Champagne time travel

Charles Heidsieck is one of the few champagne houses that can mature its champagne in the famous crayères. A wise decision by the company’s founder to invest in the “underground cathedrals” 150 years ago. As a tribute to the historic chalk cellars, now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chef de Cave Cyril Brun presents the new Collection Crayères, now in its fourth edition.

The matured champagnes, whether vintage or non-vintage, form the core of the house’s characteristic style. “We can store up to ten million bottles in our part of the Crayères. We certainly don’t have a space problem,” Brun explained during a tasting and video conference.

For the current collection, a trio of old “Mis en Cave” non-vintages from the base years 1989 to 2000 was put together. For the tasting with meiningers sommelier, however, he had chosen three other Mis en Cave (2009, 2011 and 2016) to show the evolution in the bottle. The idea of the “Mise en Cave” was born by former cellar master Daniel Thibault (1947 – 2002) in the 1980s. In 1987, he was the first champagne house to start showing the year of bottling and the date of disgorgement on the back label. At the same time, Daniel Thibault began to build up an extensive stock of reserve wines. The blend is always similar for the Brut Réserve: 40 per cent each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, half of which is a Réserve wine, and 20 per cent Meunier from the current harvest. The composition with high proportions of reserve wines (approx. 40 percent) brings the nutty, toasty aromas as well as the typical opulence and intensity to the cuvées.

The slightly higher dosage of approx. 11 g/l, another trademark of Charles Heidsieck, also comes into its own in the Champagnes matured on the lees for 10, 20 or even 30 years. “For years, Charles Heidsieck has been systematically building a collection, especially in large formats. So we will be able to play this theme regularly.” In terms of yeast ageing, the trend at Charles Heidsieck for Brut Réserve is also more towards four years instead of three. The use of wooden barrels is also new. “We started vinifying a part in wooden barrels with the 2016 harvest. The first champagnes from this production will be on the market at the end of the year.” Sascha Speicher

Champagne Charles Heisieck Brut Réserve

Mis en Cave 2009 (Harvest 2008 plus 40 percent Réserveweine; disgorged 2014)

Intense, relatively dark gold; a winter champagne with nougat, cocoa, mirabelle jam, orange peel, Florentine; incipient tertiary aromas with white truffle, creamy, slightly salty underlayed length

Mis en Cave 2011 (disgorged 2018)

Longer yeast storage than Mis en Cave 2009, more grilled white bread, dried figs, candied citrus fruit; dense with enormous fruit play, clearly marked by yeast autolysis and secondary aromas, salted caramel and light coffee notes, seems very dry, great balance

Mis en Cave 2016 (disgorged 2019)

Goes on sale at the end of the year; slight reduction, salt lemon, ripe apple and toast; vinous on the palate, creamy richness, bitter chocolate, has great length but does not seem heavy at any time; the trend towards a touch more freshness is clearly visible