Saturday, April 11, 2009

Report from ... Piper vs. Charles: the Heidsieck Tasting - March 31, 2009

It wasn't long ago that the versus statement in the above title was true. The Heidsieck name in Champagne started in 1785, subsequently it was split by three members of the family each taking the Heidsieck name, which had become famous in many parts of the world for quality Champagne. The houses became: Charles, Piper and Heidsieck & Co. Monopole - and these houses were fierce competitors to say the least. Today, two of the three houses are back under one umbrella: Charles and Piper, and controlled by Remy Cointreau. At this tasting we tried seven Champagnes made by these two houses - some side-by-side, to establish the difference of house style; some on their own, because they were too special to compare.

Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut NV vs. Champage Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV … they say you're either a Charles Chooser or a Piper Person (it’s a Beatles and Stones kinda thing) - I think in this category I’m a Piper; it was just a fresher more fruit driven bubbly. The nose was toasted lemon, yeasty, sweetish and had hints of, of all things, chocolate ice cream. The taste was crisp, fruity and easy to drink with fresh bread and lemon on the finish - and what a great long lingering finish. To me the Charles had that older more stale bread smell that someone more politically termed "autumnal”. Another comparison made was that the Piper was a morning wine and Charles an evening one. I get up at 6:00 every morning, rain or shine, holiday or weekday; so I guess I’m considered a morning person, so it stands to reason I would like Piper … so there.

Piper Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2000 vs. Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2000 … here, it turns out, I’m a Charles Chooser - this time Charles showed more class in the glass with classic aromas and tastes and yet still needs time to come around; Piper was pretty much ready to go now, though he would last another 4-5 years comfortably – Charles, on the other hand, had yet to show all his cards and has a good 10-years ahead of him before he’s even close to peaking, maybe more.

Piper 1999 Rare Vintage … there have been only seven releases of this wine since 1976 and it gets eight years of aging in bottle (this one was just released in the fall of 2008). This was a real creamy-minerally treat with hints of nuttiness – think of citrus soaked bread crust with a medium length finish; the only drawback, after a few sips that finish became very short. Only 20,000 bottles are produced.

Champagne Charles Heidseick Blanc de Millenaires Vintage 1995 … another rare wine that has only been made four times since 1983. Sweet almond flavors with hints of lemon brioche and a great lingering fresh apple finish.

Finally, we tried the Piper Rosé Sauvage … yeasty with a touch of raspberry on the nose; quite fruity with strawberry on the palate and quite a great deal of heft on the tongue - this had more of the weight and feeling of a fizzy red than your typical rosé - probably because of the 25% red wine in the blend. The Sauvage was first released in 2003.

No comments: