While many French winemakers have earned global renown, Charles Heidsieck may hold the most colorful history among them, one that has made the founder and his eponymous Champagne world-famous. A year after establishing his winery in Reims, Heidsieck set out for America in 1852 and is credited with bringing Champagne to the New World’s shores. Instantly received by New York’s high society, Heidsieck became a member of America’s fashionable set by introducing them to the pleasures of his sparkling wine. It was during his stay in the U.S. that he was christened “Champagne Charlie,” a name that would stay with him long after he returned to France, and after a short but indelible prison stay during the American Civil War that nearly cost him his livelihood and his life.
Today, marked by an illustrious past and touched by a few of the finest cellar masters in the business, Charles Heidsieck is recognized as one of France’s finest wines. From its historical crayères, situated 30 meters below ground, it is in the eight kilometers of chalk cellars where millions of its premium Champagne bottles are aged.
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The Brut Reserve, a house cuvée made with 40 percent reserve wines, is blended in equal parts with the current year’s chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier, with all fruit coming from grand cru vineyards. Touted as one of the best non-vintage Champagnes on the market, and certainly one of the best values, it is aged with no oak for three years, which is considerably more than other non-vintage wines as the minimum allowed by the appellation is 15 months. The mouth feel bears the hallmark Charles Heidsieck style— powerful, rich, effervescent, and bright. The Rosé Reserve, a blend of 80 percent of chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier from the same year’s harvest, is blended with 20 percent reserve chardonnay and pinot noir wines, then aged for four years. Powder pink in color, its nose reveals sweet strawberries with hints of gingerbread. The current vintage champagnes, Brut Millésimé 2005, and Rose Millésimé 2006 are well balanced and sophisticated, and drink with much finesse.
The crown jewel in the Charles Heidsieck collection is the Blanc des Millénaires, the house’s prestige cuvée. One of the factors that makes this wine so captivating is that the fruit is sourced only from five villages in the Côte des Blanc. From Cramant it receives its complexity and potential for aging, from Avize it takes its minerality, from Oger it derives its signature creamy texture, from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, where the most balanced of chardonnay grapes are grown, it takes on spices such as white pepper, and from Vertus, a premier cru, it is enhanced with the natural and authentic floral notes of chardonnay that lends to its simplicity and beauty. Aged for 15 years, it has been dubbed “the wine that does not want to age” as its greenish tinge does not mature and its preserved citrus notes are strongly pronounced, making it an excellent choice for gastronomic pairings. Premium Wine Exchange, Smith Bell Building, 2294 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati, 812.3823
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This story was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Town&Country.