Charles Heidsieck: Champagne Charlie Is Back
Charles Heidsieck Cuvée Champagne Charlie Cellared 2017
Charles Heidsieck, born in 1822, founded the eponymous house in 1851. At the time, Champagne was a booming business, but, as Stephen Leroux, managing director, explained, it was also the drink of monarchs – who no longer existed in France – and a bourgeoisie as of then did not exist either. So rather than try and sell his wine in Europe, the young Charles Heidsieck went to the United States to sell his wines. “It was not his first export market,” Leroux said, “it was his first market.”
It was during his years in the United States – where Heidsieck also got caught up in the Civil War and was arrested as a spy – that he established a new market for Champagne over several trips in the decade between 1852 and 1862, and became immortalised as “Champagne Charlie.”
In the mid-20th century, the house of Charles Heidsieck had a prestige cuvée called Cuvée Royale but in the 1970s, the family asked their cellar master to create a special prestige cuvée which was named Champagne Charlie. Five releases were made between 1975 and 1985 – not of vintage wines because the cuvees usually were multi-vintage blends. “In celebration of the spirit of the founder, the house has reconnected with the tradition and passion of the iconic cuvée,” they say. “The new edition is the first release in 37 years and only the sixth in the history of Champagne Charlie, following 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985.”
It was in 2017, knowing that the bicentenary of Charles Heidsieck’s birth was looming, that it was decided to revive this multi-vintage cuvée – to be disgorged for release in 2022. The new cuvée is unusual because it is made up of 80% reserve wines going back over 25 years. “It is topped up with a grand cru from Aÿ from the 2016 vintage,” Leroux said. “Charlie is back, hopefully forever!”
A limited release
Leroux noted that the production was very limited but that the cuvée was from now on part of the Heidsieck portfolio. Just 960 bottles of the wine are allocated to the UK market, roughly 25% of production. A mere 5% are allocated to France, the rest goes to the United States, Hong Kong and other Asian markets. “We want it to be iconic,” Leroux said.
The wine is available from 28 June and retails at £500. The Ritz, London, will feature several Charles Heidsieck cuvées across the site during July and will be the only place in the UK to exclusively serve Cuvée Champagne Charlie by the glass (£75). A jéroboam of the 1985-release of Champagne Charlie showed how well the wine ages.
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