Earlier this year, Charles Heidsieck revealed that they will be releasing a brand new champagne: Charles Heidseck Blanc de Blancs NV. We attended the launch event last week at Claridge’s in London, where Chef de Cave Cyril Brun and Executive Director Stephen Leroux told us all about the exciting new cuvée.
Leroux began by highlighting the pioneering history of Charles Heidsieck in Champagne. “We bought up reserve wine content [in Brut Réserve NV] to 40% in 1976/77 and were the first house to put the cellaring date on the front label of bottles in the 1990s.” he said. They were also amongst the first to focus solely on Chardonnay. “We started making a Blanc de Blancs in 1947… only Salon had done it previously,” Leroux commented. This latest release then, is a tribute to the legacy of Chardonnay at Charles Heidsieck.
Indeed, the emphasis on Chardonnay was one of the things that attracted Cyril Brun to join the house in 2015. “I was born in Aÿ, so Chardonnay is exotic,” Brun smiled. Joking aside, he acknowledged that the prestige cuvée Blanc des Millénaires, a Blanc de Blancs champagne, was a significant pull factor in his decision to join. “When the idea of a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs came around… to go back to doing what Charles used to do… it seemed like a good idea,” Brun added.
Charles Heidseck Blanc de Blancs NV is composed of wine from around ten different villages, including Charles Heidsieck favourites Montgueux, Oger, Trépail, Vertus and Villers-Marmery. Of these, Montgueux is the most expensive and brings the silky and creamy texture to the blend. Villers-Marmery can add a certain iodine element, whilst Vertus adds a hint of salty character and some chalk.
The first base vintage is 2012, which constitutes 80% of the blend. The 20% reserve wine content is a blend of wines back to 2007. Very different to the richly mature Blanc des Millénaires, Blanc de Blancs NV is all about freshness of youth, more a Chardonnay expression of the Brut Réserve NV, than a mini-Blanc des Millénaires. The production volume of this first release is tiny and will be initially targeted towards the restaurant trade. The next base vintage will be 2016.
|Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Blancs NV
100% CH | Base Vintage: 2012 | Reserve Wine: 20% | Lees Ageing: 4 years | Dosage: 10 g/L
Lovely bright yellow/lemon/gold colour. Style is quite floral with lovely fresh apple, rich lemon and sherbet notes. Very pure and elegant – slight hints of pepper spice on the finish. Very fresh and well balanced. Going back a few minutes later you start to see the spicy hints and creamy character come out on the nose. 17.5/20
We also tasted the current releases of the vintage range, as they have all recently transitioned to new vintages. Since we last tasted the Brut Millésime 2006 with Brun in March 2018, it appears to have evolved quite quickly. Brun pointed out that this is a characteristic of the vintage, not the champagne. “A vintage is the incarnation of one year,” he said.
The Rosé Millésime 2005 on the other hand, is still a true youngster. With huge concentration and phenolics quite typical for wine from Aÿ and Bouzy, Brun describes 2005 as both a “bomb” and a “monster”. It is now tasting quite robust, becoming more approachable and should age well for the next 15-20 years.
Finally, we tasted Blanc des Millénaires 2004, a champagne which is just now starting to embody the personality of the cuvée. Pre-disgorgement, Brun told us it was tasting fruit-forward and generous and “very 2004”. However, post-disgorgement the identity of Blanc des Millénaires is now starting to show. Despite there being nearly 10 years between the current and previous vintage – Blanc des Millénaires 1995 – the comparison is clear when tasting them alongside each other. “The profile of BdM is stronger than the vintage,” Brun said.
As we tasted the final champagne, Brun expressed his wish for another year like 2004. “We need a double quantity harvest like 2004 as 2017 was poor,” he said. Talking of 2018, he believes the cold winter just gone won’t affect the quantity as the buds were already set last summer, but the cold might delay bud break and flowering. He noted that the difficult season in 2003 gave the vines more energy and reserve of growth, resulting in the large harvest of 2004. Fingers crossed history repeats itself.
|Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2006
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 10 years | Disgorged: June 2017 | Dosage: 10 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 11 Months
This is evolving quite fast compared to last taste. The apple and honey notes are coming forward and lots of pineapple and a hint spiciness. Some creaminess coming through and a freshness of the acidity keeps it light. 17/20
|Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésime 2005
60% PN, 40% CH | Red Wine: 8% | Lees Ageing: 11 years | Disgorged: June 2017 | Dosage: 10 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 11 Months
Quite full of red fruits, like ripe redcurrant and raspberry and a definite fleshyness. Great structure and chalky texture with bundles of fruit and structure from the red wine, big and bold yet lightness from hint of saltiness and good acidity keeping it fresh. Will keep well for many years. 17.5+/20
|Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 2004
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 11 years | Dosage: 9 g/L
Some of the smokey toast coming forward on the nose, loads of pineapple, ripe apples, guava and crème caramel. Has a rich texture, juicy fruit and loads of tropical character with underlying spice and hint bitter salt finish. Great length, freshness and finisse. 18.5+/20