I’m sometimes asked at wine courses and wine tastings about the connection between various Heidsieck champagnes.
The story starts in the late 1600s, when the Champagne region was a busy trading route for cloth from northern Europe and goods from the Mediterranean. The original Florens Louis Heidsieck, a cloth merchant from Germany, switched from bouclé to bubbles, and the house of Heidsieck was founded in the late 1700s. With a lucky stroke of timing, he had an opportunity to present his sparkling wine to Marie Antoinette. She loved it, and almost immediately, Heidsieck became the Champagne of choice in over a dozen countries, due to the royal association.
A split in the family divided the company into three – Charles Heidsieck, Piper Heidsieck and Heidsieck & Co. Monopole. In 1989, Charles and Piper were re-united under the same roof, as Piper was bought by Remy Cointreau. In 2011, EPI, the French luxury goods group, bought over both houses, putting Cécile Bonnefond (ex Veuve Clicquot) in charge of managing a big re-positioning of both.
In 2019, a youthful and approachable Émilien Boutillat was appointed Chef de cave. The Boutillat family are growers in Champagne. Émilien studied agronomy and winemaking in Montpellier, before working vintages in New Zealand, California, Chile and South Africa. On his return, he worked in Châteauneuf du Pape and Ch. Margaux, where one of his special projects was researching organic production.
Tasting Champagne and comparing champagne is more challenging than still wine. I asked Émilien about the key to quality and taste – “It all starts in the vineyard” he says. Piper Heidsieck is moving to 100% organic in their own vineyards from the 2020 vintage. He describes the style of Piper Heidsieck as “elegant, fresh, not too complex.” Piper Heidsieck NV includes 15-25% of older wines, and is fresh and citrusy, with very fine lingering bubbles. It is an excellent reference point for good quality Champagne.
Even more interesting is their recently launched ‘Essentiel’ range, destined for fine wine shops and fine dining. ‘’Essentiel’ has extended ageing and lower dosage. The current release is a blend of mostly 2012, but includes some even more mature wines. Piper Heidsieck Essentiel Cuvée Reserve Brut is rich and toasty, with earthy, wild mushroom undertones, and a superb, rich, broad mouthfeel. Around the same price as other well-known Grande Marques.
Piper Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage is possibly the most remarkable Rosé Champagne I’ve ever tasted – astonishing deep colour (almost red) and rich flavour. Ripe, exuberant, and richly-flavoured with cherry, pomegranate, blackberry, and a hint of citrusy blood orange. The bubbles and acidity seem a little more passive, allowing the flavours to shine through. It’s very much a food wine. Expect to pay about 10% more than other Grande Marques.
Gems like these make Piper Heidsieck an insider’s choice against many other more famous names. Piper Heidsieck is available from Redmonds, Avoca Handweavers, Blackrock Cellars, Fresh Foodmarket, La Touche Wines 4 U, Thomas’s and www.wineonline.ie.