Piper Heidsieck Champagne
Barry Weinman: 19th December 2019
My favourite Champagne over the last few years has been Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Reserve.
Yes, this is a superb Champagne, but it also has something to do with the fact that it has been served routinely on Singapore Airlines in Business Class.
I travel extensively for work and at the end of a long week, the Charles Heidsieck is one of life’s small pleasures
There are a number of other airlines serving quality Champagnes. Qatar for example provides a drinking treat, with the elegant (and food friendly) Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé, whilst Emirates serves the ever-reliable Veuve Clicquot on Perth flights.
In recent times, Piper Heidsieck has also started to appear on more airline wine lists. Initially, I thought this was purely a cost cutting measure, given that Piper is one of the more affordable Champagnes on the market, but two recent tastings have changed my perceptions on this.
At the start of last week, I sat down with Benoit Collard to taste through the range. From the NV through to the Rare, the wines were uniformly excellent.
But wines always taste better when trying them with the producer, so at the end of the week, we put the Cuvée Brut and the 2008 Vintage into a blind sparkling wine/Champagne tasting and the wines showed brilliantly.
Ownership of Piper and its sister house Charles Heidsieck changed in 2011, and this seems to have coincided with a subtle refinement in the style. Piper has become drier and finer, with greater intensity of fruit.
The arrival of a new Chef de Caves in 2018 has reinforced the focus on refinement.
Luckily for consumers prices have not changed, making the wines a tremendous bargain. With the NV on sale for as low as $40, this is a no-brainer for the office Christmas party. For me though, the greatest value sits with the Vintage which is available in the big box retailers for around $80.
The excellent 2008 vintage is still available, with the equally good 2012 also starting to appear on the shelf. The 2008 is just hitting its drinking window and is more approachable right now than the brilliant (if reserved) 2008 Veuve Clicquot.
If you pop in to the Weinman house over the holidays, don’t be surprised if you are offered a glass of the 2008.
Piper Heidsieck – Cuvée Brut – NV (18/20pts – $62). Creamy and textured, with gentle floral peach, apple and nectarine fruit notes. I was impressed by the length of flavours and the finesse of the finish. With a dosage 9.5gm/l, this feels quite dry. The use of 18% reserve wine in this blend has had a noticeable impact on complexity. Great aperitif and brilliant value.
Piper Heidsieck – Essentiel – Cuvée Reserve – NV. ($75). Complex autolysis characters on the nose, with obvious bread dough and fresh brioche characters. The richness of the fruit is a defining feature on the palate. This is quite rich, with increased density and weight. The low 5gm/l dosage gives this extra brut status, but the balance is spot on (18% reserve wine. 2012 base wine. Disgorged June 2017).
Piper Heidsieck – Vintage – 2008 ($90). From an excellent vintage, the last stocks of this wine are in the shops now. Opens with gentle toasted nut notes, but there are still hints of pretty, fresh fruit. Excellent intensity, mouthfeel and texture, with fine acidity adding balance and drive. Not as concentrated as the best of this vintage, but great value drinking.
Piper Heidsieck – Rare – 2002. (18.8/20pts – $300). The intensity and complexity of the nose is impressive indeed. The palate is so intense and fine, yet with subtle power and great depth of flavours. The persistence is a stand out, with the flavours lingering for seemingly minutes. A superb wine and an excellent Christmas gift. From the eight best parcels of fruit of the vintage. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. This is only the eighth vintage of the Rare produced since 1976.
Charles Heidsieck – Brut Reserve – NV (18.6/20pts – $95). Delicate fruit, with subtle toast/autolysis characters that hints at bread dough and toast. The palate is fine and elegant, yet with a seemingly endless cascade of flavours and textures. The tremendous depth and complexity results from the inclusion of 40% reserve wines (average age 10 years). One of my favourite non vintage Champagnes.