Skip to content

A Visit To… Piper-Heidsieck

Before I visited Piper-Heidsieck in 2018, I have to admit Piper had been flying under my champagne radar. I’d never really formed a sentimental attachment to Piper-Heidsieck so I didn’t drink a lot of their champagnes. I happily admit that a lot of my early champagne preferences were formed by an emotional or sentimental connection to a brand, usually linked to a memory or an occasion. It might even shock you a bit when I admit that when I started out enjoying champagne, I did think most champagnes tasted the same! I know – how much I’ve grown!

So while I didn’t know much about Piper-Heidsieck, I requested a visit to Piper-Heidsieck on my trip to Champagne in 2018 because it was a sentimental favourite champagne for my sister-in-law, Deb. My brother Chris chose Piper-Heidsieck when he proposed to her, and because Chris and Deb were my travel buddies for a week in Champagne, I surprised them with a special guest pass each to join me on the tour because of their special love story.

Turns out, Piper-Heidsieck is actually founded on love stories. Our guide Dominique shared with us Piper-Heidsieck’s three great love stories and how these stories of seduction were the inspiration for the house and its tag line… a dash of seduction.

So let’s start at the beginning of the house and its love stories.

The story of Piper-Heidsieck

Love story number one…

Once upon a time, a young German man, Florens-Louis Heidsieck, visited Reims in 1777 to sell textiles. While he was in France, Florens-Louis fell in love with both champagne and a young French women, Agathe Perthois. In 1785, Florens-Louis married Agathe and founded his champagne house for her, which he called Heidsieck & Cie.

Love story number two…

Florens-Louis also plays a part in the next love story. When he founded Heidsieck & Cie, he had a vision of creating a cuvee worthy of a Queen. He dedicated his first prestige cuvee to Queen Marie Antoinette and succeeded in seducing Marie Antoinette to fall in love with his champagne. While Marie Antoinette was officially only the Queen of France, she was unofficially the Queen of all of Europe and very influential, so when Marie Antoinette loved something, everyone followed her. She had always loved champagne but when she fell in love with Heidsieck & Cie champagne, she shared her preference with all of Europe and became the first-ever champagne brand ambassador.

Piper-Heidsieck

Eventually, Florens-Louis was joined at his company by his nephew, Christian Heidsieck and businessman, Henri-Guillaume Piper who really drove the growth of the company outside of France and ultimately took over the company when Florens-Louis died in 1828. Not long after his uncle died, Christian Heidsieck also died in 1835 when he was just 40 years old, leaving behind his young wife (just 25 years old) and the last remaining business partner of Heidsieck & Cie, Henri-Guillaume Piper.

You might see where this is going with a pretty young widow and a lonely business partner..???

Love story number three

Henri-Guillaume Piper and Christian Heidsieck’s widow fell in love. After waiting a respectable three years, Mr Piper and the Heidsieck widow married and their union led to a re-brand that was a merger of their names… Piper-Heidsieck. The brand name we know today was born, also the inspiration for the brand’s tag line… a dash of seduction, referring to the dash or hyphen in the new name and the story of love and seduction behind the merger.

*Editor’s note, I searched extensively to find out the Heidsieck widow’s actual name but everywhere – including in all Piper-Heidsieck’s information – she is always referred to as the nameless widow of another man…although her photograph is on the wall at Piper-Heidsieck.

Piper-Heidsieck

Modern history of Piper-Heidsieck and the movies

Jumping ahead into modern times but still echoing the ambition of Florens-Louis Heidsieck to seduce royalty, 20th-century Piper-Heidsieck went on to seduce the stars of the silver screen. Piper-Heidsieck now has a strong connection to the film industry, starting with Piper-Heidsieck’s cinema debut in 1933, in a Laurel and Hardy movie.

In 1950, Piper-Heidseick won over a new fan whose influence may have rivalled Marie Antionette’s, when Marilyn Monroe was famously quoted as saying…

“Every night I go to bed with Chanel No. 5 and I wake up with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck, it warms my body up.”

Marilyn Monroe

With Marilyn as a perfect ambassador for a champagne company, Piper-Heidseick has gone on to support the film industry at The Cannes Film Festival since 1992, The Oscars (1992, 1998 and since 2015), and even the AFTAs here in Australia.

When Rex Harrison won the best actor Oscar for My Fair Lady in 1964, Piper-Heidseick created a bottle that was 184cm tall – the same height as the actor – which is still today the biggest bottle Piper-Heidseick has ever produced.

Piper-Heidseick’s Hollywood style has also managed to seduce the fashion industry with designers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Louboutin (to name just two) partnering with the house on collaborations for collector’s item bottles.

OK champagne lovers, have you had enough love stories, cinema and fashion? Let’s talk about the champagnes!

The 21st century Piper-Heidseick

What struck me most about Piper-Heidsieck during my visit, is that it is a very modern winery. For one of the oldest champagne companies, Piper-Heidsieck is very modern, located just outside of Reims in an industrial area. Built in 1995, the Piper-Heidsieck winery and cellars are both modern – all stainless steel vats in the winery and concrete in the cellars which lie just 10 metres below the ground.

 

You may be wondering if there is any connection between Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck… these two great Heidsieck houses are indeed related. Champagne Charles Heidsieck was founded by a great-nephew of Christian Heidsieck and both houses are now privately owned by the same family. The head of the family is a great lover of wine and champagne and invested in both houses to maintain the purity of the brands and the champagnes they make. but while they may have joint ownership and share some facilities, the houses are very separate businesses, brands, and styles of wines each with their own wines and winemakers. Read about my visit to Charles Heidsieck here.

In 2018, Piper Heidsieck appointed Émilien Boutillat as its new Chef de Cave. Prior to Émilien, Séverine Frerson was briefly in the role in 2018. After joining the house in 2002, Séverine was promoted to deputy Cellar Master in 2015 before taking over from Régis Camus when he stepped aside to dedicate himself to the role of Cellar Master for the Piper-Heidsieck Rare champagne, the house’s award-winning cuvee de prestige.

Séverine left Piper-Heidsieck not long after her appointment to Cellar Master to take over from Hervé Deschamps at Perrier-Jouët. I was lucky enough to meet her briefly while I was on my tour, as she was walking around the winery and stopped and chatted with us.

A few fast facts about Piper-Heidsieck

  • Piper-Heidsieck produces about four million bottles of champagne a year, making it the eighth largest champagne house.
  • The house introduced malolactic fermentation about 25 years ago which makes the acidity more approachable, like the difference between a tart green and a red, juicy, slightly creamy red apple.
  • 6 winemakers, including two women, taste up to 30 wines at a time while working to blend the champagnes.
  • Australia is the number one export market for Piper-Heidsieck, selling more here than in France in recent years.

The cuvées

The Piper-Heidsieck champagne style is very distinct which our host Dominique described as “marrying the structure of the pinot noir, with the fruits of the meunier, the elegance of the chardonnay and the timeless flavours of the reserve wines.”

On our tour we explored, three cuvées – the Brut NV, the Rosé Sauvage and the Rare 2002. I have also included below tasting notes for the other Piper-Heidsieck champagnes I have tried including the Essentiel Blanc de Blanc NV and the 2006 Vintage.

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne

Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV

The technical details 

55% pinot noir, 30% meurnier, 15% chardonnay
10-20% Reserved wines
Dosage : 10 g/l

Time on lees – 3 years

How does it taste? Its light gold colour and tiny bubbles carry aromas of fruits – red apples, pineapple, peach, stone fruits and a whiff of baguette.

In a few words…. very good value

Moment or mood? Any time! Now that I have visited the house and heard the story, Piper is my movie night champagne. Saturday night in on the lounge with popcorn or an after-dinner cheese platter.

Where to find it? Pretty much anywhere and often under $50 so wait for a good deal and stock up. $47.99 at Dan Murphy’s is the standard price.

Piper Heidsieck Essentiel Blanc De Blancs

The technical details

100% Chardonnay
35% Reserved wines
Dosage : 4 g/l

Time on lees – 3.5 years

How does it taste? Lemony limestone and crunchy green apples with a hit of fresh bread.

In a word…. surprisingly good! (I know, that’s two words).

Moment or mood? It has to be poolside!

Where to find it? For $83 a bottle of $74.69 in a half dozen at Vintage Cellars.

Find out more…

My full review of the Piper Heidsieck Essentiel Blanc de Blancs

The Piper Hiedsieck Essentiel Blanc de Blancs featured in my Top Five Champagnes For A Long Weekend (2020)

Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage

Sauvage means wild. This rosé is very red but it is very intentional because red is the signature colour of the house. 15 years ago the winemaker wanted to show the audacity of the house by creating a striking and different style of rosé.

The technical details

It is the same blend as the Brut NV but with an audacious addition of 25% still red wine.

55% pinot noir, 30% meurnier, 15% chardonnay
10-20% Reserved wines
Dosage: 9.5 g/l

Aged 3 years in the cellars

How does it taste? Its vibrant pink-red colour carries fewer bubbles because of the addition of the still red wine. You are instantly hit with lots of berries – black cherries, strawberries, blackberries and some citrus-like tangerine, blood orange.

In a word… audacious.

Moment or mood…. BBQ! This isn’t a subtle rosé champagne so it can stand up to some red meats and all the smells of an outdoor summer BBQ.

Where to find it? At Vintage Cellars or Dan Murphys for $71.99

Piper-Heidsieck 2006 Vintage

The technical details

49% pinot noir and 51% chardonnay selected from 18 crus

Dosage: 9.5g/l

Time on lees: Six years

How did it taste? Fresh and fruity and a little bit spicy.

In a few words: Balanced and smooth.

Moment or mood: For any of the Piper-Heidsieck vintages, the perfect time is after that rough week at work and you want to treat yourself and champagne is not enough – you want a vintage (that won’t send you broke). Pour a bath and pop a bottle.

Where to find it? The current vintage is the 2008 which you can find in Vintage Cellars ($77.99) or Dan Murphy’s ($74.99).

Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002

The Piper-Heidsieck Rare is a very special champagne. There have only ever been eight vintages made… the first was in 1976 and the most recent release was in 2006. The 2002 is the most awarded champagne in the world, including champagne of the decade.

The technical details

70% chardonnay (from Avize, Vertus, Verzy and Villers-Marmery) and 30% pinot noir from Ay.

Dosage: 11g/l

How does it taste? It had a deep golden colour with a fine, fine bubble… it looked more like a good white wine than a champagne. Its aged chardonnay was so deliciously complex with toasted bread, brioche, caramel and a little bit woody… even though there is no oak fermentation, that’s the magic of the chardonnay at work. My tasting experience started with spicy notes like ginger and white pepper, and flavours like brioche, honey, hazelnuts, and marzipan. Overall very creamy, a bit exotic with a lasting sense of lemon butter.

In a few words: Like a very fine wine.

Mood or moment? To mark an rare occasion, a moment you want to remember for a long time to come.

Where to find it? Emperor stocks the Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002 for $350

My visit to Piper-Heidsieck really opened my eyes and my heart to Piper-Heidsieck and I found myself a little bit in love with a fun, modern champagne brand that is opened at movie premieres and glamorous awards nights.

With Marie Antoinette and Marilyn Monroe among its famous brand ambassadors, Piper-Heidsieck pairs best with cinema, celebrities and high fashion.

Thank you to Piper-Heidsieck for inviting me for a tour and to our host, Dominique, for for her hospitality. Marie Antoinette and Marilyn Monroe may be Piper-Heidsieck’s most famous brand ambassadors, but I can’t imagine a more knowledgeable, passionate or authentic ambassador than Dominique. My day with her visiting the Heidsieck houses and lunch at Château de Rilly was one of my favourite days in Champagne… merci beaucoup!

Check out my other posts featuring Piper-Hiedsieck below…

Are you a fan of Piper-Hiedsieck? Let me know in the comments below or tag me on Instagram or Facebook – tag @bubbleandflute #bubbleandflute #happychamper

Bubble & Flute promotes the responsible consumption of alcohol for individuals of legal drinking age in their country.