Charles Heidsieck| One Man, One House in Champagne

Charles Heidsieck| One Man, One House in Champagne

It was at the tender age of 29 that Charles-Camille Heidsieck founded his eponymous Champagne House in Reims. Only one year later he was off to the United States to become the first merchant to market his own Champagne in New York City. An embodiment of French glamour, the charming and business-savvy Heidsieck quickly became a social sensation, capturing the hearts of the New York elite and earning the title “Champagne Charlie.” Eternally dedicated to the quality of his wines, he purchased 47 cellars dating back to the 11th century, a labyrinth of caves offering the ideal humidity for the peaceful aging of his show-stopping cuvees. It is here that the vast collection of the House’s reserve wines are stored, patiently waiting for the day of blending.

The Charismatic Founder Abroad

© Charles Heidsieck

© Charles Heidsieck

Bubbly, social and smooth – the cuvees of the prestigious Charles Heidsieck Champagne House will forever embody the House’s charming founder, whose legacy lives off both in the France and abroad. At the tender age of 29, Charles Heidsieck founded the estate, designing it in his own image. In 1852, Heidsieck made his first voyage to the United States, a country at the time still largely untouched by the Champagne trade. Not too long after setting foot on the new continent, he became a social icon – an ambassador to Champagne and a walking-talking personification of French glamour. He quickly won over the bourgeoisie of New York City, even making it as far South as Louisiana.

As the very first successful merchant in the USA to open this market to Champagne, Heidsieck became known as “Champagne Charlie.” This famous nickname now graces the labels of one of the House’s most exclusive and hard-to-find wines, the legendary Champagne Charlie cuvee, produced in vintages 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985. The story of his life has even been transformed into a major Hollywood motion picture, titled Champagne Charlie (1989) and starring Hugh Grant. Upon his return to Europe, Heidsieck spent some time in both England and Belgium. His brilliant cuvees were even featured at the Universal Exhibitions, which made them the bubbly of choice in the royal courts of England.

A Legendary Estate and a Labyrinth of Chalk in Reims

Following the traditional Champagne model of wine production, the Charles Heidsieck House owns and produces wine from 30 hectares of vines, located between the departments of Marne and Aube. To fulfill its quota, the estate has also formed long-term relationships with local winegrowers and cooperatives in the region. One of the historical House’s core values is a conservation of the land and ecosystems to which the wines owe their prized character through an intense program in sustainable viticulture. The House has been certified as one of High Environmental Value with a strong focus on preserving soil nutrition, environmentally friendly cultivation of the vines and a sustainable waste management system at the estate.

© Charles Heidsieck

© Charles Heidsieck

In 1867 Heidsieck purchased the Crayeres, a veritable labyrinth of chalk cellars, which date back to the 3rd century. Why chalk? Many regions in Champagne (notably Cote des Blancs, but not so much the Aube) are known for their chalk subsoils, left behind by ancient oceans after they receded around 70 million years ago. This unique soil allows vine roots to dig easily to great depths and retain moisture effectively, while also allowing the excess to drain away. Chalk is also a great thermoregulator, staying the same temperature year round to offer some stability to the vines. Belemnite chalk, releasing more limestone, is known to be particular beneficial, imparting high acidity to the grapes, which results in fresher Champagne with great finesse and lightness.

Chalk cellars are also ideal for storing wine, because of the stable temperatures, peace and quiet they provide. At Charles Heidsieck, over 8 kilometers of chalk cellars, buried 30 meters below ground, house several million bottles of wine, patiently aging to reach the desired level of quality and complexity. Since 2015, the chalk cellars of Maison Charles Heidsieck have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Today the very exclusive Charles Heidsieck’s Crayeres line – consisting of a 1983 Vintage Brut, a 1985 Vintage Brut Rose, the 1982 and 1985 “Champagne Charlie” and the 1981 “Royale” – pays homage to the historic cellars, which has allowed the House to store such a vast collection of reserve wines to be included in their blends. An extended period of aging on lees unlocks the full potential of these wines.

Of Wines and Winemakers

In 2015, talented winemaker and born-and-bread Champagne local Cyril Brun joined the Charles Heidsieck House of Champagne after 15 years as senior red winemaker at Veuve Cliquot. Following in the footsteps of Daniel Thibault, Regis Camus and Thierry Roset, Cellar Master Brun continues to produce champagne’s in the signature style of the House’s legendary founder by blending the best of three varietals, many different parcels and the best vintages of the region. A key ingredient at Maison Charles Heidsieck – and one that Brun considers a “fourth varietal” in the creation of his blends – is time. And it is here that the elaborate network of chalk cellars comes into play. These Crayeres allow a vast number of wines to be stored as reserve, set aside to be used in the blending of a cuvee. What results is an infinitely complex blend carefully assembled each year. (Featured below are the two flagship Brut Reserve wines of the House.)

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© Charles Heidsieck

Among the most notable of vintage cuvees produced at Charles Heidsieck are the 2005, a wonderful choice to toast a harvest which was particularly magnificent in Champagne and all over France. In Champagne, the 2015 growing season will be remembered for a cold, dry winter and an early heat wave in June, just the right amount of precipitation during the summer and high temperatures in September. The House also offers a 2006 vintage Brut Rose, whose perfectly balanced and well-rounded blend contains 15 of the 320 Champagne crus, carefully selected for their aromatic harmony. The highly-lauded 1995 vintage cuvee is a Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay), previously produced by the House for the vintages of 1983, 1985, 1990. This wine blends 5 major crus from the Cote des Blancs – Oger, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, Cramant and Vertus – and is aged for over 20 years in the estate’s chalk cellars to achieve delicate bubbles and a silky smooth texture.

Browse Our Wines from Maison Charles Heidsieck

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

© Charles Heidsieck

© Charles Heidsieck

A Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve cuvee contains a blend of 60 crus (each vinified separately), 40% reserve wines, with an average of 10 years of aging. Such a high concentration of reserve wines results in a complex, elegant and voluptuous wine with beautiful aromas of toasted and buttered brioche, along with flavors of sun-ripened stone fruits and almonds.

At the time of tasting, Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve presents a stunning deep golden color with delicate but lively bubbles resulting from a long maturation process in the estate’s chalk cellars. On the nose this voluptuous cuvee reveals notes of toasted brioche, sun-drenched fruits like mango, apricot and Mirabelle plum, along with almond and pistachio aromas. The palate offers a velvety smooth touch, with flavors of cherries and plums. Delicate on the tongue the wine lingers long on the finish, unveiling rich notes of vanilla and praline.

Browse the Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve

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© Charles Heidsieck

The House’s signature Brut Rose, aged over 48 months, contains equal portions of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier in 80% of the wine, taken from each new year. The remaining 20% is of reserve wines, equally split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The beautiful powdery pink robe of this vivacious cuvee comes from the 5 to 6% vinified in red, which provides tannin and red fruit fragrances on the palate.

The very subtle, yet complex Charles Heidsieck Brut Rose Reserve reveals on the nose fragrances of strawberry jam and ripe white peaches. On the palate one will experience a powerful mouthfeel, with rich flavors of strawberry, raspberry and blackberry, covered by a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Browse the Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve
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