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Heidsieck

Today there are three different champagne houses in Reims, which use the name Heidsieck in the company name. The complicated history began when the German-born Florence-Ludwig Heidsieck (1749-1828) from Westphalia settled in Reims in 1777 and from then on called himself Florens-Louis Heidsieck. Shortly afterwards he married the daughter of the wealthy textile entrepreneur Nicolas Perthois. Already in 1780 he began to produce his own wine and founded his own champagne house with his son in 1785. In 1785 he was received by Queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793). When the son of the founder died at a young age, Florens-Louis Heidsieck took three of his nephews into the company. Henri-Louis Waldbaum was the first to join the company in 1795, followed by Charles-Henri Heidsieck in 1805 and Christian Heidsieck, Charles-Henri's younger brother, in 1808. The production was mainly based on the sales of all European princes and royal courts of that time, because champagne was the very popular drink of the ruling class. Shortly before Napoleon (1769-1821) invaded Russia in 1812, Charles-Henri Heidsieck initiated a sensational advertising stunt. He announced that he would travel on a grey horse from Reims to Moscow. In fact, a few weeks before the French army arrived in Moscow, he rode in with several cases of champagne in his marching baggage.

Heidsieck - Florens-Louis Heidsieck, Empfang bei Marie-Antoinette  und die 3 Etiketten

Charles-Henri died in 1824 four years before his uncle Florens-Louis Heidsieck and left beside his widow his two-year-old son Charles Camille Heidsieck (1822-1893), who later founded one of the three Heidsieck houses (see below). The remaining nephews decided to temporarily suspend the trade. A little later Henri-Louis Waldbaum and Christian Heidsieck started again with the champagne trade. Soon after, this new alliance fell apart and the two nephews went their separate ways. As a result, three companies with the name Heidsieck developed, and legal disputes were inevitable. When Heidsieck Monopole celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 1885, there was trouble with the house of Charles Heidsieck. However, since Charles Heidsieck was later founded as Heidsieck Monopole and Piper-Heidsieck, the court allowed both Heidsieck Monopole and Piper-Heidsieck to refer to 1785. But the long dispute has long been buried.

Heidsieck & Co. Monopolies

Henri-Louis Waldbaum founded the company Waldbaum-Heidsieck & Co. in 1834 together with his brother-in-law Auguste Heidsieck. After the death of Auguste Heidsieck in 1870, the company traded under different names such as Veuve Heidsieck and Luling, Goulden & Co. In 1923 Edouard Mignot bought it and the name Heidsieck & Co. Monopole was established. The company was gradually taken over by the champagne house Mumm until 1985 and then bought by the Imperium Vranken in 1998. The vineyards cover 110 hectares with mainly Pinot Noir in the renowned sites Ambonnay, Bouzy, Verzenay and Verzy. By the way, the last windmill in Champagne is located in the Heidsieck vineyards of Verzenay on a hill called Mont Boef. The vintageless champagne "Blue Top" is assembled from 70% Pinot-Noir, 20% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot-Meunier. The sweet brands "Red Top" (sec) and "Green Top" (demi-sec), as well as the "Rosé Top" have the same blend. The Cuvée de Prestige is called "Diamant Bleu Vintage", made from 50% Pinot-Noir and 50% Chardonnay from the best Grand Crus. Around two million bottles are produced annually.

Heidsieck (Heidsieck Monopole) - Flaschen im Schiffswrack und Flasche Blue Top

In 1998, 50 cases (with 3,000 bottles) of the brand "Heidsieck-Monopole - Goût Américain" of the vintage 1907 were salvaged from the wreck of the Swedish ship "Jönköping". The schooner was sunk by a German submarine in the Baltic Sea during the First World War in 1916. The cargo of 4,000 to 5,000 bottles of champagne, wine and spirits had been destined for the Russian Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918) (incidentally, the Russian Tsar's court ordered around 400,000 bottles of champagne from Heidsieck Monopole annually). The precious bottles were stored for 82 years at a depth of 64 metres and thus at an enormously high external pressure of four degrees Celsius. Due to these optimal storage conditions, the gold-coloured champagne with 12.35% vol. alcohol content and a sweet dosage of 42.35 g/l proved to be excellent during a tasting by renowned tasters. This makes this champagne one of the oldest wines in the world that can still be enjoyed. At an auction in Moscow, the incredible price of 224,000 Euros was achieved for a champagne bottle from this find, making it one of the most expensive wines in the world.

Piper-Heidsieck

Christian Heidsieck (+1835) also founded a company in 1834 and traded under the brand "Heidsieck". After his death only one year later, the house was run by his widow and was known as "Veuve Heidsieck". In 1837 she married her brother-in-law Henri-Guillaume Piper (+1870), a great-nephew of the Heidsieck founder Florens-Louis Heidsieck. From 1845 the name Piper-Heidsieck was used, although the Heidsieck brand was also retained at the same time. At the same time the above mentioned Charles Camille Heidsieck joined the company, but he left again and founded his own company (see below). Henri Piper bequeathed the company to Jean-Claude Kunkelmann. This family was already involved in the company in the early days of the Heidsieck dynasty. For some time, the house traded under the name Kunkelmann & Cie. By marriage, the company finally came into the possession of the Suarez d'Aulan family. Piper Sonoma in California has also been part of the ownership since 1988. In 1989 the house was bought by Rémy Martin. Finally, in 2011 (with Charles Heidsieck) it was bought by the company Societe Europeenne de Participations Industrielles (EPI) for 410 million euros.

Heidsieck (Piper-Heidsieck) - Henri-Guillaume Piper und Frau, Jean Suarez d’Aulan

In the course of time the company became a purveyor to the court of 17 royal houses. The legendary cellar master Daniel Thibault (1947-2002) was the main contributor to the high quality of the products in recent times. By the way, he was also responsible for the champagnes of Charles Heidsieck. Piper-Heidsieck was, by the way, the first champagne house to use gyropallets for shaking. The products are primarily influenced by Pinot Noir. The Cuvée de Prestige is named after its founder "Florence-Louis". Another top product is the mono-cuvée "Rare". This vintage champagne is assembled from about 70% Pinot Noir and about 30% Chardonnay from precious sites. Almost five million bottles are produced annually, a large part of which are exported to Belgium, Germany, England, Italy and the USA. Piper-Heidsieck was also the favourite champagne of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962). She noticed that a glass of it warmed her body pleasantly. The company also produced a chewing tobacco with champagne flavors for the US market, which was a huge success for decades. By train you can visit a part of the 12 km long chalk cellars.

Charles Heidsieck

Like his father, Charles Camille Heidsieck (1822-1893) married a lady from the Henriot family of champagne houses, namely Amélie Henriot. Shortly afterwards he left Piper-Heidsieck and founded a company called Charles Heidsieck in 1851 together with his brother-in-law Ernest Henriot (1826-1890). Heidsieck, who became famous as "Champagne Charlie", was a passionate hunter. In 1857 he travelled to the USA for the first time to hunt and also to promote his champagne. Within a short time he sold the first 300,000 bottles of champagne over there. With his cultivated manner and his extraordinary charm he quickly became popular in the best circles and as "Champagne Charlie" he became an integral part of the New York high society scene. During the US Civil War (1861-1865) he was suspected by the Northern States as a spy and was imprisoned for seven months. Around 1870 a musical by George Leybourne "Champagne Charlie" became a great success and in 1989 his life was filmed with Hugh Grant. Charles-Eugène Heidsieck took over the direction in 1871. The co-founder Ernest Henriot left the house in 1875 and dedicated to his own champagne company.

Heidsieck - Charles Heidsieck, Champagne-Charlie Filmplakat und Flasche

In 1976 Henriot and Charles Heidsieck merged and Joseph Henriot (1936-2015), a descendant of the then co-founder Ernest Henriot, took control of both companies. Until 1985, unlike the other two Heidsieck companies, the management remained within the family. Jean-Marc Heidsieck was the last manager of the house before the purchase by Rémy Martin(Rémy Cointreau). The new cellar master Daniel Thibault proposed to give up a large part of the champagne production for a few years in order to be able to expand large quantities of reserve wines. This measure was a complete success. Thibault introduced the term mise en cave (cellared) for champagnes without a vintage, indicating on the label the year of bottling. Its own vineyards cover 60 hectares. The Cuvée de Prestige is called "Blanc des Millénaires" from 100% Chardonnay (picture right). This Millésime (vintage champagne) replaced its predecessor "Champagne Charlie" in 1990. Around 3.5 million bottles of champagne are produced annually. The company was bought in 2011 (with Piper-Heidsieck) by Societe Europeenne de Participations Industrielles (EPI) for 410 million euros.

Portraits: Piper-Heidsieck
Heidsieck & Co Monopole bottles: © VRANKEN-POMMERY
Charles Camille Heidsieck: Wikipedia, Public Domain, Link
Champagne Charlie: Fair use, Link

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