A fantastic evening on Wednesday with the sister Champagne houses of Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck. It was hosted by their brand ambassador and Master of Wine, Ned Goodwin. Now based in Sydney, Ned was the first MW in Japan, where he lived for many years. The Japanese market is one of the largest in the world for Champagne, they are fanatical about it!
We started with Piper-Heidsieck, the older of the two houses which was founded in 1785. We had the recognisable red label Cuvée Brut outside then sat down with a glass of Essential. This is effectively the same base as the NV, but is significantly richer and finer from another year aging on lees, and an extra brut dosage of just 6g/l. Then it was into the Vintage Brut 2008, from one of the greatest years ever in Champagne. This is impressive now but will reward further cellaring of ten years or more.
The highlight of the Piper-Heidsieck flight was the next two wines, Rare 2002 and Rare Rosé 2007. These are the prestige cuvee of the house, the latter being the inaugural vintage of the Rosé. Rare is a Chardonnay dominant wine, though mostly from the Montagne de Reims rather than the ubiquitous Cotes de Blancs. It truly is Rare as well, since it’s first vintage in 1976, there have only been 8 vintages released. The 2006 will be coming next. The 2002 is a stunning example with rich exuberant fruit, perhaps the most ‘fun’ of any of the Prestige Cuvées with a long future ahead of it. The incredible Gold tiara on the bottle was designed by Parisian jeweller Arthus Bertrand. The first vintage of Rare Rosé was a special treat, at an eye watering price. This is also a blend of predominantly Montagne de Reims Chardonnay, but with over 15% red Pinot Noir from the village of Les Riceys added. Still very young but very impressive.
Charles Heidsieck was the next flight, starting with arguably the finest Non Vintage wine in the region, Brut Réserve. This is a wine of such great richness and power, from the huge amount of older reserve wine in the blend. Yet like all Charles wines, it manages to retain a regal elegance. The stocks of both this and the Rosé Reserve have the main base wine from the stunning 2008 vintage so they are NV that have considerable aging potential. The Rosé perhaps even more, since it has less old wine in the blend to maintain the fresh Rosé character. Charles Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2005 is a fantastic wine, at 13yrs of age this is looking very fresh despite its bold and muscular shoulders, a real dinner.
We finished with the exception Blanc des Millenaires 2004. This is just the 5th release of this wine since the first in 1983. Only Chardonnay is used in the blend of this exceptionally textured cuvée. 5 major crus from the Côte des Blancs have been meticulously chosen for their ability to evolve and express their full richness during the maturation period: Oger for its lushness and structure, Mesnil-sur-Oger for balance, Avize for its minerality, Cramant for its complexity and Vertus for its freshness and floral side. The 1995 was a tough act to follow but the 2004 more than lives up to the challenge. With its greater acidity, most feel this will be a greater wine in the long term. And since we are still enjoying the 1995 today (with a few bottles left in stock), it could be a long time to wait!