stronger undertones. Let yourself be tempted by a deliciously flavoured macaroon, a square of strong dark chocolate or a slice of melt-in-the-mouth cake… Just imagine - it's time for tea with a few friends. To mark this occasion spent with your favourite people and to add an elegant touch, forget about the tea and open a bottle of Cuvée Sublime. Or why not invite everyone round for dinner. Just drape a tablecloth over the table and add a few candles. You can already hear laughter and the tinkle of champagne flutes...
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Divin is a Blanc de Blancs made exclusively with Chardonnay and is characterized by its finesse and elegance. At first, the nose is mineral, followed by floral notes of white nettle and hazelnut blossom. Then come fruity hints of plum and touches of almond and barley. A light finish of meringue, white pepper and warm spices.
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Vintage 1998. Vintage cuvées are made from exceptional harvests only. The Brut Vintage 1998 has the fullness and structure of a superb vintage. The first light, mineral impression is followed by subtle floral notes of fern and wild rose and delicately fruity aromas of dry apricot and raisins. Fresh and youthful with aromas of nougat, milk caramel and mint, it is rapidly followed by a sensation of fullness with hints of tobacco and leather, and a lasting refreshing finish of bergamot.
Piper-Heidsieck "Cuvée Rare": Pinot Noir and Chardonnay come together in the "Cuvée Rare" to create an elegant, harmonious champagne that is surprisingly concentrated, with a silky complexity, fullness and a rich, full-bodied structure. Winemaker Régis Camus selects the best crus from the Champagne grape varieties, which are vinified separately, to create a richer and more delicate blend. His choice goes towards the Chardonnay, which combines floral and mineral notes with an elegant freshness. He looks for aromas of red fruits in Pinot Noir, along with an opulent structure and a long finish in the mouth. This complex, subtle wine is aged for a minimum of three years. Initial floral notes of lime, verbena and wild rose intensify into aromas of tropical fruit, such as passion fruit and kiwi, mild spices and white pepper. It develops on the palate with hints of meringue, cocoa and liquorice, leaving an impression of an oriental wine with a strong personality.
Full, ample, and warm, Charles Heidsieck wines are complex, displaying a characteristic balance between strength and elegance. The blends themselves are an intricate mosaic, with over 100 crus illustrating the range of subtle nuances available from the Champagne vineyards. Blends are composed of around one third of each grape variety, depending on the year. The proportion of reserve wines, which can have matured for up to eight years, is of over a third, which is rare in the Champagne region.
Masterful blending of older wines into non vintage cuvées - like a multi-vintage prestige cuvée along the lines of Krug NV or Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siecle - results in such a fabulous wine. Moreover providing information by providing a date of cellaring on the label ensures a superb wine: The cellaring date follows the date of the base vintage, the Mis en Caves 1997, based on the outstanding 1996 vintage is a magnificent blend
Charles Heidsieck has been christened the “gem of Champagne” and the analogy suits it perfectly. The respect with which the grapes are treated, the attention to detail in the blends, the care taken as they mature, and the stringent demands of perfection transform these wines into genuine treasures.
Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie Brut 1985 "Sublime. Like relaxing into a favorite chair, this is both familiar and comfortable in its mellow profile and sumptuous texture. Flavors of coffee, grilled hazelnut, citrus and brioche wrap around the palate, retaining focus thanks to the firm structure. Lovely finish. Close to its peak and should hold there for several years. Drink now through 2010. 300 cases imported." -Wine Spectator
Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésimé 1995 A creamy golden colour, with a fine and lazy bead. Delicious aromas of cream, fresh bread and toast, with some good leesy, yeasty notes. The palate has a fine texture, elegant balancing acidity, and a good toasty, oyster richness. It finishes with a savory, leesy note. Excellent.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé Millésimé 1996 Wow! A rich layer of biscuit and yeast on the nose, underpinned by a superb streak of citrus fruit freshness. This leads to a palate of more excellent citrus fruit with a creamy richness and biscuity undertones. A fine and elegant mousse persist through the mid-palate. It culminates in a rich, lingering finish. Excellent and pair beautifully with meats, fish, and desserts.
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires Brut Millésimé 1995 A fine but not prominent bead on a golden yellow background. This wine has a truly captivating nose, with coffee, toast, caramel and toffee all putting in an appearance. A delightfully creamy texture to the nutty, toasty palate, with balanced acidity and a lingering finish. Lovely stuff. Very good.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve 1998: A mid gold colour in the glass, and a fairly fine bead. A lush, captivating nose, full of forward, ripe white fruits, with a background touch of nuts and marzipan which becomes more obvious as the wine warms in the glass. Also a little vegetal complexity. Plenty of fat texture on the palate, with a good creamy mousse, cut through which sharp, peppery acidity. Plenty of complex flavour too. This is delicious stuff, with a grippy, biting finish. Good, tasty, no-nonsense non-vintage Champagne for drinking over the next year or two. Very good.