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Charles Heidsieck

The Maison was founded in Reims in 1851 by Charles-Camille Heidsieck. Champagne ran through his veins; his grand-uncle, Florens-Louis Heidsieck had founded the Champagne Heidsieck et Cie house in 1785 [now Heidsieck & Co Monopole]. Charles was a flamboyant personality and an entrepreneur; only 29 years old when he founded his own house. He began to trade in Belgium and England and travelling to the USA in 1852, was the first champagne merchant to market his own wines there. This was a great success, he was dubbed “Champagne Charlie” and became a leading figure in the New York social scene. But the American civil war disrupted trade and, returning to the US in 1862 trying to recover debts, he became embroiled in a conflict in the south and was accused of being a spy, leading to imprisoned in Fort Jackson in Louisiana. This caused a diplomatic incident – it is referred to as “The Heidsieck Incident”. President Abraham Lincoln interceded at the pleas of French diplomats and Emperor Napoleon III himself, and Charles was released in the autumn of the same year, and retuned to France bankrupt. But luck was on his side, and a debt was repaid in deeds to land in Denver, which was soon to turn an inconspicuous little town into one of America's wealthiest cities due to a silver boom. Charles was able to relaunch and re-establish his business which quickly became known as a premier Champagne house – Charles Heidsieck was back! In 1867 he bought several crayères [chalk quarries dating back to the Gallo-Roman era that run under Reims], to age his champagnes. They are one of the very few Champagne house to own crayères and these galleries, some 30 metres underground, are where several million Charles Heidsieck champagnes age today; they are UNESCO World Heritage site. Charles Heidsieck has been owned by the French luxury goods group EPI [owned by the Descours family] since 2011, along with its sister house Piper-Heidsieck. Charles Heidsieck source their grapes from 60 specific sites, drawing on a myriad of crus to perfect their style which was defined by the legendary chef du cave Daniel Thibault who introduced using 40% of reserve wines from older vintages to give a complex creamy character. The great Régis Camus, 8 times winner of the IWC [International Wine Challenge] Sparkling Winemaker of the Year took over the reins following Thibault's premature death in 2002. Thierry Roset followed, continuing the relentless pursuit of quality and won IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the year in 2014. Ageing is also integral to the identity of Charles Heidsieck champagnes; their signature Brut Réserve undergoes a minimum of five years ageing before release. Each cuvée has its own personality and the current portfolio is one of the most awarded collections of wines in the world. Present chef du cave Cyril Brun carries on the legacy, he was awarded IWS Sparkling Winemaker of the year in 2019. Charles Heidsieck is known as one of the best producers of vintage and non vintage champagnes, and was voted No. 2 in the World's Most Admired Champagne Brands in 2020.