Today, all the pieces in the Charles Heidsieck puzzle are finally finding their place. Rémy Cointreau acquired the house of Piper Heidsieck in 1990, and since then a merging of the two houses has taken place. The company is now P&C Heidsieck, with all vinification and cellaring taking place under the same roof by the same qualified hands.
And quite a winery it is. The companies left the crowded ancient cellars in the heart of Reims and moved to more spacious surroundings on the outskirts of the town in 2008. The new ultramodern design winery has all the latest winemaking equipment as well as fantastic touristic facilities.
However, nurturing two brands in one winery evidently poses some problems. At P&C Heidsieck differentiation is managed by separating the house styles and brand images. The flashy-red marketing driven brand Piper’s champagne is fresh, vibrant and easy to drink. The wines for the more restrained and classic Charles are rich and evolved, very much a crafted for the gastronomy.
When I visited the cellar at blending time, I was given an interesting tasting exercise. I sampled a dozen still wines from all three grape varieties and altering villages. My task was to decide whether the base wine should go to Charles of Piper depending on the style. The aspired styles for both houses became crystal-clear to me when I was picking structured wines for extended aging for Charles and lively fruit-forward samples for Piper.
The winemaking hands at P&C Heidsieck belong today to Régis Camus, who took over in 2002, when Daniel Thibault passed away unexpectedly. Fortunately, Camus had worked together with Thibault for years. Consequently, the change has not brought about drops in quality or alterations in style. Even though replacing someone as legendary as Thibault is not easy, Camus has shown his capabilities as a great blender especially via the steadily rising quality of Piper Heidsieck and the numerous trophies earned by Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve and Brut Rosé.
The secret is out. If you have not yet encountered Charles Heidsieck, now is the time to get to know Charlie!