Champagne Charlie

Today’s Story: Champagne Charles Heidsieck

Charles Heidsieck is a well-known Champagne house established by Charles-Camille Heidsieck in 1851 in Reims when he was 29 years old. The grand-nephew of Florens-Louis Heidsieck who established the Champagne Heidsieck et Cie House, Charles grew up amongst the vines and became well-educated alongside a passion for fine Champagne. Quickly recognizing the untapped potential of the Champagne trade in America, Charles traveled to the country in 1852 and won the adoration of New York, titans of business, and the South for his Champagne. He even picked up the nickname Champagne Charlie (of which there is a song and movie titled) along the way thanks to his charm and astute business acumen.

With the success of his Champagne in America, Belgium, and England (amongst France of course), Charles made the audacious purchase of the breathtaking 3rd century chalk cellars known as the Crayères in 1867. Robbed of any light and noise 30 meters below ground, the Crayères can house millions of bottles of Champagne in perfect storage conditions where they age for the minimum four years but at times surpass 40 years. At minimum I suggest you take a look at pictures of these majestic cellars here, which are classified as an UNESCO World Heritage site.

One of the “smaller” top-tier and well-known Champagne houses, Charles Heidsieck consists of about 60 hectares of vines divided between the Marne and Aube departments. These vineyards are all farmed adhering to sustainable viticulture, and they are certified High Environmental Value. The house also holds long-term contracts with winegrowers and cooperatives from whom they purchase extra fruit. In the cellars, a large number of reserve wines have been set aside to provide blending capability into the non-vintage bottlings where, for example, the Brut Réserve consists of about 40% reserve wines with an average age of 10 years.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Brut Millésimé

60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The 2008 Brut Millésimé is transparent but very vibrant medium gold in color, showcasing beautifully delicate effervescence as well. While this no doubt needs time in the cellar (maybe revisit in 5 years?), the nose displays enticing aromas of ripe pear, golden apple, lemon zest, honeysuckle, crushed rock, brioche, vanilla cream, and almond. The palate is much more tight at this stage, characterized by notes of green apple skins, lemon, lime zest, pineapple, chalk, hazelnut, and lees. This is medium- to full-bodied with racy high acidity and a very tight, precise, and linear attack into a long, long finish.

Price: $100 (though I’ve seen this priced closer to $85-90). I think this is an exquisite Champagne and certainly one I would buy multiple bottles of to cellar. This is a fantastic showing in a fantastic vintage, and I could easily see this bottling appreciating as it falls on more peoples’ radars.

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