About Charles Heidsieck
The story of Champagne Charles Heidsieck is one that combines the history and traditions of several historical families in Champagne with the passion and entrepreneurial spirit that defines this incredible house to this day. Experiencing a grand renaissance over the last few years, Champagne Charles Heidsieck has reclaimed its place as one of the most sought after and respected houses in Champagne.
The founder of Champagne Charles Heidsieck, Charles-Camille Heidsieck, was the son of a famous Champagne merchant Charles-Henri Heidsieck and Emilie Henriot (of the famed Champagne Henriot family) and nephew to Florens-Louis Heidsieck, founder of the house that would become Piper-Heidsieck. Charles started his own Champagne house in 1851 at the age of 29, wanting to create his own business and reputation on his own merits, away from his family.
However, Charles’ idea of success in the business of Champagne was not just about producing high quality sparkling wine but traveling the world to promote it. He famously was dubbed “Champagne Charlie” by merchants in the United States for his ability to entertain and bond with the elite society in New York and New England, and he is widely credited for the introduction of Champagne to the U.S. Champagne Charlie had many amazing U.S. adventures including being imprisoned by the Union Army during the Civil War when he was arrested in New Orleans under suspicion of being a Confederate spy! And if that wasn’t fascinating enough, in 1863 Charles was repaid for a delivery of Champagne with the deeds to a little village near the Rocky Mountains called Denver, Colorado!
Champagne Charles Heidsieck is located in Reims, one of the most famous cities for sparkling wine in the world. It was in 1867 that Charles purchased the Crayères, a series of chalk caves dating back to the 3rd century that still cellar their aging bottles to this day. Some 100 feet below ground, these five miles of channels and cellars house several million bottles of Champagne Charles Heidsieck, waiting until the perfect time to be released to the market, ranging from a minimum of three years up to more than 40. These cellars were named an official UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
In line with Champagne tradition, the house owns and cultivates some 192 acres between the Marne and Aube areas of the region. Again in 2015, a constant focus on conserving the lands and practices that protect the ecosystem has led to recognition of the House vineyards for its sustainable viticulture (VDC, or Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne). It has also been certified as to be of High Environmental Value, a global green certification comprising 123 points that is both demanding and complete, going from soil and vineyard nutrition, maintenance of the soil and management of the vines to waste management.
The reputation of excellence of their cellarmasters has earned them “Best Sparkling Winemaker of the Year” 12 times in the past 20 years by the London International Wine Challenge. After being purchased in 2017 by the wine investment firm EPI Group (owners of such wineries as Biondi-Santi and Piper-Heidsieck), their goal was to resurrect the passion of Champagne Charlie to be “Typiquement Charles,” bowing to no influence and pushing the envelope for quality and elegance.
Today, Champagne Charles Heidsieck produces classic non-vintage blends of Brut Réserve, Rosé Reserve and Blanc de Blancs that are distinguished by the high proportion of reserve wines. For example, the Brut Reserve typically has in the blend over 40% of reserve wines with an average of 10 years of aging.
Blanc des Millénaires, Charles Heidsieck’s prestige cuvee, was released for the first time in 1993 with the 1983 vintage. To create such a distinctive wine, the winery looked to the five major Crus of the Côte des Blancs to contribute to the complexity and style of Blanc des Millénaires. Chardonnay grapes from Oger add structure and unctuous qualities, Mesnil-sur-Oger lends balance and restraint, Avize contributes minerality, the Cramant cru adds complexity and Chardonnay from Vertus adds freshness and floral notes. These vintage components from across the Côte des Blancs are blended with reserve lots ranging back to 1949. The exquisite Blanc des Millénaires has only been produced only in vintages of extremely high quality Chardonnay – to date, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1995, and 2004… and soon 2006.
Additionally, the house has started to tap into their deep cellars to selectively release “La Collection Crayères,” an homage to the history of this great house. The cellar master, combing through the vast collection of bottles deep in the cellar, will sometimes come across special lots, aged for decades that are at a perfect point in their life to be released. Time, like a “fourth varietal”, has crafted the soul of the wines in the Crayères Collection, and extended ageing on lees has unlocked the full potential of their aromas. Each vintage has its own signature, its own generous tone. Rooted in the highest standards and precise construction, all promise to deliver a harmonious combination of flavors. The first release included wines from 1981, Brut Vintage 1983, Vintage Rosé 1985 and two special releases known as “Champagne Charlie” from 1982 and 1985.
The re-discovery and resurgence of this winery has already put it in the conversation with some of the best Champagne houses in the region. There is no better and more exciting time to drink and collect wines from Champagne Charles Heidsieck than right now!
Admiring the movements of the wine through the glass is like being carried by the rhythm of a Viennese waltz.