Based in an elegant and ultra-modern production and administrative site in Reims, Piper-Heidsieck is among the most famous names in Champagne. After a long and glorious history, some late aggressive marketing policies in the early 2000s had some impact on its image, but not its wines, which were carefully taken care of by former Chef de Cave Régis Camus who has been awarded the title of Sparkling Winemaker of the Year eight times. Since 2011, when family group EPI took over, the house is under a renaissance and its glorious image is being reinstated. And with a very dynamic and experienced Chef de Cave, Émilien Boutillat, its wines are better than ever and the range has been enriched with new beautiful cuvées.
Florens-Louis Heidsieck, a German cloth merchant, discovered the Champagne region and its wines in 1777 at a young age. There, he met and fell in love with Agathe Perthois from Reims. In 1785, he married her and in the same year, he founded his Champagne house Heidsieck & Cie. He presented his first champagne to Queen Marie-Antoinette at Versailles who became a fan and made the success of the house.
Florens-Louis’ nephew Christian Heidsieck joined the house in 1800, followed by Christian’s cousin, Henri-Guillaume Piper, in 1815. Upon the death of Florens-Louis in 1828, Christian assumed control of the house while Henri-Guillaume traveled the world to promote and sell the wines. The house became the official purveyor to 14 Royal and Imperial Courts, including those as far as Siam and China.
Christian died suddenly in 1835. After a suitably respectful period of mourning, his widow remarried to none other than Henri-Guillaume and the house was renamed Piper-Heidsieck.
Its success continued inexorably throughout the 20th century when it became Hollywood’s favorite. In 1933, Laurel and Hardy film “Sons of the Desert” marked the very first appearance of champagne in movies with a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck, and it is said that in the 1950s Marilyn Monroe woke each morning with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck.
From the 1990s, the house consolidates its bond with the word of cinema by becoming the official supplier of major film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Berlin and many more. In 1995, it inaugurated a new impressive winery of over 200 stainless steel vats and two gigantic blending tanks that combined can hold the corresponding of 1 million bottles of champagne, giving you an idea of how this house has managed to achieve precision and volumes.
In 2011 Piper-Heidsieck was sold to EPI (Européenne de Participation Industrielle), a privately owned holding company of French luxury brands. Since then, the house has pursued a policy of repositioning the brand globally and evolving in its savoir-faire.
Vineyard and Production
The house owns 80 ha through Champagne and via its partners, sources the three grape varieties from 100 crus in the whole region. Under the guidance of Managing Director Benoît Collard, it produces impeccably around 5 million bottles of champagne a year that are sold all over the globe and are recognized for their distinctive gold and red/black label. The house has a huge winery that allows it to maintain the individuality of the crus and their expressions in the blends that are dominated by pinot noir.
Piper-Heidsieck champagnes are renowned for their structured fruity style, based on the intense use of pinot noir, some of which from the Côte des Bar subregion, adding a je ne sais quoi to the blends. They also carry pleasant freshness and distinctive yeasty and toasty notes in the nose. The result is versatile wines that Émilien Boutillat says have “complexity without being complicated.”
I am a great fan of this house, with beautiful wines that satisfy both sophisticated palates and unpretentious drinkers, with consistently high ratings by wine critics. In addition to Brut, Rosé, and Demi-Sec, the non-vintage wines also include the more recent extra brut Essentiel range. It is composed of Essentiel and Essentiel Blanc de Blanc, which enjoy longer aging given their lower dosage. They had two vintage champagnes, Vintage, and Rare Millésime, the prestige cuvée that is now a separate brand. I buy and drink their Brut and Vintage regularly, and fell under the spell of Essentiel and particularly of the fantastic Blanc de Bancs, quite an irony for a pinot noir house. Rare is firmly among my favorite prestige cuvées.