Champagne Charles Heidsieck
Tasting these superb Champagnes with chef du cave Thierry Roset

These wines were a revelation. I tasted them with chef du cave Thierry Roset who has been there for 25 years. On this showing, I can't think of many Champagne houses who are doing better work. At all.

The house was launched in 1851 when Charles broke away from the other Heidsiecks. He was from a rich family, but decided not to buy vineyards, but instead to invest in cellars. It is very much a negociant house to this day, not a grower house. Over the years the various chefs du cave have tried to maintain the original vision for the house.

The NV Brut Réserve is the key wine of the house, representing 80% of production, and it's one of the best NVs out there. It's a selection of 60 vineyard sites, and 60% is from the current vintage base, which in this case is 2007. It's equal thirds Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Thierry Roset looks for three things in this base wine: he wants warm, generous, aromatic wines; he wants the ability to age; and the ability to gain complexity. 40% of the blend is made up of reserve wines, which is a high proportion, and these have an average age of 10 years. These are half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir. 

Thierry Roset

The reserve wines are kept mono cru and mono varietal in stainless steel: there is no oak in this cellar. The complexity of the NV blend is found in the reserve wines, which have to be a minimum of 5 years old before they go into the blend. The 5-10 year old reserve wines are referred to by Thierry as the 'doctor' wines that will balance out the variations in the Champagne harvest. The older reserve wines are the 'spice' that add complexity. It's important to use enough of these vins d'epices – if you don't use enough you don't get any benefit; if you use too much, they can overpower.

There is a new bottle shape and label design for the NV Brut and Rosé, which first hit the market in 2012. It is striking and beautiful. The vintage wines are still in the conventional Champagne bottle, and it will take another six or seven years for these to be in the new bottle, because the current vintage release is 2000, and the first vintage to have the new bottle was 2007.

With the change in bottle shape, there have been a couple of tweaks to the wine: the number of crus used has gone down from 120 to 60, and the average age of the reserve wines has risen from 8 to 10. And the date the wine was laid in the cellars and the disgorgement date is now given on the back label.

The Rosé Réserve is 2007 base, which makes up 80% of the blend, and is equal parts of the three main varieties. It is selected for generosity but also added freshness and delicacy. 5-6% Pinot Noir vinified as a red blend, from Ay, Bouzy, Verzenay, Ambonnay and Riceys is added to give the colour, which is usually quite light. Some of this red wine is a reserve in order to help keep the consistency of colour across vintages.

Thierry calls the vintages 'wines of  Champagne'. The house style is to make Champagne that is wine like. The 2000 and Blanc des Millenaires 1995 are both sensational wines, and I can't think of many better across the region.


Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV
Laid in the cellars 2008, disgorged 2013. Lovely rich toasty nose with power but also finesse. Fine floral honeysuckle notes. Very refined with some warmth and notes of brioche. The palate has ripe citrus, apricot and patisserie notes with a hint of vanilla. Almost perfect balance here, combining richness and finesse, with a smooth texture. 94/100

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV
Orange/pink colour. Very rich and toasty with just a hint of cherry alongside rich toast and brioche notes. Ripe and quite fresh at the same time, with just a hint of tannic grip. Notes of small red fruits and a hint of cinnamon/gingerbread. Brilliant wine. 93/100

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Vintage 2000
This is a blend of 58% Pinot Noir with 42% Chardonnay, from 17 crus. Thierry looks for crus that are representative of the year, and the qualities the year gave. This has a very fine nose, that's pure, forward and focused with fine citrussy notes and a hint of cream and toast. The powerful palate shows real elegance and finesse with subtle pear and peach richness combining with a creamy texture and some citrus freshness. Full bodied yet subtle with velvety texture and incredible length. 96/100

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Vintage Rosé 1999
A ripe, big vintage from a warm summer has led to aromatic wines that are quite mature. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, with 8% red wine from the same vintage. Orange/pink colour. Really complex and toasty with spices, toast and patisserie characters, as well as hints of tea, with rose hip and cherries. Has power but also finesse. Lovely depth of flavour and texture here, with some cherry liqueur notes. 94/100

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995
'Time just seems to have stopped for this wine says Thierry Roset. It comes from just five crus: four  grand crus on the Côtes de Blancs, plus a single premier Cru, Vertus.

  • Cramant adds complexity and ageing potential

  • Avize is mineral, firm, citrussy and linear, and also adds ageing potential

  • Oger has finesse, generosity, texture and ageability

  • Mesnil-sur-Oger gives structure that ties the wine together, as well as ageability

  • Vertus give floral characters and fresh citrus.

It spends a minimum of 10 years on its lees. A full yellow colour. Fine, expressive, toasty nose with some floral notes as well as powerful citrus. The palate is fresh and expressive with notes of grilled almonds, marzipan and vivid citrussy fruits, as well as white pepper spiciness. Structured and bold with some grip, and a savoury spiciness, pepper, herbs and creamy richness. Amazingly complex, powerful with layers of flavour. 97/100

See also:

Visiting Bollinger (series)
Pol Roger Blanc des Blancs vertical
Lunch with Bruno Paillard

Wines tasted 05/14  
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