Charles Heidseick: Champagne as good as it gets

 

“I don’t think any acclaim this house has received has ever been sufficient. After more than 30 years’ intensive experience and a great deal of mature reflection, I have ripped up my old list of Champagne’s greatest producers and started afresh with Charles Heidsieck firmly at the top. There are other great producers, but none that can match the consistency of Charles Heidsieck cuvée for cuvée, from the basic non-vintage through vintage to prestige cuvée. Every single Champagne in the Charles Heidsieck range is stunning. There are no duds, not even slight disappointments.” – Tom Stevenson

Charles Heidsieck: more awards

Charles Heidsieck: more awards

Much like the Champagne, the awards keep flowing…

The results are in… and Charles Heidsieck has done it again! As is now the norm, the show-stopping Champagne house has yet more accolades to add to its extensive collection.

Hot off the press from the 2015 International Wine Challenge (IWC) Awards Ceremony, Charles Heidsieck rounded off another successful year by scooping the Special Len Evans Trophy. This award recognises a producer’s consistency over 5 years, demonstrating their unwavering focus on excellence – setting the industry standard.

Heidsieck’s Blanc des Millénaires Millésimé 1995 was particularly successful; the IWC also deemed this wine of high enough quality to receive the Daniel Thibault Trophy for Champion Sparkling Wine 2015, as well as the Vintage Champagne Trophy. The latter was also awarded by the International Wine and Sprit Competition, plus a Regional Trophy in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2015 was achieved.

In addition, here at WineTrust we are glad to announce that the Rosé Brut Reserve achieved the IWC Non-Vintage Rosé Champagne Trophy – well deserved.

Of all the awards to grace the name of Charles Heidsieck, Cyril Brun’s shortlisting for the IWC Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year 2015 was particularly poignant – in honour of the late Thierry Roset, the exceptional Chef de Cave at Heidsieck, who sadly died a few months ago.

Over the last two decades, few can boast a more consistent, or highly decorated collection of commendations, including over 100 Gold medals, 32 Trophies and named Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year an astonishing 13 times by the IWC.

Another successful year gone, and we at WineTrust heartily congratulate the production team and Descours family on their obsessive commitment to quality and unwavering investment in both the vineyard and cellar. We have championed these wines since our own foundation and will continue to do so whilst they promote such remarkably high standards.

An Iconic Producer, an Iconic Brand

Charles Heidsieck label winetrust

© Charles Heidsieck

The House’s modern day successes are indeed a marvel to behold: a producer steeped in a rich history, a name that has stood the passage of time.

Not to be confused these days with fellow Champagne houses Piper Heidsieck and Heidsieck and Co. Monopole, they do, in fact, share common origins. In 1785, Florens-Louis Heidsieck founded a cloth and wine company under the Heidsieck and Co. name, and from there other family franchises set sail.

At 29 years of age, a young Charles Heidsieck took it upon himself to establish his own Champagne house in 1851 and much like his great-uncle, he enjoyed a burgeoning reputation in his homeland. However, he didn’t simply stop there…

Champagne trailblazers

Charles Heidsieck New York winetrust

Champagne heads west… An iconic New York scene, the anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side was once an impromptu wine cellar, due to its consistent temperature and need to fund the project .

 

Merely a year later, Charles journeyed across the Atlantic to bring Champagne to the virgin soils of the US. He extensively toured the North East coast in the hope the sparkling beverage would be a success in the American market – and it certainly was! In 1857, over 300,000 bottles were sold – more than in the UK today! Since his return, Heidsieck had become a celebrity with widespread newspaper coverage and amongst the banquet receptions of New York high society, became widely recognised as “Champagne Charlie”.

Such fortunes did not last, brought to an abrupt end by the outbreak of Civil War. With unpaid accounts in the US and cheated by his New York agent, Heidsieck was forced to travel to the south of the country in order to pursue payment from merchants directly. Despite travelling undercover, Charles inevitably ran into trouble with the Union Army.

Upon arrival, he found the merchants to be virtually bankrupt and unable to pay their debts financially; alternatively, Heidsieck accepted cotton as repayment for it was in high demand back in Europe. After an unsuccessful attempt to get shipments past Union blockades, Heidsieck fashioned an escape plan after finding his routes back to the North sealed by unionist forces.

Attempting to reach Mexico or Cuba, Heidsieck was seized upon in New Orleans. From celebrity to “criminal”, he was imprisoned after being charged with spying – for which he pleaded innocent. He was eventually released by President Lincoln in 1862 and returned to France, broke and broken.

However, Charles’s life took another dramatic turn. The brother of his New York agent contacted Heidsieck, lending him deeds to land in Colorado as a form of apology and to settle their differences. As it turned out, his newly owned land became extremely valuable, owing to the expansion of the American West and the ensuing development of Denver, a centre for wealth and post-war prosperity.

Debts repaid and accounts replenished, Charles was able to revitalise his Champagne house and re-establish himself as one of France’s premier producers. Even after Charles’ death, the American market continued to flourish. During the time of prohibition, ironically, business began to boom once more; in 1929 over three quarters of a million Champagne bottles were sold – with the Wall Street crash to boot!

In a curious incident 30 years later, fisherman off Cape Cod landed an unusual catch in the form of the 1919 Vintage Champagne. Bootleggers were known to dump cargo in order to avoid detection by the US coast guard; and as for the Champagne, it was like it had come fresh from the cellar.

Business still going strong

Charles Heidsieck cellars winetrust

© Liberty Wines: Heidsieck’s atmospheric 2nd century chalk cellars – or Crayères

160 years on and this esteemed Champagne house is still firing on all cylinders, despite more testing times in the form of two World Wars, economic hardship and – at times – declining reputation.

In fact the modern history of Charles Heidsieck owes much to the single minded dedication of former Chef de Caves Daniel Thibault, who from the late 1980s until his untimely death in 2002, totally transformed the quality and image of the whole range of Champagnes and established the blueprint which the House has religiously stuck to, to this day.

Today, Champagne Charles Heidsieck is universally recognised in the industry as a standard bearer for quality, authenticity and consistency.  Such is their track record and dedication to excellence, you are guaranteed to enjoy Champagne of the highest caliber.

WineTrust – Charles Heidsieck Brut Selections – Brut NV Réserve Blanc and Rosé

Here at WineTrust, we are pleased to bring you two flagship wines from this revered producer.

The Charles Heidseick Brut Reserve and Rose Brut Reserve are fine examples of a highly talented production team with a microscopic attention to detail and quality.

Alongside their 173 acres of homegrown varieties, Charles Heidsieck own (or buy grapes from) 120 different vineyards. With such a wide scope in the region to select fruit, this Champagne House has unrivaled access to the best vineyards and collection of reserve wine in Champagne. It is the blending of different ‘terroirs’ that is invariably the key to top quality Champagne.

The selection process for their Reserve Champagne is painstaking to say the least; between November and March, wine makers taste 200 wines that could potentially constitute that year’s blend. These reserve wines make up 40% of Heidsieck’s non-vintage varietals, and a significant proportion are 10 years old or more. This is completely against the trend of the majority of houses, who generally include between 10-15% reserve wines in the NV cuvées – and from younger vintages.

The team combine the three mainstay Champagne varieties to order to create the desired quality level: Chardonnay, bringing freshness and refinement; Pinot Meunier, the fruitiest variety; and Pinot Noir adding backbone and structure. A recipe that has been carefully crafted, tailored and refined to produce two tour de force wines, at £39 and £50 respectively, one can afford a little luxury without breaking the bank.

If you have any doubts please compare with the RRPs for other Champagne Brut NV icons Bollinger Special Cuvée and Krug Grande Cuvée.

 

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