Most people are familiar with the game of naming famous individuals they would love to invite to dinner – usually this list includes people like Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama etc. However, were you to play this game in the 1850’s there could surely be no other name first on the list than Champagne Charlie!
So who was Champagne Charlie?
Born June 17, 1822, Charles-Camille Heidsieck was a gentleman-entrepreneur with a taste for adventure. In 1852 at the tender age of 29 he became the first owner of a champagne House to visit the United States, making the journey four times over ten years. He reinvented the champagne market in the mid- 19th century by converting Americans to his cuvées, earning him legendary status across the Atlantic and the nickname, “Champagne Charlie”.
A Champagne heir driven by a spirit of conquest and taste for a challenge, Charles- Camille was very comfortable amongst the daring atmosphere of the 19th century. He was more than a celebrity or a persona: the extremely popular jazz song “Champagne Charlie”, written by George Leybourne and released in 1858, made him a legend, bolstered more recently by several movies and fictionalised biographies. The authenticity and principles of the man known to the Americans as “Champagne Charlie” have inspired the unique quality of his champagnes, stored in two-thousandyear- old Crayères, or chalk cellars. Five generations have since succeeded at the helm of the House, championing that early vision of an exceptional quality, unique champagne.
And so to celebrate the bicentennial of the phenomenal founder, Charles-Camille Heidsieck, the prestigious Charles Heidsieck House announced the newest edition of Champagne Charlie, a historic cuvée.
In celebration of the spirit of the founder, the house has reconnected with the tradition, passion and spirit of the iconic cuvée. The new edition is the first release in 37 years and only the sixth release in the history of Champagne Charlie, following 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985.
In releasing the new Champagne Charlie cuvée, the House is demonstrating a long-term, meaningful investment in the legacy of its Founder, as Managing Director, Stephen Leroux explains: “We are reconnecting with a tradition. By confirming our decision to make the ‘Charles spirit’ and Charlie’s passion the essence of the House, we are recreating our crown jewel. We will produce only a very limited quantity of bottles for the first issue of this new release, which is, in fact, a rebirth. It will be available only through a very select network of distributors.”
In the late 1970s, then cellarmaster Daniel Thibault worked alongside the Heidsieck family to create Champagne Charlie as a tribute to their ancestor. With a long experience shaping the Charles’ signature wine style, Thibault followed his instinct to undertake what would be one of the most resounding successes in his winemaking career - the creation of the five editions of Champagne Charlie - 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985. In blending the new Champagne Charlie, cellarmaster Cyril Brun interpreted the Founder’s spirit.
“For this new edition of Charlie, I took my inspiration from previous editions, tasting each of the past releases to reconnect with the initial creation. My first impression was overwhelming; the freshness and aromatic intensity and silky, saline finish could be systematically found in all the wines, as if these qualities transcended the effect of vintage. It was the key.” He continued: “This renaissance Charlie is a multi-vintage wine. The intentional use of reserve wines is also, for me, a symbol of a greater freedom of creation in this quest for the absolute."
The new Champagne Charlie cuvée is comprised of nearly eighty-percent reserve wines, with select components aged on lees for up to 25 years. A blend of fifty-two percent Chardonnay and 48 percent Pinot Noir, the assemblage also includes 20 percent wine from the 2016 vintage, cellared in 2017.