Charles Heidsieck – my new favourite NV Champagne
That title is a bit of a misnomer actually. The Charles Heidsieck ‘standard’ NV is not actually all that new to me. Indeed, 10 years ago the Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave (the predecessor to the current Brut Reserve) was my favourite NV Champagne too. Maybe I should have thus titled this post ‘my favourite NV Champagne. Again’.
Anyways, I’m glad to see the return of Charles. Why exactly it disappeared at all is a sad tale of why good distribution is so important to the success of a wine brand, particularly a premium one without the advertising budget of houses like Moet, Veuve, Laurent Perrier etc.
|The proprietary bottle with proprietary glass
I’ll have 6 of each if you please
I had the good fortune of tasting the whole Charles Heidsieck lineup over lunch recently, led by the ever charismatic Ned Goodwin MW, who is now the SE Asian/pacific ambassador for Charles/Piper Heidsieck. A great choice as an ambassador, particularly locally. Ladies love him too.
Now to the wines. During the missing years, when Charles Heidsieck disappeared from our shelves, the brand itself also underwent something of a revolution too. A quality revolution. A quality revolution, that saw the production dropped from 1.5 millon bottles a year in the 1990s and early noughties to just 800,000 now, largely in a bid to increase the volume of reserve wine in each release of the NV but also due to some oddities from previous owners Remy Cointreau.
As a result, we see that the reserve wine now makes up a massive 40% of the cuvee, with the reserve wine itself approximately 10-15 years old. Those are ridiculous proportions really, making for a wine that is infinitely older (and subsequently more complex) than just about any NV Champagne around (except for maybe Krug).
The style, as ever, of these Charles Heidieck wines is deliberately fresh and reductive, the balance achieved by quite lean base wines complexed by age on lees and that aforementioned reserve wine addition.
|Note both dates. Wish we would see more of this|
Oh and you can see the new bottle shape in the first image to the right too. It’s shaped like one of the crayères in Charles Heidsieck’s historic chalk cellars in rue de la Procession in Reims. At present the proprietary bottle will just bee seen on the NV wines but will filter through to the vintage wines from the 2004 vintages onwards.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve $100
Much like the pioneering Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave wines, this carries both the year when it was disgorged and when it was put down in the Heidsieck cellars. This particular bottle was laid down in 2008 and disgorged in 2012.
Dosage for this wine is 11g/L which may seem a little high in the current climate, yet is deemed perfect for this style. Interestingly, Ned points out that extra dosage can help to enhance autolysis, giving even more complexity.
It is a very complex and intriguing wine too – rich and bacony on the nose with the tell-tale honeyed richness of older material. The tangy palate has a tangy, liqeured, mature edge alongside an array of nutty flavours, lots of yeast derived weight and a serious density before tightening up on the finish.
A rather big and bold sort of Champagne, this is seriously satisfying in its flavour intensity. How can you not love the extra complexity of this? An amazingly layered wine for an NV and a superb Champagne whichever way you look at it. Stunning! Yes please. 18.5/20 94/100
Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve NV $140
Also in the new bottle, this has less reserve wine (down to 20%) and spends 36 months on lees. It again is rather complex but is less recognisable as a rosé Champagne, the prettiness somewhat missing. Toffeed yet sherbety on the nose with a prickle of VA, the palate is quite honeyed and generous but serious too. A well made Champagne but not quite a fully satisfying rosé. 17.7/20 92/100
Charles Heidsieck Brut Millesimes 2000 $160
‘A very strong case for dry buckets’
That was James Halliday commenting about just how fine this lineup was. Not hard to see why with a Champagne like this…
Produced from mostly Grand Cru vineyards and matured in tank/bottle (no oak), this spent 10 years on lees and is a blend of 58% Pinot, 42% Chardonnay. Ned’s sommelier friend apparently described this as ‘slutty’, which was met with guffaws. Appropriate though and quite typical of some of the 2000 vintage Champagnes, many of which are very generous beasts indeed.
This smells distinctly of custard tarts. So rich and full is that nose that I would have picked it as a blanc de blanc really. The palate is very rich, creamy and rounded, the acidity comparatively low and a fraction uneven but not enough to derail proceedings! So open and full! Is it classic though? Perhaps too full. Hedonistic delights bring this on home regardless. Deliciousness. 18.5/20 94/100
Charles Heidsieck Millésime Rosé 1999 $180
Produced as a more traditional rosé with an addition of 7% Pinot Noir still red wine. It spends at least 11 years on lees yet quixotically looks fresher than the standard NV. Compared to the slutty 2000 above this is much more vinous and genuinely rather special. On the nose it has mushroomy aged fruit, a hint of strawberry and a ferrous edge from the Pinot addition. There is a finesse and class to this nose that just reminds you of the quality with every whiff. The palate is quite structured too, quite contained and delicate, if really very dry. Very vinous and satisfying, this is the sort of wine that you could drink all night, such its combination of delicate red fruits and the more serious acid behind it. Very long indeed this is genuinely engaging Champagne. 18.7/20 95/100
Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millenaires 1995 $320
100% Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards plus a component from Vertus (which may as well be Grand Cru anyway thanks tot the likes of Larmandier Bernier). This spends 15 years on lees and has a dosage of 10g/L, again a combination which looks about right.
Sublime Champagne. Beautifully creamy style that fills every corner of your mouth. Almost overwhelming in its biscuits and cream autolysis driven decadence. Awesome length and very very expansive this seems to get bigger and yet firmer at each sip. Generosity plus acidity! Majesty. Is it too much? So much lees age makes this almost too full to be perfect. Definitely the slightest hint of old leesy decay. But I nitpick, for this is truly a superstar. Please give me more. 19/20 96/100
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