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Charles Heidsieck: The Original Champagne Charlie

“He was a legend of his time,” extols Cyril Brun, Charles Heidsieck Chef de Caves, of the esteemed Champagne house’s founder. “For me, he is one of the most emblematic characters, who made Champagne history, and we want to put him back into the limelight.”

Indeed, the Charles Heidsieck archives reveal a story that reads more like a film script. Having established the house in 1851 aged just 29, a year later Mr Charles-Camille Heidsieck made the bold decision to take his Champagne to North America, rather than focusing on the Central and Western European markets like his contemporaries. An instant hit across the Atlantic, it was on his travels around America that Mr Heidsieck gained the nickname ‘Champagne Charlie’; however, his popularity wasn’t enough to get him out of being imprisoned in Fort Jackson in 1862, having got caught up in the American Civil War and accused of being a French spy. He was eventually released on the instruction of President Lincoln, who had received an imploring letter from Napoleon III.

Offered the city of Denver by way of an apology, Mr Heidsieck went onto be awarded a royal warrant by King Edward VII, and by the beginning of the 20th Century the house was supplying Champagne to royal courts throughout Europe.

So why is Charles Heidsieck not the household name it once was? “Charles Heidsieck has been a kind of sleeping beauty for many years,” admits Cyril Brun. Having recently taken up the role of Chef de Caves, Brun’s passion for the Champagne house is clear. “Charles Heidsieck is a shining diamond, but with a lot of dust.  All you have to do is give it a little bit of a polish.”

Renowned for allowing its Champagnes to age for longer, while a typical non-vintage Champagne is aged for two to three years, Charles Heidsieck leaves its non-vintage Champagne for around eight years, and its current vintage Champagne is 10 years old. “Time is clearly on our side,” explains Brun. “When you wait longer you reveal so many more interesting facets.”

So how does that translate on the taste buds? “It will have a much more buttery, creamy, silky texture,” describes Brun, “and it will have very smooth, very tiny bubbles and a much, much longer finish.”

The embodiment of the Made With Love ethos, Charles Heidsieck is a Champagne to be savoured and enjoyed. Revel in its history and consider that diamond polished.

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