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The noble origin of Rare Champagne dates back to a tribute to Marie-Antoinette and expresses its revolutionary spirit fight against the trivialisation of vintages.
Over the last forty years, Rare Champagne has only declared eleven vintages, the most demanding in Champagne, all in limited production.
“Since 1976, the House has only released 8 vintages of Rare: 1976, 1979,1985, 1988, 1990, 1998 en Magnum, 1999, 2002 and now 2006,” says Régis Camus, chef de caves and chief winemaker at Maison Piper-Heidsieck. “Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002 was my first Rare vintage so I am particularly honoured to hear that it has been selected as the number one champagne in the world by FINE Champagne Magazine.”
Each Rare Millésime is born from the struggle with nature. For instance, Rare Millésime 1976 was created after an exceptional drought, Rare Millésime 1985 following a terrible black frost.
As the guardian of the Rare Champagne style, Régis Camus the most awarded Cellar Master of the century*, selects the vineyards according to their expression rather than their rank in the scale of Premiers and Grand Crus. This uncommon blending approach contributes to the complex, distinguished, and yet pure style of Rare Champagne.
In honour of the occasion, Pierre-Karl Fabergé, jeweller to the Czar Alexander III, designed a spectacular enamelled bottle. Unfortunately, it was impossible to reproduce this decor with the techniques of the time. A label with a faithful reproduction of the design was therefore placed on the bottles of this exclusive edition.
In the 18th century, Florens-Louis Heidsieck presented his very first prestige Cuvée, ‘worthy of a Queen’, to Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, in a characteristically aristocratic bottle: the Pinte Majeure. In those days, glass blowers made by hand the most precious bottles of Champagne, intended for the aristocracy. Thus, the asymmetrical shoulders of the bottle emphasize its singular personality. Rare Champagne modernized the original shape and added a golden lacy crown that asserts the radiance of the wine. Black and gold, it truly contains a charismatic gem. Black symbolizes the dominant Pinot Noir grapes while gold represents the luminous shine of Chardonnay. Thanks to its long elegant neck, a unique whisper rises while serving. Today, the soft curves of the design pay tribute to Marie-Antoinette, the first modern icon, famous for her ability to set new standards.
A difficult start to the year led to early budbreak. There were some damaging hailstorms in early May, but the frost ultimately stayed away. The summer was overall warm and thanks to the hot and dry August, the grapes looked promising for the harvest. However, a damp September challenged producers and dilution was an issue for some. The 1999 harvest that started on September 15th produced a large yield (12,989 kg/ha) of sweet grapes that resulted in soft wines, low in acidity, which produced Champagnes that, in many cases, miss linearity and structure. Voluptuous and enjoyable with ripe, fruity, even exotic characters but in most cases for the medium-term only, even if the best seem to be maturing better than initially expected. The red wines of the year were exceptional and resulted in some outstanding prestige cuvée rosés, such as Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé and Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé.