Champagne Charlie and New Years Eve Libations
This week for Why Not Wednesday we bring you our favorite New Years Eve libation, Charles Heidsieck Champagne! The amazing story of Champagne Charlie, is one that, on the surface, could seem to be made up. However, with all the twists and turns, one quickly realizes this particular tale would indeed be a hard one to fabricate! We’ve told this tale before, but for those of you who haven’t heard the story sit back, grab a glass of champagne and enjoy!
Charles Heidsieck, later known as Champagne Charlie, had a thirst for entrepreneurship and champagne, both of which he likely inherited from his grand-uncle, founder of Piper Heidsieck, and his father, who gained notoriety for riding ahead of Napoleon’s Army into Moscow to sell champagne to the victor of the impending battle. Yes, Champagne was in his blood!
In 1851, at the age of 29, Charles Heidsieck set out to create a champagne house that would embody his character and that of his family before him. In 1852 Charles visited the United States. As he began to tour New York and the New England area, he partnered with a local sales agent who believed in the bubbly. Within months, Charles was the toast of the New World. He received extensive newspaper coverage and was quickly dubbed “Champagne Charlie.” In 1861, sales exceeded 20,000 cases.
However, in 1861 the United States found itself in the midst of the Civil War. Charles received news of the war while in France, and, fearing for half of his assets which were tied up in the hands of an unscrupulous New York sales agent, he left for New York immediately. The exact details of what law or act the New York broker cited to Charles upon his arrival in New York are difficult to decipher but, in essence, the broker Charles had worked with in New York informed him upon his return of an act of Congress which absolved Northerners of their cotton debts to Southerners. The agent claimed this law absolved him from his debt to Charles and refused to release Heidsiecks assets. Charles was left with no choice but to go try and collect his money from original source in the South.
Charles had to travel first to Kansas City and then to New Orleans to circumvent the Union forces. He arrived finding the entire city bankrupt. The only repayment the champagne merchant was able to obtain was a warehouse full of cotton. By this time, cotton was in high demand in Europe because of the war, so Charles decided he could make do.
However, shortly after sending his cotton to sea, both ships were intercepted and sunk. Charles was then arrested and charged as a confederate spy, despite his pleas and explanations. The French consulate was eventually able to help free Heidsieck in November of 1862 (a presidential pardon from Lincoln himself didn’t hurt, either); sadly, by this time his wife was selling off their assets. Still, Charles was just happy to be alive!
The story takes a good turn, though: in 1863 Charles received a letter from the brother of the New York agent who had refused Charles his own assets. According to the agent’s brother, his family was ashamed of what the agent had done to Mr. Heidsieck. As means of repayment, the family offered Charles deeds to land in DENVER, CO! The deeds added up to a third of what was then Denver. It was with the proceeds from the land sale that Charles was able to pay his current debts. With some of the remaining proceeds he invested in Roman Crayeres, the famous caves in which most French champagne makers age their bottles. The caves had been used for cold storage since the Roman times, and, frankly more were not being made. The investment was a wise one as these cellars are still used today. You can guess that Heidsieck made a nice profit renting space to other champagne producers.
Today, Charles Heidsieck is led by winemaker Cyril Brun, a 15 year vet from Veuve Clicquot. The operation as a whole is owned by a family determined to make C.H. the toast once again. To that, Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is made with 40 percent reserve wines from vintages that are at least 10 years old! In comparison, most houses blend around 20 percent reserve wines. In our humble opinion, this champagne is this is some of the best out there. Salute to “Champagne Charlie”!
Bruno Giacosa Spumante :: $60 Sale $55
The knowledge, passion and wisdom that Bruno Giacosa brings to his work as producer of fine wines is the fruit of the dedication of three generations of wine makers. The family interest in vine cultivation began during the constant search for the best vineyards from which to buy the grapes necessary for wine making. The next step, naturally, was to acquire some of the same vineyards for the family business – and the one after that, to specialise in the Nebbiolo grape and the grand wines made from it.
Straw-yellow colour with swift foam of tiny and persistent bubbles. Fruity notes, yeast and biscuits are perceived in the nose. Plentifulness and softness are revealed in its dry flavour.
Charles Heidsieck Brut NV :: $58 Sale $54
Experience a fully developed wine, with a radiant bouquet that is captivating yet subtle. Although notes of fully ripe fruit, such as nectarines and cherry plums, are apparent initially, the finish reveals the wealth of the gourmet world, hinting at nougat, honey and cereal grains. This wine is remarkably smooth and generous on the palate. Three years of maturation have given it body and substance. As the wine opens up, it is full and intense with notes of warm bread blending harmoniously with discreet notes of ginger and coriander. The grapes used to produce this exquisite testament to winemaking are selected from the top crus in the Champagne region. 34% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Meunier.
Charles Heidsieck Rosè 1999 :: $159 Sale $145
A subtle coral with nuances of orange, reminiscent of old roses and the result of the prolonged ageing in the chalk cellars. A delicate joyful effervescence hints at the aromatic complexity of this blended rose. The subtle elegance of this wine produced from grands and premiers crus reveals notes of strawberry and raspberry. The Pinot Noir red wines – 7% of the blend – offer the complexity of mild pepper and sandalwood. A sophisticated wine, full bodied and generous, this is the very expression of the year 1999, enhanced by more than twelve years of ageing in thousand-year old cellars. The refined texture is reminiscent of the silky rich harmony of hibiscus syrup.
Charles Heidsieck Brut 2005 :: $120 Sale $108
A wine of distinct character, from an exceptional vintage. After many years ageing in the unique and ancient Crayères acquired by its founder Charles Heidsieck, this champagne reveals itself as a wine poised between elegance and complexity, with a smooth texture and great length on the palate. By choosing this Vintage Brut 2005, you are entering into Charles’ inner circle.
*No Saturday Tasting*
We start sippin’ and tastin’ at 4pm. Hope you can make it! Tag your pics #pickitupatpearl and #Neverabadbottle so we can CHEERS!
Discover why 5280 Magazine Readers and Editors voted Pearl Wine Company Denver’s BEST BOTTLE SHOP. PWC takes pride in being Denver’s best wine shop–a craft liquor specialty store. Conveniently located on South Pearl Street in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]