Charles Heidsieck Champagne has been a staff and customer favourite at Loki for a number for years now. With numerous staff making the laborious trip out to Reims to discover what makes the Champagne so special. It has been a house that I personally have visited on a number of occasions, but every time I go there I’m struck by the wonder of the place, the history of the house, and also amazed that Charles Heidsieck seems to still fly under the radar when the general public talk about Champagne Houses. Part of this is down to the size of Charles Heidsieck, they are the smallest Champagne house within the prestigious Grand Marque list of best Champagne houses, with an annual production of just over a million bottles. This may sound like a hell of a lot of bottles, however when you compare it to Veuve’s nineteen Million of Moet’s whopping thirty Million bottles you see how tiny Charles Heidsieck really are.
This wasn’t always the case however, pre 1920 Charles Heidsieck were one of the jewels in the crown of the Champagne world, and the owner Charles Heidsieck (AKA Champagne Charlie) was the first person to break Champagne to the American market and became so famous that he was welcomed into New York high society.
However, he ended up imprisoned during the civil war as a French Spy, and upon being released was left bankrupt due to his agent in America ripping him off, and for a decade Charles Heidsieck was left penniless.
Luck would have it that the brother of his American agent (a religious man) felt so bad about what had befallen Charles Heidsieck that he left his inheritance a large plot of farming land in the west of America. This small village and surrounding land ended up being around a third of what was soon to be the wealthiest cities in the American West – Denver. Upon selling his land he established Charles Heidsieck Champagne, and invested in the house to make it one of the largest and most prestigious houses, and the volumes they produced far exceeded most other houses at the time. This period of boom was short lived though, as in 1920 when prohibition was implemented in the USA, suddenly the market that Charles Heidsieck had developed came to an end.
Charles Heidsieck Chalk Cellars
Charles Heidsieck was a real Champagne pioneer; he was the first person to buy the stunning crayères (Chalk cellars) that sit underneath the city of Reims.
These abandoned caves were created when the Roman’s constructed the city and mined the Chalk out of the ground. These were left abandoned until Charles Heidsieck decided to open them up and use them to store Champagne, that vision means that they have some of the longest cellars in Champagne, and also the most incredibly picturesque place to store the champagne at optimal conditions.
He also gave Charles Heidsieck a gift in the Champagne production by creating their house style that was based upon the use of a large proportion of reserve wine, this reserve wine which is aged for a number of years after harvest give Charles Heidsieck it’s signature, rich voluptuous style.
Charles Heidsieck Nowadays
Since 2011 Charles Heidsieck has been under new ownership, and the new owners want to preserve the history of this fabulous house, and also maintain the unique style that makes Charles Heidsieck such a fantastic champagne.
They use a whopping twelve years of reserve wine, that means twelve vintages go into the bottle to make their non-vintage. This is far more than the standard amount which is around 3 years. This uncompromising style has been described by other winemakers as “mad” and “not commercially viable” due to the significant work that has to go into the wine to produce it from such a number of vintages, not to mention the additional cost of it.
This is the style that Charles Heidsieck insisted on, and that is why I consider Charles Heidsieck hands down the best value Champagne on the market at the moment, it is by no means the cheapest, however it tastes like a champagne at least double the price. Most importantly the this I love about Charles Heidsieck is that they don’t spend money on lavish advertising campaigns, the money is instead invested in the contents of the bottle, and my god does that investment pay off.