Founded by the original “Champagne Charlie”, Champagne Charles Heidsieck is one of the region’s smaller Houses but also one of its most quality-focused. From its Brut Réserve to its prestige cuvée, Blanc des Millénaires, the wines are rich, vinous and complex.
There are three Champagne Houses that bear the Heidsieck name: Piper-Heidsieck, Heidsieck & Co Monopole and Charles Heidsieck. The original Champagne Heidsieck was founded in 1785 by Florens-Louis Heidsieck, eventually becoming Piper-Heidsieck (marrying into the Piper family). The division took place with the next generation, some of whom split off to create a brand that eventually became Heidsieck & Co Monopole. Florens-Louis’s nephew Charles Heidsieck founded his eponymous House at just 29 years old in 1851.
Charles Heidsieck was the original “Champagne Charlie” – setting off for the US in 1852, he is credited with bringing Champagne to America. Charles travelled the country, building a very successful market for his wines. Rather than buying vineyards, he chose to work closely with growers, and instead invested in the region’s ancient chalk caves, or Crayères, perfect for aging Champagne. Today the company owns eight kilometers of these centuries-old, cavernous cellars, which house millions of bottles of Champagne and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This philosophy continues today, with the art of blending central to the wines, and a high proportion of reserve wines used – as much as 40% for the non-vintage Brut Réserve. The quality of the wines is undoubtedly down to the exceptional winemaking team, with Daniel Thibaut, Régis Camus, Thierry Roset and Cyril Brun over the last three decades. Between them, they were awarded Sparkling Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge no fewer than 14 times (no other House has won more than twice). In 2023, Elise Losfelt took over as Chef de Cave.
Although they own few vines themselves, the vineyards have been farmed sustainably and are HVE-accredited since late 2015. The fruit is sourced from 60 different Crus around the region, and many of the growers they source from are the fifth or sixth generation to work with the House.
The Brut Réserve and Brut Rosé (the latter including 4-5% red wine from Riceys) spends three years on lees, while the vintage wines spend between three and 10, depending on the wine. Under Cyril Brun’s tenure, several cuvées were re-introduced, with the first non-vintage Blanc de Blancs in over 50 years released in 2018. Cuvée Champagne Charlie was re-launched in 2022, commemorating the 100th anniversary of founder Charles Heidsieck’s birth year. This special non-vintage blend was originally made and released only five times – in 1979, ’81, ’82, ’83 and ’85. The 2022 iteration of the wine contains 80% reserve wines (a selection of the best from the House’s extensive stores) and 20% 2016 Grand Cru Pinot Noir from Aÿ. The House’s prestige cuvée Blanc des Millénaires is made only in certain years (1983, ’85, ’90, ’95, 2004, ’06 and ’07 to date) exclusively from Chardonnay from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards in the Côte des Blancs.
Since the 1990s the wines have born a “mis en cave” date on the back-label, indicating the year they were lain down for secondary fermentation, and therefore the base vintage (which would be the preceding year). The House also sometimes offers library releases from its extensive range, often late-disgorged examples of wines that have been aging to perfection in its cellars; these are labelled as “Collection Crayères”.