By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer
The “New” Charles Reserve
It is not often that I get as excited as this by "big house" Champagne. Comparing the "new" Charles Heidsieck Reserve (which premiers today) to the "old" Charles Heidsieck Reserve made a huge impression on me. These are great wines- both of them- and the new Charles is the most exciting new release from a big house in many years. The new Charles is a must try, and it is a great opportunity to compare the new to the old while we still have the last batch in stock.
On August 27th I had the pleasure of meeting with and interviewing Cecile Bonnefond, the CEO of Charles and Piper Heidsick. Cecile is not new to running Champagne houses- she ran Veuve Clicquot for eight years before moving over to Charles and Piper Heidsieck. Her first great piece of work is the release of a new Charles Heidsieck "Brut Reserve" Champagne. It has gone up in price, but instead of citing “increased global demand” or “increasing grape prices from greedy growers” or “a weak dollar” this Champagne has costly improvements to the wine itself. First of all, the number of vineyard sites for the Reserve has been cut in half, leaving only what they feel is the very best going into the blend. Also, the average age of the reserve wines has gone up significantly. You can hear Cecile explain it in her own words here in this clip from the interview.
The old label Charles Heidsieck has always been great, and we still have some left. This is a fantastic opportunity for any Champagne lover to compare the two cuvee’s side by side and see the difference that this great house has made. Once the old cuvee that we have is gone, it is gone for good.
Charles Heidsieck NEW "Brut Reserve" Champagne ($44.99) It is funny to call this the “new” Charles when it actually has more old wine in it! The first difference between this wine and the old label is that is made from just 60 vineyard sites in Champagne rather than the previous 120. It is still composed of a third each Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir and includes 40% reserve wines that average 10 years of age, up from the 8 year average previously. This Charles has more of the depth and power that fans of the Charles have come to love, but also much more freshness and elegance- a coup for a wine that is actually older. This is a great bottle multi-vintage Champagne for the price and a testament to the blenders art.
Charles Heidsieck "Brut Reserve" Champagne ($34.99) Warning- this is the last of the old cuvee of Charles Heidsieck "Brut Reserve" Champagne . This bottle is made 40% of reserve wine and these reserve wines are what really sets Charles Heidsieck apart, they average 8 years old and have elements going back as far as 15 years. The patience to curate this solera of old wines gives the wine texture and complexity rarely encountered in grand marque Champagne, especially at this price. The wine is composed of 1/3 each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier and is all vinified in stainless steel tanks with full malolactic fermentation. When I visited we tasted vin clair from all over Champagne- they own 150 acres and contract many more. If you love a toasty, rich style of Champagne with lots of complexity this is a very good choice. I expect it will sell for just under $50 when this batch runs out.
A toast to you,
To watch the rest of the interview click here.